|The Week That Was
July 31, 2004
1. New on the Web: AS LINGLE POINTS, OUT, UNFOUNDED FEARS ARE HOLDING BACK THE WIDER ADOPTION OF NUCLEAR POWER - BUT THINGS ARE CHANGING
2. DISPOSAL OF SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL IS NOT A PROBLEM
3. HOMELAND SECURITY ISSUES MORE REASONABLE RADIATION GUIDELINES
4. NEW NUCLEAR POWER STATION FOR SCOTLAND
5. ONTARIO WILL BUILD NEW NUCLEAR POWER STATION-FIRST IN NO AMERICA IN MORE THAN 20 YEARS
6. ENERGY NEWS FROM EUROPE
7. EUROPEAN INDUSTRY CONCERNED ABOUT KYOTO
8. GEN-WHEAT DEVELOPMENT STOPPED
9. EUROPEAN "ECHO" ACKNOWLEDGED
10. ETHANOL ECONOMICS EXPOSED
11. And finally: PAUL EHRLICH's FALSE PREDICTIONS: From a review of his book
2. Disposal of spent nuclear fuel is not the problem
The handling of nuclear waste is not a pressing technical issue, and can be safely enmeshed in endless public hearings, where its essentially political nature ensures harmless inaction.
Source: Why we're back to nuclear power
An overview of the new draft "protective action guidelines" recommended by the Department of Homeland Security:
First Responder Exposure: Over the course of the initial event, the new guidelines say it's safe for firemen, police and EMTs to receive a total exposure of five rem. That's the equivalent of 5,000 dental X-rays, or 20 times the radiation people normally are exposed to in a year from natural sources.
Evacuation: Residents do not need to be evacuated in the days immediately following the attack unless exposure surpasses one rem, or the equivalent of 1,000 dental X-rays. In some cases, exposure as high as five rem may be allowed.
Relocation: More permanent relocation would only be ordered if over the
course of first year the total additional dose to a resident would be
two rem -- eight times the radiation dose people normally get in a year.
For subsequent years, the allowable additional radiation dose would be
500 millirem, which is twice the average annual background radiation dose
from natural sources.
SEPP Comment: Note that natural exposures can be 10 times or more average,
depending on location.
In a major U-turn on energy policy, Scotland is in line to have a new nuclear power station built. The move has come in the wake of Tony Blair admitting to MPs that Britain is likely to need a new generation of nuclear power stations in order to "meet the challenge of climate change."
Previous energy policy had targeted renewables such as wind farms to make up the shortfall in supply. The move marks a major rethink by ministers. Last year¹s Energy White Paper in February 2003 came down firmly in favour of energy efficiency and renewables being given priority as the best option for Britain's future. Nuclear energy was not ruled out forever but put on hold for at least five years.
Over the next 20 years, all but one of the UK¹s 16 nuclear power stations will close, leaving the British energy market looking to find a substitute for the 23% of the country¹s electricity which is generated by nuclear power.
The Scottish Green Party reacted with fury to the suggestion that Scotland was in line for a new nuclear plant. A spokesman gave the usual tired arguamnts.
SEPP Note: In the US, 25 nuclear plants have received a license extension from 40 years to 60; 17 have applied; and 26 more expect to apply for extensions. (Nuclear Energy Institute April 2004. www.nei.org)
TORONTO, June 17 - With Ontario on the brink of an energy supply squeeze, and some of its aging nuclear plants facing an uncertain future, moves are under way in the province, Canada's most populous, to build the first nuclear reactor in North America in more than two decades since confidence in atomic energy was shattered by the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979.
Memories of last August's power blackout, which was felt in a wide swath of southern Ontario as well as in the Northeast and Midwest of the United States, have only increased pressure for the province to become more self-sufficient.
A new nuclear plant would most likely be built on the shore of one of
the Great Lakes, where Ontario's three existing nuclear plants are. Energy
policy in Canada is largely in the hands of the provinces, and a committee
set up by the Ontario government to examine power supplies concluded in
March that "the right nuclear strategy will play a key role in ensuring
that Ontario has reliable, competitively priced power over the long term."
The EU mix of power sources remains unchanged -- even with the May 2004 expansion by 10 countries: 52% from fossil fuels, 32% nuclear, 11% hydro.
South Africa govt confirms plans for nuclear development, incl a 10-yr R&D program for pebble-bed reactor.
Protection of power plants against terror attacks by aircraft. German utilities order "fog machines" based on red phosphorus flares which create a cloud obscuring the plant or reactor (or refinery)..
German environment ministerTrittin agrees to convert 1000 kg of plutonium currently in storage into MOX (mixed oxide reaxctor fuel) - but in France. The MOX installation in Hanau had been eliminated by his Green colleague Joschka Fischer (dpa 6/30/04)
German industry minister Clement demands CO2-FREE COAL FIRED POWER PLANTS by 2020. What a waste of energy and money!
The most cost-effective way of electricity generation is through gas, coal and nuclear. Wind generation offshore is at least double the cost - and 3.5 times as costly when one considers the cost of standby power. [Royal Academy of Enginering 3/10/04] - www.raeng.org.uk/news/temp/cost_generation)
[SEPP Note: Former British environment minister Michael Meacher maintains that wind power is cheapest. He should listen to his engineers!]
In North Germany, wind turbines had to be stopped after they threw off ice projectiles to a distance of 50 meters [Bocholter-Borkener Volksblatt.2/27/04]
The value of German windpower is approx zero. <www.buerger-fuer-technik.de> Every 1MW of wind requires about 0.85 MW of conventional power as standby. Utilities are required to pay ~9cents/kWh for wind compared to a generation cost of ~1cent for fossil.
Now Austria succumbs to wind: 12 MW in the eastern province of Burgenland. No word on who pays.
In North Germany, a political storm against the Green party, which has received substantial funding from the wind turbine industry (Marler Ztg. 7/2/04)
Moist salt air is damaging offshore wind installations off Danish coast.
All 80 Vestas turbines had to repaired -- at a cost of Eu 30 million (Die
7. European industry concerned about Kyoto
UNICE, a coalition of European businesses, has called on government officials to reconsider their commitments under the Kyoto Ptotocol during a European Uniun spring summit in 2005. Jurgen Strube, president of UNICE, fears that the continent's businesses will lose out to firms in countries where carbon reductions are not mandated.
Estimates of price rises of electric power vary. British energy minister Stephen Timms predicts a rise of only l 6% for industries (3% for consumers) but utilities estimate a rise up to 20%.
Source : Greenwire 7/14/04
Seed producer Monsanto stops its 7-yr development of Gen-Wheat -- even though yields show increases of 15%. US farmers fear the loss of foreign markets.
But EU Commission broke its six-year ban on biotech food by a approving
a modified strain of corn.
The New York Times recently looked at how environmental regulations that are passed or proposed in Europe often set the stage for similar changes to U.S. policies. Citing an example of restrictions on certain brominated flame retardants, the article noted that once a chemical has been restricted in Europe, political pressure is then built for a phaseout in the United States.
More and more often, environmental advocates are initiating anti-chemical
campaigns in the European Union, hoping to use regulations there as a
lever for regulations in the United States and other industrialized countries.
Charlotte Brody, coordinator of Health Care Without Harm, admitted in
the article that her organization is putting additional resources into
activities in Europe.
10. Ethanol economics exposed
In a letter to Science (16 July 2004) Stanford physicist Burton Richter deflates exaggerated claims for biofuel ethanol. Even though the USDA has ethanol as a small winner in the energy equation, Cornell professor David Pimentel has it as a major loser. He calculates an energy ratio of 0.74 including co-products (like cattle feed) and only 0.58 without. [Energy ratio is energy supplied by ethanol divided by total energy required to produce it from corn.]
Richter also calls attention to the 50 cents per gallon import tariff on Brazilian ethanol produced much more efficiently from sugarcane and waste.
SEPP Comments: Certainly, ethanol gets a huge subsidy by being exempted
from gasoline taxes. I suspect that biodiesel is also a poor choice. The
irony of biofuels is evident from the boosterism in the responding letter
(that is supposed to balance Richter's skeptical letter). The main justification
appears to be to reduce CO2 emissions. But what if this unnecessary? What
if Global Warming from CO2 is not significant?
"So why pay him any notice? Because he is a reverse Cassandra . Mr. Ehrlich makes false predictions and they are widely believed. The gloomier he is and the faultier he proves to be as a prophet, the more honored he becomes, even in his own country."
"Naturally, Mr. Ehrlich has won a MacArthur Foundation genius award
- and a Heinz Award for the environment. (Yes - that Heinz)"