A cautionary tale of the unintended consequences of stopping fossil fuels without addressing the problem of overconsumption and demand for energy. And yet another example of why we need to fundamentally address the system driving ecological destruction and climate change and not just promote bandaids.
In Tennessee, Time Comes for a Nuclear Plant Four Decades in the Making
By MATTHEW L. WALD
Cooling towers rise above two adjacent nuclear reactors, Watts Barr 1 and 2. Construction on the second was suspended in 1988 and resumed in 2007.CreditShawn Poynter for The New York Times
SPRING CITY, Tenn. — When the Tennessee Valley Authority first ordered Watts Bar 2, the nuclear reactor now approaching completion here, demand for electricity was growing at 7 percent a year and coal supplies were uncertain. The mercury, soot and acid rain that coal produced were simply accepted as the way things were, and many of the people who now worry about global warming had not yet been born.
But that was 1970. Today nearly all of that is reversed as Watts Bar 2, the nuclear industry’s version of a time traveler, prepares to begin operations. Now there is barely any growth in electricity demand, and plenty of coal, but most aging coal-burning plants need expensive cleaning or replacement. Thus the reactor, the T.V.A. reasons, is arriving at an opportune moment, even if almost every projection made over the last 44 years has proved wrong. With halting progress amid changing projections, construction has taken longer than that for the Panama Canal or the Great Pyramid of Cheops.
Global Justice Ecology Project partners with KPFK Pacifica’s Sojourner Truth show on weekly Earth Minutes and Earth Watch interviews. GJEP ED Anne Petermann writes and records the weekly Earth Minutes.
On July 21st, the Russian government accused EcoDefense, one of the oldest environmental groups in Russia, of being a “foreign agent,” effectively criminalizing their environmental and social justice work. I have long been familiar with the important work of EcoDefense, since meeting them at a meeting they hosted in Kaliningrad in 1995.
The motivations for Russia’s repressive move is likely due to the effective campaigns of EcoDefense since even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, when EcoDefense was occupying smoke stacks to protest polluting industries. The accusation against EcoDefense comes now likely due to their campaign against a Baltic nuclear plant under construction near Kaliningrad.
Friends of the Earth France has demanded Russia drop their persecution of EcoDefense, pointing out that protesting nuclear power is a democratic right.
They want Russia to remove Ecodefense from the “foreign agent” roster, repeal the related “foreign agent” law, and to respect the civil and democratic rights of Russian citizens advocating for social and environmental justice.
For the Earth Minute and the Sojourner Truth show, this is Anne Petermann from Global Justice Ecology Project.
On the night of Feb. 14, a mix of chemicals inside a container of radioactive waste in an underground salt cavern in Southern New Mexico created so much heat the drum’s lid cracked. Radiation leaked out. Heavy bags of magnesium oxide stacked on top of the containers to prevent leaks shifted and disintegrated from the force of the reaction.
A small amount of radiation made its way through filters and an air vent to the ground above the excavated salt bed. An alarm sounded at 11:14 p.m. that night, and the handful of employees at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad were quickly evacuated and tested for radiation exposure. Officials said 21 tested positive, but none at dangerous levels.
Within hours, the nation’s only permanent repository for nuclear waste — the one officials said would never have a radiation leak when the site opened 15 years ago — was shut down for what could be several years.
The container in question, a 55-gallon drum labeled LA00000068660, began its life in the birthplace of the atomic bomb. From a facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Area G, where the waste was repacked, to a room in the salt cavern near Carlsbad, where the drum was stacked and waiting to burst, a whole slew of people were responsible for how it was handled.
Rocky Flats was once the site of the a nuclear weapons production facility, May 29, 2014. This June will be 25 years since the FBI raided Rocky Flats. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post
ROCKY FLATS — In 1989, Germans tore down the Berlin Wall. The anti-Soviet Solidarity movement pushed for power in Poland. One million Chinese in Tiananmen Square demanded reform. And Colorado was seeing the end of its own extraordinary Cold War chapter at Rocky Flats, 16 miles northwest of Denver.
Twenty-five years ago, on June 6, 1989, a convoy of about 30 vehicles carrying more than 70 armed agents of the FBI and the Environmental Protection Agency raided the U.S. Department of Energy’s plutonium-processing plant at Rocky Flats for suspected environmental crimes.
The Cold War site, which operated continuously from 1952 to 1989, was the Denver area’s largest industrial plant, with 4,000 men and women manufacturing plutonium fission cores used to detonate U.S nuclear bombs. Continue reading →
Protesters do morning exercise after camping overnight outside the Taiwan presidential palace on March 10, 2013 in Taipei, Taiwan. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Taiwan calling on the government to shut down the island’s nuclear power plants, citing the painful lesson of Japan’s nuclear crisis after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake two years ago. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
Americans used more renewable, fossil and even nuclear energy in 2013, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Each year, the Laboratory releases energy flow charts that illustrate the nation’s consumption and use of energy.Overall, Americans used 2.3 quadrillion thermal units more in 2013 than the previous year.
The Laboratory also has released a companion chart illustrating the nation’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Americans’ carbon dioxide emissions increased to 5,390 million metric tons, the first annual increase since 2010. Continue reading →
By Candice Bernd, March 11, 2014. Source: TruthOut
Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, Units 1 and 2. (Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission / Flickr)
Is the baby tooth under your child’s pillow radioactive? It could be if you live relatively close to a nuclear power plant that has been operating normally and in accordance with federal regulations, according to a new study.
The study, released last week by the Santa Barbara-based think tank World Business Academy for its Safe Energy Project, found that public health indicators such as infant mortality rates and cancer incidence in surrounding areas rose dramatically after Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG&E) two nuclear reactors at the Diablo Canyon power plant began operations in 1984 and 1985.
“This should be a concern for any nuclear reactor and its health risks, whether it’s been operating for a day or 30 or 40 years because these reactors create over 100 cancer-causing chemicals; much of it is stored as waste at the plant, but a portion of it is released into the environment and gets into human bodies through the food chain,” said Joseph Mangano, who authored the study. He is the executive director of the nonprofit Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP). Continue reading →