Australian news, and some related international items

UK “reviewing” files on nuclear bomb tests in Australia- this smacks of a cover-up

“To now withdraw previously available documents is extremely unfortunate and hints at an attempted cover-up.”

“worrying that properly released records can suddenly be removed from public access without notice or explanation.”

Review or ‘cover up’? Mystery as Australia nuclear weapons tests files withdrawn, By James Griffiths, CNN

More than 65 years since the UK began conducting secret nuclear weapons testing in the Australian Outback, scores of files about the program have been withdrawn from the country’s National Archives without explanation.

The unannounced move came as a shock to many researchers and historians who rely on the files and have been campaigning to unseal the small number which remain classified.

“Many relevant UK documents have remained secret since the time of the tests, well past the conventional 30 years that government documents are normally withheld,” said expert Elizabeth Tynan, author of “Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga Story”.

“To now withdraw previously available documents is extremely unfortunate and hints at an attempted cover-up.”

Withdrawal of the files was first noted in late December. Access to them has remained closed in the new year.

Dark legacy   The UK conducted 12 nuclear weapons tests in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s, mostly in the sparsely populated Outback of South Australia.

Information about the tests remained a tightly held secret for decades. It wasn’t until a Royal Commission was formed in 1984 — in the wake of several damning press reports — that the damage done to indigenous people and the Australian servicemen and women who worked on the testing grounds became widely known.

Indigenous people living nearby had long complained of the effects they suffered, including after a “black mist” settled over one camp near Maralinga in the wake of the Totem I test in October 1953. The mist caused stinging eyes and skin rashes. Others vomited and suffered from diarrhea.

These claims were dismissed and ridiculed by officials for decades — until, in the wake of the Royal Commission report, the UK agreed to pay the Australian government and the traditional owners of the Maralinga lands about AU$46 million ($30 million). The Australian authorities also paid indigenous Maralinga communities a settlement of AU$13.5 million ($9 million).

While the damage done to indigenous communities was acknowledged, much about the Totem I test — and other tests at Maralinga and later at Emu Field — remained secret, even before the recent withdrawal of archive documents.

“The British atomic tests in Australia did considerable harm to indigenous populations, to military and other personnel and to large parts of the country’s territory. This country has every right to know exactly what the tests entailed,” Tynan said. “Mysteries remain about the British nuclear tests in Australia, and these mysteries have become harder to bring to light with the closure of files by the British government.”

Alan Owen, chairman of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association, which campaigns on behalf of former servicemen, said “the removal of these documents affects not only our campaign, but affects the many academic organizations that rely on this material.”

“We are very concerned that the documents will not be republished and the (Ministry of Defense) will again deny any responsibility for the effects the tests have had on our membership,” Owen told CNN.

Unclear motives Responding to a request for comment from CNN, a spokeswoman for the National Archives said the withdrawal of the Australian nuclear test files was done at the request of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which has ultimate responsibility over them.

The NDA said that “a collection of records has been temporarily withdrawn from general access via The National Archive at Kew as part of a review process.”

“It is unclear, at this time, how long the review will take, however NDA anticipates that many of the documents will be restored to the public archive in due course,” a spokeswoman said.

Jon Agar, a professor of science and technology at University College London, said the withdrawal “is not just several records but two whole classes of files, many of which had previously been open to researchers at the National Archives.”

“These files are essential to any historian of the UK nuclear projects — which of course included tests in Australia. They have been closed without proper communication or consultation,” he added.

Agar shared correspondence he had with the NDA in which a spokeswoman said some files would be moved to a new archive — Nucleus — in the far north of Scotland. Howevethe Nucleus archives focus on the British civil nuclear industry, and it is unclear why files on military testing would be moved there, or why those files would need to be withdrawn to do so.

Nucleus also does not offer the type of online access to its records as the National Archives does.

“Why not just copy the files if the nuclear industry needs them at Nucleus for administrative reasons? Why take them all out of public view?” Agar wrote on Twitter.

Information freedom In correspondence with both CNN and Agar, the NDA suggested those interested in the files could file freedom of information (FOI) requests for them.

Under the 2000 Freedom of Information Act, British citizens and concerned parties are granted the “right to access recorded information held by public sector organizations.”

FOI requests can be turned down if the government deems the information too sensitive or the request too expensive to process. Under a separate rule, the UK government should also declassify documents between 20 and 30 years after they were created.

According to the BBC, multiple UK government departments — including the Home Office and Cabinet Office — have been repeatedly condemned by auditors for their “poor,” “disappointing” and “unacceptable” treatment of FOI applications.

Commenting on the nuclear documents, Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, a UK-based NGO, said it was “worrying that properly released records can suddenly be removed from public access without notice or explanation.”

“It suggests that the historical record is fragile and transient and liable to be snatched away at any time, with or without good reason,” he added.

January 12, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, history, secrets and lies, weapons and war | 2 Comments

Bureau of Meteorology’ reveals Australia’s record-breaking month of climate change

The stunning chart revealing Australia’s record-breaking run of rising temperatures   By Nicole Hasham10 January 2019

If there was any question Australians are enduring a more extreme, topsy-turvy climate, look only to the month just gone.

In early December, Cyclone Owen unloaded 678 millimetres of rain in one day on the tiny North Queensland town of Halifax. It was a new December daily rainfall

By mid-December, a month’s worth of rain fell in parts of Victoria in 24 hours. On December 20 it was Sydney’s turn when a monster thunderstorm dropped giant hail stones – some the size of cricket balls. The insurance bill is nearing $675 million.

Then, the sun came out. By month’s end, much of Australia was baking under torrid temperatures. Marble Bar in Western Australia reached 49.3 degrees – the third-highest December temperature recorded anywhere in the country.


The record-breaking events are outlined in the Bureau of Meteorology’s 2018 climate statement released on Thursday, which confirmed the nation experienced its third-warmest year on record in 2018. The bureau attributed the year of meteorological extremes to both climate change and natural variability.

The national mean temperature in 2018 was 1.14 degrees above average. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2005.

The bureau’s senior climatologist Lynette Bettio said every state and territory experienced above-average day and night temperatures last year.

“The average maximum temperature for the country as a whole was particularly warm, sitting 1.55 degrees above the 1961-1990 average, making 2018 Australia’s second warmest year on record for daily high temperatures,” Dr Bettio said.

Australia’s September rainfall was the lowest on record. Nationally, rainfall in 2018 was the lowest since 2005 and 11 per cent below average, while rainfall in some areas was significantly further below normal.

“Large areas of southeastern Australia experienced rainfall totals in the lowest 10 per cent on record, which exacerbated the severe drought conditions,” Dr Bettio said.

“NSW had its sixth driest year on record, while the Murray-Darling Basin saw its seventh-driest year on record.

“We did see some respite in the final three months of the year with decent rainfall in the east of the country.”

In other significant weather events last year, Broome broke its annual rainfall record just two months into the year and Tropical Cyclone Marcus was the strongest to affect Darwin since Tracy in 1974.

In August and September, up to 100 bushfires were active across NSW, Queensland and Victoria when warm, dry conditions brought an early start to the bushfire season

The Morrison government has been riven with internal tensions over climate change policy. Under the Paris climate accord, Australia has vowed to reduce greenhouse emissions, based on 2005 levels, by 26 per cent before 2030.

The government says Australia will meet that target “in a canter” however this claim has been contradicted by international bodies and the government’s own data.

Most recently, figures released by the Department of Environment and Energy last month showed that on current trends Australia will reduce emissions by just 7 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, a massive 19 percentage points or two-thirds of the way short of the Paris agreement.

A major report prepared by the United Nations body for climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in October said coal-generated electricity must be phased out globally by 2050 if the world is to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of global warming, including the total destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.

The bureau said Australia was strongly influenced by both natural variability and climate change in 2018. Natural drivers included sea surface temperatures in the southern Tasman Sea which rose to “exceptionally high levels” in late 2017 and early 2018, contributing to warm overland conditions.

The report said Australia’s climate “is increasingly influenced by global warming” and the nation has warmed by just over one degree since 1910. Most warming has occurred since 1950.

Australia could use a little-known loophole to help meet up to half its Paris climate commitments in a move that analysts warn could undermine the global accord.

It said radical, swift efforts must be taken to curb greenhouse gas pollution and keep the global temperature increase below the critical 1.5 degree threshold.

“The background warming trend can only be explained by human influence on the global climate,” the bureau said.

January 12, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Climate change: Victoria’s iconic Great Ocean Road at risk from sea level rise

Great Ocean Road at risk from surging sea , Canberra Times, By Royce Millar, 10 January 2019 Key sections of the Great Ocean Road are at risk of being washed away, raising safety fears and calls for the Andrews government to reroute parts of the world-recognised tourist road.

New studies of dramatic beach erosion around Apollo Bay over the last two years highlight the mounting problem of erosion, flooding and sea level rise along Victoria’s coast.

 In a report to the State government released exclusively to The Age, leading coastal geomorphologist Neville Rosengren and engineer Tony Miner recommend urgent action to protect the foreshore of Mounts Bay next to Apollo Bay, after major erosion there in 2017.

They warn the national heritage-listed road could be “compromised” within five years.

A second report on erosion at Apollo Bay by engineers GHD also recommends the eventual “realignment” of the road outside township areas at Apollo Bay. It notes that five metres of erosion at Apollo Bay beach during a June 2018 storm put the road “at risk”.

The studies point to erosion at critical levels at the very time the state’s south-west is hosting ever greater numbers of visitors, now more than five million a year.

Similar problems are being faced along the wider coast, from Port Fairy in the south-west to Inverloch and the Ninety Mile Beach and Lakes Entrance in the south-east and east……..

findings raise the prospect that rising seas due to climate change are now proving a real problem for vulnerable coastal locations.

Mr Rosengren said rising sea levels contributed to the erosion at Mounts Bay.

“You’re witnessing the effects of a complex of processes of which sea level is one,” he said.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) current projection for sea level rise, based on high emissions, ‘business-as-usual’ scenario, is almost 90 centimetres by the year 2100, relative to an average sea level for the period 1986-2005.

That projection will be updated, most likely upwards, in the IPCC’s special oceans report due for release this year.

Other peer-reviewed studies have forecast a much steeper rise in sea level by 2100.

……… While possible, realignment of the road would be difficult and expensive at Mounts Bay because the Barham River runs along the landward side of the road, making the area also susceptible to flooding.

…….. A quandary for all concerned is that sea walls of any form will alter the character of a coastline renowned for its rugged, natural beauty. Sea walls also interfere with the coast’s ecology and its ability to naturally replenish itself.

Bankrolled by public donations, the 243-kilometre Great Ocean Road was built by World War I veterans between 1919 and 1932 as a memorial to soldiers killed in the war, and to open the south-west coast to tourists and daytrippers. It was built as close to the ocean as possible.

……… A Victorian Department of Environment Land Water and Planning spokesperson said accounting for sea level rise was now “embedded” in the Victorian planning system.

The Age has sought an interview and comments from federal Environment Minister Melissa Price about the Morrison government’s policies on, and plans for, sea level rise.

January 12, 2019 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Victoria | Leave a comment

Japan backing away from nuclear power build in UK: this could derail UK’s nuclear ambitions

Japan’s nuclear rethink could derail UK energy plans,, Doug Parr, 11 Jan 19,   Reports in the Japanese press claim Hitachi is set to suspend all work on Wylfa, its nuclear power project in Wales.

Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe is in London this week, and it seems likely in his meeting with Theresa May that the Japanese-backed nuclear power plant in Wales will come up.

The Wylfa project, to be built by Hitachi and its subsidiary Horizon, is one of a clutch of planned nuclear power stations which the UK government has heavily prioritised for security of power supply, and meeting the country’s climate obligations.

Late last year another of the 6 major projects, the proposed Moorside plant in Cumbria, was effectively abandoned after Toshiba pulled out. And another has come under fire as questions are raised about security issues flowing from the Chinese builders.

These developments effectively illustrate that UK nuclear power policy is heavily dependent on overseas developers. What is less understood is that there are significant shifts underway in Japan which strongly suggest Hitachi’s projects may too be at risk.

‘Nuclear export superpower’   The most advanced of Horizon’s nuclear plans is a large power station to be built at Wylfa on Anglesey, North Wales.

In fact, with the collapse of Moorside, the Wylfa plant is the only nuclear project that could realistically be built before 2030, in addition to the plant already under construction at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Japan, however, is reconsidering its nuclear export strategy. Because it keeps going wrong.

Until recently it had 3 companies interested in building nuclear power stations abroad: Toshiba, Mitsubishi and Hitachi.

These companies have experience building nuclear stations at home but since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, they have had to look elsewhere. Seeking to help these giants of Japanese industry to maintain their businesses, Prime Minister Abe reportedly wanted to turn Japan into a “nuclear export superpower”.

Misfires   Toshiba pulled out of Moorside last year because it had run up huge losses in building 2 nuclear plants in USA. One, the Summer project in South Carolina, was abandoned altogether despite it being nearly half-built. Toshiba has pulled out not just of Moorside, but of building new nuclear power stations altogether.

Meanwhile, another of Japan’s nuclear groups, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), has also been struggling to get its international project off-the-ground. It had one nuclear power station in the offing, at Sinop in Turkey, following an agreement years ago between the two countries’ prime ministers. However it seems clear that MHI is preparing to leave the project amid its “ballooning costs”. This is the only nuclear power station project MHI had an interest in.

The last of the companies involved in Japan’s nuclear export push is Hitachi. It has one active overseas nuclear project in UK at Wylfa, North Wales, and one more speculatively planned at Oldbury in Gloucestershire.

Hitachi, however, are reportedly be thinking of scrapping the project as its costs and risks become unmanageable. Hitachi could be looking at Toshiba’s near-bankruptcy and thinking ‘let’s not go there’.  According to their chairman the project was in “an extremely severe situation” as it struggled to attract investors, even though UK government may have promised as much as two thirds of the build cost.

Despite this already generous largesse (on behalf of UK taxpayers, not offered to any other energy projects) Hitachi are intending to come back to UK government and ask for more. It looks like no assessment of the risks by a private funder come back looking good, and the only way nuclear plants can be built is with government stepping into very risky projects that require taxpayers to shoulder the risk.

The aversion from private investors may not only be because of the rising costs, but also that the operating performance of the proposed reactor is pretty poor (albeit partly due to earthquakes). Notably Hitachi continues to be happy to spend many billions of pounds on power grid investments, but not its own nuclear reactor, which it wants UK taxpayers to fund.

Second thoughts  Unsurprisingly this tale is making many in Japan have second thoughts.

Major Japanese newspapers have opposed their own taxpayers lending supportto the Wylfa project, even though a home-grown company would be getting the benefits. And during the Xmas break, Japan’s third largest newspaper called for the nuclear export strategy to be abandoned. Another paper attacks the ‘bottomless swamp’ of nuclear funding in UK and remarks upon how few countries seem to be following the UK-style nuclear-focused policy.

Reportedly Japanese government has asked its development banks to fund the ‘nuclear export strategy’, and Wylfa in particular, but they don’t want to. It is quite difficult to see how Hitachi can manage the risks of this project without some home support, and support in Japan is ebbing away.

Few other countries will be stepping into the UK’s nuclear hole. The South Korean company KEPCO – that once might have taken over the Moorside project – is also finding exporting nuclear power tough to export, as ‘shoddy’ construction in a nuclear plant in United Arab Emirates, with attendant delays and extra costs, is showing.

For the UK, which has made a heavy bet on new nuclear to cover for retiring plants and make up a significant share of its decarbonisation targets, news from the other side of the world makes that bet look a dodgy one.


January 12, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Over 600 Environmental Groups support Green New Deal, in USA Congress

More Than 600 Environmental Groups Just Backed Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, Gizmodo, Brian Kahn , 11 Jan 19, Pressure continues to mount on Congress to get its act together on climate change. The latest salvo came on Thursday, as 626 groups delivered a letter to every member of Congress laying out their support for a Green New Deal and their demands.

The list of groups includes heavy hitters in the climate and policy world like Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity, 350, and Indivisible, as well as a raft of local groups in a show of how the idea of a Green New Deal has captured grassroots activists. But the letter also highlights some areas of disagreement with previous proposals for how to shape a Green New Deal, particularly when it comes to pricing carbon and nuclear power.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez popularized the proposal for a Green New Deal to wean the U.S. off fossil fuels in a little over a decade during the midterm election, and protests on Capitol Hill have galvanized support. Add in the fact that there’s basically a decade left to get our act together to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, and it’s clear the time is here to shape the only climate plan in line with the science into a specific set of policy proposals.

“With a new House majority, which is so diverse and so representative of a new generation, now is the time to emphasize the urgent need for climate action,” Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, told Earther.

The letter sent to Congress on Thursday lays out the 626 groups’ vision for a Green New Deal. On the energy side, it calls on the government to stop leasing federal lands for fossil fuel extraction, to end approval for new fossil fuel infrastructure, and utilize the Clean Air Act to set more stringent standards for greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. It also calls for shifting to 100 percent renewable power by 2035 if not sooner.

The letter emphasizes respecting indigenous rights and a transition away from fossil fuels that centers justice, including a “comprehensive economic plan to drive job growth and invest in a new green economy that is designed, built and governed by communities and workers.” A similar plan has been implemented in Spain to help coal workers, while the pitfalls of not engaging with the people most impacted by the transition away from fossil fuels are clear in France’s yellow vest protests.

The plan isn’t totally feasible right now because of, as Snape put it, “the toddler in the White House,” but he added that the growing impacts of climate change mean that “at some point we believe elected Republicans will have no choice but to join our effort.”

Getting Republicans under the tent may take compromise, to say nothing of other groups already on board with the Green New Deal. The letter sent to Congress notably mentions that any energy transition must “exclude all combustion-based power generation, nuclear, biomass energy, large scale hydro and waste-to-energy technologies.” …….

January 12, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Dr Gordon Edwards explains the background to former NRC chairman’s opposition to nuclear power

  Nuclear Regulatory Commission ex-Chairman Gregory Jaczko is adamantly opposed to the idea of keeping existing nuclear reactors running as a way to offset climate change, because each reactor is like a time bomb ready to explode if the cooling is cut off by a total station blackout, by equipment failure, by major pipe breaks, or by acts of warfare, sabotage, or terrorism. The societal dislocation caused by the spread of radioactive material over wide areas, affecting drinking water, food and habitation for decades or centuries, is as bad as the ravages of climate change for the communities so affected.
As Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the time of the Fukushima disaster, Jaczko has a unique insight into the factors that make nuclear power plants dangerous even after so-called “safe” shutdown. The Ex-NRC regulator argues against nuclear energy as a tactic to fight climate change 4 knows, too, that the arguments levied against renewables are ultimately incorrect, as technology to store energy and to rechannel it is growing by leaps and bounds. Investing tens or hundreds of billions of dollars into maintaining old nuclear reactors, which are becoming increasingly dangerous as they age, is simply stealing money away from investments in the renewable revolution that is our best hope for a sustainable energy future.     
Ex-NRC regulator argues against nuclear energy as a tactic to fight climate change 1 Background:  by Dr Gordon Edwards, January 11, 2019 Commercial nuclear power plants are water-cooled. They are fuelled by ceramic uranium fuel pellets stacked inside long narrow rods made of zirconium metal. A number of these rods are bound together into a fuel assembly — in Canada such an assembly is called a fuel bundle.
Heat is produced by splitting uranium atoms. That heat is transported by the liquid water coolant which flows past the zirconium tubes containing the fuel. The heat is used to produce steam that will turn the blades of a steam turbine to generate electricity.
As the uranium fuel undergoes nuclear fission (splitting uranium atoms), hundreds of varieties of intensely radioactive byproducts build up inside the fuel. These are (1) broken fragments of uranium atoms, called “fission products”; (2) heavier-than-uranium elements, including plutonium, called “transuranic actinides”. These byproducts are millions of times more radioactive than the original fuel.

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January 12, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australian govt manages Kakadu National Park, and must upgrade it, and the town of Jabiru

Show Kakadu the money, insists Moss, Jan 19

IT is time the Federal Government made clear what its funding plans are for Kakadu National Park and the town of Jabiru, Tourism Minister Lauren Moss said yesterday

IT is time the Federal Government made clear what its funding plans are for Kakadu National Park and the town of Jabiru, Tourism Minister Lauren Moss said WEDNESDAY.

Ms Moss said she is regularly quizzed about the Federal Government’s intentions.

“We have been advocating for a really long time and we have a blueprint that we presented to the Federal Government that has been done in conjunction with Aboriginal traditional owners and we want to make that we see the tired infrastructure upgraded and the complete transformation of Jabiru,” Ms Moss said. “The township is transitioning out of being a mining town into a really pumping tourist town that supports the surrounding communities.

“In line with this we continue to encourage the Federal Government to put the badly needed investment into Kakadu.

“It is a park that is managed by the Federal Government and more needs to be done in Kakadu.

“We love our parks and that’s why we are making investments in Litchfield, Nitmiluk and a whole range of other park estates.

“Kakadu National Park is important to Australia and to our Top End tourism operators. It’s an incredibly important cultural and natural asset for the Territory. This is recognised by its heritage listing.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has committed to working with the Territory Government and Traditional Owners “to ensure the future of Jabiru is settled as soon as possible”, but has not committed to a timeline

January 12, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

Pope Francis’ strong statement condemning nuclear wesapons

  Pope Francis Rejects Existence of Nuclear weapons,  Vatican City, Jan 7 (Prensa Latina) Pope Francis said on Monday that the existence of nuclear weapons is functional to a logic of fear that has to do not only with parties in conflict, but with the entire human race.

In his speech before the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, on the occasion of the congratulations for the new year, the Supreme Pontiff said that international relations cannot be dominated by military forces, reciprocal intimidation or the ostentation of military arsenals.

In this regard, he pointed out that it is sad to see how the arms market not only does not stop, but there is an increasingly widespread tendency for individuals and states to arm themselves.

Francis pointed out that ‘it is especially worrying that nuclear disarmament, so desired and pursued in part in the past decades, is now giving way to new, increasingly sophisticated and destructive weapons.

Weapons of mass destruction, particularly atomic weapons,’ he said, ‘generate nothing but a misleading sense of security and cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence among members of the human family, which must nevertheless be inspired by an ethic of solidarity.

The Pope referred, on the other hand, to the floods, floods, fires, earthquakes and droughts suffered in 2018 by regions of the Latin American continent and South-East Asia, for which he considered urgent an agreement of the international community on environmental issues and climate change.

He also stressed that in the light of the consensus reached at the recent International Climate Conference (COP-24) in Katowice, he expected a more decisive commitment from states to strengthen collaboration to urgently address the worrying phenomenon of global warming.

January 12, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Why sea levels aren’t rising at the same rate globally

Explainer: Why sea levels aren’t rising at the same rate globally, A spinning planet, melting ice sheets and warmer waters all contribute to sea level rise, Science news for Students, KATY DAIGLE, CAROLYN GRAMLING, JAN 10, 2019 The sea is coming for the land. In the 20th century, ocean levels rose by a global average of about 14 centimeters (some 5.5 inches). Most of that came from warming water and melting ice. But the water didn’t rise the same amount everywhere. Some coastal areas saw more sea level rise than others. Here’s why:

Swelling seawater  As water heats up, its molecules spread out. That means warmer water takes up slightly more space. It’s just a tiny bit per water molecule. But over an ocean, it’s enough to bump up global sea levels……..

Land a-rising  Heavy ice sheets — glaciers — covered much of the Northern Hemisphere about 20,000 years ago. The weight of all that ice compressed the land beneath it in areas such as the northeastern United States. Now that this ice is gone, the land has been slowly rebounding to its former height. So in those areas, because the land is rising, sea levels appear to be rising more slowly.

But regions that once lay at the edges of the ice sheets are sinking. ……..

Land a-falling, Earthquakes can make land levels rise and fall…….

Glaciers begone  Melting glaciers also can add water to the oceans. But these huge ice slabs affect sea levels in other ways, too.

Huge glaciers can exert a gravitational tug on nearby coastal waters. …….

January 12, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

2019 As coal and nuclear power stations retire, 2019 U.S. renewable generation additions expected to far outpace gas

2019 US renewable generation additions expected to far outpace gas: EIA AUTHOR, Iulia Gheorghiu @IMGheorghiu

Dive Brief:

  • 23.7 GW of new U.S. electric generating capacity, mostly from wind, natural gas and solar, are expected in 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) inventory of electric generators.
  • In addition, EIA data shows 8 GW of primarily coal, nuclear and natural gas generation are expected to retire this year, though that number could increase as utilities continue to evaluate their generating portfolios.
  • The expected retirements include Arizona’s 2.3 GW Navajo coal-burning power plant, Exelon’s 819 MW Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania and Entergy’s 677 MW Pilgrim nuclear power station in Massachusetts.

Dive Insight:

Cheaper prices of natural gas and renewable energy have impacted the competitiveness of more traditional generation fuels.

Renewable additions are projected to more than double gas in 2019. Last year, natural gas capacity additions outpaced renewable energy additions for the first time since 2013. 2018 was also a landmark year for new capacity additions, as EIA expected nearly 32 GW of new capacity — the most in a decade.

The estimates, based on EIA data, do not include additions in the residential and commercial solar sectors, which are expected to be an additional 3.9 GW by the end of 2019.

In 2019, EIA is tracking about 6.1 GW of combined-cycle gas plants and 1.4 GW of combustion-turbine gas plants, expected to be mostly online by June, in order to meet high energy demand during the summer peak. The rest of the expected additions include wind, solar and about 2% of other renewable and battery storage capacity.

Renewable capacity typically comes online at the end of the year, according to the EIA. This matches the upcoming changes in renewable energy tax credits. The wind production tax credit will phase out completely at the end of the year from its current status at 40% of 2015 levels. On the solar side, this is the last year for a full 30% investment tax credit for developing solar energy systems, which will begin to phase down in 2020.

Utility integrated resource plans (IRPs) are beginning to show that renewables can beat out older coal plants, as the Northern Indiana Public Service Company demonstrated through its 2018 IRP analysis last fall, assessing a scenario to eliminate the resource by 2028.

Half of the 4.5 GW of coal-fired capacity expected to retire in 2019 comes from the Navajo Generation Station (NGS), which has not found enough customers for its power generation despite support from a number of groups and the Trump administration to keep it open. Last September, private equity firm Middle River Power dropped its bid to purchase the plant.

In addition, the Pilgrim nuclear plant, set to retire in May, and Three Mile Island, scheduled to retire in September, follow announcements from the plant operators of “severe economic challenges.” Exelon’s Three Mile Island failed to clear the PJM Interconnection capacity market auction in 2017 and Entergy based the decision for Pilgrim on a range of financial factors, including low current and forecast wholesale energy prices.

While the Trump administration has worked to support existing coal and nuclear power plants and to create economic conditions to add new coal and nuclear capacity, trends are pointing away from nuclear and coal additions.

“I don’t think there are any trends in the current electricity market that favor the idea of building new coal or nuclear power plants,” Tim Fox, vice president of ClearView Energy Partners, told Utility Dive.

The natural gas plants set for retirement largely consist of steam turbine plants, mostly located in California. They are older units that came online more than 50 years ago. Other capacity retirements for the year include a hydroelectric plant in Washington state and smaller renewable and petroleum capacity.

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January 12, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment