Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear industry in the time of pandemic – theme for April 2020

Nuclear power may soon be irrelevant to our energy needs. With the pandemic and social distancing, nuclear reactors are likely to be cutting back on output, or even going offline. And there are still the risks of extreme weather. Irrelevant, but still dangerous. Similarly, other nuclear facilities, like waste management, and nuclear weapons sites are also threatened. New nuclear development possibly stopped in its tracks, and certainly adding to its already astronomic costs.

The nuclear lobby, desperate to keep its industry alive, is claiming that “essential work” is the construction of the UK’s boondoggle  –Hinkley C project, and USA’s boondoggle Nuclear Plant Vogtle.

The “Small Nuclear Reactors” industry development  is looking sillier – carrying its huge financial risk, but no safety risk yet, seeing that it does not physically exist.

April 11, 2020 Posted by | Christina themes | Leave a comment

Calls for Morrison to end fossil fuel stimulus, redirect funds to clean tech — RenewEconomy


Calls for Morrison to end the ‘fossil fuel stimulus’ as economic crisis creates opportunity to make long term investment in clean technologies. The post Calls for Morrison to end fossil fuel stimulus, redirect funds to clean tech appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Calls for Morrison to end fossil fuel stimulus, redirect funds to clean tech — RenewEconomy

April 11, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The COVID Pandemic has thrown America’s atomic reactor industry into lethal chaos

Terrified Atomic Workers Warn That the COVID-19 Pandemic May Threaten Nuclear Reactor Disaster

Nuclear safety cannot be shortchanged—especially in the midst of an outbreak like what the nation is now experiencing, by Harvey Wasserman  10 Apr 20, 

The COVID Pandemic has thrown America’s atomic reactor industry into lethal chaos, making a major disaster even more likely. Reports from “terrified” workers at a Pennsylvania reactor indicate vital precautions needed to protect them may not even be possible.

Nationwide, with falling demand and soaring prices for nuke-generated electricity, the pandemic casts a dark shadow over reactor operations and whether frightened neighbors will allow them to be refueled and repaired.

America’s 96 remaining atomic reactors are run by a coveted pool of skilled technicians who manage the control rooms, conduct repairs, load/unload nuclear fuel.  Because few young students have been entering the field, the corps of about 100,000 licensed technicians has been—like the reactors themselves—rapidly aging while declining in numbers.  Work has stopped at the last two US reactors under construction (at Vogtle, Georgia) due to the pandemic’s impact, which includes a shrinking supply of healthy workers.

Every reactor control room requires five operators at all times.  But the physical space is limited there and in plant hot spots that need frequent, often demanding repairs.  Social distancing is virtually impossible.  Long shifts in confined spaces undermine operator safety and performance.

Of critical importance: every 18-24 months each reactor must shut for refueling and repairs. Itinerant crews of 1000 to 1500 technicians travel to 58 sites in 29 states, usually staying 30-60 days. They often board with local families, or in RVs, hotels, or Air B&Bs.

Some 54 reactors have been scheduled for refuel/repairs in 2020. But there is no official, organized program to test the workers for the Coronavirus as they move around the country.

As the pandemic thins the workforce, older operators are being called out of retirement.  The Trump-run Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently certified 16-hour work days, 86-hour work weeks, and up to 14 consecutive days with 12-hour shifts.

Long-time nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen warns of fatigued operators falling asleep on the job. He recalls at least one exhausted worker falling into the highly radioactive pool surrounding the high-level fuel rods. Operator fatigue also helped cause the 1979 melt-down that destroyed Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island Unit Two.

The industry is now using the coronavirus pandemic to rush through a wide range of deregulation demands. Among them is a move to allow radioactive waste to be dumped into municipal landfills. 

The NRC may also certify skipping vital repairs, escalating the likelihood of major breakdowns and melt-downs. Nearly all US reactors were designed and built in the pre-digital age, more than 30 years ago. Most are in advanced decay. Atomic expert David Lochbaum, formerly with the NRC, warns that failure risks from longer work hours and deferred repairs could be extremely significant, and could vary from reactor to reactor depending on their age and condition.

The industry has also been required to maintain credible public health response plans should those reactors blow. But pandemic-stricken U.S. hospitals now have zero spare capacity, multiplying the possible human fallout from an increasingly likely disaster.

Industry-wide the pandemic has brought working conditions to the brink of collapse.  At Pennsylvania’s Limerick Generating Station, workers say they are “terrified” that the plant has become a “breeding ground…a complete cesspool” for the coronavirus.  “I’m in a constant state of paranoia,” one technician told Carl Hessler, Jr., of MontcoCourtNews. 

Others say social distancing is non-existent, with “no less than 100 people in the training room” and “people literally sitting on top of each other…sitting at every computer elbow to elbow.” Shift change rooms, Hessler was told, can be “standing room only.” At least two Limerick workers are confirmed to have carried the virus.  COVID rates in the county are soaring.

Gundersen, a nuclear engineer, warns that limited control room floorspace and cramped conditions for maintenance can make social distancing impossible.  “Some component repairs can involve five workers working right next to each other,” he says.

Because reactor-driven electricity is not vital amidst this pandemic downturn, the demand for atomic workers to “stay home” is certain to escalate. “I am concerned with Exelon & Limerick Nuclear Generating Station’s handling of the scheduled refueling—which has required bringing in workers from across the country during this pandemic,” says US Rep. Madeleine Dean in a statement likely to be repeated at reactor sites around the country.   

“The potential increase of COVID-19 cases from 1,400 new workers not observing social distancing is staggering,” says epidemiologist Joseph Mangano of the Radiation and Health Project. “The Limerick plant should be shut until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.”

Indian Point Unit One, north of New York City, will shut permanently on April 28.  Iowa’s Duane Arnold will close in December.

But Ground Zero may be Pacific Gas & Electric’s two 35-year-old reactors at Diablo Canyon. PG&E is bankrupt for the second time in two decades, and recently pleaded guilty to 85 felonies from the fires its faulty wires sent raging through northern California, killing 84 people. In 2010 a faulty PG&E gas line exploded in San Bruno, killing eight people.

Surrounded by earthquake faults, Diablo’s construction prompted more than 10,000 civil disobedience arrests, the most at any US reactor. PG&E now admits its two Diablo nukes will lose more than $1.2 billion this year, more than $3.4 million per day.

Amidst its bitterly contested bankruptcy, PG&E may be taken over by the state. But more than a thousand workers are slated in early October to refuel and repair Unit One, which the NRC says is dangerously embrittled.

Whether local residents concerned about both a nuclear accident and the spread of the coronavirus will let them into the county remains to be seen. So is whether they’ll be still operating by then.

With the future of the nuclear industry at stake—along with the possibility of more reactor mishaps—the whole world will be watching.

April 11, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

W.A. to lead way in transition to distributed, renewable and equitable grid — RenewEconomy

W.A. switches from laggard to national leader as it plots out a path to embrace rooftop solar, batteries and EVs so that distributed energy can help displace big fossil fuel plants. The post W.A. to lead way in transition to distributed, renewable and equitable grid appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via W.A. to lead way in transition to distributed, renewable and equitable grid — RenewEconomy

April 11, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New wind farm begins generating in Victoria — RenewEconomy


Second part of Lal Lal wind complex in Victoria connects to the grid and begins generating. The post New wind farm begins generating in Victoria appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via New wind farm begins generating in Victoria — RenewEconomy

April 11, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UK local authorities call for reducing construction at Hinkley C nuclear site, in view of coronavirus risks

Nuclear Free Local Authorities,( NFLA) 9th April 2020, A group of anti-nuclear Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) and the UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) remain highly alarmed that construction at the Hinkley Point C proposed new nuclear power station site is continuing, despite the extensive public lockdown and social distancing rules brought in across the UK.
These groups call for construction at Hinkley Point C to be reduced to control and maintenance operations only
until the Covid-19 public health emergency is under full control. This repeated call comes from the NGOs and NFLA following intensive lobbying of the UK Government, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Somerset local authorities responsible for the Hinkley Point C site by many of these groups, including the local Stop Hinkley group.
It follows early photos from the site showing a crowded staff canteen and a lack of social distancing at bus queues and at entry and exit points.
NGO representatives and the NFLA have actively raised their concerns in meetings with senior officials of the UK Government and the Office for Nuclear Regulation, as well as with the UK Government Office for Nuclear Development. The StopHinkley group have also been in liaison with the local authority. A  detailed letter was sent by the NGO Co-Chairs of the BEIS NGO Forum, the ONR NGO Forum and the NFLA on the 31st March when the photographs were first made public.
The NGOs and NFLA welcome the efforts made by EDF Energy and the ONR to reduce the staffing on the site from over 4,500 to just under 2,000, and suggestions this will further reduce to around 1,000.
There have been improved efforts as well to enforce social distancing, though it remains to be seen if earlier poor practice in this area on and around the site could lead to increased infection rates in North Somerset and areas where the workforce originate from, such as South Wales and the Bristol area.

April 11, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Fukushima mothers become radiation scientists, to help future generations

Fukushima mothers record radiation for future generations, Japan Times ,BY YUKA NAKAO, KYODO   IWAKI, FUKUSHIMA PREF 10 Apr 20, . – A group of more than 10 mothers set up a citizen-led laboratory to monitor radiation levels in Fukushima communities only months after a massive earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns at a nuclear power plant in the prefecture nine years ago.Since the foundation of the institute on Nov. 13, 2011, it has been recording and disclosing radiation data on foodstuffs and soil it collected or were brought in by people from different parts of the prefecture, as well as seawater off the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

“If the risks of nuclear power had been thoroughly verified by the previous generations, I think the disaster would not have happened,” Kaori Suzuki, 54, an executive of Mothers’ Radiation Lab Fukushima, based in Iwaki, said in a recent interview.

“But since it did occur, what we must do now is record our measurements and changes in the environment so we won’t make the same mistake,” said Suzuki, one of the founding members. “Passing down something that will be useful when major decisions must be made is the only thing we can do.”

The laboratory of 18 staff members, many of them mothers who mostly had no prior experience in measuring radiation, have trained themselves with support from scientists, and they now gauge levels of cesium 134, cesium 137, tritium and strontium 90 with five types of machines.

Samples they have measured include dust in vacuum cleaners, vegetables grown in home gardens, seasonal mushrooms picked in mountains and soil gathered in parks.

They have occasionally detected radiation above safety levels, and reports the lab releases every month on its website have specified which machine is used and other details for each outcome to make their activities as transparent as possible.

Their efforts have made academic contributions as well, with their measuring methods and results published in scientific journals such as Applied Radiation and Isotopes in 2016.

Suzuki said they started the initiative out of desperation to protect their children.

“We had to measure and eat. It was a matter of life and death,” the mother of two said. ….

As time goes by, Tanaka has found that fewer people are discussing radiation effects.

The number of samples brought in by citizens last year was 1,573, up 131 from the year before, but it is showing a decreasing trend overall compared to years before, according to the lab.

“The Olympic Games are coming, and there are fewer media reports on radiation levels than before,” she said.

Officials have dubbed the Tokyo Summer Games the “Reconstruction Olympics,” with the hope of showcasing the country’s recovery from the 2011 catastrophe.

Because of that concept, the starting point of the Japan leg of the torch relay for the Olympics, which were recently put off for a year to the summer of 2021 due to the global coronavirus pandemic, was a soccer training center in Fukushima Prefecture that served as a front-line base in the battle against the nuclear disaster.

Tanaka said logging accurate data and keeping them publicly available are all the more important. “To protect children, having information is essential in deciding what to eat or where to go,” she said, adding that judgments based on correct data will also prevent any discrimination…….

Kimura said she feels that the fears people have toward the new coronavirus are similar to those toward radiation, as they are both invisible.

“Everyone forgets about (radiation) because its effects in 10 or 20 years are uncertain, unlike the new coronavirus that shows pneumonia-like symptoms in a couple of weeks,” she said. “I realized again that people in affected areas like us have been living every day with the same feelings toward the coronavirus pandemic.”

“It’s exhausting,” she said, adding her daughters must have had a hard time as she made them do things differently from their friends, such as wearing masks. “But I felt I was not wrong when my daughter said to me recently, ‘I was being protected by you, mom.’”

In addition to conducting surveys on radiation readings in the environment and food items, the lab in May 2017 opened a clinic with a full-time doctor to provide free medical checkups on internal exposure.

“I think it’s necessary to keep checking children’s health as they grow up, rather than drawing a conclusion saying there won’t be any problem with this level of radiation exposure,” said Misao Fujita, 58, a doctor who is a native of Tochigi Prefecture.

Fujita said the amount of radiation exposure dosage and risks of health damage differ among children even if they live in the same area, depending on such factors as their location and behavior in the days after the nuclear disaster, whether they evacuated and what they eat now.

Those who underwent Fujita’s medical checkups when they were children include a woman who now takes her own child to the clinic, in addition to a number of young decontamination workers.

“The nuclear disaster is something that’s carried on to coming generations. That’s what we have left,” Fujita said. “We must also not forget that about 30,000 people are still unable to return to their hometowns in the prefecture. The disaster isn’t over yet.”

April 11, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australia’s clean energy transition delayed due to outdated electricity market design — RenewEconomy

Australia’s electricity market design is old and no longer fit for purpose, and it’s holding back the clean energy transition. The post Australia’s clean energy transition delayed due to outdated electricity market design appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Australia’s clean energy transition delayed due to outdated electricity market design — RenewEconomy

April 11, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

AEMO declares system strength shortfall in Queensland after wind, solar curtailed — RenewEconomy

AEMO has called for action on North QLD system strength issues, making formal declaration of shortfall that has impacted solar and wind projects. The post AEMO declares system strength shortfall in Queensland after wind, solar curtailed appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via AEMO declares system strength shortfall in Queensland after wind, solar curtailed — RenewEconomy

April 11, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

April 10 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “Staying On Course: Renewable Energy In The Time Of COVID-19” • Decisions on addressing the social and economic impacts of the pandemic come at a time of profound uncertainty about long-term effects of the crisis on the world’s societies. The response must accomplish more than just to bail out the existing socio-economic structures. […]

via April 10 Energy News — geoharvey

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