Sen. Ron Wyden's Visit to Fukushima Raises New Concerns over Safety
By Ethan A. Huff
During a recent Congressional delegation trip to Japan, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) witnessed with his own eyes the horrific aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which we have heard very little about from the media in recent months. The damage situation was apparently so severe, according to his account, that he wrote a letter to Ichiro Fujisaki, Ambassador of Japan, petitioning for more to be done, and offering any additional support and assistance that might help contain and resolve the situation as quickly as possible.
The letter, which many experts see as the ominous writing on the wall for the grave severity of the circumstances, offers a disturbing glimpse into what is really going on across the Pacific Ocean that the mainstream media is apparently ignoring. While referencing the fact that all four of the affected reactors are still "badly damaged," Sen. Wyden seems to hint in his letter that Reactor 4, which has reportedly been on the verge of collapse for many months now, could be nearing catastrophic implosion.
According to Christina Consolo, an award-winning biomedical photographer and host of Nuked Radio, Reactor 4 has remained in such bad shape that even a very small earthquake could quickly level the building, sending the fuel from more than 1,500 unused fuel rods into the environment. And with Reactor 4 still filled with the highest levels of radioactive MOX and other fuels, the consequences of this potential collapse could be far worse than anything that has happened thus far as a result of the earthquake and tsunami.
"[S]itting at the top of [Reactor 4], in a pool that is cracked, leaking and precarious even without an earthquake, are 1,565 fuel rods (give or take a few), some of them 'fresh fuel' that was ready to go into the reactor on the morning of March 11 when the earthquake and tsunami hit," writes Consolo. "If they are MOX fuel, containing six percent plutonium, one fuel rod has the potential to kill 2.89 billion people."
Sen. Wyden is also asking U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Gregory Jaczko to assess how much additional assistance their agencies might be willing to provide to help Japan, and the entire world, avoid a nuclear catastrophe of Biblical proportions.
"The scope of damage to the plants and to the surrounding area was far beyond what I expected and the scope of the challenges to the utility owner, the government of Japan, and to the people of the region are daunting," wrote Sen. Wyden in his letter, dated April 16, 2012. "The precarious status of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear units and the risk presented by the enormous inventory of radioactive materials and spent fuel in the event of further earthquake threats should be of concern to all and a focus of greater international support and assistance."
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
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