Japan will release radioactive wastewater from the failed Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, the government announced on Tuesday.
The water will be treated before release, and the International Atomic Energy Agency said the country's plans were in keeping with international practice, The New York Times reported. But the plan is opposed by the local fishing community, environmental groups and neighboring countries. Within hours of the announcement, protesters had gathered outside government offices in Tokyo and Fukushima, according to NPR.
"The Japanese government has once again failed the people of Fukushima," Greenpeace Japan Climate and Energy Campaigner Kazue Suzuki said in a statement. "The government has taken the wholly unjustified decision to deliberately contaminate the Pacific Ocean with radioactive wastes."
The dilemma of how to dispose of the water is one ten years in the making. In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan killed more than 19,000 people and caused three of six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to melt down, The New York Times explained. This resulted in the biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and the cleanup efforts persist more than a decade later.
To keep the damaged reactors from melting down, cool water is flushed through them and then filtered to remove all radioactive material except for tritium. Up until now, the wastewater has been stored on site, but the government says the facility will run out of storage room next year. Water builds up at 170 tons per day, and there are now around 1.25 million tons stored in more than 1,000 tanks.
The government now plans to begin releasing the water into the ocean in two years time, according to a decision approved by cabinet ministers Tuesday. The process is expected to take decades.
"On the premise of strict compliance with regulatory standards that have been established, we select oceanic release," the government said in a statement reported by NPR.
Opposition to the move partly involves a lack of trust around what is actually in the water, as NPR reported. Both the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, say that the water only contains tritium, which cannot be separated from hydrogen and is only dangerous to humans in large amounts.
"But it turned out that the water contains more radioactive materials. But they didn't disclose that information before," Friends of the Earth Japan campaigner Ayumi Fukakusa told NPR. "That kind of attitude is not honest to people. They are making distrust by themselves."
In February, for example, a rockfish shipment was stopped when a sample caught near Fukushima tested positive for unsafe levels of cesium.
This incident also illustrates why local fishing communities oppose the release. Fish catches are already only 17.5 percent of what they were before the disaster, and the community worries the release of the water will make it impossible for them to sell what they do catch. They also feel the government went against its promises by deciding to release the water.
"They told us that they wouldn't release the water into the sea without the support of fishermen," fishery cooperative leader Kanji Tachiya told national broadcaster NHK, as CBS News reported. "We can't back this move to break that promise and release the water into the sea unilaterally."
Japan's neighbors also questioned the move. China called it "extremely irresponsible," and South Korea asked for a meeting with the Japanese ambassador in Seoul in response.
The U.S. State Department, however, said that it trusted Japan's judgement.
"In this unique and challenging situation, Japan has weighed the options and effects, has been transparent about its decision, and appears to have adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards," the department said in a statement reported by The New York Times.
But environmentalists argue that the government could have found a way to continue storing waste.
"Rather than using the best available technology to minimize radiation hazards by storing and processing the water over the long term, they have opted for the cheapest option, dumping the water into the Pacific Ocean," Greenpeace's Suzuki said.
- Japan's New Environmental Minister Calls for Closing Down All ... ›
- Radiation Along Fukushima Rivers Up to 200 Times Higher Than ... ›
By Kiyoshi Kurokawa and Najmedin Meshkati
Ten years ago, on March 11, 2011, the biggest recorded earthquake in Japanese history hit the country's northeast coast. It was followed by a tsunami that traveled up to 6 miles inland, reaching heights of over 140 feet in some areas and sweeping entire towns away in seconds.
This disaster left nearly 20,000 people dead or missing. It also destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and released radioactive materials over a large area. The accident triggered widespread evacuations, large economic losses and the eventual shutdown of all nuclear power plants in Japan. A decade later, the nuclear industry has yet to fully address safety concerns that Fukushima exposed.
We are scholars specializing in engineering and medicine and public policy, and have advised our respective governments on nuclear power safety. Kiyoshi Kurokawa chaired an independent national commission, known as the NAIIC, created by the Diet of Japan to investigate the root causes of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Najmedin Meshkati served as a member and technical adviser to a committee appointed by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to identify lessons from this event for making U.S. nuclear plants safer and more secure.
Those reviews and many others concluded that Fukushima was a man-made accident, triggered by natural hazards, that could and should have been avoided. Experts widely agreed that the root causes were lax regulatory oversight in Japan and an ineffective safety culture at the utility that operated the plant.
These problems are far from unique to Japan. As long as commercial nuclear power plants operate anywhere in the world, we believe it is critical for all nations to learn from what happened at Fukushima and continue doubling down on nuclear safety.
Failing to Anticipate and Plan
The 2011 disaster delivered a devastating one-two punch to the Fukushima plant. First, the magnitude 9.0 earthquake knocked out off-site electric power. Next, the tsunami breached the plant's protective sea wall and swamped portions of the site.
Flooding disabled monitoring, control and cooling functions in multiple units of the six-reactor complex. Despite heroic efforts by plant workers, three reactors sustained severe damage to their radioactive cores and three reactor buildings were damaged by hydrogen explosions.
Off-site releases of radioactive materials contaminated land in Fukushima and several neighboring prefectures. Some 165,000 people left the area, and the Japanese government established an exclusion zone around the plant that extended over 311 square miles in its largest phase.
For the first time in the history of constitutional democratic Japan, the Japanese Parliament passed a law creating an independent national commission to investigate the root causes of this disaster. In its report, the commission concluded that Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission had never been independent from the industry, nor from the powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, which promotes nuclear power.
For its part, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, had a history of disregard for safety. The company had recently released an error-prone assessment of tsunami hazards at Fukushima that significantly underestimated the risks.
Nuclear power generates about 10% of the world's electricity (TWh = terawatt-hours). About 50 new plants are under construction, but many operating plants are aging. World Nuclear Association / CC BY-ND
Events at the Onagawa Nuclear Power Station, located 39 miles from Fukushima, told a contrasting story. Onogawa, which was owned and operated by the Tohoku Electric Power Company, was closer to the earthquake's epicenter and was hit by an even larger tsunami. Its three operating reactors were the same type and vintage as those at Fukushima, and were under the same weak regulatory oversight.
But Onogawa shut down safely and was remarkably undamaged. In our view, this was because the Tohoku utility had a deep-seated, proactive safety culture. The company learned from earthquakes and tsunamis elsewhere – including a major disaster in Chile in 2010 – and continuously improved its countermeasures, while TEPCO overlooked and ignored these warnings.
Regulatory Capture and Safety Culture
When a regulated industry manages to cajole, control or manipulate agencies that oversee it, rendering them feckless and subservient, the result is known as regulatory capture. As the NAIIC report concluded, Fukushima was a textbook example. Japanese regulators "did not monitor or supervise nuclear safety….They avoided their direct responsibilities by letting operators apply regulations on a voluntary basis," the report observed.
Effective regulation is necessary for nuclear safety. Utilities also need to create internal safety cultures – a set of characteristics and attitudes that make safety issues an overriding priority. For an industry, safety culture functions like the human body's immune system, protecting it against pathogens and fending off diseases.
A plant that fosters a positive safety culture encourages employees to ask questions and to apply a rigorous and prudent approach to all aspects of their jobs. It also fosters open communications between line workers and management. But TEPCO's culture reflected a Japanese mindset that emphasizes hierarchy and acquiescence and discourages asking questions.
There is ample evidence that human factors such as operator errors and poor safety culture played an instrumental key role in all three major accidents that have occurred at nuclear power plants: Three Mile Island in the U.S. in 1979, Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986 and Fukushima Daiichi in 2011. Unless nuclear nations do better on both counts, this list is likely to grow.
🇸🇪 Nuclear Safety statement in IAEA BoG: Important safety upgrades introduced at 6 remaining nuclear power stations… https://t.co/FrgHv4N4UL— SwedenUN Vienna 🇸🇪 (@SwedenUN Vienna 🇸🇪)1614680434.0
Global Nuclear Safety Grade: Incomplete
Today there are some 440 nuclear power reactors operating around the world, with about 50 under construction in countries including China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Many advocates argue that in light of the threat of climate change and the increasing need for carbon-free baseload electricity generation, nuclear power should play a role in the world's future energy mix. Others call for abolishing nuclear power. But that may not be feasible in the foreseeable future.
In our view, the most urgent priority is developing tough, system-oriented nuclear safety standards, strong safety cultures and much closer cooperation between countries and their independent regulators. We see worrisome indications in the U.S. that independent nuclear regulation is eroding, and that nuclear utilities are resisting pressure to learn and delaying adoption of internationally accepted safety practices, such as adding filters to prevent radioactive releases from reactor containment buildings with the same characteristics as Fukushima Daiichi.
The most crucial lesson we see is the need to counteract nuclear nationalism and isolationism. Ensuring close cooperation between countries developing nuclear projects is essential today as the forces of populism, nationalism and anti-globalism spread.
We also believe the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose mission is promoting safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, should urge its member states to find a balance between national sovereignty and international responsibility when it comes to operating nuclear power reactors in their territories. As Chernobyl and Fukushima taught the world, radiation fallout does not stop at national boundaries.
Author Najmedin Meshkati holding an earthquake railing in a Fukushima Daiichi control room during a 2012 site visit. Najmedin Meshkati / CC BY-ND
As a start, Persian Gulf countries should set aside political wrangling and recognize that with the startup of a nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates and others planned in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, they have a common interest in nuclear safety and collective emergency response. The entire region is vulnerable to radiation fallout and water contamination from a nuclear accident anywhere in the Gulf.
We believe the world remains at the same juncture it faced in 1989, when then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. made this perceptive argument:
"A decade ago, Three Mile Island was the spark that ignited the funeral pyre for a once-promising energy source. As the nuclear industry asks the nation for a second look in the context of global warming, it is fair to watch how its advocates respond to strengthened safety oversight. That will be the measure of whether nuclear energy becomes a phoenix or an extinct species."
Kiyoshi Kurokawa is a Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo.
Najmedin Meshkati is a Professor of Engineering and International Relations, University of Southern California.
Disclosure statement: Kiyoshi Kurokawa, MD, MACP, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo and Professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Tokyo. He served as Chairman of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, which released its official report in July 2012. The English translation of his book, Regulatory Capture: Will Japan Change? is expected to be released in 2021.
Najmedin Meshkati, Ph.D., CPE, is a Professor of Civil/Environmental, Industrial & Systems Engineering, and International Relations at the University of Southern California (USC). He teaches and conducts research on technological systems safety and has visited many nuclear power stations around the world, including Chernobyl (1997), Mihama (1999), and Fukushima Daiichi and Daini (2012). He served as a member and technical advisor on the U.S. National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Committee on Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of U.S. Nuclear Plants.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
- Fukushima Disaster Doesn't Stop Japan From Including Nuclear ... ›
- Nuclear Power 'Cannot Rival Renewable Energy' - EcoWatch ›
- The Future of Nuclear Power Is 'Challenging,' Says WNA Report ... ›
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Nearly 5 million electricity customers across the United States lost power over the weekend as extreme weather, including frigid temperatures and ice storms, drove up demand and shut down electricity generation.
The widespread outages underscore the vulnerability of the power grid to extreme weather events made more frequent, powerful, and unpredictable by climate change. "I cannot recall an extreme weather event that impacted such a large swath of the nation in this manner — the situation is critical," Neil Chatterjee, a member of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told Bloomberg.
The outages are most dire in Texas, where nearly 4 million customers were still without power Tuesday morning. The state's grid operator said 34 gigawatts, as much as 40% of its generation capacity, was forced offline, sending electricity prices skyrocketing to the legal limit of $9,000 per megawatt-hour and forcing the implementation of rolling blackouts.
The lost generation capacity was driven in large part by the 27 gigawatts of coal-, gas-, and nuclear-generated electricity forced offline by the cold and ice. Wind generation exceeded the Texas grid operator's daily forecast through the weekend. The storms wreaked havoc on U.S. methane gas markets, as physical delivery gas prices in Oklahoma smashed previous records. More than 3 million barrels of daily oil-processing capacity also shut down Monday as the largest refineries in North America were forced to halt operations because of the cold.
For a deeper dive:
Bloomberg, Bloomberg, The New York Times, AP; Generating sources' performance during storm: Bloomberg, TechCruch; Oklahoma gas prices: Financial Post; Refineries: Bloomberg; Climate change links: The Washington Post, The Washington Post, The Weather Channel, Texas Climate News; Climate Signals background: Winter storm risk increase
- How Global Warming Can Cause Europe's Harsh Winter Weather ... ›
- Texas Grid Operator Overcharged Power Companies $16 Billion During Winter Storm - EcoWatch ›
Firefighters are battling to contain larger-than-usual wildfires in the Chernobyl exclusion zone as radiation levels spike at their center.
The fires, which started April 3 in the west of the zone, then spread to forests in the area with higher radiation levels, Reuters reported. High winds Saturday risked pushing the blaze towards the abandoned plant and equipment used to clean up the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, acting leader of the agency that manages the area Kateryna Pavlova told The New York Times.
"We have been working all night digging firebreaks around the plant to protect it from fire," Pavlova said.
The wind had been blowing the smoke towards rural parts of Russia and Belarus most of the week, but shifted Friday towards the Ukranian capital of Kyiv, home to around three million people. However, authorities said the radiation levels in the city remained normal. Contaminated smoke was expected to reach Kyiv over the weekend, but authorities said radiation levels in the air once the smoke had dispersed would be safe.
The risk posed by the fires is that people might inhale radioactive particles with the smoke.
"Wind can raise hot particles in the air together with the ash and blow it toward populated areas," air pollution expert with environmental group Ecodiya Olena Miskun told The New York Times.
However, Ukraine is currently on lockdown to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, and Miskun said this was an unexpected blessing.
"We are lucky to have quarantine measures in place now," she said. "People stay at home, walk less and wear masks."
The explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power station in April 1986 was the worst nuclear accident in history, Reuters explained. Afterwards, people were evacuated from a 19-mile exclusion zone around the plant that is tightly controlled to this day.
Wildfires are common in the exclusion zone, but these are unusually large and follow a warm, dry winter, The New York Times reported. As of Saturday, they had consumed more than 8,600 acres and required the work of around 400 firefighters, 100 fire engines and several helicopters.
"At the moment, we cannot say the fire is contained," Pavlova told The New York Times.
The climate crisis is increasing wildfire risk in the area, Gizmodo pointed out, as it raises temperatures and ups the chance of drought. A 2014 paper published in Environmental International said the region saw around 54 fires in the contaminated area in 2010 and 300 elsewhere, and warned that future fires that covered 10 to 100 percent of the contaminated zone could send "significant amounts" of radiation to communities in Eastern and Central Europe.
Germany's target for renewable energy sources to deliver 65% of its consumed electricity by 2030 seemed on track Wednesday, with 52% of electricity coming from renewables in 2020's first quarter. Renewable energy advocates, however, warned the trend is imperiled by slowdowns in building new wind and solar plants.
The federal BDEW energy and water federation and Baden-Württemberg state's ZSW solar and hydro research center observed a 7% percent renewables jump from 44.4% in the same period last year, in comparison to fossil fuel consumption.
Wind, especially offshore wind turbines, solar panels and other sources generated 77 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) compared to 67 kWh in the first quarter of 2019.
The 7% jump in renewables came despite conventional plant closures and pandemic impacts on industry, officials said, while also noting "special effects" such as record winds in February and plentiful sun in March that benefited turbines and voltaic panels.
That trend could, however, not be extrapolated for the whole of 2020, warned the BDEW and ZSW, pointing to local objectors and current investor indecision.
Some residents, arguing on health and scenic grounds, resist the building of more wind turbines and the laying of extra arterial power lines to transmit electricity captured at North Sea wind farms to Germany's industrial south.
The record figures stand in contrast to investment deterrents, which if not quickly removed would make Germany's target of 65% self-sufficiency unreachable, said BDEW head Kerstin Andreae.
Germany's pandemic-induced economic woes compounded the situation, Andreae added.
Given the current downturn, ZSW executive board member Frithjof Staiss contended that investors would turn to renewable energy projects that were less fraught with risk than the current "volatile share market."
The renewables record, noted the BDEW and ZSW, was achieved despite the shutdown of Germany's Philippsburg 2 nuclear power plant at the end of 2019 and the placing of brown coal power plants on standby to cover emergencies.
Using another measure, gross electricity produced, the two groups calculated that with exported electricity included in their calculation, renewable sources made up 49% of Germany's gross electricity production in the first quarter of the year.
Reposted with permission from DW.
By Paul Brown
Virtually all the world's demand for electricity to run transport and to heat and cool homes and offices, as well as to provide the power demanded by industry, could be met by renewable energy by mid-century.
This is the consensus of 47 peer-reviewed research papers from 13 independent groups with a total of 91 authors that have been brought together by Stanford University in California.
Some of the papers take a broad sweep across the world, adding together the potential for each technology to see if individual countries or whole regions could survive on renewables.
Special examinations of small island states, sub-Saharan Africa and individual countries like Germany look to see what are the barriers to progress and how they could be removed.
In every case the findings are that the technology exists to achieve 100% renewable power if the political will to achieve it can be mustered.
Once proper energy efficiency measures are in place, a combination of wind, solar and water power, with various forms of storage capacity, can add up to 100% of energy needs in every part of the planet.
Stanford puts one of its own papers at the top of the list. It studies the impacts of the Green New Deal proposals on grid stability, costs, jobs, health and climate in 143 countries.
With the world already approaching 1.5°C of heating, it says, seven million people killed by air pollution annually, and limited fossil fuel resources potentially sparking conflict, Stanford's researchers wanted to compare business-as-usual with a 100% transition to wind-water-solar energy, efficiency and storage by 2050 – with at least 80% by 2030.
By grouping the countries of the world together into 24 regions co-operating on grid stability and storage solutions, supply could match demand by 2050-2052 with 100% reliance on renewables. The amount of energy used overall would be reduced by 57.1%, costs would fall by a similar amount, and 28.6 million more long-term full-time jobs would be created than under business-as-usual.
Clean Air Bonus
The remarkable consensus among researchers is perhaps surprising, since climate and weather conditions differ so much in different latitudes. It seems though that as the cost of renewables, particularly wind and solar, has tumbled, and energy storage solutions multiplied, every part of the world can now find a system that edges fossil fuels out in costs.
The appearance of so many papers mirrors the consensus that climate scientists have managed to achieve in warning the world's political leaders that time is running out for them to act to keep the temperature below dangerous levels.
Since in total the solutions offered cover countries producing more than 97% of the world's greenhouse gases, they provide a blueprint for the next round of UN climate talks, to be held in Glasgow in November. At COP-26, as the conference is called, politicians will be asked to make new commitments to avoid dangerous climate change.
This Stanford file shows them that all they need is political will for them to be able to achieve climate stability.
Reposted with permission from Climate News Network.
- Significant Renewable Energy Growth in U.S. Very Soon, New ... ›
- Offshore Wind Power Could Produce More Electricity Than World ... ›
- House Approves Sweeping Clean Energy Bill - EcoWatch ›
- Tips to Get Your Kids Interested in Renewable Energy ›
- Renewable Energy Smashes Records in 2020 ›
By Paul Brown
The latest science shows how the pace of sea level rise is speeding up, fueling fears that not only millions of homes will be under threat, but that vulnerable installations like docks and power plants will be overwhelmed by the waves.
New research using satellite data over a 30-year period shows that around the year 2000 sea level rise was 2mm a year, by 2010 it was 3mm and now it is at 4mm, with the pace of change still increasing.
The calculations were made by a research student, Tadea Veng, at the Technical University of Denmark, which has a special interest in Greenland, where the icecap is melting fast. That, combined with accelerating melting in Antarctica and further warming of the oceans, is raising sea levels across the globe.
The report coincides with a European Environment Agency (EEA) study whose maps show large areas of the shorelines of countries with coastlines on the North Sea will go under water unless heavily defended against sea level rise.
Based on the maps, newspapers like The Guardian in London have predicted that more than half of one key UK east coast provincial port — Hull — will be swamped. Ironically, Hull is the base for making giant wind turbine blades for use in the North Sea.
The argument about how much the sea level will rise this century has been raging in scientific circles since the 1990s. At the start, predictions of sea level rise took into account only two possible causes: the expansion of seawater as it warmed, and the melting of mountain glaciers away from the poles.
In the early Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports back then, the melting of the polar ice caps was not included, because scientists could not agree whether greater snowfall on the top of the ice caps in winter might balance out summer melting. Many of them also thought Antarctica would not melt at all, or not for centuries, because it was too cold.
Both the extra snow theory and the "too cold to melt" idea have now been discounted. In Antarctica this is partly because the sea has warmed up so much that it is melting the glaciers' ice from beneath — something the scientists had not foreseen.
Alarm about sea level rise elsewhere has been increasing outside the scientific community, partly because many nuclear power plants are on coasts. Even those that are nearing the end of their working lives will be radio-active for another century, and many have highly dangerous spent fuel on site in storage ponds with no disposal route organized.
Perhaps most alarmed are British residents, whose government is currently planning a number of new seaside nuclear stations in low-lying coastal areas. Some will be under water this century according to the EEA, particularly one planned for Sizewell in eastern England.
Hard to Tell
The agency's report says estimates of sea level rise by 2100 vary, with an upper limit of one meter generally accepted, but up to 2.5 meters predicted by some scientists. The latest research by Danish scientists suggests judiciously that with the speed of sea level rise continuing to accelerate, it is impossible to be sure.
A report by campaigners who oppose building nuclear power stations on Britain's vulnerable coast expresses extreme alarm, saying both nuclear regulators and the giant French energy company EDF are too complacent about the problem.
The report said: "Polar ice caps appear to be melting faster than expected, and what is particularly worrying is that the rate of melting seems to be increasing. Some researchers say sea levels could rise by as much as six meters or more by 2100, even if the 2°C Paris target is met.
"But it's not just the height of the rise in sea level that is important for the protection of nuclear facilities, it's also the likely increase in storm surges. An increase in sea level of 50cm would mean the storm that used to come every thousand years will now come every 100 years. If you increase that to a meter, then that millennial storm is likely to come once a decade.
"Bearing in mind that there will probably be nuclear waste on the Hinkley Point C site [home to the new twin reactors being built by EDF in the West of England] until at least 2150, the question neither the Office of Nuclear Regulation nor EDF seem to be asking is whether further flood protection measures can be put in place fast enough to deal with unexpected and unpredicted storm surges."
Reposted with permission from Climate News Network.
- A Tiny Island Used as a Nuclear Dumpsite Is About to Be ... ›
- U.S. Nuclear Waste Sites Face Sea-Level Rise Threat - EcoWatch ›
By John R. Platt
Of course, the annual presidential budget is more spectacle than anything else. The real budget each year comes from Congress, which may or may not take up the president's suggestions.
But whether or not the White House budget proposal's recommendations go any further, it reveals the dark truth about the Trump administration's priorities, especially as they relate to environmental issues.
Here's what we see in this year's budget:
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) budget would be slashed 26.5%, including a 10% reduction in the Superfund hazardous-waste cleanup program, a nearly 50% reduction in research and development, a $376 million take from efforts to improve air quality, and the elimination of 50 programs that the administration perceives as outside the "core" of the EPA's mission (among them: clean-water grants for disadvantaged communities and the EnergyStar energy-conservation program). It would also reduce EPA staffing to its lowest levels in three decades, further hampering enforcement of existing regulations.
- The Department of the Interior would lose 8% of its budget, including $587 million from the National Park Service and $80 million from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That includes an $11 million reduction in the Endangered Species Act listing program (which evaluates species for their extinction risk).
- Federal land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund would be nearly eliminated through a 97% budget cut — after a long fight to reauthorize the program over the past two years.
- The Multinational Species Conservation Fund would be cut by $9 million.
- State and tribal wildlife grants would lose more than half of their funding.
- The Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy funding would be cut by 74% and the Advanced Research Project Agency–Energy efforts would be eliminated as part of a larger trend toward defunding research and development and basic science.
More backward logic from the Trump Administration: While our nation faces a looming climate crisis, the… https://t.co/U76bGb8xXI— House Budget Committee (@House Budget Committee)1581370041.0
- The U.S. Geological Survey would lose about half of its ecosystem funding, including a $36.6 million reduction for the Climate Adaptation Science Center and $37.2 million for the Species Management Research Program, which supports the recovery and conservation of hot-button species like the greater sage grouse and desert tortoise.
- NOAA would lose several programs, including the Sea Grant, Coastal Zone Management Grants, education grants and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.
- Also gone: the National Park Service's Save America's Treasures grants and the Highlands Conservation Act grant.
- The Centers for Disease Control, as part of Health and Human Services, could lose 9% of its budget, while the U.S. contribution to the World Health Organization would be cut in half — although the administration says it won't touch coronavirus-related funding.
- U.S. funding for United Nations peacekeeping efforts would be cut by $447 million — just as the threat from climate change makes certain conflicts more likely.
Oh, and let's not forget about the nearly $1 trillion in proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare, which came just two days after President Trump promised no changes to those programs.
Not even two days later, and Trump releases a budget that cuts $30 billion from Social Security and $850 billion fr… https://t.co/PDuCjLu7iF— Robert Reich (@Robert Reich)1581366036.0
Meanwhile the budget increases some funding in unexpected places:
- The border wall would get $2 billion in extra funding, with another $182 million devoted to hiring 750 new Border Patrol agents and 300 border processing coordinators and related support staff. That doesn't even include the $544 million earmarked to hire 6,000 ICE personnel.
- Infrastructure would get $1 trillion in funding, which is great, but development projects — notably pipelines and other energy-related projects — would also be subject to a sped-up permitting process designed to supersede pesky environmental regulations such as the National Environmental Policy Act.
- Nuclear energy will get $1.2 billion in research and development funding (although the budget eliminates the money to license the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository).
- The budget adds $188 million in funding to map the ocean floor — a precursor to coastal development and deep-sea mining.
- It also adds an unspecified amount of money for the promotion of coal, including support of "extracting critical minerals from coal and coal byproducts as one of many non-thermal, non-power uses of coal."
- And the budget promises continued support for and increases in U.S. oil and natural gas development.
The budget also takes a quiet jab at the media by promising to cut money spent on "subscriptions." This continues a trend the administration started last year when it cancelled White House subscriptions to The New York Times and The Washington Post and promised to repeat this version of "cancel culture" throughout the federal government. The president has infamously called journalists the "enemies of the people."
It's doubtful that much of this will make the final budget — Congress reinstated many of the Trump administration's proposed cuts when they wrote the official 2020 budget — but does that really matter? The administration has already shown its willingness to not spend congressionally allocated money on programs it doesn't like. Earlier this month congressional Democrats revealed that the Department of Energy has held onto $823 in funding for clean-energy research and development — a program whose funding the administration had originally proposed cutting by 86%.
No matter what happens in Congress, we can expect the same type of budgetary actions from this administration in the future.
"We're going to keep proposing these types of budgets and hope that at some point Congress will have some sense of fiscal sanity and join us in trying to tackle our debt and deficits," Russ Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said during a press briefing.
Speaking of that debt, the Congressional Budget Office last month projected that the federal budget deficit will reach $1.02 trillion this year due in large part to the Trump administration's tax cuts. The national debt, meanwhile, rose to a record $23 trillion this past November. Experts say White House budget will not be able to address either of those problems.
Does the Trump budget propose anything beneficial? Ironically, it promises to tackle wasteful federal spending on things like travel. Whether that includes the $650 a night that the Secret Service has been paying to house its agents at the president's luxury properties remains to be seen.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
- Clean Water Act Rollback: Trump's EPA Limits States’ and Tribes’ Rights to Block Pipelines - EcoWatch ›
- U.S. Ranks 24th in New Environmental Performance Index, Near Bottom of Developed Countries - EcoWatch ›
- Trump's Biggest Vulnerability Is His Climate Change Denial ... ›
- Democrats Blast Trump's 2021 Budget Cuts Against EPA, Student ... ›
- Trump Administration's Proposed 2021 Budget Undermines ... ›
- Trump budget slashes EPA funding, environmental programs | TheHill ›
- Trump budget cuts funding for health, science, environment agencies ›
Gov. Phil Murphy announced the new regulations Monday as part of the final version of the state's master energy plan, which commits New Jersey to achieving 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050, according to NJ Advance Media. But while The New York Times pointed out that other states have adopted a 2050 100 percent renewable energy goal, New Jersey will be the first to require that projects seeking Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permits consider both how their projects' emissions will contribute to global warming and how climate change will impact their building plans.
"This is a big deal," director of the water and climate team at the Natural Resources Defense Council Rob Moore told The New York Times. "For New Jersey to step to the forefront and say, 'We're going to look at future climate impacts, and that it's going to be a driver of our decision-making' — that's exactly what all 50 states need to be doing."
Our Energy Master Plan will: 💡Drive a world-leading innovation economy 🌎Ensure environmental justice for all reside… https://t.co/6uSgJIeAUh— Governor Phil Murphy (@Governor Phil Murphy)1580159791.0
New Jersey has a particularly good reason to consider how climate might impact new construction projects. The state has 130 miles of coastline and is especially vulnerable to sea level rise. Murphy cited a Rutgers study that found that the state's sea levels were projected to rise more than one foot by 2030 and two feet by 2050, NJ Advance Media explained.
"Quite frankly, it will be hard for future generations to create their Jersey Shore memories if the Jersey shore becomes only a memory," Murphy said. "We are not gonna let this keep happening without a fight."
To lead this fight, Murphy signed an executive order calling on DEP to craft the the Protecting Against Climate Threat (PACT) rules, the Daily Record reported. Those rules will include the requirement that the permitting process consider sea level rise and greenhouse gas emissions. PACT will also include new air pollution controls and compile a complete picture of New Jersey's emissions so that it can reduce them to 80 percent below 2006 levels by 2050.
Murphy asked the DEP to have the new regulations finalized and ready to be implemented by January 2022, The New York Times explained.
However, some environmental groups criticized that timeline, saying it would allow more than a dozen new fossil fuel projects to slide in before that deadline, according to the Daily Record.
Empower NJ, a coalition of green groups, instead calls for a ban on all new fossil fuel projects.
"Without a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects, we are losing precious time — time we don't have to waste in the race against climate change," Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, told the Daily Record.
"The (plan) still defines clean energy to include incinerators, natural gas, biogas and others," Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, told NJ Advance Media. "It does not call for a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects or a 45% reduction of emissions by 2030, and will not get the state to zero carbon by 2050."
However, other groups were pleased with the plan.
"Governor Murphy's actions today put New Jersey at the forefront of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build a healthier, more prosperous, clean energy future," Tom Gilbert, campaign director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and ReThink Energy NJ, told the Daily Record.
- Record-Setting Harmful Algae Blooms in New Jersey's Largest Lake ... ›
- How Removing One Maine Dam 20 Years Ago Changed Everything ... ›
- Cheers to 2019 Energy Efficiency Progress - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Things to Know About Carbon-Free Buildings and Construction - EcoWatch ›
Doomsday Clock Moves to 100 Seconds Before Midnight Due to Threats of Nuclear War and Climate Change
That's the closest the clock has moved to the apocalypse since it was first started in 1947 to warn of the dangers of nuclear war, BBC News reported.
"It is 100 seconds to midnight. We are now expressing how close the world is to catastrophe in seconds – not hours, or even minutes," President and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Rachel Bronson said in a press release announcing the time change Thursday. "It is the closest to Doomsday we have ever been in the history of the Doomsday Clock. We now face a true emergency – an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin for error or further delay."
Today, the Bulletin set the #DoomsdayClock closer than ever: It is 100 seconds to midnight. Read the full Clock sta… https://t.co/TjMcABm3Zv— Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (@Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)1579830480.0
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first nuclear bomb, according to NPR. It has 13 Nobel laureates on its board, which determines how close humanity is to annihilation each year, using the Doomsday Clock to raise awareness of global threats. This year, they were joined in the decision by the Elders, a group of world leaders founded by Nelson Mandela who work independently for peace and human rights, according to the press release.
"The Doomsday Clock is a globally recognized indicator of the vulnerability of our existence," Elder and former Irish President Mary Robinson said at the annual clock-unveiling ceremony, as NPR reported. "It's a striking metaphor for the precarious state of the world, but most frighteningly, it's a metaphor backed by rigorous scientific scrutiny."
The two groups made their decision to move the clock closer to the zero hour based on the two threats of nuclear war and climate change, compounded by the rise of false information online and the refusal of world leaders to act on these critical issues.
"Civilization-ending nuclear war — whether started by design, blunder, or simple miscommunication — is a genuine possibility. Climate change that could devastate the planet is undeniably happening. And for a variety of reasons that include a corrupted and manipulated media environment, democratic governments and other institutions that should be working to address these threats have failed to rise to the challenge," the bulletin wrote in a statement explaining its decision.
On the nuclear front, the group cited several concerning foreign policy developments. These included increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which has continued to stockpile uranium after the U.S. pulled out of a nuclear deal. The group also mentioned the official end of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which has led the U.S. and Russia to begin developing previously banned weapons.
When speaking of climate change, the group called out the government of the U.S. for withdrawing from the Paris agreement and the government of Brazil for weakening protections for the Amazon rainforest. But it also spoke of the general failures of world leaders to make any significant progress at either September's UN Climate Action Summit or December's COP25 in Madrid.
The Doomsday Clock was set to two minutes to midnight in 2018 for the first time since 1953, when both the U.S. and the Soviet Union tested hydrogen bombs. In 2019, the clock stayed at two minutes, but this year the bulletin decided to move it forward even further.
The group did say that there were things world leaders and citizens could do to move the clock backwards again. When it comes to the environment, they recommended that world leaders recommit themselves to the goals of the Paris agreement and that U.S. citizens pressure their government to acknowledge climate change and to act to address it.
"We ask world leaders to join us in 2020 as we work to pull humanity back from the brink," Robinson said in the press release. "The Doomsday Clock now stands at 100 seconds to midnight, the most dangerous situation that humanity has ever faced. Now is the time to come together – to unite and to act."
Germany reached an agreement Thursday that will allow it to stop burning coal by 2038.
The national government struck a deal with the leaders of the country's coal-producing regions that will compensate workers, companies and regional governments more than 40 billion euros (approximately $44.7 billion), Reuters reported. Legislation finalizing the coal phaseout will be presented to parliament by the end of January.
"Germany, one of the strongest and most successful industry nations in the world, is taking huge steps towards leaving the fossil fuel era," Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said at a press conference reported by Reuters.
The deal will help Germany reach its 2030 climate goals. The country has promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent of 1990 levels by 2030 after failing to meet an earlier goal to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2020, The New York Times reported in September.
However, green groups argue that the planned coal phaseout is too slow.
Christoph Bals, policy director for the environmental group Germanwatch, agreed.
"The majority of the necessary reductions are being pushed to the end of the 2020s," he told The New York Times Thursday.
Germany is currently the world's leading producer of brown lignite coal, the dirtiest type of coal. The government said it may move up its phaseout of brown coal to 2035, BBC News reported.
To make an end to coal use possible, the government has agreed to pay up to 40 billion euros to the coal-producing regions of Brandenburg, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt in the east and North-Rhine Westphalia in the west, Reuters reported. Most of that money will go towards building new infrastructure in areas reliant on coal power and retraining workers for new jobs, according to BBC News.
Companies will be compensated 4.35 billion euros (approximately $4.84 billion), according to Reuters.
Thirty coal-fired plants in Germany will need to close. The dirtiest and oldest will shutter first, starting with one in Rhineland that will close this year. But the government is also bringing a new coal-fired plant online this year, the Datteln 4 plant that is cleaner than the older plants being retired. The new plant has angered activists, who think it moves the country in the wrong direction.
"Australia's forests are burning, millions of people are demonstrating for climate protection and the German government is clearing the way for a new coal power plant,'' Martin Kaiser, the managing director of Greenpeace Germany, told Euronews. "Nothing shows more clearly than Datteln 4 that this government can't find an answer to the climate crisis.''
However, Germany isn't only working to end its coal use. It has also promised to end its reliance on nuclear energy by 2022, The New York Times reported.
In the third quarter of 2019, Germany got 14 percent of its energy from nuclear, 28 percent from coal and 42 percent from renewable energy. It aims to raise the share of its electricity generated by renewables to 65 percent by 2030, according to Euronews.
"We are the first country that is exiting nuclear and coal power on a binding basis, and this is an important international signal that we are sending,'' she told Euronews.
- Germany: Climate Activists End Coal Blockade in Garzweiler ... ›
- Climate Activists Protest Germany's New Datteln 4 Coal Power Plant - EcoWatch ›
By Paul Brown
Nuclear power is in terminal decline worldwide and will never make a serious contribution to tackling climate change, a group of energy experts argues.
Meeting recently in London at Chatham House, the UK's Royal Institution of International Affairs, they agreed that despite continued enthusiasm from the industry, and from some politicians, the number of nuclear power stations under construction worldwide would not be enough to replace those closing down.
The group met to discuss the updated World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2019, which concluded that money spent on building and running nuclear power stations was diverting cash away from much better ways of tackling climate change.
Money used to improve energy efficiency saved four times as much carbon as that spent on nuclear power; wind saved three times as much, and solar double.
Amory Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, told the meeting: "The fact is that nuclear power is in slow motion commercial collapse around the world. The idea that a new generation of small modular reactors would be built to replace them is not going to happen; it is just a distraction away from a climate solution."
On nuclear and climate change, the status report says that new nuclear plants take from five to 17 years longer to build than utility-scale solar or on-shore wind power.
"Stabilising the climate is urgent, nuclear power is slow. It meets no technical or operational need that these low-carbon competitors cannot meet better, cheaper, and faster," the report says.
There was considerable concern at the meeting about the possible danger to nuclear plants caused by climate change. Mycle Schneider, the report's lead author, said the reason why reactors were built near or on coasts or close to large rivers or estuaries was because they needed large quantities of water to operate. This made them very vulnerable to both sea and coastal flooding, and particularly to future sea level rise.
He was also concerned about the integrity of spent fuel storage ponds that needed a constant electricity supply to prevent the fuel overheating. For example, large wildfires posed a risk to electricity supplies to nuclear plants that were often in isolated locations.
Loss of coolant because of power cuts could also be a serious risk as climate change worsened over the 60-year planned lifetime of a reactor. However, he did not believe that even the reactors currently under construction would ever be operated for that long for commercial reasons.
"The fact is that the electricity from new reactors is going to be at least three times more expensive than that from renewables and this will alarm consumers. Governments will be under pressure to prevent consumers' bills being far higher than they need to be.
"I cannot see even the newest reactors lasting more than a decade or so in a competitive market at the prices they will have to charge. Nuclear power will become a stranded asset," Schneider said.
The report shows that only 31 countries out of 193 UN members have nuclear power plants, and of these nine either have plans to phase out nuclear power, or else no new-build plans or extension policies. Eleven countries with operating plants are currently building new ones, while another eleven have no active construction going on.
Only four countries – Bangladesh, Belarus, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey – are building reactors for the first time. In the last 12 months only Russia and China have started producing electricity from new reactors – seven in China and two in Russia.
Unable to Compete
One of the "mysteries" the meeting discussed was the fact that some governments, notably the UK, continued to back nuclear power despite all the evidence that it was uneconomic and could not compete with renewables.
Allan Jones, chairman of the International Energy Advisory Council, said one of the myths peddled was that nuclear was needed for "baseload" power because renewables were available only intermittently.
Since a number of countries now produced more than 50% of their power from renewables, and others even 100% (or very close) while not experiencing power cuts, this showed the claim was untrue.
In his opinion, having large inflexible nuclear stations that could not be switched off was a serious handicap in a modern grid system where renewables could at times produce all the energy needed at much lower cost.
Amory Lovins said the UK's approach appeared to be dominated by "nuclear ideology." It was driven by settled policy and beliefs, and facts had no connection to reality. "Nuclear is a waste of time and money in the climate fight," he concluded.
Reposted with permission from Climate News Network.
- Nuclear Power Is Economically Obsolete - EcoWatch ›
- Germany Will Close All of Its Nuclear Power Plants, but Needs to Put ... ›
- Safety Remains Nuclear Power’s Greatest Challenge - EcoWatch ›