Thursday, June 30, 2011

Germany dumps nuclear power for renewable

Nuclear power plant Grafenrheinfeld, Schweinfurt, Germany. Photo by Osomedia

By GEIR MOULSON, Associated Press
30 June 2011

BERLIN — German lawmakers overwhelmingly approved on Thursday plans to shut the country's nuclear plants by 2022, putting Europe's biggest economy on the road to an ambitious build-up of renewable energy.

The lower house of parliament voted 513-79 for the shutdown plan drawn up by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government after Japan's post-earthquake nuclear disaster. Most of the opposition voted in favor; eight lawmakers abstained.

Lawmakers sealed for good the shutdown of eight of the older reactors, which have been off the grid since March. Germany's remaining nine reactors will be shut down in stages by the end of 2022.

By 2020, Germany wants to double the share of energy stemming from water, wind, sun or biogas to at least 35 percent. Until this year, nuclear energy accounted for a bit less than a quarter of Germany's power supply.

"Some people abroad ask: will Germany manage this? Can it be done? It is the first time that a major industrial country has declared itself ready to carry through this technological and economic revolution," Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen told lawmakers.

"The message from today is this: the Germans are getting to work," he said. "This will be good for our country, because we all stand together. So let's get to work." […]

Germany dumps nuclear power for renewable

Monday, June 27, 2011

U.S. nuclear industry was in serious trouble before Fukushima and now is stalled

The Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant surrounded by Missouri River floodwaters, 14 June 2011. The direction of river flow is indicated by the arrow.

Washington DC (SPX) Jun 17, 2011 – Even as Germany, Japan, Switzerland and other nations move to abandon existing and planned nuclear reactors, the United States is on a path to see at best only a small handful of already planned, government-backed reactor projects proceed, a group of experts have said.

While reversals for the nuclear power industry overseas have attracted substantial media attention, relatively little focus has been paid to such developments in the U.S. as the mothballing of the South Texas Project in Texas (once a prime candidate for a federal loan guarantee), the Calvert Cliffs-3 reactor expansion in Maryland (another federal loan guarantee candidate despite major complications presented by foreign ownership issues), and the decision this week by the French industry leader Areva to halt production at a Virginia reactor component plant - a direct result of the turndown in the industry's prospects.

The industry's situation is now such that even the controversial Obama Administration proposal for $36 billion in Treasury-backed loan guarantees for new reactors likely would be a case of throwing good money after bad, according to the experts.

Peter Bradford, former member of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, former chair of the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions, and currently adjunct professor at Vermont Law School on "Nuclear Power and Public Policy," said: "Even before Fukushima events over the last two years had amply demonstrated that new nuclear power was a bad investment in the U.S. Cost estimates had continued to rise while those of alternatives fell. Wall Street rating agencies were uniformly skeptical.

Constellation pulled out of Calvert Cliffs last October. Exelon did the same for its proposed Texas reactors, and did so in the context of a review of its low carbon options that showed new nuclear to be far more expensive than most of its other choices .

Bradford added: "Since Fukushima, NRG has pulled the plug on South Texas and the County of Fresno in California has reconsidered its support for new nuclear units there. If the past is any guide, there will soon appear stories about how the U.S. nuclear renaissance was well underway before being stalled by the one-of-a-kind nuclear accident at Fukushima.

Just as we are often wrongly told that the first nuclear construction wave in the U.S. ended because of the accident at Three Mile Island, industry spokespeople will use Fukushima to obscure the fact that new nuclear has been priced out of the market in the U.S. for many years.

Under these circumstances, adding additional exposure to American taxpayers in the form of nuclear loan guarantees can't be justified."

Paul Fremont, managing director of equity research, Jefferies and Company, Inc., said: "The estimated cost of building a new nuclear plant varies widely from $4,500 per KW estimated by NRG for its cancelled project in Texas to $6,350 per KW estimated by Southern Company for its project in Georgia.

Today, nuclear represents the highest cost option to construct compared to traditional technologies including coal at an estimated cost of $2,000-$3,000 per KW and gas combined cycle units at $950 per KW. According to Jefferies analysis, the best economic alternative for new build today is gas based on forward prices ranging from $4.40 expected in 2011 to $6.00 in 2015."

Fremont added: "In March 2010, Jefferies published a report on nuclear new build titled 'Sympathy for the Devil' arguing that absent U.S. government subsidies, gas prices would need to be $8.50 per MCF or higher to earn reasonable (10 percent) returns on new nuclear investment. […]

US Nuclear Industry Was In Serious Trouble Before Fukushima and Now Is Stalled

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Do Climate Skeptics Change Their Minds? Yes. But not often.

'Confessions of a Climate Convert' blog post on FrumForum by former climate denialist D.R. Tucker.

By Brian Merchant
12 May 2011

Until a few months ago, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more classic climate skeptic than D.R. Tucker. A conservative author and radio talk show host, he didn't buy the notion that greenhouse-gas emissions were causing temperatures to rise. He was pretty sure global warming was a hoax perpetrated by Al Gore and a cadre of liberal, grant-hungry scientists. Then Tucker did what partisan pundits and climate skeptics rarely do: He changed his mind.

"I was defeated by facts," Tucker announced on FrumForum, the popular conservative blog. In an April 18 post, "Confessions of a Climate Convert," Tucker told readers how he came to question the ideologies of the climate debate, examine the science, and conclude that global warming was, in fact, very real. Tucker's post sent a giddy ripple through green circles and stoked the ire of his libertarian colleagues.

This sort of thing doesn't happen often. Or at least, it doesn't seem to. Only 48 percent of Americans believe that global warming is at least in part "a result of human activities," according to a 2010 Gallup poll, down from 60 percent in 2007 and 2008.

Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, attributes this decline to five factors: The economic collapse, a severe decrease in media coverage, weather events like "Snowmaggedon," the efforts of the "denial industry" (the network of industry-funded think tanks and political advocacy groups that push skeptic views), and the "ClimateGate" debacle.

This shift toward climate-change skepticism makes Tucker's "conversion" all the more remarkable. So how did it happen?

Leiserowitz has been documenting trends in American climate belief for the past decade. He divides American attitudes toward climate change into six categories: "alarmed," "concerned," "cautious," "disengaged," "doubtful," and "dismissive." …

Tucker was a naysayer. "I bought into Rush Limbaugh's view that the environmentalist movement was 'the new refuge of socialist thinking,' " he tells me. Tucker figured Al Gore and Van Jones (Obama's onetime green jobs adviser) were leading liberals in a plot that used the specter of climate change to snare more power. Leiserowitz would call this "dismissive" thinking.

Tucker's conversion began when he read Morris Fiorina's Disconnect, which outlines the way partisan divisions take shape between Democrats and Republicans, and points out that environmentalism used to be one of conservatives' chief concerns. Tucker's curiosity was piqued.

"Why was it that environmentalism was only associated with the Democratic party now? And it was from those political questions that I became open to the scientific questions," Tucker says. "It went from politics to the science." …

Do Climate Skeptics Change Their Minds? via Ketsugami

Former Rep. Inglis to launch conservative coalition to address global warming

Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC)By Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter
14 June 2011

A former Republican congressman who is an advocate for action to address climate change plans to launch a new conservative coalition this fall made up of Republicans who, like him, believe that human emissions are triggering global warming and that steps should be taken to stop it.

Former six-term Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) said he hopes his coalition will become a factor in the 2012 presidential and congressional elections -- and beyond. He said the view embraced by many Republicans that human emissions are not a major contributor to global warming is out of step with what it means to be a conservative, given that most scientists say the reverse is true.

Conservatives typically are people who try to be cognizant of risk and move to minimize risk. To be told of risk and to consciously decide to disregard it seems to be the opposite of conservative," Inglis said in a telephone interview.

He said his coalition would seek to change that, even if the message takes a while to stick.

"What I hope to do is be a part of an effort that calls conservatives to return to conservatism and to turn away from the populist rejection of science," Inglis said. He conceded that he expects this message to take at least two election cycles to take root, given today's political climate. ...

Former Rep. Inglis to launch conservative coalition to address global warming