Category Archives: Energy

Nuclear industry’s propaganda war rages on

With renewable energy expanding fast, the nuclear industry’s propaganda war still claims it helps to combat climate change.

LONDON, 3 June, 2021 − To maintain the assertion that it is still a key part of the struggle to limit the climate crisis, the global nuclear industry’s propaganda war is unremitting in its attempt to avoid oblivion in the world’s democracies.

At stake are thousands of well-paid power station jobs, but also a potential rise in electricity prices if funds are diverted away from cheaper options for generating power. Central to the debate is how governments can best cut fossil fuel use in time to save the world from catastrophic climate change.

There is not much middle ground. On one side are trade unions with many members in the nuclear industry, large companies with political clout and a vested interest in building the infrastructure needed, and numerous politicians, many of them in nuclear weapons states.

On the other are most climate scientists, environmental campaigners, economists, and cutting edge industries that see wind, solar and tidal power, batteries and other emerging technologies as the path to far more jobs, a cleaner future, and a possible route out of potential disaster. There are also those who fear the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Lack of balance

Very little of this debate takes place where it should, in national parliaments. In some countries, like the UK and the US, nearly all politicians support the nuclear industry, so there is little discussion of its merits.

Many of the “news” clips and pro-nuclear articles that appear in the media are carefully crafted and come from “think tank” sources close to − and often indirectly funded by − the nuclear industry. They are designed to show nuclear science in a good light.

This lack of balance is not surprising. Journalists find it difficult to penetrate an opaque and highly technical industry that has a wildly optimistic view of its own potential. Its costs, construction timetables, and beliefs in its probable sales have hardly ever actually been met in the industry’s 70-year history. Yet it goes on making its rosy predictions.

There has been a series of announcements in the West in the last five years about SMRs, advanced and IV generation reactors. Lost already? That is the idea: bamboozle politicians and the public with jargon and false hopes of a technical miracle, and you are halfway to getting your hands on taxpayers’ money to fund further research and create a new generation of reactors, to be built some time soon – although that time never seems to arrive.

“Journalists find it difficult to penetrate an opaque and highly technical industry that has a wildly optimistic view of its own potential”

Just to demonstrate what often seems deliberate obscurity: an SMR can be a small modular reactor, or a small to medium reactor. It could also be an advanced reactor. All this is explained on a helpful World Nuclear Association website which takes you through the potential sizes of reactors and explains the 70 or so designs.

Take one example. Rolls-Royce offers SMRs on its UK website. They turn out not to be small, having grown to 470 megawatts, much larger than the 300 megawatt maximum official definition of a small reactor. The company would now describe them as advanced reactors, although they are based on a generic design as old as the industry.

Modular also has two meanings in this context. It could mean the reactor is made in sections in a factory and assembled on site, thus (it is claimed) dramatically reducing costs. But it can also mean that each reactor becomes a module in a much larger nuclear station.

Rolls-Royce reckons it needs an order book of 16 reactors to justify building a factory that could turn reactors out, like its cars, on a production line. It is both trying to persuade the UK government to place a large number of orders and is combing the world for other governments willing to do so.

Military link

Nuclear detractors point out that creating a factory able to provide production line economies of scale for nuclear reactors is a tall order. Also, neither the UK government nor Rolls-Royce has come up with sites where any reactors could be placed. Perhaps the most telling point is that there is no need for that much expensive electricity when renewables plus energy storage could provide it more cheaply and quickly.

Most nuclear weapons states acknowledge the link between their civil and weapons industries. Canada is one of the few non-nuclear weapons states that has bought into the nuclear industry’s hype and is still actively promoting SMRs.

There is a backlash from academics who fear nuclear proliferation, as well as from those who question the economics and viability of the “new” designs.

In one sense the nuclear enthusiasts are winning the propaganda war because many governments are actively encouraging work on the design of SMRs – and still shelling out billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to support research and development.

On the other hand everything is still in the prototype stage and has been for years. As yet no foundation stones for nuclear reactor factories have been laid. And while we wait for the long-promised nuclear breakthrough, cheaper wind and solar farms are being built rapidly across the planet. As each comes on stream it helps to erode the already flimsy case for nuclear power. − Climate News Network

With renewable energy expanding fast, the nuclear industry’s propaganda war still claims it helps to combat climate change.

LONDON, 3 June, 2021 − To maintain the assertion that it is still a key part of the struggle to limit the climate crisis, the global nuclear industry’s propaganda war is unremitting in its attempt to avoid oblivion in the world’s democracies.

At stake are thousands of well-paid power station jobs, but also a potential rise in electricity prices if funds are diverted away from cheaper options for generating power. Central to the debate is how governments can best cut fossil fuel use in time to save the world from catastrophic climate change.

There is not much middle ground. On one side are trade unions with many members in the nuclear industry, large companies with political clout and a vested interest in building the infrastructure needed, and numerous politicians, many of them in nuclear weapons states.

On the other are most climate scientists, environmental campaigners, economists, and cutting edge industries that see wind, solar and tidal power, batteries and other emerging technologies as the path to far more jobs, a cleaner future, and a possible route out of potential disaster. There are also those who fear the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Lack of balance

Very little of this debate takes place where it should, in national parliaments. In some countries, like the UK and the US, nearly all politicians support the nuclear industry, so there is little discussion of its merits.

Many of the “news” clips and pro-nuclear articles that appear in the media are carefully crafted and come from “think tank” sources close to − and often indirectly funded by − the nuclear industry. They are designed to show nuclear science in a good light.

This lack of balance is not surprising. Journalists find it difficult to penetrate an opaque and highly technical industry that has a wildly optimistic view of its own potential. Its costs, construction timetables, and beliefs in its probable sales have hardly ever actually been met in the industry’s 70-year history. Yet it goes on making its rosy predictions.

There has been a series of announcements in the West in the last five years about SMRs, advanced and IV generation reactors. Lost already? That is the idea: bamboozle politicians and the public with jargon and false hopes of a technical miracle, and you are halfway to getting your hands on taxpayers’ money to fund further research and create a new generation of reactors, to be built some time soon – although that time never seems to arrive.

“Journalists find it difficult to penetrate an opaque and highly technical industry that has a wildly optimistic view of its own potential”

Just to demonstrate what often seems deliberate obscurity: an SMR can be a small modular reactor, or a small to medium reactor. It could also be an advanced reactor. All this is explained on a helpful World Nuclear Association website which takes you through the potential sizes of reactors and explains the 70 or so designs.

Take one example. Rolls-Royce offers SMRs on its UK website. They turn out not to be small, having grown to 470 megawatts, much larger than the 300 megawatt maximum official definition of a small reactor. The company would now describe them as advanced reactors, although they are based on a generic design as old as the industry.

Modular also has two meanings in this context. It could mean the reactor is made in sections in a factory and assembled on site, thus (it is claimed) dramatically reducing costs. But it can also mean that each reactor becomes a module in a much larger nuclear station.

Rolls-Royce reckons it needs an order book of 16 reactors to justify building a factory that could turn reactors out, like its cars, on a production line. It is both trying to persuade the UK government to place a large number of orders and is combing the world for other governments willing to do so.

Military link

Nuclear detractors point out that creating a factory able to provide production line economies of scale for nuclear reactors is a tall order. Also, neither the UK government nor Rolls-Royce has come up with sites where any reactors could be placed. Perhaps the most telling point is that there is no need for that much expensive electricity when renewables plus energy storage could provide it more cheaply and quickly.

Most nuclear weapons states acknowledge the link between their civil and weapons industries. Canada is one of the few non-nuclear weapons states that has bought into the nuclear industry’s hype and is still actively promoting SMRs.

There is a backlash from academics who fear nuclear proliferation, as well as from those who question the economics and viability of the “new” designs.

In one sense the nuclear enthusiasts are winning the propaganda war because many governments are actively encouraging work on the design of SMRs – and still shelling out billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to support research and development.

On the other hand everything is still in the prototype stage and has been for years. As yet no foundation stones for nuclear reactor factories have been laid. And while we wait for the long-promised nuclear breakthrough, cheaper wind and solar farms are being built rapidly across the planet. As each comes on stream it helps to erode the already flimsy case for nuclear power. − Climate News Network

Old King Coal is forced at last to pull out of Asia

Solar is much better than fossil fuel for bringing electricity to the poor, so Old King Coal is quitting Asia.

LONDON, 14 May, 2021 − The Asian Development Bank (ADB), which serves more than half the world’s population, has decided it will no longer finance coal for electric generation and heating plants and instead will aid poor countries in the rapid phase-out of existing coal plants. So for Old King Coal, it’s good-bye to Asia.

The bank’s new policy document says coal has no future if developing countries are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It aims to phase out all coal plants in Asia by the middle of the century.

Despite the shift in policy, the plan remains to equip the entire population of the region the bank serves with access to electricity by 2030. It will also commit US$80 billion between now and 2030 to support climate change mitigation and adaption in the most vulnerable communities.

The bank’s decision is important because the Asia-Pacific region is home to the largest proportion of the world’s population and to many of its poorest people. It includes both China and India and also many island states in the Pacific.

ADB says the region’s progress in poverty reduction and economic growth has been remarkable, but that reliance on coal has not solved the problem of access to electricity. Fossil fuels are harming the region’s environment and accelerating climate change.

Vulnerable region

Because of this reliance on coal the bank’s developing member countries contribute 45% of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector. “With continued economic growth, emissions from these countries will further increase if energy systems continue to rely on the expanded use of fossil fuels,” the policy document says.

In addition to the challenges of climate change mitigation, many member countries “are highly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards and impacts of climate change, such as the growing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns, and increasing temperatures.

“Disaster-related losses are already growing due to insufficient regard for climate and disaster risk in either the design or location of new infrastructure. Climate change impacts and disruption of ecosystem services can lead to severe effects on livelihoods and food security, which in turn would affect human health.

“Indeed, the region is known to be the most vulnerable in the world to natural disasters, from typhoons and flooding to earthquakes and tsunamis.

“To become truly sustainable, economic growth must be decoupled from environmental degradation.”

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option”

Instead of investing in coal, the bank will give priority to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Even without coal, it believes it can secure a grid supply by 2030 for the 200 million people in the Asia-Pacific region who still lack access to electricity. This, it says, can be done best with renewables, especially solar power.

The bank says some countries have made notable strides with electrification since 2010. One of the greatest success stories is Cambodia, where electrification has increased from 31% in 2010 to 93% in 2018.

South Asia, as a whole, has extended electricity services to a “remarkable 286 million people” in the same time period. All countries in the region now have more than 50% of their population with grid electricity, although a number still fall below 80%.

These countries include Pakistan, Myanmar, Papua-New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The people still without a supply are largely in outlying islands or in hard-to-reach mountainous regions. Solar energy is particularly suitable for these areas.

Expanding access to clean cooking facilities, vital for promoting indoor and outdoor air quality, has been less successful. Central and South Asia had less than 50% access in 2018, and other regions only about two-thirds.

Gas still an option

Ensuring 100% of the population rely primarily on clean fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030 “is clearly more challenging than electrification,” the bank says.

Partly for this reason, it has not entirely ruled out the use of gas, particularly for cooking, but says it would need to be convinced that there was not a better alternative. It will review its energy policy in 2025.

Chuck Baclagon, Asia Finance Campaigner for 350.org, said: “We welcome this step because it brings to fruition the years of painstaking resistance from communities and organisations against energy projects that come at the expense of health, ecosystems, and the climate.

“The exclusion of coal in the new investment policy further affirms that coal is not only bad for the environment and our climate, it is also a bad investment because of the growing risk of coal infrastructure becoming stranded assets.

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option for demand, even before factors such as public health impacts and environmental damage are priced in.” − Climate News Network

Solar is much better than fossil fuel for bringing electricity to the poor, so Old King Coal is quitting Asia.

LONDON, 14 May, 2021 − The Asian Development Bank (ADB), which serves more than half the world’s population, has decided it will no longer finance coal for electric generation and heating plants and instead will aid poor countries in the rapid phase-out of existing coal plants. So for Old King Coal, it’s good-bye to Asia.

The bank’s new policy document says coal has no future if developing countries are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It aims to phase out all coal plants in Asia by the middle of the century.

Despite the shift in policy, the plan remains to equip the entire population of the region the bank serves with access to electricity by 2030. It will also commit US$80 billion between now and 2030 to support climate change mitigation and adaption in the most vulnerable communities.

The bank’s decision is important because the Asia-Pacific region is home to the largest proportion of the world’s population and to many of its poorest people. It includes both China and India and also many island states in the Pacific.

ADB says the region’s progress in poverty reduction and economic growth has been remarkable, but that reliance on coal has not solved the problem of access to electricity. Fossil fuels are harming the region’s environment and accelerating climate change.

Vulnerable region

Because of this reliance on coal the bank’s developing member countries contribute 45% of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector. “With continued economic growth, emissions from these countries will further increase if energy systems continue to rely on the expanded use of fossil fuels,” the policy document says.

In addition to the challenges of climate change mitigation, many member countries “are highly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards and impacts of climate change, such as the growing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns, and increasing temperatures.

“Disaster-related losses are already growing due to insufficient regard for climate and disaster risk in either the design or location of new infrastructure. Climate change impacts and disruption of ecosystem services can lead to severe effects on livelihoods and food security, which in turn would affect human health.

“Indeed, the region is known to be the most vulnerable in the world to natural disasters, from typhoons and flooding to earthquakes and tsunamis.

“To become truly sustainable, economic growth must be decoupled from environmental degradation.”

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option”

Instead of investing in coal, the bank will give priority to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Even without coal, it believes it can secure a grid supply by 2030 for the 200 million people in the Asia-Pacific region who still lack access to electricity. This, it says, can be done best with renewables, especially solar power.

The bank says some countries have made notable strides with electrification since 2010. One of the greatest success stories is Cambodia, where electrification has increased from 31% in 2010 to 93% in 2018.

South Asia, as a whole, has extended electricity services to a “remarkable 286 million people” in the same time period. All countries in the region now have more than 50% of their population with grid electricity, although a number still fall below 80%.

These countries include Pakistan, Myanmar, Papua-New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The people still without a supply are largely in outlying islands or in hard-to-reach mountainous regions. Solar energy is particularly suitable for these areas.

Expanding access to clean cooking facilities, vital for promoting indoor and outdoor air quality, has been less successful. Central and South Asia had less than 50% access in 2018, and other regions only about two-thirds.

Gas still an option

Ensuring 100% of the population rely primarily on clean fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030 “is clearly more challenging than electrification,” the bank says.

Partly for this reason, it has not entirely ruled out the use of gas, particularly for cooking, but says it would need to be convinced that there was not a better alternative. It will review its energy policy in 2025.

Chuck Baclagon, Asia Finance Campaigner for 350.org, said: “We welcome this step because it brings to fruition the years of painstaking resistance from communities and organisations against energy projects that come at the expense of health, ecosystems, and the climate.

“The exclusion of coal in the new investment policy further affirms that coal is not only bad for the environment and our climate, it is also a bad investment because of the growing risk of coal infrastructure becoming stranded assets.

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option for demand, even before factors such as public health impacts and environmental damage are priced in.” − Climate News Network

Advert ban tries to wean the Dutch off fossil fuels

How do you wean the Dutch off fossil fuels? Well, you could always start by banning advertisements that promote them.

LONDON, 6 May, 2021 − Three days ago Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, “Venice of the North” (and destination of many travellers who appreciate a little something extra with their coffee), took a serious step into the future. It sought to wean the Dutch off fossil fuels by banning many advertisements for the pollutants.

The ban isn’t total − yet. But this prohibition of what are described as “fossil fuel products”, including air travel as well as fossil-fuelled cars, means the adverts will no longer be seen in Amsterdam’s subway stations.

The city says it’s the first in the world determined to keep fossil fuel advertising off its streets. Never before has a city decided to ban advertising solely on the basis of climate change, it insists.

The agreement about advertisements in its metro stations is the municipality’s first step towards making advertising everywhere in Amsterdam fossil-free. The Dutch capital is still investigating a wider ban on advertising, and on marketing festivals by fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil and Shell (or, to give it its original name, Royal Dutch Shell).

“We don’t have any time to waste. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption”

Ban Fossil Advertising (Reclame Fossielvrij) is a Dutch citizens’ group working for a nationwide ban on advertising by the fossil fuel industry and on adverts for polluting transport. Its co-ordinator, Femke Sleegers, said: “The decision to ban fossil fuel advertising from subway stations comes at a crucial moment in the fight against climate change.

“We don’t have any time to waste in working towards the Paris climate goals. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption and have no place in a city − or a country − that has complied with Paris.”

The decision by Amsterdam’s city council to start banning fossil fuel adverts followed pressure by Ban Fossil Advertising and 51 other local groups. The city’s public transport company, GVB, had already decided to sharpen up its advertising policy in order to keep greenwashing advertisements (when polluters falsely present themselves as environmentally responsible) out of its vehicles, after a call by Extinction Rebellion Amsterdam.

Ban Fossil Advertising is working for a nationwide law to cover the fossil fuel industry, modelled on the Dutch advertising ban on the tobacco industry, which is regarded by campaigners as an indispensable step in the fight against smoking. It is seen not only as a step which changed social norms, but as one that removed temptation. Today’s campaigners say an identical approach is needed towards fossil fuels.

Global pressure

Three more cities in the Netherlands − The Hague, Utrecht and Nijmegen − say they are open to a ban on fossil fuel ads. Similar moves are under way in a number of other countries in Europe, North America and Australia, some at national level and some in individual cities, with media backing in several cases.

A Canadian group, for example, the Citizens’ Initiative for a fossil fuel advertisement-free Canada,  urges Parliament “to demand accountability from the fossil industry and legislate a ‘tobacco law’ for oil, gas and petrochemical companies; a ‘fossil law’”.

This would ban adverts for Big Oil, air travel and cars with fossil fuel engines, with fossil fuel money used for marketing redirected into “an unbranded fund that helps the transition.” A similar initiative is under way in France.

In the US, the city of New York is suing three major oil companies and the top industry trade group, arguing that the companies are misrepresenting themselves by selling fuels as “cleaner” and advertising themselves as leaders in fighting climate change.

In the UK the Badvertising campaign is seeking to stop adverts from fuelling the climate emergency, and the environmental lawyers ClientEarth are urging policymakers to ban all fossil fuel company ads unless they come with tobacco-style health warnings about the risks of global heating to people and the planet. − Climate News Network

How do you wean the Dutch off fossil fuels? Well, you could always start by banning advertisements that promote them.

LONDON, 6 May, 2021 − Three days ago Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, “Venice of the North” (and destination of many travellers who appreciate a little something extra with their coffee), took a serious step into the future. It sought to wean the Dutch off fossil fuels by banning many advertisements for the pollutants.

The ban isn’t total − yet. But this prohibition of what are described as “fossil fuel products”, including air travel as well as fossil-fuelled cars, means the adverts will no longer be seen in Amsterdam’s subway stations.

The city says it’s the first in the world determined to keep fossil fuel advertising off its streets. Never before has a city decided to ban advertising solely on the basis of climate change, it insists.

The agreement about advertisements in its metro stations is the municipality’s first step towards making advertising everywhere in Amsterdam fossil-free. The Dutch capital is still investigating a wider ban on advertising, and on marketing festivals by fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil and Shell (or, to give it its original name, Royal Dutch Shell).

“We don’t have any time to waste. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption”

Ban Fossil Advertising (Reclame Fossielvrij) is a Dutch citizens’ group working for a nationwide ban on advertising by the fossil fuel industry and on adverts for polluting transport. Its co-ordinator, Femke Sleegers, said: “The decision to ban fossil fuel advertising from subway stations comes at a crucial moment in the fight against climate change.

“We don’t have any time to waste in working towards the Paris climate goals. Adverts that portray fossil fuels as normal worsen climate disruption and have no place in a city − or a country − that has complied with Paris.”

The decision by Amsterdam’s city council to start banning fossil fuel adverts followed pressure by Ban Fossil Advertising and 51 other local groups. The city’s public transport company, GVB, had already decided to sharpen up its advertising policy in order to keep greenwashing advertisements (when polluters falsely present themselves as environmentally responsible) out of its vehicles, after a call by Extinction Rebellion Amsterdam.

Ban Fossil Advertising is working for a nationwide law to cover the fossil fuel industry, modelled on the Dutch advertising ban on the tobacco industry, which is regarded by campaigners as an indispensable step in the fight against smoking. It is seen not only as a step which changed social norms, but as one that removed temptation. Today’s campaigners say an identical approach is needed towards fossil fuels.

Global pressure

Three more cities in the Netherlands − The Hague, Utrecht and Nijmegen − say they are open to a ban on fossil fuel ads. Similar moves are under way in a number of other countries in Europe, North America and Australia, some at national level and some in individual cities, with media backing in several cases.

A Canadian group, for example, the Citizens’ Initiative for a fossil fuel advertisement-free Canada,  urges Parliament “to demand accountability from the fossil industry and legislate a ‘tobacco law’ for oil, gas and petrochemical companies; a ‘fossil law’”.

This would ban adverts for Big Oil, air travel and cars with fossil fuel engines, with fossil fuel money used for marketing redirected into “an unbranded fund that helps the transition.” A similar initiative is under way in France.

In the US, the city of New York is suing three major oil companies and the top industry trade group, arguing that the companies are misrepresenting themselves by selling fuels as “cleaner” and advertising themselves as leaders in fighting climate change.

In the UK the Badvertising campaign is seeking to stop adverts from fuelling the climate emergency, and the environmental lawyers ClientEarth are urging policymakers to ban all fossil fuel company ads unless they come with tobacco-style health warnings about the risks of global heating to people and the planet. − Climate News Network

UK nuclear plants will exact heavy fish toll

Environmental groups are alarmed at the heavy fish toll which two new British nuclear plants will inflict on stocks.

LONDON, 4 May, 2021 − The high fatality rate which the cooling systems of two British nuclear power stations may impose on marine life is worrying environmentalists, who describe the heavy fish toll they expect as “staggering”.

The two stations, Hinkley Point C, under construction on England’s west coast, and Sizewell C, planned for the eastern side of the country, will, they say, kill more than 200 million fish a year and destroy millions more sea creatures. But the stations’ builders say their critics are exaggerating drastically.

Objectors to the fish kill had hoped that the UK government agency tasked with conserving fish stocks in the seas around Britain, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), would be on their side.

They have been disappointed to learn that Cefas is a paid adviser to the French nuclear company EDF, which is building the stations, and would raise no objections to the company’s method of cooling them with seawater.

“Continued official silence on these issues will be a dereliction of duty and a national disgrace”

In a detailed rebuttal of the objectors’ arguments, Cefas denies any conflict of interest between advising EDF about the damage the stations would do to the marine environment and its own duty to protect fish stocks – and it claims that the loss of millions of fish would not affect stocks overall.

The Hinkley Point C twin nuclear reactors being built in Somerset, in the West of England, which are due for completion by 2026, will kill about 182m fish a year by some estimates, although EDF says it is doing its best to reduce the problem with modified cooling water intakes and an acoustic method of deterring fish from approaching the intakes. The green groups fear the proposed Sizewell C plant in Suffolk on the east coast will kill another 28.5m fish annually.

Using figures taken directly from EDF’s own planning documents, the opponents of the Suffolk plant calculate that 560m fish will be slaughtered in a 20-year period through being sucked into its cooling systems. They say the fish will be unable to avoid the pipes, which take in 131 cubic metres of seawater every second.

Peter Wilkinson, chairman of Together Against Sizewell C, said: “Even this staggering figure hides a grim truth. It represents only a percentage of the overall impact on the marine environment inflicted by nuclear power.

Corporate impunity

“Unknown millions of eggs, marine crustaceans, larvae and post-larval stages of fish fry, along with other marine biota, are entrained [dragged] through the nuclear plant cooling systems every year, adding to the toll of those impinged [caught] on the mesh of the cooling intakes and the decimation of fish stocks.”

Among the scores of species that will be killed are several protected fish, including bass, Blackwater herring, eels and river lampreys, as well as fish under special conservation measures to allow depleted stocks to recover.

The existing nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast, Sizewell B, already kills 800,000 bass a year. The planned station is expected to kill 2m more. Someone fishing from the beach at Sizewell could be prosecuted for catching a single bass: EDF will be allowed to kill millions with impunity. A heavy fish toll appears to be inevitable.

Wilkinson added: “This carnage is wholesale, inhumane and unacceptable and flies in the face of the government’s so-called ‘green agenda’. We expect Cefas to condemn this level of impact.

Not many fatalities

“This marine life will be sacrificed for the purposes of cooling a plant which is not needed to keep the lights on, which will do nothing to reduce global carbon emissions, which will be paid for from the pockets of all UK taxpayers and bill-paying customers, leaving future generations with a lasting legacy of an impoverished environment. Continued official silence on these issues will be a dereliction of duty and a national disgrace.”

In a statement to the Climate News Network, Cefas denied any conflict of interest, saying it was paid by EDF to give objective and rigorous scientific advice to ensure that both new stations were environmentally sustainable. It advised where possible how to reduce the fish kill.

“Where impacts do occur, such as the mortality of fish on power station intake screens, we assess these against other sources of mortality … and the ability of the population to withstand such losses.  Compared to the natural population size, relatively few fish will be impacted . . . ”, the statement said.

Cefas would not say how much it was paid by EDF, saying its fees were less than 10% of its annual income and so it was not obliged to do so. It added: “There is no scientific evidence that the proposed new nuclear developments will cause large-scale destruction of marine life or impact protected species.” − Climate News Network

Environmental groups are alarmed at the heavy fish toll which two new British nuclear plants will inflict on stocks.

LONDON, 4 May, 2021 − The high fatality rate which the cooling systems of two British nuclear power stations may impose on marine life is worrying environmentalists, who describe the heavy fish toll they expect as “staggering”.

The two stations, Hinkley Point C, under construction on England’s west coast, and Sizewell C, planned for the eastern side of the country, will, they say, kill more than 200 million fish a year and destroy millions more sea creatures. But the stations’ builders say their critics are exaggerating drastically.

Objectors to the fish kill had hoped that the UK government agency tasked with conserving fish stocks in the seas around Britain, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), would be on their side.

They have been disappointed to learn that Cefas is a paid adviser to the French nuclear company EDF, which is building the stations, and would raise no objections to the company’s method of cooling them with seawater.

“Continued official silence on these issues will be a dereliction of duty and a national disgrace”

In a detailed rebuttal of the objectors’ arguments, Cefas denies any conflict of interest between advising EDF about the damage the stations would do to the marine environment and its own duty to protect fish stocks – and it claims that the loss of millions of fish would not affect stocks overall.

The Hinkley Point C twin nuclear reactors being built in Somerset, in the West of England, which are due for completion by 2026, will kill about 182m fish a year by some estimates, although EDF says it is doing its best to reduce the problem with modified cooling water intakes and an acoustic method of deterring fish from approaching the intakes. The green groups fear the proposed Sizewell C plant in Suffolk on the east coast will kill another 28.5m fish annually.

Using figures taken directly from EDF’s own planning documents, the opponents of the Suffolk plant calculate that 560m fish will be slaughtered in a 20-year period through being sucked into its cooling systems. They say the fish will be unable to avoid the pipes, which take in 131 cubic metres of seawater every second.

Peter Wilkinson, chairman of Together Against Sizewell C, said: “Even this staggering figure hides a grim truth. It represents only a percentage of the overall impact on the marine environment inflicted by nuclear power.

Corporate impunity

“Unknown millions of eggs, marine crustaceans, larvae and post-larval stages of fish fry, along with other marine biota, are entrained [dragged] through the nuclear plant cooling systems every year, adding to the toll of those impinged [caught] on the mesh of the cooling intakes and the decimation of fish stocks.”

Among the scores of species that will be killed are several protected fish, including bass, Blackwater herring, eels and river lampreys, as well as fish under special conservation measures to allow depleted stocks to recover.

The existing nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast, Sizewell B, already kills 800,000 bass a year. The planned station is expected to kill 2m more. Someone fishing from the beach at Sizewell could be prosecuted for catching a single bass: EDF will be allowed to kill millions with impunity. A heavy fish toll appears to be inevitable.

Wilkinson added: “This carnage is wholesale, inhumane and unacceptable and flies in the face of the government’s so-called ‘green agenda’. We expect Cefas to condemn this level of impact.

Not many fatalities

“This marine life will be sacrificed for the purposes of cooling a plant which is not needed to keep the lights on, which will do nothing to reduce global carbon emissions, which will be paid for from the pockets of all UK taxpayers and bill-paying customers, leaving future generations with a lasting legacy of an impoverished environment. Continued official silence on these issues will be a dereliction of duty and a national disgrace.”

In a statement to the Climate News Network, Cefas denied any conflict of interest, saying it was paid by EDF to give objective and rigorous scientific advice to ensure that both new stations were environmentally sustainable. It advised where possible how to reduce the fish kill.

“Where impacts do occur, such as the mortality of fish on power station intake screens, we assess these against other sources of mortality … and the ability of the population to withstand such losses.  Compared to the natural population size, relatively few fish will be impacted . . . ”, the statement said.

Cefas would not say how much it was paid by EDF, saying its fees were less than 10% of its annual income and so it was not obliged to do so. It added: “There is no scientific evidence that the proposed new nuclear developments will cause large-scale destruction of marine life or impact protected species.” − Climate News Network

Nuclear industry’s unfounded claims let it survive

The nuclear industry’s unfounded claims let it rely on “dark arts”, ignoring much better ways to cut carbon emissions.

LONDON, 28 April, 2021 – It is the global nuclear industry’s unfounded claims – not least that it is part of the solution to climate change because it is a low-carbon source of electricity – that allow it to survive, says a devastating demolition job by one of the world’s leading environmental experts, Jonathan Porritt.

In a report, Net Zero Without Nuclear, he says the industry is in fact hindering the fight against climate change. Its claim that new types of reactor are part of the solution is, he says, like its previous promises, over-hyped and illusionary.

Porritt, a former director of Friends of the Earth UK, who was appointed chairman of the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission after years of campaigning on green issues, has written the report in a personal capacity, but it is endorsed by an impressive group of academics and environmental campaigners.

His analysis is timely, because the nuclear industry is currently sinking billions of dollars into supporting environmental think tanks and energy “experts” who bombard politicians and news outlets with pro-nuclear propaganda.

Porritt provides a figure of 46 front groups in 18 countries practising these “dark arts”, and says it is only this “army of lobbyists and PR specialists” that is keeping the industry alive.

First he discusses the so-called levelized cost of energy (LCOE), a measure of the average net present cost of electricity generation for a generating plant over its lifetime.

“The case against nuclear power is stronger than it has ever been before”

In 2020, the LCOE of producing one megawatt of electricity in the UK showed huge variations:

  • large scale solar came out cheapest at £27 (US$38)
  • onshore wind was £30
  • the cheapest gas: £44
  • offshore wind: £63
  • coal was £83
  • nuclear – a massive £121 ($168).

Porritt argues that even if you dispute some of the methods of reaching these figures, it is important to look at trends. Over time wind and solar are constantly getting cheaper, while nuclear costs on the other hand are rising – by 26% in ten years.

His second issue is the time it takes to build a nuclear station. He concludes that the pace of building them is so slow that if western countries started building new ones now, the amount of carbon dioxide produced in manufacturing the concrete and steel needed to complete them would far outweigh any contribution the stations might make by 2050 to low carbon electricity production. New build nuclear power stations would in fact make existing net zero targets harder to reach.

“It is very misleading to make out that renewables and nuclear are equivalently low-carbon – and even more misleading to describe nuclear as zero-carbon, as a regrettably significant number of politicians and industry representatives continue to do – many of them in the full knowledge that they are lying”, he writes.

He says that the British government and all the main opposition political parties in England and Wales are pro-nuclear, effectively stifling public debate, and that the government neglects the most important way of reducing carbon emissions: energy efficiency.

Also, with the UK particularly well-endowed with wind, solar and tidal resources, it would be far quicker and cheaper to reach 100% renewable energy without harbouring any new nuclear ambitions.

The report discusses as well issues the industry would rather not examine – the unresolved problem of nuclear waste, and the immense time it takes to decommission nuclear stations. This leads on to the issue of safety, not just the difficult question of potential terrorist and cyber attacks, but also the dangers of sea level rise and other effects of climate change.

Failed expectations

These include the possibility of sea water, particularly in the Middle East, becoming too warm to cool the reactors and so rendering them difficult to operate, and rivers running low during droughts, for example in France and the US, forcing the stations to close when power is most needed.

Porritt insists he has kept an open mind on nuclear power since the 1970s and still does so, but that they have never lived up to their promises. He makes the point that he does not want existing nuclear stations to close early if they are safe, since they are producing low carbon electricity. However, he is baffled by the continuing enthusiasm among politicians for nuclear power: “The case against nuclear power is stronger than it has ever been before.”

But it is not just the politicians and industry chiefs that come in for criticism. Trade unions which advocate new nuclear power because it is a heavily unionised industry when there are far more jobs in the renewable sector are “especially repugnant.”

He also rehearses the fact that without a healthy civil nuclear industry countries would struggle to afford nuclear weapons, as it is electricity consumers that provide support for the weapons programme.

The newest argument employed by nuclear enthusiasts, the idea that green hydrogen could be produced in large quantities, is one he also debunks. It would simply be too expensive and inefficient, he says, except perhaps for the steel and concrete industries.

Porritt’s report is principally directed at the UK’s nuclear programme, where he says the government very much stands alone in Europe in its “unbridled enthusiasm for new nuclear power stations.”

This is despite the fact that the nuclear case has continued to fade for 15 years. Instead, he argues, British governments should go for what the report concentrates on: Net Zero Without Nuclear. – Climate News Network

The nuclear industry’s unfounded claims let it rely on “dark arts”, ignoring much better ways to cut carbon emissions.

LONDON, 28 April, 2021 – It is the global nuclear industry’s unfounded claims – not least that it is part of the solution to climate change because it is a low-carbon source of electricity – that allow it to survive, says a devastating demolition job by one of the world’s leading environmental experts, Jonathan Porritt.

In a report, Net Zero Without Nuclear, he says the industry is in fact hindering the fight against climate change. Its claim that new types of reactor are part of the solution is, he says, like its previous promises, over-hyped and illusionary.

Porritt, a former director of Friends of the Earth UK, who was appointed chairman of the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission after years of campaigning on green issues, has written the report in a personal capacity, but it is endorsed by an impressive group of academics and environmental campaigners.

His analysis is timely, because the nuclear industry is currently sinking billions of dollars into supporting environmental think tanks and energy “experts” who bombard politicians and news outlets with pro-nuclear propaganda.

Porritt provides a figure of 46 front groups in 18 countries practising these “dark arts”, and says it is only this “army of lobbyists and PR specialists” that is keeping the industry alive.

First he discusses the so-called levelized cost of energy (LCOE), a measure of the average net present cost of electricity generation for a generating plant over its lifetime.

“The case against nuclear power is stronger than it has ever been before”

In 2020, the LCOE of producing one megawatt of electricity in the UK showed huge variations:

  • large scale solar came out cheapest at £27 (US$38)
  • onshore wind was £30
  • the cheapest gas: £44
  • offshore wind: £63
  • coal was £83
  • nuclear – a massive £121 ($168).

Porritt argues that even if you dispute some of the methods of reaching these figures, it is important to look at trends. Over time wind and solar are constantly getting cheaper, while nuclear costs on the other hand are rising – by 26% in ten years.

His second issue is the time it takes to build a nuclear station. He concludes that the pace of building them is so slow that if western countries started building new ones now, the amount of carbon dioxide produced in manufacturing the concrete and steel needed to complete them would far outweigh any contribution the stations might make by 2050 to low carbon electricity production. New build nuclear power stations would in fact make existing net zero targets harder to reach.

“It is very misleading to make out that renewables and nuclear are equivalently low-carbon – and even more misleading to describe nuclear as zero-carbon, as a regrettably significant number of politicians and industry representatives continue to do – many of them in the full knowledge that they are lying”, he writes.

He says that the British government and all the main opposition political parties in England and Wales are pro-nuclear, effectively stifling public debate, and that the government neglects the most important way of reducing carbon emissions: energy efficiency.

Also, with the UK particularly well-endowed with wind, solar and tidal resources, it would be far quicker and cheaper to reach 100% renewable energy without harbouring any new nuclear ambitions.

The report discusses as well issues the industry would rather not examine – the unresolved problem of nuclear waste, and the immense time it takes to decommission nuclear stations. This leads on to the issue of safety, not just the difficult question of potential terrorist and cyber attacks, but also the dangers of sea level rise and other effects of climate change.

Failed expectations

These include the possibility of sea water, particularly in the Middle East, becoming too warm to cool the reactors and so rendering them difficult to operate, and rivers running low during droughts, for example in France and the US, forcing the stations to close when power is most needed.

Porritt insists he has kept an open mind on nuclear power since the 1970s and still does so, but that they have never lived up to their promises. He makes the point that he does not want existing nuclear stations to close early if they are safe, since they are producing low carbon electricity. However, he is baffled by the continuing enthusiasm among politicians for nuclear power: “The case against nuclear power is stronger than it has ever been before.”

But it is not just the politicians and industry chiefs that come in for criticism. Trade unions which advocate new nuclear power because it is a heavily unionised industry when there are far more jobs in the renewable sector are “especially repugnant.”

He also rehearses the fact that without a healthy civil nuclear industry countries would struggle to afford nuclear weapons, as it is electricity consumers that provide support for the weapons programme.

The newest argument employed by nuclear enthusiasts, the idea that green hydrogen could be produced in large quantities, is one he also debunks. It would simply be too expensive and inefficient, he says, except perhaps for the steel and concrete industries.

Porritt’s report is principally directed at the UK’s nuclear programme, where he says the government very much stands alone in Europe in its “unbridled enthusiasm for new nuclear power stations.”

This is despite the fact that the nuclear case has continued to fade for 15 years. Instead, he argues, British governments should go for what the report concentrates on: Net Zero Without Nuclear. – Climate News Network

Cool homes and hot water are there on the cheap

Would you like cool homes and hot water without paying to power them? They’re already working in the laboratory.

LONDON, 27 April, 2021 − It sounds like the stuff that dreams are made of: fit equipment to provide cool homes and hot water, and then pay nothing in running costs.

US scientists have worked out how to install the equivalent of 10 kilowatts of cooling equipment without even switching on the electricity. It’s simple: paint the place white. Not just any old white, but a new ultrawhite pigment that can reflect back into the sky more than 98% of the sunlight that falls on it.

And another US team has devised a passive cooling system that could be turned into a roofing material able to lower room temperatures by 12°C by day and 14°C at night, while capturing enough solar power to heat household water to about 60°C.

Each innovation is still at the demonstration stage; neither is likely to be commercially available soon. But each is a fresh instance of the resourcefulness and ingenuity at work in the world’s laboratories to address what is soon going to be one of the hottest topics of the planet: potentially lethal extremes of summer heat as global average temperatures rise, in response to ever more profligate use of fossil fuels.

The problem could grow to nightmare proportions. Researchers have warned that in the next fifty years, up to 3bn people could face temperatures now experienced only by those who live in the Sahara desert.

Increased energy appetite

By 2100, some half a billion people could face heat extremes of 56°C − about the hottest recorded anywhere so far − and people in the cities may face even higher hazard levels.

Air-conditioning systems driven by electricity might cool the homes of the well-off, but they also heighten the demand for energy, and will raise the temperature in the streets. And once again, the poorest people in the most crowded cities will be most at risk.

So for years researchers have been examining new and sometimes ancient techniques for passive cooling. Researchers in Indiana have already devised a pigment that could reflect more than 95% of the sunlight that hits it. Now, in the American Chemical Society’s journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, they report that their latest paint formulation based on barium sulphate particles can deflect up to 98.1% of the light away, while releasing infrared heat as well.

“If you were to use this paint to cover a roof area of about 1,000 square feet, we estimate that you could get a cooling power of 10 kilowatts,” said Xiulan Ruan, a mechanical engineer at Purdue University, and one of the authors. “That’s more powerful than the central air conditioners used by most houses.”

And at the University of Buffalo, New York state, electrical engineers have experimented with a passive system that under direct sunlight can not only lower the temperature of the chamber it shields: it can also capture enough solar power to heat water.

“It can retain both the heating and cooling effects in a single system with no electricity. It’s really a sort of a ‘magic’ system of ice and fire”

Right now, they say in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science, their mirror-based system is no more than 70cms squared, but it could be scaled up to cover rooftops.

It could not only reduce the need for fossil fuels to generate heat and power cooling systems; it could also one day help those with little or no access to electricity.

The mirrors, based on silver and silicon dioxide, absorb sunlight, and then convert it to heat which is funnelled into an emitter that sends the warmth back into the sky. In outdoor tests it reduced temperatures by 12°C; in the laboratory, it achieved a cooling of more than 14°C.

“Importantly, our system does not simply waste the solar input energy. Instead, the solar energy is absorbed by the solar spectral selective mirrors and it can be used for solar water heating,” said Qiaoqiang Gan, an electrical engineer at Buffalo.

“It can retain both the solar heating and radiative cooling effects in a single system with no need of electricity. It’s really a sort of a ‘magic’ system of ice and fire.” − Climate News Network

Would you like cool homes and hot water without paying to power them? They’re already working in the laboratory.

LONDON, 27 April, 2021 − It sounds like the stuff that dreams are made of: fit equipment to provide cool homes and hot water, and then pay nothing in running costs.

US scientists have worked out how to install the equivalent of 10 kilowatts of cooling equipment without even switching on the electricity. It’s simple: paint the place white. Not just any old white, but a new ultrawhite pigment that can reflect back into the sky more than 98% of the sunlight that falls on it.

And another US team has devised a passive cooling system that could be turned into a roofing material able to lower room temperatures by 12°C by day and 14°C at night, while capturing enough solar power to heat household water to about 60°C.

Each innovation is still at the demonstration stage; neither is likely to be commercially available soon. But each is a fresh instance of the resourcefulness and ingenuity at work in the world’s laboratories to address what is soon going to be one of the hottest topics of the planet: potentially lethal extremes of summer heat as global average temperatures rise, in response to ever more profligate use of fossil fuels.

The problem could grow to nightmare proportions. Researchers have warned that in the next fifty years, up to 3bn people could face temperatures now experienced only by those who live in the Sahara desert.

Increased energy appetite

By 2100, some half a billion people could face heat extremes of 56°C − about the hottest recorded anywhere so far − and people in the cities may face even higher hazard levels.

Air-conditioning systems driven by electricity might cool the homes of the well-off, but they also heighten the demand for energy, and will raise the temperature in the streets. And once again, the poorest people in the most crowded cities will be most at risk.

So for years researchers have been examining new and sometimes ancient techniques for passive cooling. Researchers in Indiana have already devised a pigment that could reflect more than 95% of the sunlight that hits it. Now, in the American Chemical Society’s journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, they report that their latest paint formulation based on barium sulphate particles can deflect up to 98.1% of the light away, while releasing infrared heat as well.

“If you were to use this paint to cover a roof area of about 1,000 square feet, we estimate that you could get a cooling power of 10 kilowatts,” said Xiulan Ruan, a mechanical engineer at Purdue University, and one of the authors. “That’s more powerful than the central air conditioners used by most houses.”

And at the University of Buffalo, New York state, electrical engineers have experimented with a passive system that under direct sunlight can not only lower the temperature of the chamber it shields: it can also capture enough solar power to heat water.

“It can retain both the heating and cooling effects in a single system with no electricity. It’s really a sort of a ‘magic’ system of ice and fire”

Right now, they say in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science, their mirror-based system is no more than 70cms squared, but it could be scaled up to cover rooftops.

It could not only reduce the need for fossil fuels to generate heat and power cooling systems; it could also one day help those with little or no access to electricity.

The mirrors, based on silver and silicon dioxide, absorb sunlight, and then convert it to heat which is funnelled into an emitter that sends the warmth back into the sky. In outdoor tests it reduced temperatures by 12°C; in the laboratory, it achieved a cooling of more than 14°C.

“Importantly, our system does not simply waste the solar input energy. Instead, the solar energy is absorbed by the solar spectral selective mirrors and it can be used for solar water heating,” said Qiaoqiang Gan, an electrical engineer at Buffalo.

“It can retain both the solar heating and radiative cooling effects in a single system with no need of electricity. It’s really a sort of a ‘magic’ system of ice and fire.” − Climate News Network

Tidal power fuels Scottish electric vehicles

Electric vehicles are catching on in many countries, notably the Nordic states – and Scottish tides are powering cars there.

LONDON, 30 March, 2021 – The race to meet present and future demand for electrically powered vehicles (EVs) is on, with new projects being announced or swinging into action with increasing frequency.

The latest to join the rush into EV technology is the Norwegian company Freyr AS, which has announced plans to build a multi-billion dollar battery cell production facility in northern Norway.

The company has big ambitions: by 2025 it aims to become one of Europe’s biggest cell suppliers.

The oil, gas and aluminium industries have traditionally played a central role in Norway’s economy. But now there are signs of a change.

Useful similarities

The Freyr facility is being constructed in the small city of Mo I Rana, close to the Arctic Circle. The company says it’s hiring many executives and workers formerly employed in the country’s fossil fuel and aluminium industries.

Tom Einar Rysst-Jensen, Freyr’s CEO, says battery production is complex and has many similarities with the oil and gas industries.

“Battery production are large, capital-intensive, energy-intensive projects,” Rysst-Jensen told the Bloomberg news service. “If you want to be competitive, then you have to build on scale.”

Norway is a world leader in the uptake of EVs. At present about 60% of new vehicle sales in the country are fully electric and the government has announced a deadline of 2025 for ending the sale of all fossil fuelled transport.

“Most people in Shetland live close to the sea – to be able to harness the power of the tide in this way is a great way to use this resource”

The Nordic region is positioning itself as a centre of battery development and technology in Europe.

Two of Norway’s largest companies, the oil firm Equinor and aluminium producer Norsk Hydro, are teaming up with Japan’s Panasonic conglomerate to build a large battery production facility in northern Norway.

In neighbouring Sweden the Northvolt company, backed by car makers VW and BMW together with the furnishings conglomerate IKEA and bankers Goldman Sachs, is due to open a battery-making factory in the north of the country, close to the Arctic Circle, in 2024.

The Nordic region is viewed as well placed to meet Europe’s fast-expanding EV market. Battery production is power intensive: most electricity in the area comes from hydro sources – renewable and relatively cheap.

Mineral wealth

The region also has access to many of the commodities needed for producing batteries. “Seabed minerals have been proven in the Norwegian Sea, with large concentrations of cobalt and manganese”, Freyr’s Rysst-Jensen told Bloomberg.

“In the Nordics you will find graphite, cobalt, lithium – everything you need of raw materials for battery cell production.”

At present China dominates the market for EV batteries, with about 70% of the world’s total production.

Europe, which has only a 3% share, is keen to lessen its dependence on China for batteries and aims to have a 25% share of the global market by 2028. In late 2019 the European Commission announced a €3.2bn (£2.7bn) package for funding battery technology research and development.

Tidal help

A smaller but nonetheless significant EV-related development has been announced in the past few days – this time on the Shetland Islands, off the far north of Scotland.

Tidal energy company Nova Innovation has put into use what it says is the world’s first EV charge point with energy sourced from the power of the sea.

The company’s tidal turbines have supplied power to homes and businesses in Shetland for more than five years. EV drivers on the island of Yell can now charge up their vehicles from a charge point adjacent to the sea and have their cars powered entirely by the tide.

“Most people in Shetland live close to the sea – to be able to harness the power of the tide in this way is a great way to use this resource” said one local EV driver. – Climate News Network

Electric vehicles are catching on in many countries, notably the Nordic states – and Scottish tides are powering cars there.

LONDON, 30 March, 2021 – The race to meet present and future demand for electrically powered vehicles (EVs) is on, with new projects being announced or swinging into action with increasing frequency.

The latest to join the rush into EV technology is the Norwegian company Freyr AS, which has announced plans to build a multi-billion dollar battery cell production facility in northern Norway.

The company has big ambitions: by 2025 it aims to become one of Europe’s biggest cell suppliers.

The oil, gas and aluminium industries have traditionally played a central role in Norway’s economy. But now there are signs of a change.

Useful similarities

The Freyr facility is being constructed in the small city of Mo I Rana, close to the Arctic Circle. The company says it’s hiring many executives and workers formerly employed in the country’s fossil fuel and aluminium industries.

Tom Einar Rysst-Jensen, Freyr’s CEO, says battery production is complex and has many similarities with the oil and gas industries.

“Battery production are large, capital-intensive, energy-intensive projects,” Rysst-Jensen told the Bloomberg news service. “If you want to be competitive, then you have to build on scale.”

Norway is a world leader in the uptake of EVs. At present about 60% of new vehicle sales in the country are fully electric and the government has announced a deadline of 2025 for ending the sale of all fossil fuelled transport.

“Most people in Shetland live close to the sea – to be able to harness the power of the tide in this way is a great way to use this resource”

The Nordic region is positioning itself as a centre of battery development and technology in Europe.

Two of Norway’s largest companies, the oil firm Equinor and aluminium producer Norsk Hydro, are teaming up with Japan’s Panasonic conglomerate to build a large battery production facility in northern Norway.

In neighbouring Sweden the Northvolt company, backed by car makers VW and BMW together with the furnishings conglomerate IKEA and bankers Goldman Sachs, is due to open a battery-making factory in the north of the country, close to the Arctic Circle, in 2024.

The Nordic region is viewed as well placed to meet Europe’s fast-expanding EV market. Battery production is power intensive: most electricity in the area comes from hydro sources – renewable and relatively cheap.

Mineral wealth

The region also has access to many of the commodities needed for producing batteries. “Seabed minerals have been proven in the Norwegian Sea, with large concentrations of cobalt and manganese”, Freyr’s Rysst-Jensen told Bloomberg.

“In the Nordics you will find graphite, cobalt, lithium – everything you need of raw materials for battery cell production.”

At present China dominates the market for EV batteries, with about 70% of the world’s total production.

Europe, which has only a 3% share, is keen to lessen its dependence on China for batteries and aims to have a 25% share of the global market by 2028. In late 2019 the European Commission announced a €3.2bn (£2.7bn) package for funding battery technology research and development.

Tidal help

A smaller but nonetheless significant EV-related development has been announced in the past few days – this time on the Shetland Islands, off the far north of Scotland.

Tidal energy company Nova Innovation has put into use what it says is the world’s first EV charge point with energy sourced from the power of the sea.

The company’s tidal turbines have supplied power to homes and businesses in Shetland for more than five years. EV drivers on the island of Yell can now charge up their vehicles from a charge point adjacent to the sea and have their cars powered entirely by the tide.

“Most people in Shetland live close to the sea – to be able to harness the power of the tide in this way is a great way to use this resource” said one local EV driver. – Climate News Network

Small nuclear power plants no use in climate crisis

Governments are investing in a new range of small nuclear power plants, with little chance they’ll ease the climate crisis.

LONDON, 24 March, 2021 − Claims that a new generation of so-called advanced, safe and easier-to-build nuclear reactors − small nuclear power plants − will be vital to combat climate change are an illusion, and the idea should be abandoned, says a group of scientists.

Their report, “Advanced” is not always better, published by the US Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), examines all the proposed new types of reactor under development in the US and fails to find any that could be developed in time to help deal with the urgent need to cut carbon emissions. The US government is spending $600 million on supporting these prototypes.

While the report goes into details only about the many designs of small and medium-sized reactors being developed by US companies, it is a serious blow to the worldwide nuclear industry because the technologies are all similar to those also being underwritten by taxpayers in Canada, the UK, Russia and China. This is a market the World Economic Forum claimed in January could be worth $300 billion by 2040.

Edwin Lyman, who wrote the report, and is the director of nuclear power safety in the UCS Climate and Energy Program, thinks the WEF estimate is extremely unlikely. He comments on nuclear power in general: “The technology has fundamental safety and security disadvantages compared with other low-carbon sources.

“Nuclear reactors and their associated facilities for fuel production and waste handling are vulnerable to catastrophic accidents and sabotage, and they can be misused to produce materials for nuclear weapons. The nuclear industry, policymakers, and regulators must address these shortcomings fully if the global use of nuclear power is to increase without posing unacceptable risks to public health, the environment and international peace and security.”

Cheaper options

Lyman says none of the new reactors appears to solve any of these problems. Also, he says, the industry’s claims that their designs could cost less, be built quickly, reduce the production of nuclear waste, use uranium more efficiently and reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation have yet to be proved. The developers have also yet to demonstrate that the new generation of reactors has improved safety features enabling them to shut down quickly in the event of attack or accident.

Lyman examines the idea that reactors can be placed near cities or industry so that the waste heat from their electricity generation can be used in district heating or for industrial processes.

He says there is no evidence that the public would be keen on the idea of having nuclear power stations planted in their neighbourhoods.

Another of the industry’s ideas for using the power of the new nuclear stations to produce “green hydrogen” for use in transport or back-up energy production is technically feasible, but it seems likely that renewable energies like wind and solar could produce the hydrogen far more cheaply, the report says.

“Nuclear reactors are vulnerable to catastrophic accidents and sabotage, and they can be misused to produce materials for nuclear weapons”

In reality the nuclear industry is shrinking in international importance and is likely to continue to do so, Lyman says. According to the International Energy Agency, at the end of 2010, there were 441 operating nuclear power reactors worldwide, with a total electrical power capacity of 375 gigawatts of electricity (GWe).

At the end of 2019, there were 443 operating reactors − only two more than in 2010 − with a total generating capacity of 392 GWe. This represented a decrease of over 20% in the share of global electricity demand met by nuclear energy compared with 2010.

Lyman says the US Department of Energy would be more sensible trying to address the outstanding safety, security and cost issues of existing light water reactors in the US, rather than attempting to commercialise new and unproven designs. If the idea is to tackle climate change, improving existing designs is a better bet.

The report notes that it is not just the US that is having trouble with nuclear technology: Europe is also suffering severe delays and cost overruns with new plants at Olkiluoto in Finland, Flamanville in France and Hinkley Point C in the UK.

Lyman’s comments might be of interest to the British government, which has just published its integrated review of defence and foreign policy.

Military link declared

In it the government linked the future of the civil and defence nuclear capabilities of the country, showing that a healthy civil sector was important for propping up the military. This is controversial because of the government’s decision announced in the same review to increase the number of nuclear warheads from 180 to 260, threatening an escalation of the international arms race.

Although Lyman does not mention it, there is a clear crossover between civil and nuclear industries in the US, the UK, China, Russia and France. This is made more obvious because of the few countries that have renounced nuclear weapons − for example only Germany, Italy and Spain have shown no interest in building any kind of nuclear station. This is simply because renewables are cheaper and produce low carbon power far more quickly.

But the link between civil and defence nuclear industries does explain why in the UK the government is spending £215m ($298m) on research and development into the civil use of the small medium reactors championed by a consortium headed by Rolls-Royce, which is also one of the country’s major defence contractors. Rolls-Royce wants to build 16 of these reactors in a factory and assemble them in various parts of the country. It is also looking to sell them into Europe to gain economies of scale.

Judging by the UCS analysis, this deployment of as yet unproven new nuclear technologies is unlikely to be in time to help the climate crisis – one of the claims that both the US and UK governments and Rolls-Royce itself are making. − Climate News Network

Governments are investing in a new range of small nuclear power plants, with little chance they’ll ease the climate crisis.

LONDON, 24 March, 2021 − Claims that a new generation of so-called advanced, safe and easier-to-build nuclear reactors − small nuclear power plants − will be vital to combat climate change are an illusion, and the idea should be abandoned, says a group of scientists.

Their report, “Advanced” is not always better, published by the US Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), examines all the proposed new types of reactor under development in the US and fails to find any that could be developed in time to help deal with the urgent need to cut carbon emissions. The US government is spending $600 million on supporting these prototypes.

While the report goes into details only about the many designs of small and medium-sized reactors being developed by US companies, it is a serious blow to the worldwide nuclear industry because the technologies are all similar to those also being underwritten by taxpayers in Canada, the UK, Russia and China. This is a market the World Economic Forum claimed in January could be worth $300 billion by 2040.

Edwin Lyman, who wrote the report, and is the director of nuclear power safety in the UCS Climate and Energy Program, thinks the WEF estimate is extremely unlikely. He comments on nuclear power in general: “The technology has fundamental safety and security disadvantages compared with other low-carbon sources.

“Nuclear reactors and their associated facilities for fuel production and waste handling are vulnerable to catastrophic accidents and sabotage, and they can be misused to produce materials for nuclear weapons. The nuclear industry, policymakers, and regulators must address these shortcomings fully if the global use of nuclear power is to increase without posing unacceptable risks to public health, the environment and international peace and security.”

Cheaper options

Lyman says none of the new reactors appears to solve any of these problems. Also, he says, the industry’s claims that their designs could cost less, be built quickly, reduce the production of nuclear waste, use uranium more efficiently and reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation have yet to be proved. The developers have also yet to demonstrate that the new generation of reactors has improved safety features enabling them to shut down quickly in the event of attack or accident.

Lyman examines the idea that reactors can be placed near cities or industry so that the waste heat from their electricity generation can be used in district heating or for industrial processes.

He says there is no evidence that the public would be keen on the idea of having nuclear power stations planted in their neighbourhoods.

Another of the industry’s ideas for using the power of the new nuclear stations to produce “green hydrogen” for use in transport or back-up energy production is technically feasible, but it seems likely that renewable energies like wind and solar could produce the hydrogen far more cheaply, the report says.

“Nuclear reactors are vulnerable to catastrophic accidents and sabotage, and they can be misused to produce materials for nuclear weapons”

In reality the nuclear industry is shrinking in international importance and is likely to continue to do so, Lyman says. According to the International Energy Agency, at the end of 2010, there were 441 operating nuclear power reactors worldwide, with a total electrical power capacity of 375 gigawatts of electricity (GWe).

At the end of 2019, there were 443 operating reactors − only two more than in 2010 − with a total generating capacity of 392 GWe. This represented a decrease of over 20% in the share of global electricity demand met by nuclear energy compared with 2010.

Lyman says the US Department of Energy would be more sensible trying to address the outstanding safety, security and cost issues of existing light water reactors in the US, rather than attempting to commercialise new and unproven designs. If the idea is to tackle climate change, improving existing designs is a better bet.

The report notes that it is not just the US that is having trouble with nuclear technology: Europe is also suffering severe delays and cost overruns with new plants at Olkiluoto in Finland, Flamanville in France and Hinkley Point C in the UK.

Lyman’s comments might be of interest to the British government, which has just published its integrated review of defence and foreign policy.

Military link declared

In it the government linked the future of the civil and defence nuclear capabilities of the country, showing that a healthy civil sector was important for propping up the military. This is controversial because of the government’s decision announced in the same review to increase the number of nuclear warheads from 180 to 260, threatening an escalation of the international arms race.

Although Lyman does not mention it, there is a clear crossover between civil and nuclear industries in the US, the UK, China, Russia and France. This is made more obvious because of the few countries that have renounced nuclear weapons − for example only Germany, Italy and Spain have shown no interest in building any kind of nuclear station. This is simply because renewables are cheaper and produce low carbon power far more quickly.

But the link between civil and defence nuclear industries does explain why in the UK the government is spending £215m ($298m) on research and development into the civil use of the small medium reactors championed by a consortium headed by Rolls-Royce, which is also one of the country’s major defence contractors. Rolls-Royce wants to build 16 of these reactors in a factory and assemble them in various parts of the country. It is also looking to sell them into Europe to gain economies of scale.

Judging by the UCS analysis, this deployment of as yet unproven new nuclear technologies is unlikely to be in time to help the climate crisis – one of the claims that both the US and UK governments and Rolls-Royce itself are making. − Climate News Network

The price of coal weighs heavy on planetary health

In air pollution terms alone, the price of coal is huge. The true price of energy in almost any fossil form is colossal.

LONDON, 11 March, 2021 − Does anyone think fossil fuels should be more expensive? The true price of coal, oil and gas − the cost they exact on human health and in environmental destruction − in the energy and transport sectors worldwide could add up to very nearly US$25 trillion (£18tn).

And in the economists’ favourite measure of wealth, that is more than one fourth of the whole world’s Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.

That fossil fuels are subsidised and their “external” costs rarely factored in to the price is well known and widely condemned.

But researchers in the UK and Korea report in the journal Energy Research and Social Science that they decided to try to put a price on all the “externalities” − both the unrecorded or unexpected costs and the unconsidered benefits to be connected with the supply of electricity, energy efficicency, and transport.

“Our research has identified immense hidden costs that are almost never factored into the true expense of driving a car or operating a coal-powered power station”

Their considered estimate? It adds up to $24.662 million million. And measured against the global GDP, that reaches 28.7%.

What the scientists see in this accounting is a measure of the way the market has failed the world’s energy systems. If governments included the social costs as well as the production costs of nuclear power plant and fossil-fuelled generation systems, they’d pronounce them economically unviable.

“Our research has identified immense hidden costs that are almost never factored into the true expense of driving a car or operating a coal-powered power station,” said Benjamin Sovacool of the University of Sussex, UK, who led the study.

“Including these costs would dramatically change least-cost planning processes and integrated resource portfolios that energy suppliers and others depend on. It is not that these costs are never paid by society, they are just not reflected in the costs of energy. And unfortunately, these costs are not distributed equally or fairly.”

Coal’s highest price

The “externalities factor” extends to all human action: there are unconsidered costs to wind, hydro, solar and other renewable energy systems too. What Professor Sovacool and his colleagues did was scrutinise 139 separate studies of these hidden costs to identify 704 separate estimates of externalities. Of these, 83 were for energy supply, 13 for energy efficiency, and 43 for transport.

Coal exacted by far the highest hidden price across the energy markets of just four countries and regions: China, Europe, India and the US. Coal had three times as many “negative externalities” as solar photovoltaic power generation, five times that of wind turbines and 155 times more than geothermal power.

Climate risks from fossil fuel emissions could cost some countries 19% of their GDP by 2030: developing nations would be hardest hit.

That coal and oil combustion has, over two centuries, cost lives, damaged human health and blighted natural ecosystems is not news. Indoor and outdoor pollution, from power utilities, exhaust pipes and household ovens is behind 4.7 million deaths and the loss of 147 million years of healthy life, every year.

Guiding post-Covid recovery

Pollution kills three times more people than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV-Aids combined. The surprise is in the scale of economic costs.

The point of research like this is to help national and regional governments to make practical and sustainable decisions in a concerted effort to revive economic activity but at the same time to contain climate change.

“Our findings are timely and we hope they will help inform the design of Green New Deals or post-pandemic Covid-19 recovery packages around the world,” said Jinsoo Kim, a co-author, of both Sussex and Hanyang University in Korea.

“Some of the most important commonalities of many stimulus packages have been bailouts for the fossil fuel, automotive and aeronautic industries, but a global and national recovery may not be sustainable if the true cost of these industries is not factored in.” − Climate News Network

In air pollution terms alone, the price of coal is huge. The true price of energy in almost any fossil form is colossal.

LONDON, 11 March, 2021 − Does anyone think fossil fuels should be more expensive? The true price of coal, oil and gas − the cost they exact on human health and in environmental destruction − in the energy and transport sectors worldwide could add up to very nearly US$25 trillion (£18tn).

And in the economists’ favourite measure of wealth, that is more than one fourth of the whole world’s Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.

That fossil fuels are subsidised and their “external” costs rarely factored in to the price is well known and widely condemned.

But researchers in the UK and Korea report in the journal Energy Research and Social Science that they decided to try to put a price on all the “externalities” − both the unrecorded or unexpected costs and the unconsidered benefits to be connected with the supply of electricity, energy efficicency, and transport.

“Our research has identified immense hidden costs that are almost never factored into the true expense of driving a car or operating a coal-powered power station”

Their considered estimate? It adds up to $24.662 million million. And measured against the global GDP, that reaches 28.7%.

What the scientists see in this accounting is a measure of the way the market has failed the world’s energy systems. If governments included the social costs as well as the production costs of nuclear power plant and fossil-fuelled generation systems, they’d pronounce them economically unviable.

“Our research has identified immense hidden costs that are almost never factored into the true expense of driving a car or operating a coal-powered power station,” said Benjamin Sovacool of the University of Sussex, UK, who led the study.

“Including these costs would dramatically change least-cost planning processes and integrated resource portfolios that energy suppliers and others depend on. It is not that these costs are never paid by society, they are just not reflected in the costs of energy. And unfortunately, these costs are not distributed equally or fairly.”

Coal’s highest price

The “externalities factor” extends to all human action: there are unconsidered costs to wind, hydro, solar and other renewable energy systems too. What Professor Sovacool and his colleagues did was scrutinise 139 separate studies of these hidden costs to identify 704 separate estimates of externalities. Of these, 83 were for energy supply, 13 for energy efficiency, and 43 for transport.

Coal exacted by far the highest hidden price across the energy markets of just four countries and regions: China, Europe, India and the US. Coal had three times as many “negative externalities” as solar photovoltaic power generation, five times that of wind turbines and 155 times more than geothermal power.

Climate risks from fossil fuel emissions could cost some countries 19% of their GDP by 2030: developing nations would be hardest hit.

That coal and oil combustion has, over two centuries, cost lives, damaged human health and blighted natural ecosystems is not news. Indoor and outdoor pollution, from power utilities, exhaust pipes and household ovens is behind 4.7 million deaths and the loss of 147 million years of healthy life, every year.

Guiding post-Covid recovery

Pollution kills three times more people than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV-Aids combined. The surprise is in the scale of economic costs.

The point of research like this is to help national and regional governments to make practical and sustainable decisions in a concerted effort to revive economic activity but at the same time to contain climate change.

“Our findings are timely and we hope they will help inform the design of Green New Deals or post-pandemic Covid-19 recovery packages around the world,” said Jinsoo Kim, a co-author, of both Sussex and Hanyang University in Korea.

“Some of the most important commonalities of many stimulus packages have been bailouts for the fossil fuel, automotive and aeronautic industries, but a global and national recovery may not be sustainable if the true cost of these industries is not factored in.” − Climate News Network

Japanese nuclear power station leaves toxic legacy

Ten years ago, the Japanese nuclear power station at Fukushima was devastated by a tsunami. Its baleful ruins remain today.

LONDON, 10 March, 2021 − Almost a decade ago, on 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake created a 14 metre-high tsunami wave which destroyed the reactors of a Japanese nuclear power station at the town of Fukushima. Ten years on, the clean-up has barely begun.

Large areas of farmland and towns near the plant are still highly contaminated, too dangerous to inhabit. Constant vigilance is needed to prevent the stricken reactors causing further danger. It will be at least another 20 years before they can be made safe.

At first the gravity of the accident was overshadowed by the other damage the tsunami had caused, particularly the loss of nearly 20,000 people from communities along the coast who were swept to their deaths as their towns and villages were ruined.

Heart-rending scenes filled television screens across the world for days as rescue teams hunted for survivors and parents separated from their children searched evacuation centres.

Damage downplayed

As with the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster, the true extent of the damage to Fukushima’s six reactors was not fully grasped. When it was, the authorities tried to play it down.

Because the wave had overwhelmed the cooling system three reactors had suffered a meltdown, but for some this was not public knowledge. The damage had meant that overheated uranium fuel had melted, turning to liquid and dissolving its cladding. The cladding contained zirconium, which reacted with the cooling water to make hydrogen; by 14 March this had caused three explosions at the plant.

Downwind the danger from the radiation spewing from the plant was so great that 164,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Many will never return, because the houses are too contaminated.

In an attempt to get people to return to the villages and towns in the less affected areas the government spent US$28 billion (£20bn) and created 17 million tonnes of nuclear waste. This has proved only partially successful because of widespread mistrust of the government, and measurements by independent groups, including Greenpeace − which show that levels of radiation are well above internationally agreed safe limits for members of the public.

“The government of Japan is on a mission to erase from public memory the triple reactor meltdown and radioactive contamination … they have failed to impose their atomic amnesia on the people of Japan”

But the knock-on effects of the disaster, both in Japan and in the rest of the world, are still being felt. Japan’s nuclear industry shut down its 54 operational reactors, and both the nuclear companies and the government are still trying to persuade local people to allow most of them to reopen.

This year there are 33 reactors that could still be restored to use, but only nine (in five power plants) that are actually operating.

Across the world some countries decided to close down their reactors as soon as possible, and not to build any more. Among them was Germany.
Even in countries like France, where nuclear power dominates the electricity system, there were demands for the country’s reactors to fit far tighter safety measures.

The net effect of the accident has been to turn public opinion against nuclear power in many countries. Even in those still interested in building new stations, the higher safety standards now demanded have made nuclear power more expensive.

Opting for close-down

In Japan itself the Fukushima crisis is far from over. The government is still facing compensation claims from citizens, and the bill for the clean-up keeps mounting.

One of the most critical current problems is the 1.25 million tonnes of cooling water used to prevent the stricken reactors from further meltdown. It is now stored in tanks on site.

In October 2020 the government announced plans to release it into the Pacific Ocean, because it could think of no other way of getting rid of it. This idea has caused outrage among fishermen along the coast, who fear that no one will buy their catch for fear of the radiation.

Longer-term technical problems also remain unresolved. With the reactor cores too dangerous to approach, special robots have been developed to dismantle them. This is perhaps one of the most difficult engineering tasks it is possible to envisage, because intense radioactivity attacks electrical equipment and can destroy the expensive robots.

Forced to return

The government continues to reassure citizens that it has the situation under control, although it expects it will take decades to make the area completely safe.

But there continues to be criticism among environmental groups about the government’s handling of the situation, both at the plant and in the surrounding countryside.

The Greenpeace report details moves to coerce local people into returning to their homes, even though they remain well above international safety levels.

The report said the result of a November 2020 survey showed that in some areas which the government had designated as safe, Greenpeace’s measurements found radiation remains too high for normal life to be considered possible without increased health risks to returning citizens, particularly children and women of child-bearing age.

‘False narrative’

It says: “One decade after March 2011, we are in the early stages of the impact of this disaster. This is not the official narrative. For the government of Shinzo Abe, in power for most of the last 10 years, and his successor Yoshihide Suga, the communication to the people of Japan and the wider world is that decontamination has been effective, completed and that radiation levels are safe. This is clearly false.

“The government of Japan is on a mission to erase from public memory the triple reactor meltdown and radioactive contamination of a large part of Japan. However, they have failed to impose their atomic amnesia on the people of Japan.”

Greenpeace says this failure is largely due to active citizens and their lawyers holding the Tokyo Electric Power Company to account for the accident and asking for compensation.

It pledges that, together with scientists and various United Nations agencies that monitor the plant, it will ensure that the “ongoing nuclear disaster, its effects and consequences will continue to be better understood and explained in the years and decades ahead.” − Climate News Network

Ten years ago, the Japanese nuclear power station at Fukushima was devastated by a tsunami. Its baleful ruins remain today.

LONDON, 10 March, 2021 − Almost a decade ago, on 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake created a 14 metre-high tsunami wave which destroyed the reactors of a Japanese nuclear power station at the town of Fukushima. Ten years on, the clean-up has barely begun.

Large areas of farmland and towns near the plant are still highly contaminated, too dangerous to inhabit. Constant vigilance is needed to prevent the stricken reactors causing further danger. It will be at least another 20 years before they can be made safe.

At first the gravity of the accident was overshadowed by the other damage the tsunami had caused, particularly the loss of nearly 20,000 people from communities along the coast who were swept to their deaths as their towns and villages were ruined.

Heart-rending scenes filled television screens across the world for days as rescue teams hunted for survivors and parents separated from their children searched evacuation centres.

Damage downplayed

As with the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster, the true extent of the damage to Fukushima’s six reactors was not fully grasped. When it was, the authorities tried to play it down.

Because the wave had overwhelmed the cooling system three reactors had suffered a meltdown, but for some this was not public knowledge. The damage had meant that overheated uranium fuel had melted, turning to liquid and dissolving its cladding. The cladding contained zirconium, which reacted with the cooling water to make hydrogen; by 14 March this had caused three explosions at the plant.

Downwind the danger from the radiation spewing from the plant was so great that 164,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Many will never return, because the houses are too contaminated.

In an attempt to get people to return to the villages and towns in the less affected areas the government spent US$28 billion (£20bn) and created 17 million tonnes of nuclear waste. This has proved only partially successful because of widespread mistrust of the government, and measurements by independent groups, including Greenpeace − which show that levels of radiation are well above internationally agreed safe limits for members of the public.

“The government of Japan is on a mission to erase from public memory the triple reactor meltdown and radioactive contamination … they have failed to impose their atomic amnesia on the people of Japan”

But the knock-on effects of the disaster, both in Japan and in the rest of the world, are still being felt. Japan’s nuclear industry shut down its 54 operational reactors, and both the nuclear companies and the government are still trying to persuade local people to allow most of them to reopen.

This year there are 33 reactors that could still be restored to use, but only nine (in five power plants) that are actually operating.

Across the world some countries decided to close down their reactors as soon as possible, and not to build any more. Among them was Germany.
Even in countries like France, where nuclear power dominates the electricity system, there were demands for the country’s reactors to fit far tighter safety measures.

The net effect of the accident has been to turn public opinion against nuclear power in many countries. Even in those still interested in building new stations, the higher safety standards now demanded have made nuclear power more expensive.

Opting for close-down

In Japan itself the Fukushima crisis is far from over. The government is still facing compensation claims from citizens, and the bill for the clean-up keeps mounting.

One of the most critical current problems is the 1.25 million tonnes of cooling water used to prevent the stricken reactors from further meltdown. It is now stored in tanks on site.

In October 2020 the government announced plans to release it into the Pacific Ocean, because it could think of no other way of getting rid of it. This idea has caused outrage among fishermen along the coast, who fear that no one will buy their catch for fear of the radiation.

Longer-term technical problems also remain unresolved. With the reactor cores too dangerous to approach, special robots have been developed to dismantle them. This is perhaps one of the most difficult engineering tasks it is possible to envisage, because intense radioactivity attacks electrical equipment and can destroy the expensive robots.

Forced to return

The government continues to reassure citizens that it has the situation under control, although it expects it will take decades to make the area completely safe.

But there continues to be criticism among environmental groups about the government’s handling of the situation, both at the plant and in the surrounding countryside.

The Greenpeace report details moves to coerce local people into returning to their homes, even though they remain well above international safety levels.

The report said the result of a November 2020 survey showed that in some areas which the government had designated as safe, Greenpeace’s measurements found radiation remains too high for normal life to be considered possible without increased health risks to returning citizens, particularly children and women of child-bearing age.

‘False narrative’

It says: “One decade after March 2011, we are in the early stages of the impact of this disaster. This is not the official narrative. For the government of Shinzo Abe, in power for most of the last 10 years, and his successor Yoshihide Suga, the communication to the people of Japan and the wider world is that decontamination has been effective, completed and that radiation levels are safe. This is clearly false.

“The government of Japan is on a mission to erase from public memory the triple reactor meltdown and radioactive contamination of a large part of Japan. However, they have failed to impose their atomic amnesia on the people of Japan.”

Greenpeace says this failure is largely due to active citizens and their lawyers holding the Tokyo Electric Power Company to account for the accident and asking for compensation.

It pledges that, together with scientists and various United Nations agencies that monitor the plant, it will ensure that the “ongoing nuclear disaster, its effects and consequences will continue to be better understood and explained in the years and decades ahead.” − Climate News Network