32 Responses to May 17 news: Japanese officials concealed nuke dangers; Renewable resources soar; Solar ‘nantenna’ can capture up to 95% of light energy
The nuclear power plant, lawyers argued, could not withstand the kind of major earthquake that new seismic research now suggested was likely.
If such a quake struck, electrical power could fail, along with backup generators, crippling the cooling system, the lawyers predicted. The reactors would then suffer a meltdown and start spewing radiation into the air and sea. Tens of thousands in the area would be forced to flee.
Although the predictions sound eerily like the sequence of events at the Fukushima Daiichi plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the lawsuit was filed nearly a decade ago to shut down another plant, long considered the most dangerous in Japan “” the Hamaoka station.
It was one of several quixotic legal battles waged “” and lost “” in a long attempt to improve nuclear safety and force Japan’s power companies, nuclear regulators, and courts to confront the dangers posed by earthquakes and tsunamis on some of the world’s most seismically active ground.
The lawsuits reveal a disturbing pattern in which operators underestimated or hid seismic dangers to avoid costly upgrades and keep operating. And the fact that virtually all these suits were unsuccessful reinforces the widespread belief in Japan that a culture of collusion supporting nuclear power, including the government, nuclear regulators and plant operators, extends to the courts as well.
Renewable resources, including demand response and energy efficiency, made up nearly 68% of the new capacity available and about 10% of the resources clearing PJM Interconnection’s recently completed capacity auction, the regional transmission organization (RTO) reports.
The results were contained in PJM’s recently released Reliability Pricing Model (RPM) capacity auction for resources to meet customers’ electric power demand in the June 1, 2014, to May 31, 2015, delivery year. RPM commits resources three years in advance to be made available to preserve reliability.
“The increase in demand resources follows the introduction of two new demand-resource products in addition to the existing product – one available throughout the year and another available for an extended summer period,” says Andrew Ott, PJM senior vice president of markets. “There was more than a 50 percent increase in the amount of demand resources that cleared this year over last year. In addition, investment in new generation and upgrades to existing generation resources are occurring, showing that generation owners are investing capacity revenues to maintain and enhance existing units.”
The RPM auction procured 149,974 MW of capacity resources, including 14,118 MW of demand response (a 52% increase over last year), 822 MW of energy efficiency, 695 MW of wind power and 45.6 MW of solar power. More than 757 MW of new generation was located in transmission-constrained areas. The installed capacity represents a 19.6% reserve margin for the RTO.
Patrick Pinhero, an associate professor in the MU Chemical Engineering Department, says energy generated using traditional photovoltaic (PV) methods of solar collection is inefficient and neglects much of the available solar electromagnetic (sunlight) spectrum. The device his team has developed – essentially a thin, moldable sheet of small antennas called nantenna – can harvest the heat from industrial processes and convert it into usable electricity. Their ambition is to extend this concept to a direct solar facing nantenna device capable of collecting solar irradiation in the near infrared and optical regions of the solar spectrum.
Working with his former team at the Idaho National Laboratory and Garrett Moddel, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Colorado, Pinhero and his team have now developed a way to extract electricity from the collected heat and sunlight using special high-speed electrical circuitry. This team also partners with Dennis Slafer of MicroContinuum, Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., to immediately port laboratory bench-scale technologies into manufacturable devices that can be inexpensively mass-produced.
“Our overall goal is to collect and utilize as much solar energy as is theoretically possible and bring it to the commercial market in an inexpensive package that is accessible to everyone,” Pinhero said. “If successful, this product will put us orders of magnitudes ahead of the current solar energy technologies we have available to us today.”
As part of a rollout plan, the team is securing funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and private investors. The second phase features an energy-harvesting device for existing industrial infrastructure, including heat-process factories and solar farms.
Within five years, the research team believes they will have a product that complements conventional PV solar panels. Because it’s a flexible film, Pinhero believes it could be incorporated into roof shingle products, or be custom-made to power vehicles.
You won’t hear the UK government admit it but after decades of research there is now evidence of real excesses of childhood cancer and leukaemia near some nuclear facilities, argues Dr Paul Dorfman.
Lets cut to the chase. Since all nuclear reactors discharge low-level radiation to the environment, it would be intolerable if these emissions caused cancer and leukaemia to children and infants in local communities near to nuclear facilities, and if it were proven that they did then nuclear power would be finished. So the stakes are high.
Now the most recent shots in this trench war about radiation risk health effects have been fired by the UK government scientific advisory Committee on the Medical Effects of Radiation on the Environment (COMARE), who state unequivocally that increased childhood leukaemia and other cancers in communities near to nuclear power plants are not caused by radioactive pollution. Perhaps COMARE’s findings shouldn’t come as a great shock – there’s a history and trajectory to their work.
Eric Spiegel, chief executive officer of Siemens Corp., said a national strategy is needed to reduce clean-energy technology costs and find solutions for environmental risks associated withgreenhouse gases. Siemens is making wind-turbine components in Hutchinson, Kansas, and is “well on track to become one of the world’s top three providers” of turbines, according to a statement in December.
Congress no longer seems interested in tackling the issue, Spiegel said today at a clean-energy conference in Washington.
In the negotiating halls where diplomats meet annually to hash out treaty language, climate change is still discussed as a distant threat. But in the farms and villages of northern India, it is a daily reality and a harsh one.
A new report out by the Indian environmental nonprofit Delhi Platform finds that over the past two decades, farmers in northern and eastern parts of the state of Gujarat have suffered from irregular rainfall, delays in the main southwest monsoon and a decline in June rains. Also, warmer winters have reduced crop yields and required higher pesticide costs.
Across the region, that’s translating into disaster for small and marginal farmers who face loss of work, wages and ultimately their way of life.
“Our visit reconfirmed our long-held view that the impacts of global warming are being felt most by those least responsible for it,” the authors wrote.
The study, “Where Have All the Seasons Gone?” is, according to the Delhi Platform, the first to look at the impacts of climate change on agricultural workers in India. It also is among a growing body of case studies in Asia and Africa that aim to get a better on-the-ground understanding of how vulnerable communities are coping with rising global temperatures .