May 17 news: Japanese officials concealed nuke dangers; Renewable resources soar; Solar ‘nantenna’ can capture up to 95% of light energy

Japanese Officials Ignored or Concealed Dangers

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.

Renewables, Demand-Response Resources Grow In PJM Region

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.

New solar product captures up to 95 percent of light energy

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.

Why UK nuclear power plants may cause childhood cancer and leukaemia

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.

Siemens U.S. Chief Concerned By Inattention to Climate Change

The head of Munich-based Siemens AG (SI)‘s U.S. unit said he is unhappy that federal energy policymakers in Washington are no longer focusing on climate change.

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.

India’s farmers wonder, ‘Where have all the seasons gone?’

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 .

32 Responses to May 17 news: Japanese officials concealed nuke dangers; Renewable resources soar; Solar ‘nantenna’ can capture up to 95% of light energy

  1. paulm says:

    Child Leukemia Rates Increase Near U.S. Nuclear Power Plants
    ‎(NEW YORK) – Leukemia death rates in U.S. children near nuclear reactors rose sharply (vs. the national trend) in the past two decades, according to a recent study.

  2. paulm says:

    THis nuclear thing is another big kill our kids and future generation, mainly driven by profit.
    Nuclear does not make economic sense to a state, only to the big rich investors in it.

  3. Mo Rage says:

    Man, that is great news, period, about the solar ‘nantenna’ capturing far more energy. It’s made all the better that it’s coming out of Univerity of Missouri-Columbia. We’re very proud of them. (

    It seems the day may well be coming far sooner than we thought, when our homes, office buildings and even cars can generate their own, very clean and green, renewable electrical power.

    People need to realize that we will, hopefully soon, quite likely be able to do away with electrical utility companies, or at least reduce the need for them greatly.

  4. John Tucker says:

    Still there is as of yet not one causality from that incident. About 4500 US deaths attributable to coal in the US use have occurred. Of course species extinction as a result of climate change not to mention possible hardships have probably also occurred since it happened

    All nuclear decommissionings will result in more Fossil fuel use. The electricity grid and the intermittent nature of most alternate energy systems require that.

    Nuclear plans have unknown possibly catastrophic risk related to extreme events that have been discussed at length. Climate scientists DONT as a rule discus unknown or improbable events.

    Again the anti nuclear course is a irresponsible and unreasoned proposition at best.

  5. Peter Sergienko says:

    This is an excerpt from an article on the Mississippi flooding in today’s E&E Greenwire publication (full article is behind a paywall) with good discussion of recalibrating flood risks and good quotes from Peter Gleick:

    Looking for a culprit

    Criss says it’s the Army Corps that misunderstands the statistics.

    In a 2008 study, Criss ran a statistical test on the flood projections at various points along the Mississippi and found a 99.9 percent chance that they were incorrect.

    Flood frequency projections across the entire system, he said, are off by a factor of 10, meaning that 100-year flood events should be reclassified as 10-year events and that risk, insurance premiums and official flood zones should be recalculated accordingly and independently.

    The Army Corps “are the last people in the world at this point who ought to be doing it,” Criss said. “Somebody independent needs to be doing it now. Talk about asking the fox to re-guard the henhouse. They have no credibility.”

    Many water experts blame climate change for worsening floods.

    Peter Gleick, president and co-founder of the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit think tank based in Oakland, Calif., said that while it’s impossible to attribute any weather event to climate change, “I’m completely sure that we’re changing the climate.”

    “I’m also confident that because we’re changing the climate, there is human influence on every weather event,” Gleick said. “That influence may be incredibly tiny for every single weather event, but I’d like to argue that it is no longer zero.”

    Gleick noted that parts of the Mississippi River Basin have recently received major inundations of rain at levels 300, 400 and 600 percent above normal. The total picture points to human influence outside the normal variability of the weather.

    “In effect, we’re loading the dice and we’re painting higher numbers on them,” said Gleick.

    Criss contends that climate change is a minor player in the worsening floods along the Mississippi. He blames the levees, weirs and dams — projects that Congress ordered the Army Corps to build.

    “Fundamentally, we’ve changed the landscape of the Mississippi River Basin,” said Andrew Fahlund, senior vice president of conservation for the advocacy group American Rivers. “We’ve basically developed all the way up to the edge and really, the water has no place to go but to run off and create these massive floods.”

  6. John Tucker says:

    Sorry that got away from me before I could edit and install study and supporting links.

    The number of US deaths form coal was updated in 2010 as new tech has come on line to reduce emissions that number shoudl be about 2500 deaths in the US since the beginning of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. ( )

    I also didn’t include Mercury contamination in the environment of which about 40 percent comes from coal use from coal use. ( )

    The childhood leukemia clusters were perplexing for a number of reasons; proximity and dose didn’t add up. This study explains that better [its not easy to understand at first but a incredible study well worth the time]:

    Childhood leukaemia, nuclear sites, and population mixing ( )

  7. malcreado says:

    >Still there is as of yet not one causality from that incident.

    Casualty is killed or injured; a number of people/workers were hospitalized. The guy that had the water go over his boots for one. I also believe a worker or two were killed in when the roof blew off one of the reactors so the statement is simply not true.

    It could also be said a pro-nuclear course is an economically irresponsible and unreasoned proposition at best.

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    John Tucker –
    ” Still there is as of yet not one causality from that incident. ”

    Check Tepco’s bond rating , that’s dead as Julius Cesar.

  9. mozi says:

    Pretty much all solar/wind power plants use fossil fuel power plants as back-up anyway. Also nuclear power plants are not the only thing that can emit radiation, your cell phone and your wireless card emits radiation too.

  10. malcreado says:

    >your cell phone and your wireless card emits radiation too.

    I’ll keep that in mind so next time I make a call I can set up a 50 mile exclusion zone.

  11. Ziyu says:

    95% efficient solar generator. Now where have I heard that before? It’s the Solex module! 007 finally made it back home!
    Oh and here’s another theoretical solar generator that seems innovative. Not sure if this thing will work efficiently though.

    [JR: The man with the golden gun. Of course, this isn’t 95% efficient….]

  12. John Tucker says:

    Colorado Bob – one manś floor is another’s ceiling or however it goes:

    Xstrata Record Profit Seen as Coal Cargoes Gain Amid Rout: Freight Markets

    Xstrata Plc (XTA), the world’s biggest exporter of coal burnt in power plants, will earn more than ever this year as record cargoes from Australia combine with a 32 percent jump in prices. ( )

    But yea I know I saw the article about Germany below, its alternatives hooray! The reality just isn’t that nice:

    Vote for mother Earth gets dimmer by the hour

    Germany is a good example. Despite being a fairly cloudy country, it has led the world in solar panel subsidies, spending $US75 billion putting inefficient, uncompetitive solar technology on rooftops.

    This delivers a trivial 0.1 per cent of Germany’s total energy supply and will postpone the effects of global warming by just seven hours in 2100. ( )

  13. Greg says:

    I wouldn’t get too excited about the “95% efficient” nantennas.

    From the Physorg article, the researchers have a proof of concept of something that captures medium infrared — of which the sun produces very little.

    A commenter there remarks that antennas have a theoretical max efficiency of 44% unless some tweaks are done. And no one has discussed rectification efficiency.

    So this is about a half a percent of anything useful, and of unknown manufacturability.

    The researchers think they _might_ be able to scale this up to visible light, where it might actually be useful. Vaporware.

    Quit hoping for the technology fairy to grant our wishes, people. This is the real world. The real answer is lots of hard work on lots of different pieces of the puzzle. Our best hopes are still efficiency, solar thermal, wind, PV, etc – ALL of Joe’s wedges.

  14. Alex Carlin says:

    Nuclear kills insidiously and over years. The radioactive discharges from the now acknowledged melt-down at Fukushima (Tepco having lied, as all nuclear enterprises lie, to protect their profits) will travel widely and harm people for generations. As there is, as yet, no way to attribute any individual cancer or birth defect to a single cause, the nuclear denialists can simply fob off the epidemiological evidence, in exactly the same fashion that tobacco denialists did with cancers caused by smoking for years. The cynicism is, in my opinion, hideous. And the very real horrors of burning coal are simply a strawman, highlighted to promoted the even more dangerous, in the long-term, nuclear industry. We must do without both of these homicidal industries, and go for renewables.

  15. John Tucker says:

    Well unfortunately the research supports a strong link between high dose radiation and various problems including cancers – but it does not support very low dose links. Not Hiroshima or Nagasaki, not TMI, not Chernobyl, and not radiological studies.

    [JR: Not clear where you get that statement about low doses, but it isn’t true. See here.]

    ¨the nuclear denialists can simply fob off the epidemiological evidence, in exactly the same fashion that tobacco denialists¨

    Do you realize what that is saying. Its not smoking. Its not like it. There is a clear link between smoking and cancers.

    Actually statistics is a powerful tool that is the basis for proving warming and climate change.

    Groups like greenpeace and litigation interests like fairewinds thrown about claiming a UN conspiracy and quoting non peer reviewed studies and unverifiable east bloc publications may work for whipping up political populists but scientists should know better. You would not expect this kind of campaign form environmental groups not after what has happened in the popular press to the study of climate change.

  16. John Tucker says:

    I have no doubt linear threshold holds for damage however obviously there are mechanisms to deal with that damage and they create a threshold of cancer appearance. From your citation:

    From the summary:

    The report’s focus is low-dose, low-LET — “linear energy transfer” — ionizing radiation that is energetic enough to break biomolecular bonds. In living organisms, such radiation can cause DNA damage that eventually leads to cancers. However, more research is needed to determine whether low doses of radiation may also cause other health problems, such as heart disease and stroke, which are now seen with high doses of low-LET radiation.

    From the actual study (final section: 13 Summary and Research Needs):

    Most studies suggest that the repair of ionizing radiation damage occurs through nonhomologous end joining and related pathways that are constitutive in nature, occur in excess, and are not induced to higher levels by low radiation doses.

    Data from animal models of radiation tumorigenesis were evaluated with respect to the cellular mechanisms involved. For animal models of radiation carcinogenesis that are dependent on cell killing, there tend to be threshold-like dose-responses and high values of DDREF; therefore, less weight was placed on these data. Once cell-killing dependence is excluded, animal data are not inconsistent with a linear nonthreshold (LNT) dose response, and DDREF values are in the range 2–3 for solid cancers and somewhat higher for acute myeloid leukemia.

    I dont believe that is in conflict with my statement.

    [JR: The problem is that it doesn’t support your statement, unless you define “very low” beyond relevance. People should legitimately worry about exposure to low doses of radiation.

    Also, I have no doubt that if there is a “threshold” it is different across the population. Babies, pregnant women, the immune compromised….]

  17. Michael says:

    mozi (11) –

    Also nuclear power plants are not the only thing that can emit radiation, your cell phone and your wireless card emits radiation too.

    Those aren’t even comparable – if microwaves were dangerous then so would visible light (yes, visible light is also radiation); nuclear radiation also involves actual particles (if alpha or beta, gamma rays are like high energy visible light). True, microwaves (and visible light) CAN be dangerous, but only if they cause physical heating; it is only when you get to UV is the energy high enough to cause chemical changes like DNA damage (either directly or from free radicals).

  18. John Tucker says:

    I don’t know but you cant just rely on what ifs always being negative. Certainly there are carcinogenic chemicals our bodies deal with in low doses everywhere( )

    And of course coal combustion releases some radioactivity in combustion products and, like natural gas, all of its radon.

    Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste ( )

    Radioactive Elements in Coal and Fly Ash:
    Abundance, Forms, and Environmental Significance ( )

    and a typical 2000 profile of our favorite, or at least most likely replacement for nuclear ( )

  19. Ziyu says:

    @#15 Greg, well the way the scientists say it’s supposed to work, 44% or 68% (not sure which one applies in this case) total efficiency is fine. It’s meant to be a cheap add on to increase the efficiency of PV panels so that they capture more of the light.

  20. Ziyu says:

    @#15 Greg, well the way the scientists say it’s supposed to work, 44% or 68% (not sure which one applies in this case) total efficiency is fine. It’s meant to be a cheap add on to increase the efficiency of PV panels so that they capture more of the light spectrum.

  21. Lochness Munster says:

    @John Tucker

    I’ve been lurking here almost since day one and never posted before – however I can’t let this pass unchallenged.

    ” This [domestic PV] delivers a trivial 0.1 per cent of Germany’s total energy supply and will postpone the effects of global warming by just seven hours in 2100.” (The Australian)

    It’s not a good idea to rely on Murdoch’s political mouthpiece for ‘facts’ about power sources that might compete with Australian fossil fuels.
    I’ve no idea where they got the above figure – it isn’t referenced and, given Murdoch’s record in this field, I wouldn’t be surprised if they simply made it up – but wherever it originated it bears absolutely no relation to reality. Not even close.

    “…Doubling its previous record, the German solar PV industry installed 7,400 MW from nearly one-quarter million individual systems in 2010, according to the finial report by the Bundesnetzagentur.
    In December alone, Germans installed more than 1,000 MW of solar PV, enough solar capacity to generate 1 TWh of electricity under German conditions…”

    This raised the total to 12 TWh

    12 TWh represents 2% of total energy supply of which 80% is from domestic roof installation.Maths isn’t my strong point so correct me if I’m wrong in saying that this is *one hundred and sixty times* the figure given by The Australian.

  22. Merrelyn Emery says:

    This is hilarious! I am killing myself laughing – my name suddenly changed to the Lochness Munster! I can’t even begin to imagine the implications of this for all my fantasy lives, or those of my extended family.

    Great grandma suddenly becomes munster/monster? My god, what did I do?

    Has the dementia finally hit? I checked spaceweather this morning – nothing going on there, ME

  23. Michael says:

    Re #8: CB, this graph showing all the recent years of Arctic sea ice probably gives a better perspective. Nothing too amazing is happening just yet.

  24. John McCormick says:

    RE #8 and # 26,

    Arctic se ice is about to take the plunge.

    I follow the satellite images on Cryosphere Today and note the low concentrations on the north east edge and inward to the North Pole.

    I am not one who celebrates re cord breaking ice melt and am more concerned about the impact of an open Arctic Ocean on global weather patterns.

    New Indian report: “Where Have All The Seasons Gone?” is just released.

    I requested a copy ( at and will be interested to see if the authors make any connections, as have others, that there is a cause for concern that melt back is interfering with timing and intensity of Asian Monsoon. If that is the case, it is an absolute game changer for global economic and population stability.

    John McCormick

  25. John Tucker says:

    24. Thank you. Ive yet to see a attempt at serious assessment of the numbers. I posted that article as it echoed some legitimate criticism of the German initiatives but I need to go through the numbers as I have read excluding nuclear (which is a in between) the US is less than 1 percent converted to sustainable energy and things like hydro power have serious environmental considerations. Certainly their stance on Nuclear is leading them into a more heavy reliance on coal.

    Also you are getting into a math which is good and production energy will need to be factored in. Germany has also installed low voltage lines.

    Its all in need of serious and level headed thought excluding ideologues.

    Its not even clear to the Germans.

    Debate over PV in Germany ( )

    FACTBOX-Controversial German coal-fired power plant projects

    Since Germany’s government is due shortly to legislate for a quicker-than-planned withdrawal from nuclear power in the wake of events in Japan, coal and gas-fired plants are expected to play a bigger role. ( )

    A better assessment is needed to get the numbers correct, I have some biology and medical training but my degrees are in Fine Arts. This board moves a bit fast for that and for me getting the medical stuff to the current level of research took a lot of time. Certainly however after putting the time in I have I don’t expect to come here and be labeled as some kind of blind nuclear advocate.

    Im not pro nuclear by any means; its just the only practically available medicine I can reason that is required to get us off Coa, oil and NG. Ideologically though I stepped in it also because I felt the need to let anti nuke at all costs ¨environmentalists¨ know where their political beliefs are probably leading.


  26. Michael says:

    Michael (#26, no, that isn’t me) –

    Extent is only a small part of the picture; if you look at ice volume – the best measure of the health of the sea ice, things look very different. For one, every single month – January-April, has set a new record low volume this year:

    Those numbers are also confirmed by a recent expedition (PIOMAS is a model but does include measurements to validate it):

    “A preliminary evaluation of the measurement results shows that one-year-old sea ice in the Beaufort Sea (north of Canada/Alaska) is about 20-30 centimetres thinner this year than in the two previous years. In 2009 the ice thickness was 1.7 metres on average, in 2010 1.6 metres and in 2011 around 1.4 metres.”

  27. Lochness Munster says:

    @Merrilyn Emery
    # 25

    Sorry – I don’t get the joke. It’s the first time I’ve posted here – did I make some kind of posting error?

    “Lochness Munster” is a screen-name I’ve used for years in other fora.
    You see, I’m 7 ft tall, have a bolt through my neck and once lived near the Loch. All perfectly logical once one is in full possesion of the facts.

  28. Lochness Munster says:

    @ John Tucker
    # 28

    “…Ive yet to see a attempt at serious assessment of the numbers…”

    Did you follow the link I provided? It – and other links therefrom – certainly supply some serious numbers.
    Percentages of renewables, PV additions by month, range of PV sizes, percentages of PV sizes etc etc. Some of the links are in German but it’s all there and it’s not that difficult to use translation software if you are genuinely interested.

    “…Its all in need of serious and level headed thought excluding ideologues…”

    I’ve been giving the matter serious and level-headed thought for about 35 years now. Seems that, finally, European governments are beginning to do the same. If they had begun this utterly inevitable conversion process when the ‘stupid hippies’ first suggested it many decades ago, perhaps they wouldn’t be experiencing the dilemma of having to increase fossil-fueled generation in order to power the building of a replacement renewable infrastructure.
    If that sounds like a somewhat bitter; “I told you so” statement – it’s because it is.

  29. John Tucker says:

    LM – Of course 30 years ago was probably pushing too late to avoid extinctions and major problems from warming. Now its closer to hopeless to avoid it I think.

    I was thinking about renewables today. Without updates to the electrical grid – in the ability to store excess and allow small scale power generation to channel surplus back into the system specifically – how much difference is solar going to make? Even at maximum capacity the notion that you can just turn off major generation mechanisms – coal, oil, gas, nuke as a intermittent alternate hits a peak really isn’t practical or sensible. Is it?

    Not that I dont think at least moving it in the right direction isnt worth it – but considering for example the wedges plan thing that gets the high end commentary above – how much of that can even happen realistically, without major standardizations and updates to the energy grid?