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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Exelon To Purchase Constellation Energy Group

Exelon, the biggest U.S. operator of nuclear power plants agreed to purchase Constellation Energy Group Inc. (CEG) of Baltimore for about $7.9 billion in stock, giving the Chicago-based company stakes in five more reactors. Constellation’s nuclear assets will help Exelon boost profitability as environmental regulations increase costs for energy producers that own coal plants.

The purchase of Constellation, of Baltimore, Md., gives Exelon an interest in five more reactors at three sites: the two-unit Calvert Cliffs site in Maryland, the two-unit Nine Mile Point plant in New York and single-reactor R.E. Ginna plant in New York.

Constellation had sought permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build a giant new reactor at its existing Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant site in Maryland. Constellation originally chose an advanced reactor designed by French-based Areva Inc. for the project. But Constellation backed away from the project last year after determining that the costs associated with a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy carried too high a premium.

In November 2009, Constellation sold a 49% interest in its nuclear business to EDF Group, the big French-based utility company. It was accompanied by another agreement allowing Constellation's utility, Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., to purchase 85% to 90% of the power from the units to meet the needs of the utility's customers. Under a deal struck in 2010, the utility's purchase of power will drop to about half the nuclear output, after 2015, leaving a large amount that can be sold at market prices.

The takeover, which will mark the end of John Rowe’s 11-year stint as Exelon’s chief executive officer. Constellation Chief Executive Mayo Shattuck will be the executive chairman of the combined company, while Exelon Chief Operating Office Christopher Crane will be chief executive. (Bloomberg, 4/29/2011, WSJ, 4/28/2011)

Norris McDonald , John Rowe
The merger of Exelon and Constellation must be approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the New York Public Service Commission and the companies' shareholders.

A Message From The White House on Gasoline Prices


Good morning,

This week, as gas prices hit four dollars a gallon, oil companies like ExxonMobil announced skyrocketing profits -- while still receiving billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.

There's something wrong with this picture, and in this video President Obama outlines the steps we're taking to make it right:


A few weeks ago, I emailed you about rising gas prices, and I want to give you a quick update on three important steps:

Ending oil and gas subsidies. Oil companies are receiving $4 billion a year in taxpayer subsidies that don't make sense and that we can't afford. That's why President Obama has called on Democrats and Republicans in Congress to stop subsidizing the oil and gas industry so that we can afford to invest in the clean energy economy of tomorrow.

Stopping oil market fraud. Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a working group focused on rooting out the cases of fraud in the oil markets that might affect gas prices (the President discussed this in his Weekly Address last Saturday).

Reducing our dependence on oil. Stepping back to look at the bigger picture, President Obama recently unveiled his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future that set a goal of reducing our imports of foreign oil by a third in a little over a decade. To do this we have to increase our domestic energy production, reduce our demand for oil by building cleaner, more efficient vehicles, and fully utilize alternatives to oil in the transportation sector like natural gas and advanced biofuels.

These are difficult issues to tackle, and it's going to take all of us working together to move forward. For years, politicians in Washington have kicked this problem down the road, but we simply cannot afford the price of inaction any longer.

Sincerely,

David Plouffe
Senior Advisor to the President

Lithium Air Battery

Lonnie Johnson Develops New Battery Technology Via His Company: Excellatron

The performance of conventional lithium battery systems is limited by the fundamental capacities of both the cathode and anode used in these batteries. The best cathode materials in lithium ion batteries have a specific capacity of less than 200mAh/g. The most widely used anode material, graphitic or soft carbon, has a specific capacity of 372mAh/g. Metal/air batteries have a much larger specific energy than most of the available primary and rechargeable batteries. These batteries are unique in that the active cathode material (oxygen) is not stored in the battery. Oxygen from the environment is reduced at a catalytic air electrode surface forming either an oxide or peroxide ion that then reacts with cationic species in the electrolyte.Among various metal/oxygen batteries, Li/O2 couple is especially attractive because it has the potential of the highest specific energy (5,200Wh/kg) among all the known electrochemical couples.

The specific energy of lithium air batteries is expected to be an order of magnitude larger than that achievable using conventional lithium or lithium ion batteries. Excellatron has expanded its technology base to lithium air batteries. Until now, commercialization of these batteries has been hindered by several problems such as corrosion and low capacity. The unique technology developed by Excellatron has overcome these problems and pushed Li/Air batteries closer to practical applications. Recently, we have successfully demonstrated the feasibility of a rechargeable lithium/oxygen battery, and Li/Air demonstration samples have been successfully delivered to a customer. (Excellatron)

Lonnie G. Johnson


Dr. Lonnie Johnson
Throughout his career as a scientist and engineer, Lonnie Johnson has been driven by a desire to push the envelope of technology. Whenever told "it can't be done," his unfailing reply has been "Why not?" He has extensive experience in the high technology environment, and holds over 80 issued patents (with an additional 20 pending) on a wide range of technologies. In his 19 years with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Air Force, he served as a senior systems engineer on multiple space based programs including the Galileo Mission to Jupiter, the Cassini Mission to Saturn, the Mars Observer project, and the Air Force stealth bomber program. Dr. Johnson is also founder and president of Johnson Research and Development Co., Inc., where he has developed products for the consumer market. His success in this area is exemplified by his invention, the Super Soaker® water gun, which has generated almost $1 billion in retail sales. Dr. Johnson holds a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering, an MS degree in Nuclear Engineering, and a PhD in Science from Tuskegee University.


Excellatron Solid State, LLC, a U.S. based technology company, is introducing innovative and enabling energy storage technology. The batteries made possible by this new proprietary technology can be used in many applications and processes where other batteries would be inadequate. With this capability, a new world of possibilities opens up for the use of power stored in Excellatron batteries. Excellatron's technology will be the choice of power for high performance batteries in the future.
Excellatron's primary mission is to develop revolutionary energy storage technology as well as the manufacturing technology required for its cost effective commercialization.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

NOx

Nitrogen oxide (NOx ) emissions regulations started with passage of the Clean Air Act (CAA) in 1990. Compliance with CAA rules resulted in a 29 percent reduction in NOx emissions from 1990 to 2003, according to a government report, “A Review of DOE/NETL’s Advanced NOx Control Technology R&D Program for Coal-Fired Power Plants.” In 2005, the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) introduced another change for NOx compliance: It required 25 eastern states to reduce NOx emissions by 1.7 million tons in 2009 and 2.0 million tons by 2015. Since that time, a federal court has tossed out CAIR, leading EPA to introduce the Interstate Trading Rule, which attempts to resolve issues the court had with the CAIR program. It does this in part by proposing trading among states. The CAIR NOx emission caps are based on an equivalent emission rate of 0.15 pounds NOx per million Btu heat input (lb/MMBtu) for Phase I, which began in 2009 and 0.125 lb/MMBtu for Phase II beginning in 2015.

Another up-and-coming potential change for NOx control could come as a result of the Boiler MACT rules, which were released by EPA in February. The Boiler MACT rules are a game-changer for all emissions control and will re-emphasize the need for NOx control.   As an added concern for power producers, NO2 National Ambient Air Quality Standards(NAAQS) rules are also in effect, which set annual averages for NO2 at 0.053 parts per million (ppm). Coal-fired units are affected, as well as the Reasonably Available Control Technology (RACT) for the state of operation. Gas-fired units must abide by NO2 NAAQS rules and state RACT guidelines. (Read much more at Power Engineering, April 2011)

"Bilateral Emission Offset Mechanisms Might Eclipse CDM"

The Center Agrees

In an article by Allan Marks and Jeff Rector in "Electric Light & Power" magazine, the authors postulate:
The advantages of a bilateral offset mechanism are simple. The carbon-capped and capital-exporting nation bypasses the UNFCCC bureaucracy and determines which projects are eligible for the credits and establishes its own rules for certification. To enhance international credibility, bilateral mechanisms likely will track calculation methodologies and auditing mechanisms analogous to those employed for CDM (Clean Development Mechanism). Because the capital-exporting country can pick which technologies are targeted for the credits, the bilateral offset mechanism can be used as a tool for domestic industrial policy, thereby securing more sustained domestic political backing. A key feature of Japan's bilateral offset scheme is the inclusion of nuclear and high-efficiency coal as technologies eligible to earn emissions credit. If adopted, carbon credit for nuclear would prove to be a significant subsidy, and Japan is in negotiations with Vietnam with the intention to make use of such a program to help finance two nuclear reactors in the country.
It will be interesting to see how the Fukushima disaster affects Japan's negotiations with Vietname regarding new nuclear power plants.

In addition to pointing out that, in the Kyoto Protocol, the CDM does not recognize nuclear as carbon-reducing technology, the authors also accurately conclude that getting the signatories to agree is like herding 193 cats:
There are too many parties–193–with too divergent of interests–rich
nations, poor nations, heavy emitters, light emitters, island nations, drought-vulnerable nations, flood-vulnerable nations, oil-exporting nations, oil-importing nations, nations with resource rights under ice, etc., and too much value at stake–hundreds of billions of dollars annually–to realistically expect existing international political institutions to be capable of developing and agreeing upon a global cap-and-trade mechanism from the top down.
Read the entire article.  We think they have accurately predicted the future path of global climate change mitigation.

Monday, April 25, 2011

May is Asthma Awareness Month

A LETTER FROM CDC -  ATSDR

Greetings Partners,

May is Asthma Awareness Month. I invite you and your organization to be involved in the release of CDC’s Asthma Vital Signs on Tuesday, May 3, 2011, which coincides with World Asthma Day.

The CDC Vital Signs is a call to action each month concerning a single, important public health topic. CDC believes that by focusing on a single topic using multiple media devices, the states might better identify these health problems in their area and work towards their improvement. More information can be accessed on the CDC Vital Signs website.

To celebrate asthma awareness on May 3rd, CDC will complete the following activities:

1. Hold a media teleconference led by Dr. Thomas Frieden at noon on May 3rd;
2. Release an asthma MMWR Early Release;
3. Publish a professionally designed fact sheet for consumer audiences and a dedicated website that mirrors the fact sheet on this topic;
4. Issue a media release;
5. Send out a series of announcements via social media tools (Twitter, Facebook, etc.); and
6. Send out a Capitol Hill alert through CDC-Washington Office.

Please join us in sharing the Asthma Vital Signs on May 3rd by:

Spotlighting the Asthma Vital Signs on your organization’s website, including a link to the CDC Vital Signs web page;

Announcing it to your membership through newsletters, listservs, e-bulletins, etc.;

Using your organization’s social media tools to highlight it; and/or

Sharing the MMWR, fact sheet and press release with your organization’s media/public affairs team.
In the morning of May 3rd, we will e-mail you the Asthma Vital Signs package that includes a copy of the MMWR, fact sheet and press release. This information is embargoed until noon that day. We can also send you printed copies of the Vital Signs fact sheets.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Anne Venner in NCEH’s Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects at (770) 488-3839 or Avenner@cdc.gov  or Margo Younger in NCEH/ASTDR’s Office of Policy, Planning and Evaluation at (770) 488-0612 or MYounger@cdc.gov

Thank you all for your help! Please feel free to share this announcement with your colleagues and friends.

Sincerely,

Chris Portier, Ph.D.
Director
National Center for Environmental Health /
Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Justice Department Task Force On Gasoline Prices

Obama's remarks attempt to assuage public anger over rising gas prices

President Obama has initated a new Justice Department Task Force to make sure there is no price gouging going on regarding gas prices. Attorney General Eric Holder iss forming the Financial Fraud Enforcement Working Group.  The task force will focus some of its investigation on "the role of traders and speculators" in the oil-price surge. It will include several Cabinet department officials, federal regulators and the National Association of Attorneys General.  Holder said he would press ahead with the investigation, even though he did not cite any current evidence of intentional manipulation of oil and gas prices or fraud.

President Obama said at a recent town hall meeting in San Francisco that the Justice Department will try to "root out" cases of fraud or manipulation in oil markets, even as Attorney General Eric Holder suggested a variety of legal reasons may be behind gasoline's surge to $4 a gallon. The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.84 on Thursday, about 30 cents higher than a month ago and almost a dollar higher than a year ago.

There's not much Obama can do to affect the price of gasoline in short term.  Gas prices have risen steadily as a result of tensions in the Middle East and northern Africa and rising demand from China and other emerging economies.

President Obama renewed his proposal to end roughly $4 billion annually in various government subsidies to oil and gas companies "at a time when they're making record profits and you're paying near record prices at the pump. It has to stop."

We doubt there is price gouging going on regarding gas prices. Government reports have never found evidence of manipulation. The roller coaster rise and fall in gasoline and diesel prices over the last couple of years tracks are determined in the global crude oil market by the worldwide demand for and supply of crude oil. Weak economic conditions in the U.S. and around the world in 2008 and into 2009 led to less demand, which helped push prices down. Now, with the worldwide economic recovery underway, demand is on the rise again but unrest in the Mideast has put supplies at risk. This combination of rising demand and reduced supply is helping to push prices higher. Domestic production  could be increased, but there does not appear to be the will to pursue this course.  (MSNBC, Frank Maisano)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chronology of Explosions at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant


Friday, March 11, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and a 250 mile long tsunami slams into Japan.

Saturday, March 12, a hydrogen is explosion at reactor No. 1 building.

Monday, March 14, a hydrogen explosion at reactor No. 3 building.

Tuesday, March 15, a hydrogen explosion at reactor No. 4 building.

Tuesday, March 15, a hydrogen explosion at reactor No. 2 did not destroy the building.

 Reactors No. 5 and No. 6 were in cold shutdown for planned maintenance



[Yale Environment 360, 3/21/2011, Wiki)

EPA Publishes National U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released the 16th annual U.S. greenhouse gas inventory. The final report shows overall emissions during 2009 decreased by 6.1 percent from the previous year. This downward trend was attributed to a decrease in fuel and electricity consumption across all U.S. economic sectors.

Total emissions of the six main greenhouse gases in 2009 were equivalent to 6,633 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. These gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. The report indicates that overall emissions have grown by more than 7.3 percent from 1990 to 2009. Emissions in 2009 represent the lowest total U.S. annual GHG emissions since 1995. These numbers reflect the most up to date data at the time of publication.

The Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2009 tracks annual greenhouse gas emissions at the national level and presents historical emissions from 1990 to 2009. The inventory also calculates carbon dioxide emissions that are removed from the atmosphere by “sinks,” e.g., through the uptake of carbon by forests, vegetation and soils.

This inventory, prepared in collaboration with federal agencies, is the latest submitted by the United States to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC sets an overall global framework for nations to address climate change. The final report takes into consideration comments received from stakeholders across the country. (EPA)

More information on the greenhouse gas inventory report

New Congressional Report on Hydraulic Fracturing

UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE
MINORITY STAFF
APRIL 2011

"CHEMICALS USED IN HYDRAULIC FRACTURING"
 
Between 2005 and 2009, the 14 oil and gas service companies [examined] used more than 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products containing 750 chemicals and other components.16 Overall, these companies used 780 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products in their fluids between 2005 and 2009. This volume does not include water that the companies added to the fluids at the well site before injection. The products are comprised of a wide range of chemicals. Some are seemingly harmless like sodium chloride (salt), gelatin, and citric acid. Others could pose a severe risk to human health or the environment.
 
Chemical Components Appearing Most Often in Hydraulic Fracturing Products Used Between 2005 and 2009

Chemical Component / No. of Products Containing Chemical

Methanol (Methyl alcohol) 342

Isopropanol (Isopropyl alcohol, Propan-2-ol) 274

Crystalline silica - quartz (SiO2) 207

Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether (2-butoxyethanol) 126

Ethylene glycol (1,2-ethanediol) 119

Hydrotreated light petroleum distillates 89

Sodium hydroxide (Caustic soda) 80
 
States with the Highest Volume of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids Containing 2-Butoxyethanol (2005-2009)

State / Fluid Volume (gallons)

Texas 12,031,734

Oklahoma 2,186,613

New Mexico 1,871,501

Colorado 1,147,614

Louisiana 890,068

Pennsylvania 747,416

West Virginia 464,231

Utah 382,874

Montana 362,497

Arkansas 348,959

Coast Guard Hammers Transocean Over Gulf Oil Spill

The Coast Guard released a 288-page report on Earth Day that slams Transocean for what it described as poor safety practices that exacerbated the disaster after BP’s Macondo well blew out and the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon sank in the Gulf of Mexico.  The report noted that Transocean had “serious safety management system failures and a poor safety culture manifested in continued maintenance deficiencies, training and knowledge gaps, and emergency preparedness weaknesses.”

The Coast Guard concluded that Transocean allowed gas alarms and shutdown systems to be bypassed; failed to maintain electricity systems that may have ignited the gas once it leaked from the well; and did not adequately train personnel for how to deal with a gusher. The report takes no action but offers dozens of safety-improvement recommendations for consideration by the Coast Guard commandant.

The long-awaited report is the Coast Guard’s half of the investigation known as the Marine Board of Inquiry, a joint probe by the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. The bureau is working on its report and is expected to be finished in late July.
 
The Deepwater Horizon, owned by Swiss-based Transocean, operator of the world’s largest fleet of deepwater drilling rigs as part of a fleet of 139 rigs around the world and leased by BP at a cost of half a million dollars a day, was largely staffed by Transocean employees.

Among those on the bridge in that key moment were two BP executives and two Transocean executives who had flown to the Deepwater Horizon that afternoon. A recurring issue during the probe has been whether the presence of the executives distracted the top managers on the rig. The report said their presence “may have diverted the attention of the offshore installation manager and senior toolpusher from the developing well conditions, limited their interactions with the on-watch drilling crew, and led to their failure to follow the emergency evacuation procedures.”

“The current lifeboat design and testing requirements do not adequately ensure the safe loading of a stretcher or permit adequate seating to accommodate the physical build of the average offshore worker today,” the report said.  (Wash Post, 4/22/2011)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Center President Interviewed By Iran TV on Nuclear Power

Center President Norris McDonald was interviewed by "American Dream" show host Nisa Islam on the topic of nuclear power.  The interview was conducted on March 12, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. at the Center's K Street headquarters office.  The show was aired on Monday, March 18, 2011.


The Center produced a 'Making the American Dream Press TV Show on Nuclear Power.'  This production included the entire interview of Norris McDonald by Nisa Islam.

Japan Government Enforcing Fukushima Nuke Exclusion Zone

Japan's government announced today that it is creating a formal ban on entry into the 12-mile evacuation zone around the quake-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant after some residents ignored pleas to stay away from the potentially hazardous areas.  The no-entry ban into the 12-mile ( 20 kilometer) evacuation zone will still allow limited visitations by displaced families in order to retrieve goods with one person per family allowed to enter for two-hour periods.  Under the previous voluntary ban, some residents have refused to leave the area and others have come in and out to retrieve belongings.

Evacuees who have made incursions into the zone have caused worries among neighbors and local governments that they are spreading radiation upon their return. Some people threw away the protective gear they had been wearing on the street when they came back from the zone. Vehicles often come back without properly getting cleaned. (WSJ, 4/21/2011)

Futile Water Use For Cooling at Fukushima

The Center remains livid with Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant owner Tepco and the Japanese government for not entombing the entire site.  The facility cannot be salvaged and a 500 foot tall sarcophagus should be used to permanently seal the site.  Absent this solution, radiation is being needlessly spewed into the air and ocean.  This mismanagement of the disaster is also destroying any possibility of a renaissance in building new nuclear power plants.  Seat the site.  Seal it now.

Overwhelmed by the large amount of radioactive water it had to deal with, Tepco released some of the relatively less-contaminated water into the ocean, sparking complaints from neighboring countries such as South Korea and China.

Workers at the plant are pumping water that is flooding the basement of the turbine building for reactor No. 2, which contains more than 30 million times Japan's allowable level of Cesium-137, a radioactive isotope. At the current rate of pumping, it would take more than 100 days to remove the water. That doesn't take into account additional water that could enter—either through continuing operations to cool the reactor with water, or from other sources—or government plans to eventually pick up the pace of pumping.

This timeframe is entirely unacceptable.  Seal the site.

Click on Image to Enlarge
Image Courtesy WSJ

Workers have reported only slight progress in removing radioactive water from parts of the complex surrounding its No. 2 reactor. Water in a trench that carries pipes from the turbine building's flooded basement contains radioactive iodine-131 at levels million of times Japan's legal limit, as well as extreme levels of a cesium isotope.  Water in the trench stands two and a half feet below the level at which the contaminated water would spill over at the ocean-side plant. That is not a very large safety margin.

Workers removed about 240 metric tons of water from the No. 2 reactor's basement by the end of the first day of pumping. At that rate, it would take more than 10 days to pump the equivalent of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The estimated 25,000 metric tons of water in the No. 2 turbine building's basement alone is enough to fill 10 Olympic pools.  So where are the workers pumping the water to? 

Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has noted that it is unclear whether a new water source is behind the slow progress. Officials Wednesday found rising water at a trench near the No. 3 reactor, which isn't as radioactive as that at No. 2.

At Reactor No. 6, one of the two units that have survived the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, workers Tuesday pumped 100 tons of water from the basement of the turbine building into the reactor's condenser unit. NISA said underground streams are a possible source. Before the crisis, streams beneath reactors No. 5 and 6 were pumped to divert water, a process that hasn't been conducted since the quake. (WSJ, 4/21/2011)

Bjorn Lomborg Is Right (Again)

Behind the ‘green China’ myth

It’s exporting clean-energy technology more than it's using it

By Bjorn Lomborg, Wednesday, April 20, 2011

As the world’s factory floor, China is not an obvious environmental leader. It is beleaguered by severe pollution and generates more carbon emissions than any other nation. Yet many have trumpeted it as an emerging “green giant” for its non-carbon-based energy production and its aggressive promises to cut carbon emissions. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman described China’s “green leap forward” as “the most important thing to happen” at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. (More - Wash Post, 4/21/2011))

Center staff traveled to China in 2007 and witnessed the incredible economic growth (and the pollution).

BP, Transocean and Cameron International Sue Each Other

BP Sues Halliburton Too

On Wednesday, BP filed suits in New Orleans against Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, and against Cameron International, the company that made the blowout preventer that failed last year, on the deadline (4/20) for bringing suits in the federal litigation surrounding the disaster. BP wants to ensure that, "all parties involved in the Macondo well are appropriately held accountable.”

Transocean and Cameron filed similar cross claims and counterclaims on Wednesday.

The claims against Transocean, BP said, “are consistent with the conclusions reached by the presidential commission, which found that Transocean missed critical signs that hydrocarbons were flowing up the riser and failed to take appropriate actions to shut in the Macondo well.”

Cameron, BP asserted, designed and built a faulty preventer and negligently maintained it.

Transocean responded with a statement calling BP’s suit “specious and unconscionable” and laid the blame squarely on BP as operator. 

BP also filed a lawsuit against Halliburton Co., claiming its "misconduct" contributed to last year's Deepwater Horizon disaster that led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Aside from BP, the main owner of the Macondo well, no company has faced more criticism over the disaster than Halliburton. It designed the failed cement seal that experts think allowed explosive gas to flow into the well and reach the Deepwater Horizon. Halliburton doesn't deny the seal failed, but argues BP should have run tests that would have revealed the problem.

In the filing, BP said its action was to hold Halliburton accountable for "improper conduct, errors and omissions, including fraud and concealment." In a statement, it said the President Commission that investigated the Gulf disaster concluded that the cement slurry designed, mixed and pumped by Halliburton failed, that the company didn't provide BP with the results of failed cement tests and that its technicians "missed critical signals that hydrocarbons were flowing into the wellbore."

Halliburton said it would "vigorously deny these claims."

The BP complaint said Transocean was responsible for multiple failures of safety devices and well control procedures. It said BP was seeking at least $40 billion in damages. BP also seeks to force Cameron to contribute all or part of the damages that could be levied against the oil giant by the federal government. (NYT, 4/20/2011, WSJ, 4/21/2011)

NRG Drops Plans To Build New Nuke Plant In Texas

NRG Energy has decided to drop its plans to build two nuclear reactors in Texas.  This is just another blow to the nuclear renaissance that was projected just a few years ago.  The Center was a proponent of that renaissance.  The Center remains supportive of nuclear power.  Yet, prospects are fading quickly in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

Now, NRG's partner, Toshiba Corp., is left to go forward with efforts to garner permission to build reactors at the Texas site from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Toshiba was to furnish the reactors for the project, adjacent to NRG's existing South Texas Project nuclear plant. Foreign companies cannot be majority owners of nuclear power plants in the United States.  So now, Toshiba, like Electricite de France in the Constellation Energy Group debacle, is forced to try to find another USA partner in order to move forward.  Southern Company's Vogle nuclear power plant proposal and SCANA Corp in South Carolina ares the last two nuclear projects proposing to build new nuclear power reactors in the USA.

In addition to using reactors designed by Toshiba, NRG was depending on financial assistance from Tokyo Electric Power Co., owner of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in northeast Japan. The Daiichi plant suffered a series of serious radioactive releases after a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami cut off power to the plant on March 11. (WSJ, 4/20/2011)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tepco Fooling Around With Rad Water Instead of Sealing Site








The Center is promoting sealing the immediate sealing of the entire Fukushima Daiichi site.  Tepco should have initiated sealing the site immediately after the first hydrogen explosion at the first reactor.  We simply cannot understand what Tepco and the Japanese government are trying to achieve by spewing highliy radioative poison into the atmosphere and into the Pacific Ocean.

Workers began removing highly radioactive water from one of the reactors at the earthquake-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex Tuesday. The Japanese government and the plant operator, Fukushima Daiichi ,known as Tepco, have been battling to keep three damaged reactors from overheating. The reactor fuel is being kept cool by a steady supply of water.  This is foolishness.  It is idiocy.  It is criminal.  It is environmental suicide.  This supply water is washing right back out to the Pacific Ocean.  This ignorant response is entirely unacceptable.

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency statement that, "Our focus, for the time being, will be on preventing spillage of irradiated water into the ocean." is ridiculous.  Spillage is already being verified by the U.S. EPA in the United States.  China and South Korea are howling about the dumping of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.

The water at the center of current efforts is in the basement of the No. 2 reactor building and totals some 25,000 tons, according to Tepco. The facility was first flooded by the March 11 tsunami. Operators then tried to cool the reactor by pumping in 168 tons of cold water a day. This simply provided a vector for dumping radioactive isotopes into the Pacific Ocean.

Some foolish officials believe some of that water is absorbing radiation and leaking through the bottom of what is known as the reactor's suppression pool, which is meant to hold cooling water for the reactor. The suppression pool, which forms a ring around the bottom of the reactor's containment unit, was believed to have been damaged by a hydrogen explosion in the days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out the plant's cooling systems. Duh. The Center and the rest of the world saw the explosions that completely compromised the containment building and the spent fuel pools. 

The water is leaked into the nearby ocean, causing highly elevated levels outside the plant and resulting in radioactive readings detected in nearby fish. The water has been measured as having 13 million becquerels of iodine-131 per cubic centimeter, 300 million times the legal limit, and three million becquerels of cesium-137, which is 30 million times the limit.  Seal the site.  Seal it now.  If Tepco and the Japanese government do not have the backbone to seal the site, then turn it over to the Center and we will immediately begin entombing the site.

Under Tepco's illogical plan, 10,000 tons of the water will be moved to a nearby storage facility over the next 20 days, using three hoses of as long as 800 meters each. Construction is likely to take at least a couple of months, meaning more than half the 25,000 tons will have to remain in the No. 2 reactor building. Huh?  What?  Moving the highly radioactive water from one place to another place nearby is supposed to make a difference?  Do you think we just got off the turnip truck.  These are the world's top nuclear scientists?

In addition to the leakage of highly radioactive water, Japan earlier this month discharged 10,000 tons of low-level radioactive water, drawing criticism from neighboring countries including South Korea and China, as well as from local commercial fishing operators. We are livid.  Seal it now.  (WSJ, 4/20/2011)

Deadline Today On BP Gulf Oil Lawsuits.

Thousands of potential new plaintiffs are filing lawsuits in New Orleans federal court before a court-issued deadline of today (Wednesday) to make filings preserving the right to sue companies involved in last year's massive oil spill in the Gulf.  Potential plaintiffs have been streaming into the courthouse to drop off the completed three-page forms by hand,  with nearly 62,000 forms—preliminary paperwork protecting their right to sue—already have been filed, with about 2,300 arriving in the past week, the clerk said midday Tuesday.

If the potential plaintiffs eventually file suit, they would join the roughly 350 lawsuits already filed before U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, where the litigation has been consolidated.

Plaintiffs in those and other lawsuits include fishermen, shrimpers, and restaurant and resort owners seeking compensation for economic losses from the spill. Others include rig workers who were injured or the families of workers killed in the explosion that led to the massive oil spill.

Wednesday's deadline is tied to participation in the first major court action in the case, a trial set for February 2012 in which Transocean is seeking to limit its liability in the spill. BP, Transocean and others are blaming each other over the cause of the explosion and spill.

Companies involved in the spill also are facing court deadlines Wednesday to file suits against one another hoping to limit their ultimate legal payout for the disaster. Transocean is seeking to limit its liability under a maritime law to about $27 million, the estimated value of the rig that was destroyed. At the trial, the judge may parse out liabilities for all the companies.

Instead of filing a lawsuit, anyone affected by the spill can present evidence of their losses to Washington, D.C., attorney Kenneth Feinberg who is administering BP's $20 billion compensation fund. Claimants who receive payments through Mr. Feinberg forgo a right to sue. Mr. Feinberg has paid out $3.9 billion toward 857,000 claims from about 500,000 individuals and businesses. He announced Tuesday he had made one of the larger final settlements to date of $44.8 million to Omega Protein Corp., which suffered economic losses in the spill. The fund is scheduled to close down in August 2013. (WSJ, 4/20/2011)

BP Disaster Usurping Earth Day?

There appears to be more coverage of the one year anniversary of the BP Gulf Oil Spill disaster than there is for Earth Day.  From a public relations perspective, the BP explosion occurred on April 20th (today) in 2010 and dominated the news during Earth Day last year.  The additional 87 days of spillage of oil into the Gulf of Mexico was the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States.  The juxtaposition of Earth Day to this disaster poses an interesting twist of fate.  And a public relations competition.

One year after the BP PLC oil spill caused the Obama administration to impose a  10-month freeze on deep-water drilling.  Offshore oil production, most of which comes from the Gulf, is expected to average 1.55 million barrels a day this year, down 13% from 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The drilling suspension, along with a new, slower permitting process, will result in the loss this year of about 375,000 barrels of oil a day, according to energy analysts. (WSJ, 4/20/2011)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Anti-Nuclear Groups Petition NRC To Suspend Nuke Licenses

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has moved 45 groups and individuals to ask that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to cease all licensing for 21 pending nuclear reactor projects in 15 US states, and establish an independent commission to conduct an updated safety analysis of nuclear energy production.

The groups, which include Beyond Nuclear; the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL); Citizens Allied for Safe Energy; and the Nuclear Information and Resource Center, say that it is an obligation for NRC to properly consider the lessons being learned from Fukushima before permitting any further nuclear energy development in the US.

Petitioners say it is only reasonable for the NRC to take a serious step back and reevaluate how the events of Fukushima relate to US nuclear facilities, some of which are in worse shape than Fukushima was before the disaster. If such a disaster were ever to hit US soil, the consequences could be even more devastating than Fukushima.

The Center disagrees with these groups and believes that the Act of God that caused the Fukushima disaster should not negatively influence the operation and construction of new nuclear power plants in the USA.  However, reactors on the coasts should make their cooling water backup systems more robust if they intend to continue to operate in the USA. (Natural News, 4/16/2011)

Senate E & P Committee Holds Hearing on Natural Gas

Full Environment & Public Works Committee
and
Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife joint hearing entitled:

"Natural Gas Drilling: Public Health and Environmental Impacts.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
10:00 AM EDT
EPW Hearing Room - 406 Dirksen

Excerpts From Robert Perciasepe, EPA Deputy Administrator

While Congress specifically exempted selected oil and gas production activities from several environmental laws, a number of environmental protections continue to apply. For example, while the Energy Policy Act of 2005 excluded hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas production from permitting under the Safe Drinking Water Act’s (SDWA) Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program, these activities are still regulated under the SDWA when diesel fuels are used in fracturing fluids. Also, flowback and produced water disposal through injection is still regulated under the SDWA.

EPA regulates waste waters from oil and gas wells under the Section 301(b) and 402 (a) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) when they are discharged into publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) and surface waters. To address public health concerns from air emissions, Clean Air Act (CAA) provisions for New Source Performance Standards and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, and Mandatory Reporting of Green House Gases apply to energy extraction.

EPA retains authority to respond to imminent and substantial endangerments to public health or the environment under several statutes, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.

Hearing
 

Majority Statements

Barbara Boxer

Benjamin L. Cardin
-------------------------------------------
Minority Statements

James M. Inhofe

Witnesses

Panel 1

The Honorable Robert Perciasepe
Deputy Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency

Panel 2

Dr. Conrad Daniel Volz, DrPH, MPH
Director
Center for Healthy Environments & Communities

Mr. Jack Ubinger
Senior Vice President
Pennsylvania Environmental Council

Dr. Robert Summers, Ph.D.
Acting Secretary of the Environment
Maryland Department of the Environment

Mr. Jeff Cloud
Vice Chairman
Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Mr. David Neslin
Director
Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

TEPCO Must STOP Dumping Radioactive Water Into Ocean

IMMEDIATELY

The Center is demanding the immediate cessation of dumping radioactive water into the ocean (and the atmosphere) by Fukushima Daiichi plant owner and operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).  The Center will be filing complaints with the Japanese government and the U.S. State Department if this site is not sealed off very soon.  It should have been sealed immediately after the first of three hydrogen explosions. The Center is recommending the immediate entombing of the entire site.  We are recommending a 500 foot tall sarcophagus with 500 foot deep steel bulkheads to protect the ocean.

The U.S. EPA has already detected elevated levels of radiation in air in the United States.  Although described as 'low-level,' any increase due to a commercial nuclear power plant disaster is too much. Spreading radioactive contamination into the ocean is completely unacceptable.



President Obama should pressure the Japanese government to entomb the entire Fukushima Daiichi site.  If President Obama is unwilling to take this position, then Chinese President Hu Jintao should take the lead.  China is already complaining about the dumping because it poses a threat.  South Korea is also complaining about the ocean dumping.

The Japanese government Friday published a report on the discharge of more than 10,000 metric tons of low-level radioactive water from the quake-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex. TEPCO released a total of 10,393 tons of radioactive water April 4 to 10, according to the report published Friday evening local time by Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), made up of 1,323 tons of groundwater and 9,070 tons of seawater.

The government estimated the total amount of radiation contained in the released water at 150 billion becquerels—exceeding the legal limits by about 100 times—depending on the sample taken, according to NISA.

The amount of water used to cool down the reactor totaled 27,000 tons, most of which either evaporated into the atmosphere or leaked through damaged parts of reactors and flooded the nuclear complex, making it all but impossible for workers to do repairs to damaged reactor facilities.  Some of the water also proved highly toxic, sometimes 100 million times more radioactive than the allowable limit.

Tthe Atomic Energy Society of Japan released a report on its assessment on the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, saying that the nuclear fuel has partially melted and that the molten part settled in granular form at the bottom of the pressure vessel. A reactor's pressure vessel contains its fuel and is one of the first lines of defense against radioactive release. (WSJ, 4/15/2011)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Japan Utility Will Give $12,000 To Fukushima Evacuee Families

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) will start paying compensation April 28 to families forced to evacuate because of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster. Families will receive 1 million yen (about $12,000) and individuals will get 750,000 yen (about $9,000.

Roughly 48,000 households living within about 19 miles (30 kilometers) of the crippled power plant would be eligible for the payments. The payments are to compensate residents who are unable to return to their homes and are bereft of their livelihoods and possessions, unsure of when, if ever, they will be able to return home. Some have traveled hundreds of miles to TEPCO's headquarters in Tokyo to press their demands for compensation.

There are around 150 evacuation centers alone. It will take some time until everyone gets money. The arrangement is a provisional one, with more compensation expected. (MSN News, 4/15/2011)

Depts of Agriculture & Energy Fund Biomass R & D Initiative

To support President Obama's goal of reducing America's oil imports by one-third by 2025, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy (DOE) today jointly announced up to $30 million over three to four years that will support research and development in advanced biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products. The projects funded through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) will help create a diverse group of economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass and increase the availability of alternative renewable fuels and biobased products. Advanced biofuels produced from these projects are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 50 percent compared to fossil fuels and will play an important role in diversifying America's energy portfolio.

For fiscal year 2011, applicants seeking BRDI funding must propose projects that integrate science and engineering research in the following three technical areas that are critical to the broader success of alternative biofuels production:

Feedstock Development

Funding will support research, development and demonstration activities for improving biomass feedstocks and their supply, including the harvest, transport, preprocessing, and storage necessary to produce biofuels and biobased products.

Biofuels and Biobased Products Development

Research, development and demonstration activities will support cost-effective technologies to increase the use of cellulosic biomass in the production of biofuels and/or biobased products. Funding will also support the development of a wide range of technologies to produce various biobased products, including animal feeds and chemicals that can potentially increase the economic viability of large-scale fuel production in a biorefinery.

Biofuels Development Analysis

Projects will develop analytic tools that improve the sustainability, environmental quality, cost effectiveness, security, and rural economic development of renewable biomass technologies. Funding will also be used to develop new tools to better evaluate the impact of expanded biofuel production on the environment and to assess the potential of using federal land resources to sustainably increase feedstock production for biofuels and biobased products.

Integrating multiple technical areas in each project will encourage collaborative problem-solving approaches, enable grantees to identify and address knowledge gaps, and facilitate the formation of research consortia. The agencies are also seeking projects that demonstrate the use of biodiesel in farming equipment and processing facility operations that are used to produce grain and/or cellulosic ethanol.

Subject to annual appropriations, USDA plans to invest up to $25 million with DOE contributing up to $5 million for this year's Biomass Research and Development Initiative. This funding is expected to support five to ten projects over three to four years. A description of the solicitation, eligibility requirements, and application instructions can be found on the FedConnect website, and the Grants website at under Reference Number DE-FOA-0000510. Pre-applications are due on May 31, 2011 and must be submitted electronically. It is anticipated that applicants who are encouraged to submit full applications will be notified by August 3, 2011.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information is available at: www.nifa.usda.gov.

DOE's Biomass Program works with industry, academia, and national laboratory partners on a balanced portfolio of research in biomass feedstocks and conversion technologies. For more information on DOE's Biomass Program, please visit the Biomass Program website.

Fukushima Daiichi: Pictures, Graphs & Information















[Graphics Courtesy Wash Post, Tepco]