Energy Subsidies Black, Not Green

A study released by the Environmental Law Institute, a nonpartisan research and policy organization, shows that the federal government has provided substantially larger subsidies to fossil fuels than to renewables. Subsidies to fossil fuels totaled approxi- mately $72 billion over the seven-year study period, while subsidies for renewable fuels totaled $29 billion over the same period. The vast majority of subsidies support energy sources that emit high levels of greenhouse gases when used as fuel. Moreover,
just a handful of tax breaks make up the largest portion of subsidies for fossil fuels, with the most significant of these, the Foreign Tax Credit, supporting the overseas production of oil. More than half of the subsidies for renewables are attributable to corn-based ethanol, the use of which, while decreasing American reliance on foreign oil, has generated concern about climate effects.These figures raise the question of whether scarce government funds might be better allocated to move the United States towards a low-carbon economy.

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The Curies, Seen Through an Artist's Eyes

From the New York Times:

Described simply, “Radioactive” is an illustrated biography of Marie Curie, the Polish-born French physicist famous for her work on radioactivity — she was the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice — and her equally accomplished husband, Pierre. It lays bare their childhoods, their headlong love story, their scientific collaboration and the way their toxic discoveries, which included radium and polonium, poisoned them in slow motion.

Described less simply, it’s a deeply unusual and forceful thing to have in your hands. Ms. Redniss’s text is long, literate and supple. She catches Marie Curie’s “delicate and grave” manner as a young student, new to Paris; she notes the “luminous goulash” of radium and zinc that one chemist prepares; she observes with pleasure another man’s “thriving mustache.” She has a firm command of, but an easy way with, the written word.

The electricity in “Radioactive,” however, derives from the friction between Ms. Redniss’s text and her ambitious and spooky art. Her text runs across and over these freewheeling pages, the boundaries between word and image constantly blurring. Her drawings are both vivid and ethereal. Her people have elongated faces and pale forms; they’re etiolated Modiglianis. They populate a Paris that’s become a dream city.

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France plans underwater nuclear reactor


Plans to build underwater civilian nuclear reactors are in the works in France, with a prototype expected to be rolled out in 2016, officials said.

DCNS, the French state-controlled naval company, said it will work in partnership with French companies Areva, EDF, and the French Atomic Energy Commission to build small- and medium-sized underwater reactors to provide electricity to consumers on land, Radio France Internationale reported Wednesday.

The company said its Flexblue project, expected to enter the building phase in 2013, is in response to global energy challenges and renewed interest in nuclear power.

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FirstEnergy Corp. reports electrical fire at construction site of an auxiliary building


FirstEnergy Corp. reported to federal regulators today that a small electrical fire erupted overnight at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near Toledo.

An apparent short about 2:30 a.m. in 480-volt temporary power cable running on the ground to a building under construction sparked the blaze in plastic and rubber material covering the cable.

A plant fire brigade put the fire out in 10 minutes, using two dry powder fire extinguishers. There were no injuries and operations at the power plant were not disrupted.

"We are investigating the cause and will be meeting with the contractor," said Todd Schneider, company spokesman.

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Davis Besse: Notification Of Unusual Event Due To A Fire And Explosions In The Protected Area

Event Number: 46551
Event Date: 01/19/2011



"An electrical fire and explosions were reported near the Containment Access Facility construction area. An Unusual Event was declared based on HU4. Temporary electrical power at service disconnect DSLM3-3 was isolated. The fire was out at 0243 EST. The fire was extinguished using dry chemical. The fire was reported at 0232 EST on 1/19/11. The cause of the fire has not been determined at this time."

The fire and explosions were initially reported by site security personnel. The licensee declared the NOUE at 0243 EST based on criteria HU4. The licensee initially called for offsite assistance in putting out the fire, however, the fire was extinguished by plant personnel and the offsite assistance was turned back. The licensee posted a reflash watch. The fire reportedly involved temporary cables and possibly a transformer supplying power to the construction area which is located inside the protected area outside the auxiliary building.

The licensee notified the NRC Resident Inspector.


The licensee terminated the Notification of Unusual Event at 0358 EST. No additional information is available at this time.

Notified R3DO (Bloomer), NRR EO (Skeen), IRD (Gott), DHS (Stringfield), and FEMA (Casto).

Report: Decom. costs not clear

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

A nuclear decommissioning expert says estimates to dismantle the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant are too old and don’t reflect the current state of the economy.

According to study released Thursday from Fairewinds Associates, a consultancy hired by the state Legislature to analyze the decommissioning fund, the documents created in 2006 are "technically and economically outdated."

New technology has been developed "which may dramatically decrease the cost of decommissioning, and those options have not been analyzed for their application to the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee," the report states.

All decommissioning options need to be explored, Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer for Fairewinds Associates, said.

During the previous decommissioning fund update of the nuclear plant in Vernon, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviewed the plan and required Entergy to provide a $40 million parent company guarantee to address a shortfall, Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC, wrote in an e-mail to the Reformer.

"Looking ahead, nuclear power plant owners will be required to submit new updates on their decommissioning trust funds in March, providing us with another opportunity to scrutinize them," he wrote.

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Nuclear Containment Failures and Ramifications for the AP1000 Containment Design

Press Conference: 11 a.m., Monday, January 10, 2011
Nuclear Containment Failures and Ramifications for the AP1000 Containment Design
Dial: 1-800-860-2442 and ask for the AP1000 call

Hosted by:  AP1000 Oversight Group, represented by Attorney John Runkle and Expert Witness Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer Fairewinds Associates, Inc

Download PDF Presentation

Download AP1000 Supplemental Report (filed 12-21-2010)

TMI: Ammendment to Relocation of Surveillance Frequencies

Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1 – Issuance of Amendment Re: Request to Relocate Surveillance Frequencies to a Licensee-Controlled Program (TAC No. ME3587)
ADAMS Accession No.: ML103120069 (Download PDF)

Waste Confidence Decision Update

From the Federal Register:

Although the proposed updates to the Waste Confidence Decision and Rule did not consider some of these recent developments, the Commission has assumed, for the purposes of these updates, that YM would not be built. Even so, the new YM developments are pertinent. The Commission believes that the updates to the Waste Confidence Decision and Rule reflect the uncertainty regarding the timing of the availability of a geologic repository for SNF and HLW. The Commission, as a separate action, has directed the staff to develop a plan for a longer-term rulemaking and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess the environmental impacts and safety of long-term SNF and HLW storage beyond 120 years (SRM-SECY-09-0090; ADAMS Accession Number ML102580229). This analysis will go well beyond the current analysis that supports at least 60 years of post-licensed life storage with eventual disposal in a deep geologic repository. The Commission believes that a more expansive analysis is appropriate because it will provide additional information (beyond the reasonable assurance the Commission is recognizing in the current rulemaking) on whether spent fuel can be safely stored for a longer time, if necessary. This analysis could reduce the frequency with which the Commission must, as a practical matter, consider waste storage capabilities. The staff's new review will require an analysis and, to some extent, a forecast of the safety and environmental impacts of storage for extended periods of time beyond that currently recognized in 10 CFR 51.23 and the Waste Confidence Decision. While storage of spent fuel for 60 years beyond licensed life has been shown through experience or analyses to be safe and not to have a significant environmental impact, the proposed technical analysis will go well beyond the time frame of existing requirements.

Even though the Commission has not determined whether this particular analysis will result in a different conclusion concerning the environmental impacts of extended spent fuel storage, the Commission believes that this unprecedented long-term review should be accompanied by an EIS. Preparing an EIS will ensure that the agency considers these longer-term storage issues from an appropriate perspective. The Commission has therefore decided to exercise its discretionary authority under 10 CFR 51.20(a)(2) and is directing the staff to prepare a draft EIS to accompany the proposed rule developed as a result of this longer-term analysis. The updates to the Waste Confidence Decision in this document and the final rule published in this issue of the Federal Register rely on the best information currently available to the Commission and therefore are separate from this long-term initiative. The updates to the Waste Confidence Decision and Rule are not dependent upon the staff completing any action outside the scope of these revisions to the Waste Confidence Decision and Rule.

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Vt. nuke fights for future but chances are dimming

From the Associated Press:

Vermont's piece of the nuclear age, launched four decades ago, seems to be coming to a close, even as advocates push for a renaissance of nuclear power in the United States.

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant's initial 40-year license expires March 21, 2012, less than 15 months from now. And despite a safety and performance record no worse than many of the other 61 reactors that have won 20-year license extensions from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Vernon power plant's future looks short.

That's largely because it's located in the only state in the country with a law saying both houses of its legislature have to give their approval before Vermont regulators can issue a state license for the plant to continue operating.

The Vermont Senate voted 26-4 last February against letting the Public Service Board issue the new state license. That vote came a month after it was revealed that Vermont Yankee was leaking tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, into soil and groundwater surrounding the reactor on the banks of the Connecticut River. It also followed revelations that senior plant personnel had misled state officials about whether Vermont Yankee had the sort of underground pipes that carried radioactive tritium.

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