Coal's hidden costs top $345 billion in U.S. study

From Reuters:

The United States' reliance on coal to generate almost half of its electricity, costs the economy about $345 billion a year in hidden expenses not borne by miners or utilities, including health problems in mining communities and pollution around power plants, a study found.

Those costs would effectively triple the price of electricity produced by coal-fired plants, which are prevalent in part due to the their low cost of operation, the study led by a Harvard University researcher found.

"This is not borne by the coal industry, this is borne by us, in our taxes," said Paul Epstein, a Harvard Medical School instructor and the associate director of its Center for Health and the Global Environment, the study's lead author.

"The public cost is far greater than the cost of the coal itself. The impacts of this industry go way beyond just lighting our lights."

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3 States Challenge Federal Policy on Storing Nuclear Waste

From the New York Times:

The attorneys general of New York, Connecticut and Vermont sued the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday, challenging a new commission policy stating that nuclear waste can be safely stored at a nuclear power plant for 60 years after a reactor goes out of service.

The three states argued that the policy, adopted in December, violated two federal laws requiring that a full environmental review be carried out at each nuclear site before permission for long-term storage could be granted.

“Our communities deserve a thorough review of the environmental, public health and safety risks such a move would present,” New York’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, said in a statement.

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Large Power Plants Sit Idle in North Carolina while Duke Wants to Raise Rates to Build New Ones

From NC WARN:

Duke Energy is billing customers for billions of dollars worth of workhorse power plants that sit idle much of the time or which spew coal pollution while on standby – without generating electricity. Yet the utility is building another large coal unit and seeking licenses for new nuclear reactors, which would provide huge boosts to revenues and electricity rates.

Duke’s surplus capacity will last indefinitely, and it extends far beyond the small, older units the utility has said it will retire in coming years. Progress Energy also enjoys surplus generation with so-called baseload plants – its nuclear reactors and largest coal units. State regulators should proceed toward closing all under-used coal units, and should cancel licensing efforts for new nuclear reactors.

NC WARN has submitted these findings, based on our analysis of utility data, to the NC Utilities Commission and we’re calling for an evidentiary hearing.

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TMI: Changes to Number of Operable Steam Safety Valves

Three Mile Island Nuclear Station, Unit 1 - Request for Additional Information Regarding License amendment Request Proposing changes to the Number of Required Operable Main Steam Safety Valves

Download ML110350379 (PDF)

Sandia Labs Helps Secure Nuclear Fuel in Kazakhstan

From International Business Times:

One of the ongoing problems with unclear non-proliferation efforts is what to do with nuclear material in the former Soviet Union. A group from Sandia National Laboratories recently completed a project in Kazakhstan, and took another step towards securing it.

A large cache of enriched nuclear fuel - some 13 metric tons -- was stored in a nuclear reactor in the port city of Aktau, on the Caspian seacoast. The reactor was a Soviet-era fast breeder reactor, designed to make nuclear fuel for both weapons and power plants. The reactor, which started operations in 1973, also provided 135 megawatts of electricity, 9 million gallons of water per day and steam for hot water and heating for Aktau. It was shut down by the Kazakh government in 1999.

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Nuclear-Power Firms Push Back Against Fees

From the Wall Street Journal:

Buried in the details of President Barack Obama's budget release Monday will be more than $770 million that nuclear-power companies pay each year for a waste-storage site that's years behind schedule.

But this might be the last year the White House can count on that income.

Nuclear-power companies are pressing to suspend the hefty fees they pay into the national nuclear-waste fund. Created by Congress in 1982, this fund was designed to finance the government's storage of radioactive waste. And, until recently, it was to pay for a new waste dump at Yucca Mountain, Nev.

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David Vitter to the rescue!

From Green Mountain Daily:

Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and David Vitter, R-La., say applications for the Pilgrim nuclear station in Plymouth, Mass., and the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon, whose owner, Entergy Corp., applied for 20-year license extensions for the two on the same day, Jan. 27, 2006, are taking too long.

...and...

Vitter, who represents Louisiana, Entergy's home state, has received $20,000 in campaign contributions from the company since the 2002 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan Washington-based group that tracks money in politics.

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SRBC Commission Meeting to Take Place March 10, 2011

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission quarterly meeting will take place at Juniata College, Huntingdon, Pa.,Neff Lecture Hall – William J. von Liebig Center for Science. Read More

Cancer Risk Assessment Meeting: Agenda

The open session for the first meeting of the Cancer Risk Assessment will be held February 24th, from 1:00pm to 5:30pm. This session will also be webcast, and a link will be made available at nationalacademies.org/cancreriskstudy the day of the meeting. Please direct any inquiries to the project email at crs@nas.edu.

New firm tackles troubled Knolls atomic cleanup job

From the Times Union:

The private company behind the troubled radioactive cleanup at Knolls Atomic Power Labs has hired another firm to take over the stalled project, the Department of Energy said.

In addition, the cost of the project, originally set at $75 million, is now expected to top out at $145 million because of a slower, more conservative approach designed to avoid further escapes of radioactivity, the department admitted Tuesday. There were three incidents last fall.

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