Monthly Archives: March 2012

Fukushima, Europe’s nuclear test

Madrid, Spain – Seen from Europe, the irrationality of the political and media discourse over nuclear energy has, if anything, increased and intensified in the year since the meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Yet a dispassionate assessment of nuclear energy’s place in the world remains as necessary as it is challenging.

Europeans should not pontificate on nuclear energy policy as if our opinion mattered worldwide, but we do. On the other hand, Europe does have a qualified responsibility in the area of security, where we still can promote an international regulatory and institutional framework that would discipline states and bring about greater transparency where global risks such as nuclear power are concerned.

Europe is equally responsible for advancing research on more secure technologies, particularly a fourth generation of nuclear reactor technology. We Europeans cannot afford the luxury of dismantling a high-value-added industrial sector in which we still have a real comparative advantage.

In-depth coverage one year after triple disaster

In Europe, Fukushima prompted a media blitz of gloom and doom over nuclear energy. The German magazine Der Spiegelheralded the “9/11 of the nuclear industry” and “the end of the nuclear era”, while Spain’s leading newspaper El Pais preached that supporting “this energy [was] irrational”, and that “China has put a brake on its nuclear ambitions”. But reality has proven such assessments to be both biased and hopelessly wrong.

True, a few countries – Belgium, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland, with Peru the only non-European country to join the trend – formally declared their intention to phase out or avoid nuclear energy. These decisions affect a total of 26 reactors, while 61 reactors are under construction around the world, with another 156 projected and 343 under official consideration. If these plans are realised, the number of functioning reactors, currently 437, will double.

But, more interestingly, the nuclear boom is not global: Brazil is at the forefront in Latin America, while the fastest development is occurring in Asia, mostly in China and India. If we compare this geographical distribution with a global snapshot of nuclear sites prior to the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown in the United States in 1979, a striking correlation emerges between countries’ nuclear energy policy and their geopolitical standing and economic vigour. More

To make the transition to alternative energy and hopefully nuclear fusion, we are going to have to continue using nuclear. Having said this, I will say that we have to retrofit all the 60+ year old nuclear plants to a vastly higher safety standard. We must also start using the latest nuclear reactor technologies, the fourth generation designs like the Toshiba 4s, TerraPower’s Travelling Wave and the Hyperion design. These are all a great deal safer and proliferation proof. You may want to read Power To Save The World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy by Gwyneth Cravens and Richard Rhodes. Editor

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday questioned why federal regulators extended the operating license for the aging Vermont Yankee nuclear plant within days of a disastrous meltdown at a similar plant in Fukushima, Japan. More


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Defense Department Releases Roadmap to Transform Energy Use in Military Operations

The Defense Department recently released its widely anticipated roadmap to transform operational energy security.

As published by World Politics Review in a briefing ealier this month, energy security has become a strategic as well as an operational imperative for U.S. national security. As tensions continue to escalate with Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, it has become clear that the U.S. military urgently requires new approaches and innovative technologies to improve fuel efficiency, increase endurance, enhance operational flexibility and support a forward presence for allied forces while reducing the vulnerability inherent in a long supply-line tether. Assured access to reliable and sustainable supplies of energy is central to the military’s ability to meet operational requirements globally, whether keeping the seas safe of pirates operating off the coast of Africa, providing humanitarian assistance in the wake of natural disasters in the Pacific or supporting counterterrorism missions in the Middle East.

From both a strategic and an operational perspective, the call to action is clear. Rapid employment of energy-efficient technologies and smarter systems will be required to transform the military’s energy-security posture while meeting the increasing electric-power demands required for enhanced combat capability. As recently outlined by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, “Without improving our energy security, we are not merely standing still as a military or as a nation, we are falling behind.”

The implementation plan, issued by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, outlines a multi-pronged strategy to reduce demand, secure diverse options beyond traditional fossil fuels, and build considerations for energy security into all military planning. The operational energy implementation plan also creates an executive board to oversee progress toward an energy secure force. Highlights of goals established by each service:

Army to have 16 “Net Zero” installations by 2020 and 25 by 2030

Navy to reduce fuel consumption afloat by 15 percent by 2020

Air Force to increase aviation energy efficiency by 10 percent by 2020

Marine Corps to increase energy efficiency on the battlefield by 50 percent by 2025

In addition to working with the services to improve their consumption baselines, develop department-wide energy performance metrics, and identifying technology gaps, the implementation plan outlines recommendations in the following key areas:

Improving operational energy security at fixed installations

Promoting the development of alternative fuels

Incorporating energy security considerations into requirements and acquisitions

Adapting policy, doctrine, education, etc to support reduced demand of energy

Beginning with the clear vision of an energy-secure force outlined by the U.S. military leadership and cultural changes adopted by operational commanders, our military is beginning to embrace energy as a strategic resource. The Defense Department will need to extend strategic technology partnerships throughout the federal government and academia as well as with allied nations, including agreements with the newly establishedAdvanced Research Projects Agency-Energy within the U.S. Department of Energy. Finally, aggressive legislative, acquisition and operational energy-security mandates will need to be enforced to support the Defense Department’s broader transformational objectives. More

Spinoffs and price reductions from programs like this can benefit SIDS. Editor


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Japanese breakthrough will make wind power cheaper than nuclear | MNN – Mother Nature Network

A surprising aerodynamic innovation in wind turbine design called the ‘wind lens’ could triple the output of a typical wind turbine, making it less costly than nuclear power.

The International Clean Energy Analysis (ICEA) gateway estimates that the U.S. possesses 2.2 million km2 of high wind potential (Class 3-7 winds) — about 850,000 square miles of land that could yield high levels of wind energy. This makes the U.S. something of a Saudi Arabia for wind energy, ranked third in the world for total wind energy potential.
Let’s say we developed just 20 percent of those wind resources — 170,000 square miles (440,000 km2) or an area roughly 1/4 the size of Alaska — we could produce a whopping 8.7 billion megawatt hours of electricity each year (based on a theoretical conversion of six 1.5 MW turbines per km2 and an average output of 25 percent. (1.5 MW x 365 days x 24 hrs x 25% = 3,285 MWh’s).
The United States uses about 26.6 billion MWh’s, so at the above rate we could satisfy a full one-third of our total annual energy needs. (Of course, this assumes the concurrent deployment of a nationwide Smart Grid that could store and disburse the variable sources of wind power as needed using a variety of technologies — gas or coal peaking, utility scale storage via batteries or fly-wheels, etc).

Now what if a breakthrough came along that potentially tripled the energy output of those turbines? You see where I’m going. We could in theory supply the TOTAL annual energy needs of the U.S. simply by exploiting 20 percent of our available wind resources.
Well, such a breakthrough has been made, and it’s called the “wind lens.” More


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UK investing £75 million in [Caribbean] region

3/2/2012 – Approximately £22 million would be invested in the Caribbean from 2011 to 2015 to address various climate change issues.

This was revealed by the British High Commissioner to Barbados, Paul Brummell, who said that this would come from the £75 million development programme budget that the UK has for the Caribbean in connection with climate change and risk reduction.

Speaking at the launch of the Partnership for Resilience Climate Change Film Series at the Hilton Hotel recently, he said that these interventions which must be “practical, tangible, sectoral and community-based” would include areas like “the Implementation Plan for the Caribbean’s vision of Climate Resilient Development, where amongst other things, we will be replicating several successful regional adaptation pilots and improving fisheries and marine protected areas in 15 locations; supporting 160 particularly vulnerable communities to help them cope better with the risks of climate change; providing affordable hazard insurance to protect incomes of 18 000 of the poorest and 50 000 small farm workers when disasters do strike; support for better national risk reduction including safer buildings, improved water management and supplies and early warning systems and innovation in renewable energy and energy efficiency,” stated Brummell.

In addition, financial support and contributions would also be made to such areas as the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience, the Climate Development Knowledge Network, the Global Environmental Facility and initiatives by the European Union (EU).

There is also the film series produced by CaribSave which showcases the climate change risks that the various islands in the region face as well as the different solutions that these islands are embarking on to address these issues. More


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Eastern Caribbean Seeks Funds for Green Growth

CASTRIES, St Lucia, Feb 28 (IPS) – As developing countries urgently seek new sources of financing to cope with problems linked to climate change, delegates from the nine-nation Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) met here last week to evaluate potential funds and outline a more concrete vision of what is required for the subregion.“The workshop sought to raise awareness and share experiences on instruments and best practices related to financing adaptation and sustainable energy, and to generate feedback on planned future action and partnerships,” Keith Nichols, head of the Sustainable Development Division at the St. Lucia-based OECS Secretariat, told IPS.

Supported by the World Bank, it explored carbon financing opportunities to enhance the ability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as those of the OECS to respond to challenges like sea level rise and coastal erosion.

“The pursuit of a green growth agenda which promotes co-benefits in climate adaptation and mitigation, and which supports scaling-up of renewable energy and other economic resilience-building programmes, served as the vision on which this workshop was initiated,” Nichols added.

Delegates discussed case studies on sustainable land management for climate variability and climate change; adaptation challenges in the coastal and marine sectors; climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in the OECS; as well as an adaptation finance case study from the Pacific region. More


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