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Germany’s shift away from nuclear energy yielding measurable environmental and economic benefits

The Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant surrounded by the flooding Missouri River. Photo courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Experts say policy shift has decoupled energy and economic growth

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Germany was moving away from reliance on nuclear power long before the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The country has a history of civil confrontations over nuclear reactors and processing facilities. So the decision by the German government to phase out nuclear power didn’t come as a shock to anyone.

What is more surprising is that the shift in policy has fundamentally altered the traditional equation of energy and economic growth.

“It has actually decoupled energy from economic growth, with the country’s energy supply and carbon-dioxide emissions dropping from 1990 to 2011, even as its gross domestic product rose by 36 percent, according to Lutz Mez, co-founder of Freie Universitӓt Berlin’s Environmental Policy Research Center. Continue reading

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Battle over nuclear energy looms in Utah

Green River water rights allocated for new power plants near Green River; preliminary federal permitting process under way

The Green River at Canyonlands National Park. PHOTO VIA THE WIKIPEDIA COMMONS.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — River runners, conservation advocates, farmers and other Utah stakeholders say they will continue to fight plans to build a nuclear reactor near Green River following a decision by Utah state engineer Kent Jones to approve a water rights transfer to a nuclear power company.

Blue Castle Holdings hopes to build nuclear reactors on the Green River and sell the power to Southern California.

“This was the only opportunity for a Utah official to reject this terrible plan,” said Matt Pacenza, policy director of HEAL Utah, which has led the fight against the reactors. “Now all that stands between us and reactors at the gateway to southern Utah is a federal agency notorious for cozying up to the nuclear industry.” Continue reading

Year in review: March – April

Online independent journalism in Colorado

Extensive environmental coverage in Summit Voice included several stories on Antarctica.

SUMMIT COUNTY — One of the biggest stories of last winter was the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that wracked Japan, severely damaging a nuclear power plant. A few weeks later, the EPA reported radioactive rain falling across the USA. While the levels of radioactivity were very low, the entire episode gave pause to the quest to develop new nuclear power plants, as some countries even announced they would close existing facilities: Radioactive rain reported from West Coast to New England.

Some of the fallout was reflected in public hearings on a proposed nuclear power plant near Pueblo: Pueblo hearing on nuclear plant extended to third night.

In March, Summit Voice continued its sustained and often ground-breaking coverage of forest health issues. While lawmakers continued to ask for more federal dollars, we asked whether more money is really the answer, unless you plan to beat the bugs to death with stacks of $100 bills: Forest health: Is more federal money the answer? Continue reading

Australia: Anti-uranium mine marchers reach Perth

Groups show solidarity with indigenous people, call for halt to mining

A group of marchers in Australia are trying to prevent any new uranium mines from opening.

Anti-nuclear marchers in Australia.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After nine weeks walking through rain, wind and dust across a big chunk of Australia, 50 protest marchers arrived in Perth to call for an end to uranium mining in Australia.

Footprints for Peace have organized international walks against uranium mining for seven years. On each walk we hear the same stories about the broken promises from the nuclear industry. said march coordinator Marcus Atkinson. “This industry … divides communities and leaves people uncertain and afraid about the future.”

The group has been walking in solidarity with the Traditional Custodians of the Wiluna and Yeelirrie areas where uranium mines have been proposed; many are opposed to the mines but have no legal recourse. Continue reading

Shoddy accounting by feds hinders a valid cost comparison between fossil fuel and emerging renewable energy sources

Subsidies to old-school energy producers are under-reported, according to a study from watchdog group.

Reporting by Energy Information Administration tilts the playing field against renewables

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new federal report on energy subsidies is skewed in favor of fossil fuel and nuclear power, according to watchdog group that performed its own analysis to show the true scope of taxpayer funds going to oil companies, coal-burning power plants and nuclear reactors.

Consistently under-reporting direct and indirect federal subsidies to  the nuclear and fossil fuel industries enables those industries to tout how much cheaper they are than renewable energy sources, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Thanks to reporting omissions, the nation’s most highly subsidized, polluting industries will be able to use the Energy Information Administration’s flawed analysis to claim they receive far fewer subsidies than emerging, clean energy technologies,” said Ellen Vancko, manager of the UCS Nuclear Energy and Climate Change Project. “Recent independent analyses show that nothing could be further from the truth.”

The problem with the EIA’s methodology stems from the fact that the agency adopted a “snapshot” approach to measuring subsidies by only looking at a single year: 2010. By doing that, Vancko, the agency failed to count the massive federal subsidies that the fossil fuel and nuclear industries have enjoyed for decades — benefits they presumably will continue to receive unless Congress acts to limit them, Vancko explained. Continue reading

New Mexico Dems propose uranium mining reform

Uranium mining law reform proposed.

Law would require companies to bid on leases and pay royalties

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Uranium mining companies would have to pay 12.5 percent royalties and bid competitively for leases under legislative changes proposed by two New Mexico Democrats.

Because of an increased interest in nuclear power and speculation that new nuclear power plants will come online in the U.S.and elsewhere has resulted in a sixfold increase in the price of uranium.

All other fuels — coal, oil and gas — are governed by leasing systems, which allow the government to better protect the public’s economic and environmental interests. Under the 1872 mining law, uranium-mining companies pay no royalty for the minerals they take from public lands. Historic uranium development in the West has polluted surface and ground water and left a toxic legacy in some communities that has yet to be addressed. The 1872 law even allows sites sacred to Native American communities to be mined and gives tribes little recourse to stop the destruction. Continue reading

Energy: Are there ‘safe’ nuclear reactors?

Nuclear reactors with passive backup cooling systems could help address some of the problems that caused the nuclear disaster in Japan.

Next generation reactors rely on natural forces such as gravity and convection to cool down a reactor when pumps or external power fail

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Nuclear power advocates say an emerging new generation of reactors are designed to avoid the types of problems that triggered the recent nuclear crisis in Japan.

“The whole concept of passive safety was created to avoid the sort of issues that these damaged reactors in Japan now face,” said Jose Reyes, a professor in the Oregon State University Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics. “Reactors with passive safety systems work, they are already being built, and we’re now developing small, modular systems that will further increase reactor safety and reliability.”

These “next generation” reactor concepts rely on natural forces such as gravity and convection to cool down a reactor when pumps or external power fail. They would address the type of problem faced in Japan, where a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami knocked out power supplies, backup pumps and the generators that provided cooling water to the affected reactors. Continue reading

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