Oops. Not so fast on Yucca Mountain…

By Michael Mariotte

Sen. Reid has reason to be happy: “This is just one reason why the Yucca Mountain project will never be built..."

Sen. Reid has reason to be happy: “This is just one reason why the Yucca Mountain project will never be built…”

Yucca Mountain backers may have been a little, shall we say premature, in their glee two months ago when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), under court order, released Volume 3 of the Safety Evaluation Report (SER) for the project.

That section of the SER concluded that the Department of Energy’s design for the Yucca Mountain project indicates “compliance with the performance objectives and requirements that apply after the repository is permanently closed.”

Those Yucca cheerleaders were unrestrained in their exuberance. As we reported at the time, House Energy Committee chair Fred Upton (R-MI) called the report “game-changing,” and said the American public can now have confidence that the repository would be in fact “safe for a million years.” Other cheerleaders issued similar rah rah statements.

Of course, as we also pointed out at the time, even the NRC urged caution: “Publication of Volume 3 does not signal whether the NRC might authorize construction of the repository,” the NRC stated in a press release accompanying release of the volume.

Rep. Upton et al would have done well to heed the NRC’s warning, because yesterday, the other shoe dropped when the NRC released Volume 4 of the SER.

Oops. That volume points out a little problem for the project: The Department of Energy does not have the water rights necessary for the project, nor does it control the land necessary for the project.

And the state of Nevada already has denied water rights to the DOE and successfully beat back an effort by the agency to force the state to hand over those rights.

Now, of course, even DOE is opposed to the Yucca Mountain project and has no interest in pursuing more legal battles it likely would lose to try to gain those water rights.

As for land control, that might be even more difficult. The NRC noted that “the land is not free of significant encumbrances such as mining rights, deeds, rights-of-way or other legal rights.”

Getting through all those legal obstacles would be a nightmare for DOE, which, again, no longer supports Yucca Mountain anyway.

Not surprisingly, Senate Majority Leader (until January anyway) Harry Reid said, “This is just one reason why the Yucca Mountain project will never be built and Congress should instead focus on consent-based solutions that don’t shove nuclear waste down a community’s throat over the objections of its people.”

As the Las Vegas Review-Journal put it: “The findings delivered a blow to a cadre of lawmakers on Capitol Hill and nuclear industry executives trying to resurrect the nuclear waste project that has been mothballed by the Obama administration.”

Reality has rarely dissuaded the nuclear power industry nor its Capitol Hill backers, and little things like the federal government not holding the necessary water rights and land control for Yucca Mountain to proceed aren’t likely to prevent new legislative efforts next year to get the project moving. Those little things won’t prevent legislation, but they will prevent Yucca Mountain from becoming operational. Congress can pass whatever bad and impossible-to-implement legislation it wants, as it has demonstrated before; but that won’t change reality.

The biggest impact of this development could be the bolstering of those in Congress, and in the nuclear industry, who are less concerned with Yucca Mountain and more interested in getting the industry’s lethal radioactive waste anywhere away from its reactor sites. In other words, to an “interim” storage site, most likely a glorified parking lot where hundreds to thousands of casks of that lethal waste could sit–according to NRC policy–in perpetuity.

After all, if the NRC says that type of essentially permanent unprotected above-ground parking lot storage is ok–and the NRC’s replacement of its waste confidence policy says exactly that–why bother with a real radioactive waste repository located somewhere where it might actually isolate the radiation from the environment? Never mind the risks of transporting thousands of casks to a supposedly “interim” site, from where they’ll have to be moved again–and never mind that that “interim” site could become permanent even though it doesn’t meet any of the safety criteria established for a real repository (criteria Yucca Mountain couldn’t meet–at least until the criteria were weakened precisely because Yucca couldn’t meet them).

We should note that the NRC policy has been challenged in federal court by numerous organizations, including NIRS. It was a federal court that struck down the agency’s waste confidence policy in the first place; there is certainly reason to hope the court will find the NRC’s replacement for it equally inadequate.

The risks that the scientifically-indefensible Yucca Mountain site will ever open were substantially reduced yesterday. The risks to the public from the nation’s failed radioactive waste policies haven’t changed at all.

Michael Mariotte

December 19, 2014

Note: GreenWorld will now take a holiday break. We will return (bigger and better, of course!) early in the new year. We hope all of our readers have a terrific holiday season, a wondrous new year, and an increasingly nuclear-free, carbon-free 2015. That last one is a certainty….

Permalink: http://safeenergy.org/2014/12/19/oops-not-so-fast-on-yucca-mountain/

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Filed under: Radioactive waste Tagged: Rep. Fred Upton, Sen. Harry Reid, Yucca Mountain

Read more here:: http://safeenergy.org/2014/12/19/oops-not-so-fast-on-yucca-mountain/

Nuclear Crack Down?

By Caroline Phillips

Did you know that embrittled nuclear reactors could shatter like glass? Watch Fairewinds Energy Education’s Nuclear Science Guy Arnie Gundersen demonstrate reactor embrittlement and imagine the shattering glass as a shattering nuclear reactor vessel. What makes embrittlement so dangerous and frightening is that during an emergency when the reactor must be cooled down quickly, the rush of cold water necessary to cool it could create a scenario that looks like the one in our video. You will only see steam escaping in our video, but in an embrittled shattering reactor vessel, that steam would be highly radioactive.

Aging nuclear reactors around the globe are subject to this steel embrittlement that is a measure of how prone the steel reactor vessel is to cracking. The metamorphous of the strong steel vessel into something as brittle and fragile as glass is due to the constant neutron bombardment from the chain reaction inside the nuclear core.

While several U.S. nuclear reactor vessels are showing early signs of embrittlement, Entergy’s Palisades nuclear plant is the most embrittled plant in the country. Located in Covert, Michigan, it is one of the oldest reactors in the world and now one of the most dangerous to continue operating due to its embrittled reactor vessel. Palisades owner, Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc. is attempting to take advantage of a 2010 regulatory change that allows embrittled nuclear plants to operate longer by analyzing the problem mathematically, rather than actually testing the material to accurately determine its strength. In the interest of nuclear safety, the Palisades reactor and all the aging reactors throughout the world should continue to be subjected to actual material testing just as they were originally designed to be.

Nuclear Crack Down ? Video Transcript:

Hi, I’m Arnie Gundersen from Fairewinds.

I would like to talk to you today about a significant issue with aging nuclear reactors throughout the world.

A nuclear reactor is made of metal, and its operation is similar to that of a pressure cooker, except that a pressure cooker works at 15 pounds and a nuclear reactor works at 2000 pounds press, which of course requires very thick walls. Another difference is that the nuclear fuel creates heat from within the metal barrier. There is one major difference; your pressure cooker is never to high levels of nuclear radiation.

For decades, the nuclear industry has known that when the metal is subject to intense neutron radiation, it become brittle, and can shatter like glass. This phenomenon is called Neutron Embrittlement.

The average age of America’s nuclear reactors is more than 30-years old and aging Neutron Embrittlement is one of the riskiest issues facing the nuclear industry in the US and worldwide.

In order to prevent an embrittled nuclear reactor vessel from shattering as if it where glass, the reactor must be kept at a temperature of more than 250 degrees when steam pressure is applied. Scientifically this is called the Nil-ductility transition temperature.

Obviously, we don’t have a 40-year old nuclear reactor to shatter for an embrittlement experiment, but we want to show you what might happen if cold water were to hit a hot reactor vessel during a nuclear accident. This is called pressurized thermal shock. Please don’t try this experiment at home!

Assisting me is Fairewinds’ fearless lab assistant, Caroline Phillips!

The glass we are using will be heated to 470 degrees in the oven to represent an aging and embrittled nuclear reactor vessel.

First, we will simulate cold water being injected to cool the nuclear reaction inside.

What happens should be bad for the glass, and would be even worse if it was a nuclear reactor!

Let’s go give it a shot!!
Let’s watch that again in SUPER Slow Motion!

I have been studying and testifying to the NRC about the Palisades nuclear plant in Michigan, and it is the most embrittled nuclear reactor in the world. Owned by Entergy, Palisades has been in danger of being shutdown due to its embrittlement issues since 1982. Incredibly, the NRC, which was created as an advocate to protect people’s health and safety, has changed the rules more than half a dozen times so that Entergy’s Palisades’ plant can to continue to churn out electricity and profits.

Inside every nuclear reactor are metal samples that are designed to be removed to check just how bad embrittlement has become. Palisades has these samples, but doesn’t plan to look at them for two decades. Citizens in Michigan asked the NRC “Why hasn’t Palisades tested its samples?” The NRC’s response will astound you: “If they test the samples, there will be no more samples to test”. Circular logic at its best! FW believes it is better to test those samples than to run a test on the State of Michigan if there is an accident. Fairewinds analysis and testimony to the NRC is located on our website on the Palisades’ video webpage.

Allowing the embrittled Palisades Nuclear Reactor to continue to operate using only mathematical conjecture rather than testing the metal is another example of how the NRC does not do its job of protecting public health and safety.

Barring a nuclear accident, this will be our last video in 2014. I wish you and yours happy, safe holidays. Our fund drive is in full swing, and we would appreciate your support.

I’m Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds, and we’ll keep you informed.

The post Nuclear Crack Down? appeared first on Fairewinds Energy Education.

Read more here:: http://www.fairewinds.org/nuclear-crack/

Solar advances and utility changes

By Michael Mariotte

A Clean Energy Collective community solar installation in Boulder, CO.

A Clean Energy Collective community solar installation in Boulder, CO.

Fracking dominates the energy headlines, and there is no doubt that the cheap natural gas produced by fracking is a major contributor to the ongoing economic woes of a good number of nuclear reactors and coal plants.

But fracking has its limits and its own problems. Not only is protest against the practice growing (for good reason), but gas is and always will be a fossil fuel. And ultimately–hopefully before the tides are lapping daily through Manhattan–the nation and world will get serious about climate change and realize that continued use of fossil fuels is simply not sustainable nor conducive to continuing human life on Earth.

What if it didn’t take that long? What if there were some sort of means of generating electricity that were both cleaner and cheaper than fracking? What if, say, solar power were competitive with natural gas; wouldn’t that begin to change the energy landscape?

Well, yes. And it’s happening before our eyes.

In Minnesota, regulators have approved three new Xcel power projects–despite some misgivings that all this new power–more than 600 MW worth–may not really be needed. Two of the projects are natural gas plants. The third is 100 megawatts of distributed solar power–which came in cheaper than gas.

When solar power comes in cheaper than gas in often-frigid Minnesota, the future suddenly looks a little brighter.

Indeed, developments in solar power, as well as developments in the ongoing transformation of electric utilities, are happening so fast it’s difficult for anyone to keep up with them.

Here are a few more major developments, all from the past few days:

*The capital city of Texas, Austin, has long been known for its commitment to renewable energy. Earlier this year, it made a major purchase of solar power–of 150 MW–for only 5 cents/kwh, cheaper than any other form of electricity generation. The city already receives 850 MW of power from Texas wind farms. It has a goal of 200 MW of solar power by 2020.

Scratch that last sentence–Austin now has a goal of at least 950 MW of solar power by 2025. 200 MW of that solar power is to be generated within city limits–a huge boost for rooftop solar. Austin’s goal is to have 70 MW of that in-town solar power operational by 2020.

*FirstSolar, one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of solar panels, is teaming up with the Clean Energy Collective in a major new campaign to install community solar systems around the country. Community solar systems allow people who either don’t want to or can’t install their own rooftop solar–because they’re renters, live in condos, because their roofs are shady or otherwise not suitable for solar, etc., in other words, much of the population–join together in community-sized solar installations. Rooftop solar isn’t suitable for everyone; but community solar can be. This collaboration will allow many, many more people to join in the solar revolution and to have a stake in the energy they use. Bad news for traditional utilities; good news for the people involved and the planet.

*The international furniture retailer IKEA announced this week that it will begin offering solar panels at its stores in Switzerland, which is in the process of weaning itself off of nuclear power and is thus heavily promoting solar power. IKEA already sells solar panels in the UK and the Netherlands, and is expected to announce similar programs in five more countries soon.

*Community solar is one way to bring the benefits of solar power to low-income people, who typically can’t afford, even with solar’s plunging costs, to install solar on their own rooftops. But even investment in community solar is beyond many peoples’ means, and if renewables, especially solar, are to be the game-changer they can be, it’s critical that everyone be able to take part in their benefits. There are a lot of potential ways low-income communities and individuals can be served by renewables; this article explores several of them, most of which can be implemented at the local level.

Even though solar remains a tiny part of U.S. electricity generation, its skyrocketing growth and stories like these–repeated across the country just about daily–bring migraines to most traditional utility execs. Utilities are used to planning ahead, often decades ahead, but when utilities attempt to plan ahead these days, they see at best uncertainty over what the future will look like. More and more, they see fundamental and inescapable changes coming to their business.

A future powered by distributed, or decentralized, renewable energy coupled with greatly increased energy efficiency and a modern grid looks very different than the present system of large baseload power plants supplying electricity to a nation with no choice but to be hooked up to a grid and to pay pretty much whatever the utilities can get away with. We have been, and are increasing, the pace of moving from no choice to a multitude of choices–just as the telephone industry moved from Ma Bell and rotary phones to a competitive marketplace ranging from Verizon to CREDO to Vonage and a plethora of smartphones within a generation or so.

In Australia, the CEO of one of that nation’s largest electricity networks echoes what observers here have been saying in these pages all year: that there is “no long-term future for large, centralized electricity generators, nor for big electricity retailers. Rob Stobbe, the CEO of SA Power Networks, says both business models will be made redundant – the generators by the increased use of localized, mostly renewable generation, and the retailers because, well, they just won’t be needed any more.”

Stobbe’s company predicts incredibly rapid growth for solar in Australia: within two decades, 70% of Australians will be solar-powered and 50% of them will have some form of electricity storage. That level of solar penetration will mean less and less need for large-scale electricity generation as well as less need for utilities to distribute electricity; what will be left will be, according to Stobbe, a network set up to facilitate sharing of energy among houses in micro-grids.

Stobbe said: “You can be a retailer without being a retailer, it depends on the how micro grid is set up. Who says that you need retailer at all, if you have community willing to share energy among houses. We just provide a charge for that network.”

As an example, he suggested customers could pay $15 a week for that network, and that is all thy would have to pay – apart from the cost of installation of their own solar and storage. “They could get rid of 70% of costs and have us provide distribution for $15 a week. That’s not bad. Economically, that makes sense for consumers.”

If you’ve read this far, you win! What you win is this. We rarely term anything a “must-read.” This is a “must-read.” John Farrell of Institute for Local Self-Reliance has produced a major, important new report: Beyond Utility 2.0 to Energy Democracy. Farrell lays out, in well-written, accessible language, a brief history of how the electric utility industry got to where it is today and where it is going tomorrow–often termed Utility 2.0. It’s an essential guide to the enormous changes taking place in the utility industry and what those changes mean for all of us.

But Farrell goes beyond that and proposes a Utility 3.0–a model for democratizing the generation, distribution and use of electricity that would benefit both utilities and the public.

Some excerpts from the introduction:

The 130-year old electricity system is undergoing a historic transition, as new, decentralized technologies undermine a decades-old centralized utility business model. Energy efficiency and conservation have undercut utility revenue, even as rooftop solar begins to erode electricity demand right at the source.

There’s a growing discussion about a 21st century Utility 2.0 business model that would reward utilities for achieving an efficient, low-carbon, and flexible electricity system.

It’s not a moment too soon.

Utilities have made battlegrounds out of nearly 20 states, fighting their own customers about installing rooftop solar and other measures. They continue to invest in the infrastructure–power plants and power lines–for a 20th century, centralized electricity system, assets that may be stranded by the exponential growth of on-site power generation, distributed energy storage, and electric vehicles. They struggle to retain control and ownership of the electricity system even as technology increasingly lends itself to decentralized control and ownership.

It’s not entirely the utilities’ fault.

Utilities face mixed incentives. States have layered requirements for renewable energy and energy efficiency on top of a business model where many utilities still profit from growing electricity sales and building their own power plants. State and federal regulators frequently make decisions about utility investments without complete information about cost-effective alternatives.

What is popularly known as Utility 2.0 is a new business model designed to solve many of these problems, properly aligning financial incentives with the outcomes most participants want from the electricity system. But Utility 2.0 may not go far enough.

Rooftop solar, smartphones, and widespread energy storage will give utility customers unprecedented opportunities to control their energy usage, and to capture their share of the $364 billion spent on electricity each year. The rules and principles of a 21st century electricity system must go beyond an efficient, low-carbon, and flexible grid to encourage capture of the economic opportunities for individuals and communities. This requires two additional principles: local control and equitable access. Combined, these are the five keys to Utility 3.0, or energy democracy, that can unlock an economic transformation that parallels the technological one, by allowing communities to maximize capture of their local energy dollar.

Read it.

Michael Mariotte

December 17, 2014

Permalink: http://safeenergy.org/2014/12/17/solar-advances-and-utility-changes/

Your contributions make publication of GreenWorld possible. If you value GreenWorld, please make a tax-deductible donation here and ensure our continued publication. We gratefully appreciate every donation of any size.

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Filed under: energy future, Renewables Tagged: Austin, Clean Energy Collective, community solar, FirstSolar, IKEA, Institute for Local Self Reliance, John Farrell, Utility 2.0, Utility 3.0

Read more here:: http://safeenergy.org/2014/12/17/solar-advances-and-utility-changes/

Electricity storage’s time has come

By Michael Mariotte

Part of the "smart town" Panasonic is building in Japan.

Part of the “smart town” Panasonic is building near Tokyo, Japan.

Everyone knows that solar and wind power are variable energy sources; neither on its own produces electricity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. For that matter, no electricity source can do that indefinitely: nuclear reactors have to be shut down for weeks for refueling every 12-18 months and occasionally suffer unplanned shutdowns; coal plants break down and need repairs, so do gas-powered turbines.

Thus, backup power is needed whatever the main source of power may be. In solar and wind’s case, their variability is more pronounced. But their variability is predictable: for example, grid operators know that solar isn’t going to produce at night, when the sun is down. Of course, power demand is down most of the night too–not as big a problem as it might appear.

These days knowledgeable grid operators can and do predict pretty well how much power a given solar installation is going to produce tomorrow and adjust the grid’s needs accordingly. Same with wind. It’s simple weather forecasting factored into a complex grid. So even though solar and wind are variable, they are normally producing power when it is needed most (times of highest electricity demand in most climates tend to be hot summer afternoons, when solar is at its most effective).

Still, solar and wind are rarely, even in tandem, providing full capacity 24/7 and thus do require backup power. At the moment, that power is generally just supplied by the overall grid. But as solar and wind continue their rapid growth and represent a larger percentage of generation sources while fossil fuel and nuclear-powered plants close, they’ll need a different type of backup power.

That’s called energy storage and it barely existed even ten years ago. Today however, energy storage appears to be where solar power was a decade ago: on the verge of rapid cost decreases that will make it feasible for both utility-scale power plants and smaller-scale–even household level–distributed energy systems.

Several knowledgeable observers have pointed me to Southern California Edison’s 2.2 Gigawatt grid modernization plan, announced in November, as a harbinger for the utilities of the future. The plan combines hundreds of megawatts of distributed solar projects along with 250 MW of both large and small-scale storage technologies. Developed partly as a replacement for the power lost by the shutdown of its San Onofre reactors, if this plan works as it should, it will be a giant leap toward a 100% renewable energy future in California.

Meanwhile, over in Texas, a company called Oncor, the largest power transmission and distribution company in Texas, wants to spend $5.2 Billion to buy “5 gigawatts of batteries to store electricity at night when power production cost is low and ship it during the day when electric prices are high.” The batteries are specifically for wind power, which is abundant in Texas.

Opposing Oncor is the north Texas utility Luminant, which sees a threat to its market. Oncor is not allowed, under Texas law, to actually produce power–it only distributes it. Luminant fears that if the giant storage project is approved, Luminant might not get to build new power plants, because they won’t be needed. Luminant claims that Oncor’s proposal would raise utility rates; of course, new power plants (and Luminant hasn’t yet given up on the idea of building new reactors at its existing Comanche Peak site) also tend to raise utility rates–a lot.

Ultimately, an even bigger threat to the traditional utilities may be posed by rooftop solar supplemented with battery storage. With adequate solar and storage installed, homeowners and businesses wouldn’t need the utilities or the grid anymore. While some studies have shown that homeowners with such systems would tend to stay on the grid anyway, just as an extra backup source, the utilities wouldn’t be selling much, if any power to them. Indeed, they might be buying more electricity from them than they would be selling.

To date, such battery systems are still pretty expensive for most homeowners. But that is changing rapidly, in the same way that solar prices plummeted over the past decade to where it is now just as cheap in most states to install rooftop solar as it is to buy power from the local utility. Already, in Germany, prices are dropping–by about 25% in just the past six months.

In Japan, Panasonic is developing a 1,000 household “smart town,” centered on solar power and storage–the first residents moved in this past Spring.

Here in the U.S., as we’ve reported before, Elon Musk’s Tesla has broken ground on a “gigafactory” in Nevada that aims to both drastically lower the cost of battery storage and produce gobs of such batteries–enough to power Tesla’s growing car business as well as SolarCity’s (owned by Musk’s cousin) even faster-growing rooftop solar business.

In short, the energy revolution brought about by the remarkable advances in solar and wind technology over the past decade, coupled with their equally remarkable cost reductions, is nowhere near at an end. Indeed, we’re only at the beginning–and the days of the behemoth “baseload” power plants of the 20th century are rapidly fading, regardless of what the nuclear industry and its proponents would like you to believe.

Michael Mariotte

December 15, 2014

Permalink: http://safeenergy.org/2014/12/15/electricity-storages-time-has-come/

Your contributions make publication of GreenWorld possible. If you value GreenWorld, please make a tax-deductible donation here and ensure our continued publication. We gratefully appreciate every donation of any size.

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Filed under: energy future, Renewables Tagged: electricity storage, Luminant, Oncor, Panasonic, solar power, Southern California Edison, wind power

Read more here:: http://safeenergy.org/2014/12/15/electricity-storages-time-has-come/

Fukushima Forgotten: Plant Workers Feel Voters Don’t Realize Their Ordeal

By Broc West via Japan Times / Decemeber 10, 2014 / As Sunday’s snap election nears, many of the people working toward the decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant say they want voters to know about their harsh working conditions, insufficient pay and worries of radiation exposure. Currently some 6,000 people a day are engaged in the decommissioning work at the plant — a process expected to take 30 to … Continue reading

Read more here:: http://fukushimaupdate.com/fukushima-forgotten-plant-workers-feel-voters-dont-realize-their-ordeal/

Kurion Mobile Processing System Exceeds Fukushima Decontamination Targets

By Broc West via environmentalleader.com / December 12, 2014 / Nuclear and hazardous waste management company Kurion has been awarded a contract by Tokyo Electric Power Company for a second Kurion Mobile Processing System for deployment at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant site. The first system started operating at the site in early October 2014 and has exceeded its performance targets during this period, Kurion says. The second system (pictured), identical to … Continue reading

Read more here:: http://fukushimaupdate.com/kurion-mobile-processing-system-exceeds-fukushima-decontamination-targets/

Supervisor at Brunswick nuclear power plant fails follow-up fitness for duty test

By Enformable Nuclear News

Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant

On Thursday, a supervisor at the Brunswick nuclear power plant in North Carolina was administered a follow-up fitness for duty test. The test administered to the supervisor resulted in a confirmed positive result for illegal drugs.

The licensee revoked the employee’s access to the plant.

A licensee conducts pre-access, for cause, post-even, follow-up and random fitness for duty tests. Follow-up tests are administered to ensure an employee’s continued abstinence from substance abuse after testing positive for drugs or alcohol.

Source: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The post Supervisor at Brunswick nuclear power plant fails follow-up fitness for duty test appeared first on Enformable.

Read more here:: http://enformable.com/2014/12/supervisor-brunswick-nuclear-power-plant-fails-follow-fitness-duty-test/

Misplaced priorities

By Michael Mariotte

Congress will send even more taxpayer dollars to dirty energy interests these next two years, but it won't stop the relentless march of clean energy.

Congress will send even more taxpayer dollars to dirty energy interests these next two years, but it won’t stop the relentless march of clean energy.

The big nuclear news in the omnibus federal budget bill currently before Congress is that the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project receives no new funding for 2015–much to the chagrin of some in the nuclear industry and its Washington backers.

Small victories do matter, and that is indeed a victory. Although given the makeup of the incoming Congress, the next budget could well include a ton of taxpayer dollars directed once again at that failed endeavor. Congress has never been too concerned with the concept of “good money after bad.”

A closer look at the energy budget reveals a case of misplaced priorities all around.

Overall, the area of purview of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee–which includes energy, nuclear weapons, Interior Department and other agencies and issues–receives a total of $34.2 Billion. That includes a very modest increase from last year of $142 million. Not that the increase is being spent on anything useful.

Energy programs themselves get only $10.2 Billion, a $22 million increase. But take a look at how the money is being spent:

*$571 million for research and development to advance coal, natural gas, oil, and other fossil energy technologies – an increase of $8.9 million (1.5%) above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $95.5 million (20%) above the President’s request – to help the country make better use of our domestic resources and reduce energy costs;

*$914 million for nuclear energy research and development, an increase of $24 million (2.7%) above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $50 million (5.8%) above the President’s request, to further the next generation of nuclear power while ensuring the safety and longevity of our current plants;

*$1.9 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs – placing priority on advanced manufacturing and weatherization assistance. This funding is targeted to effective and proven programs, while holding the line on spending in other areas. This total is $380 million – or 16% – below the President’s request.

President Obama has been trying to decrease funding for nuclear and fossil fuel programs, and raise funding for renewables and energy efficiency. The energy budget as it almost certainly will be passed by Congress turns that on its head–increasing taxpayer dollars for fossil fuels and nuclear and cutting back on clean energy.

There is some chance, the Washington rumor mill says, that the budget bill won’t pass this week. If that happens, a government shutdown probably will be avoided with a continuing resolution and the larger budget issues will carry over until next year. But, if the omnibus budget bill doesn’t pass, it won’t be because of energy issues. What’s stated here is how it will be.

And this is with the Democrats still in charge in the Senate.

As they say, wait til next year. It will get worse.

In other words, don’t look–for the next two years anyway–to the federal level for support for clean energy; the Republicans (as always, with some Democratic support) are going to double down on boosting nuclear and fossil fuels while they can. They know they may not still be in power after the 2016 election so they’re going to do as much damage as they can while they do have the power. And there won’t be much President Obama can do to stop them. He’s not, after all, in a position to veto a bill that keeps the government open over a shift in energy priorities.

Even misplaced priorities.

If we’re going to make progress on clean energy issues and on dealing with the climate crisis these next two years–and we can–it will be in the states. And, even more crucially than federal and state budgets, progress will occur because of the relentless march of clean energy innovation and cost reduction. Federal support could accelerate that march; but misdirecting taxpayer dollars won’t prevent the advances occurring every day. Existing state-level policies to encourage clean energy deployment must be defended and expanded to more states. Efforts to gut those policies, and to implement new policies to support nuclear power and fossil fuel, must be effectively resisted. Those are the battle lines.

Michael Mariotte

December 11, 2014

Permalink: http://safeenergy.org/2014/12/11/misplaced-priorities/

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Filed under: Inside Washington, Nuclear Economics Tagged: federal budget, Yucca Mountain

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