America’s Trumpiest court just put itself in charge of nuclear safety

“Judge James Ho is not a nuclear scientist, an expert in energy policy, an atomic engineer, or anyone else with any specialized knowledge whatsoever on how to store and dispose of nuclear waste.
Nevertheless, Ho and two of his far-right colleagues on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit just put themselves in charge of much of America’s nuclear safety regime — invalidating the power of actual nuclear policy regulators to decide how to deal with nuclear waste in the process.”

Why ultra-green Germany turned its back on nuclear energy

“the White House has invested heavily in sustaining the country’s nuclear infrastructure, and President Joe Biden has also touted nuclear as an important component in the country’s quest for carbon neutrality. Many countries are following the same path based on similar climate calculations, and some experts support this position. “Nuclear is actually one of the cleanest and safest energy sources,” Kharecha says. For countries that want to mitigate climate change and reduce air pollution, he says that nuclear energy should be embraced — at least until better options come along.
But environmental advocacy groups and left-leaning American voters have traditionally opposed nuclear power. And, despite the president’s efforts, recent Gallup data suggest this is still the case: Less than half of Democrats back nuclear, compared to 62 percent of Republicans.”

“The Chernobyl meltdown captivated and horrified many Americans. But while the US shuddered, Germans suffered directly from the disaster’s fallout. It wasn’t just a question of tainted milk. Radioactive particles drifted across much of the German landscape. Sandboxes were nicknamed “death boxes.” Contamination turned up in meat, vegetables, fruits, and foodstuffs produced all over the country, and frightened parents didn’t know what to feed their children. Some experts estimated that hundreds of thousands of people on the continent would eventually develop Chernobyl-related cancers. That didn’t come to pass, but recent government analyses of German wild mushrooms found that 95 percent of samples still contained radioactive contamination from Chernobyl, and the residue of that disaster has likewise soaked deep into the nation’s views on nuclear power.”

“There are some unimpeachable justifications for opposing nuclear energy. There’s the risk of a catastrophic accident, first and foremost, and also the problem of storing or disposing of nuclear waste.

“From our point of view, it’s not right to say nuclear is a sustainable technology,” says Kopf, the Greens politician. “You need uranium, which is not extracted in an environmentally friendly way, and there is no real solution for nuclear waste.”

However, when making energy trade-offs, these risks must be balanced against the harms associated with the use of non-nuclear energy sources — such as air pollution and CO2 emissions produced by fossil fuels. According to estimates from Our World in Data, nuclear is cleaner and safer than any power source apart from solar. The number of deaths caused by either accidents or air pollution as a result of nuclear power is estimated to be just 0.03 deaths per terawatt-hour of energy produced. That is far, far below the 18 deaths and 25 deaths per terawatt-hour associated with oil and coal sources, respectively.”

The first US nuclear reactor built from scratch in decades enters commercial operation in Georgia

“A fourth reactor is also nearing completion at the site, where two earlier reactors have been generating electricity for decades. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday said radioactive fuel could be loaded into Unit 4, a step expected to take place before the end of September. Unit 4 is scheduled to enter commercial operation by March.
The third and fourth reactors were originally supposed to cost $14 billion, but are now on track to cost their owners $31 billion. That doesn’t include $3.7 billion that original contractor Westinghouse paid to the owners to walk away from the project. That brings total spending to almost $35 billion.

The third reactor was supposed to start generating power in 2016 when construction began in 2009.

Vogtle is important because government officials and some utilities are again looking to nuclear power to alleviate climate change by generating electricity without burning natural gas, coal and oil.”

New Study: Nuclear Power Is Humanity’s Greenest Energy Option

“The European researchers behind the new study do an in-depth analysis of how much land and sea area it would take to implement the Net Zero by 2050 roadmap devised by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in 2021. The IEA outlines an energy transition trajectory to cut global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels to zero by 2050. The Net Zero goal is to keep the increase of global average temperature below the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the late 19th-century baseline. “This calls for nothing less than a complete transformation of how we produce, transport and consume energy,” notes the IEA.
The Scientific Reports study finds that implementing the IEA’s roadmap requires that much of the world’s agricultural and wild lands be sacrificed to produce energy. Biofuels, both liquid and solid, are especially egregious destroyers of the landscape. On the other hand, the energy source that spares the most land is nuclear power. In addition, electricity produced by fission reactors is not intermittent the way that vastly more land-hungry solar and wind power are.”

“wind and solar projects occupying massive amounts of land increasingly get NIMBY pushback from disgruntled neighbors. Energy analyst Robert Bryce, author of A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations (2020), has compiled a database showing that nearly 500 renewable energy projects have been rejected or restricted over the past decade.

The European researchers calculated that nuclear power plants sited on just 20,800 square km (8,000 square miles) of land could supply all of the carbon-free electricity demanded in 2050. That’s less land than is occupied by the state of Vermont.

Over at Tech Xplore, study co-author and energy conversion researcher at Norwegian University of Science and Technology Jonas Kristiansen Nøland points out that “the spatial extent of nuclear power is 99.7% less than onshore wind power—in other words, 350 times less use of land area.” He adds, “An energy transition based on nuclear power alone would save 99.75% of environmental encroachments in 2050. We could even remove most of the current environmental footprint we have already caused.””

Clean energy is taking over the Texas grid. State officials are trying to stop it.

“Clean energy is rapidly rising on the Texas power grid, but regulators in the Lone Star State are now considering a plan that could give fossil fuels a boost.
The zero greenhouse gas emissions trio — wind, solar, and nuclear energy — provided more than 40 percent of electricity in the state in 2022. It was a year when several Texas cities experienced their hottest summers on record, driving electricity demand to its highest levels ever as fans and air conditioners switched on. Winter proved stressful too, with freezing temperatures last month pushing winter electricity peaks to record-high levels, narrowly avoiding outages.”

“Texas leads the US in oil and natural gas production, but it’s also number one in wind power. Solar production in the state has almost tripled in the past three years. Part of the reason is that Texas is particularly suited to renewable energy on its grid. Wind turbines and solar panels in Texas have a high degree of “complementarity,” so shortfalls in one source are often matched by increases in another, smoothing out power production and reducing the need for other generators to step in. That has eased the integration of intermittent energy sources on the grid.

Coal, meanwhile, has lost more than half of its share in Texas since 2006. For a long time and across much of the country, the story was that cheap natural gas from hydraulic fracturing was eating coal’s lunch on the power grid. Coal was also facing tougher environmental regulations like stricter limits on mercury, requiring coal power plants to upgrade their equipment, and raising electricity production costs.”

“in Texas, natural gas’s share of the electricity mix has been holding around 40 percent for more than a decade. On the other hand, renewable energy has surged as coal withered. Wind alone started beating out coal in 2019 and is now the second-largest source of electricity behind natural gas in the state.

An important factor is that the state has its own internal power grid, serving 26 million customers and meeting 90 percent of its electricity demand. It’s managed by the nonprofit Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT. In the freewheeling Texas energy market, the cheapest sources of electricity become dominant, and wind and solar — with low construction costs, rapid build times, and zero fuel expenses — have emerged as winners.”

“Some lawmakers are now working to tilt the balance toward fossil fuels. “There are different political figures who are trying to incentivize gas power plants or deny, prohibit, or inhibit renewables,” Webber said.

Last year, the Texas legislature passed a law that would prevent the state’s retirement and investment funds from doing business with companies that “boycott” fossil fuels.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said one of his legislative priorities for this year is to secure more support for natural gas-fired generation. “We have to level the playing field so that we attract investment in natural gas plants,” Patrick said during a press conference last November. “We can’t leave here next spring unless we have a plan for more natural gas power.””

“While wind and solar power are ascendant, they are intermittent, and regulators want to make sure there is enough dispatchable power like natural gas to ramp up on still, cloudy days. The new proposal would create a credit scheme that would encourage more of these dispatchable plants to come online and extend a lifeline to some existing generators that are struggling to compete. But it would also raise the costs of electricity production.

Environmental groups like the Sierra Club noted that the proposal leaves the door open for other tactics for balancing electricity supply and demand, like energy storage, increasing energy efficiency, and demand response.”