Nuclear Power news

Nuclear scientists: The end is near for humanity

Associated Press: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says Earth is now closer to human-caused doomsday than it has been in more than 30 years because of global warming and nuclear weaponry. But other experts say that`s much too gloomy. The US advocacy group founded by the creators of the atomic bomb moved their famed "Doomsday Clock" ahead two minutes on Thursday. It said the world is now three minutes from a catastrophic midnight, instead of five minutes. "This is about doomsday; this is about the end of...

Climate change pushes doomsday clock closer to midnight

Blue and Green: Climate change and nuclear proliferation have led to scientist deciding to move the symbolic doomsday clock closer to midnight signalling growing threats to humanity and the earth. The clock now reads three minutes to midnight. The doomsday clock was created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to use imagery to convey threats to humanity and the planet. The decision to move the minute hand, or leave it where it is, is made every year. The last move in 2012, when the hand was moved...

Fukushima operator to miss deadline on decontaminating water

TOKYO (Reuters) - The operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co, said it would not be able to meet a self-imposed deadline to decontaminate water containing highly radioactive substances by the end of March.

Read more [Reuters]

Fukushima Operator to Miss Deadline on Decontaminating Water

Reuters: The operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co, said it would not be able to meet a self-imposed deadline to decontaminate water containing highly radioactive substances by the end of March. The admission by the utility known as Tepco is another setback in its struggle to cope with the contaminated water, which is mostly contained in hastily constructed tanks. Tepco President Naomi Hirose visited officials at the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Friday to report...

Three Minutes Away from Doomsday

Inter Press Service: Unchecked climate change and the nuclear arms race have propelled the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock forward two minutes closer to midnight, from its 2012 placement of five minutes to midnight. The decision was announced in Washington DC by members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS), the body behind the calculations and creation of the 1947 Clock of Doom."The simple truth on nuclear weapons is that they are inconsistent with civilisation." -- Alyn Ware The last time the clock...

Countdown to catastrophe: Doomsday Clock moved closer to midnight

(Reuters) - Rising threats from climate change and nuclear arsenals prompted the scientists who maintain the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic countdown to global catastrophe, to move it two minutes closer to midnight on Thursday, its first shift in three years.

Read more [Reuters]

Doomsday Clock Set at 3 Minutes to Midnight

LiveScience: The world is "3 minutes" from doomsday. That's the grim outlook from board members of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Frustrated with a lack of international action to address climate change and shrink nuclear arsenals, they decided today (Jan. 22) to push the minute hand of their iconic "Doomsday Clock" to 11:57 p.m. It's the first time the clock hands have moved in three years; since 2012, the clock had been fixed at 5 minutes to symbolic doom, midnight. The Bulletin of the Atomic...

Worker dies at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant

Guardian: A worker at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has died after falling into an empty water storage tank, in the latest of a series of accidents at the site of the worst nuclear disaster for a quarter of a century. The death was the second at Fukushima Daiichi in less than a year, but the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), insisted that it was doing everything possible to prevent accidents. Almost 7,000 workers are involved in decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi, which...

Global nuclear decommissioning cost seen underestimated, may spiral

LONDON/PARIS (Reuters) - German utility E.ON's breakup has led to worries that funds set aside for decommissioning reactors will not suffice, but globally the cost of unwinding nuclear is uncertain as estimates range widely.

Read more [Reuters]

Hacking of Korea's nuclear operator raises risk of aging reactor closures

SEOUL (Reuters) - The hacking of South Korea's nuclear operator means the country's second-oldest reactor may be shut permanently due to safety concerns, said several nuclear watchdog commissioners, raising the risk that other aging reactors may also be closed.

Read more [Reuters]

Assad's Secret: Evidence Points to Syrian Push for Nuclear Weapons

For years, it was thought that Israel had destroyed Syria's nuclear weapons capability with its 2007 raid on the Kibar complex. Not so. New intelligence suggests that Bashar al-Assad is still trying to built the bomb. And he may be getting help from North Korea and Iran.
Read more [Spiegel Online]

Don’t panic! Fukushima radiation just hit the West Coast

Grist: Nuclear energy gives plenty of people the heebie-jeebies: Like horror-movie ghosts and ancestral curses, you can`t see or feel or smell it, but it can still kill you. So when Japan`s Fukushima Daiichi plant was damaged in March 2011, releasing a flood of radioactive cesium-tinged water into the Pacific, nervous nancies the world over took note. And that note, typically, was: PANIC!!!!!1!!11! First of all: No. Don`t. While some wafting fallout hit the U.S. in the first months after the disaster...

Nuclear power needed to tackle climate change, say leading scientists

Blue and Green: Top conservation scientists have stated that in order to tackle climate change and protect the natural environment nuclear power must be considered. They warn that relying solely on renewables to replace fossil fuels is “risky”. In an open letter over 70 scientists call on environmentalist and campaign groups to stop focussing on “idealistic perceptions of what is ‘green’” and instead look at the benefits of nuclear power generation. Signatories state they support the broad conclusions of an...

Fukushima rice passes radiation tests for first time since disaster: official

Reuters: Fukushima rice passed Japan's radiation checks for the first time since the 2011 nuclear disaster that prompted international alarm over the region's produce, a prefectural official said. Fukushima official Tsuneaki Oonami said about 360,000 tonnes of rice, nearly all of last year's harvest, had been checked and none had tested above the 100 becquerels per kilogram limit set by the government. "The fact that the amount of rice that does not pass our checks has steadily reduced in the last three...

Fukushima rice passes radiation tests for first time since disaster: official

TOKYO (Reuters) - Fukushima rice passed Japan's radiation checks for the first time since the 2011 nuclear disaster that prompted international alarm over the region's produce, a prefectural official said.

Read more [Reuters]

Another Reactor Closes, Punctuating New Reality for US Nuclear Power

National Geographic: As another nuclear power plant closed this week, the United States faced a dwindling fleet of aging reactors, few new projects, and the challenge of safely mothballing radioactive fuel for decades. Almost all its nearly 100 remaining reactors will be more than 60 years old by 2050. Their owners will have to decide whether the investments needed to keep them running are worth it, given the influx of cheap natural gas that has reshaped the U.S. energy economy. So far, nuclear isn't winning. Vermont...

Prosecutors won't indict former Tepco executives over Fukushima disaster: media

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese prosecutors will likely decide again not to indict three former Tokyo Electric Power Co executives over their handling of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, media reported on Friday, but a rarely used citizen's panel could still force an indictment.

Read more [Reuters]

Belgium’s government is Electrabel’s slave

The Belgian government is kept on a leash by Electrabel. On Friday 19 December, the federal government decided to extend the lifetime of nuclear reactors Doel 1 and 2 by ten years.

Only one party benefits from this decision: the owner and operator of this old nuclear power plant, GDF Suez/Electrabel. The decision once again confirms that Belgium’s energy supply is governed by a French private company which is only interested in its profits. The only way for Belgium to shift towards a sustainable energy future is for its people to jointly push for change.

The government and Electrabel will still discuss who is going to pay for the lifetime extensions, but it is clear that GDF Suez/Electrabel will not lose a penny. It will cost hundreds of millions to make the necessary safety measures in order to reduce the risks of the ageing reactors.  In order to agree to  such a large investment, Electrabel demands ‘a clear legal and economic framework’. Read: ‘a good deal to reduce the investment risks’.

It’s the Belgian people who will pay the price, one way or another. If not through increased taxes, when Electrabel’s payments to the state decrease, then through increased electricity prices when Electrabel passes on their investments to their clients. Or even worse, through a possible bankruptcy of the Belgian state in the event of a nuclear disaster. In contrast to other energy sources, a nuclear power plant can operate while its owner has only very limited liability in case of accidents.

Still the Belgian government followed Electrabel slavishly and cancelled previous agreements under the nuclear phase-out law. The government agreed in September to evaluate the decision on lifetime extensions in relation to the future of the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors – the reactors that are plagued by cracks in their reactor vessels and have been closed (for the second time) since spring 2014.

However, the Electrabel report on the cracks has been delayed, and hence also the technical evaluation of the Belgian nuclear regulator FANC will not be ready before spring 2015 at the earliest.

The long-term unavailability of the two large reactors is now used as one of the reasons for the lifetime extensions of Doel 1 and 2. Pressure from Electrabel has forced the government into the current decision, using the security of energy supply as their main argument.

The government decision however will be counterproductive. Nuclear power has been the main cause of Belgium’s energy problems: next to the problems with cracked reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2, reactor Doel 4 has been closed for almost 5 months because of a serious act of sabotage. In combination with Electrabel’s closure of gas power plants, this has created doubts about the country’s security of supply in the face of cold winters.

The energy supply will now remain unreliable for another 10 years due to continued reliance on ageing nuclear power plants. Belgium is playing with nuclear fire and puts the faith of its energy future in the hands of a foreign energy giant.

At the same time, the transition to a clean and sustainable energy supply is pushed back for another 10 years as renewable energy is being side-lined.

Can we expect the Belgian government to get a grip and change its course? Little chance. When we want to see a change in Belgium, it will have to come from the people. People can choose power suppliers or cooperatives who only invest in clean solutions. People have to act where politicians fail. 

Dr. Rianne Teule is Campaign Director for Greenpeace Belgium

[Image: A Greenpeace activist erects a wind powered turbine in front of the Doel nuclear power plant in protest against the renewable energy discrimination by the Belgian government. 07/01/2002 © Greenpeace / Philip Reynaers]

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan: Fukushima and institutional invisibility of nuclear disaster

Ecologist: The nuclear industry and its supporters have contrived a variety of narratives to justify and explain away nuclear catastrophes, writes John Downer. None of them actually hold water, yet they serve their purpose - to command political and media heights, and reassure public sentiment on 'safety'. But if it's so safe, why the low limits on nuclear liabilities? In a truly competitive marketplace, unfettered by subsidies, no one would have built a nuclear reactor in the past, no one would build one...

Renewables Outpace Nuclear All Over the World

EcoWatch: As flagship nuclear projects run into long delays and huge cost overruns, solar and wind power are falling in price. Renewables already supply twice as much power as nuclear. It’s just too bad the nuclear-fixated UK government hasn’t noticed. Renewables are winning out just about everywhere. They now supply over 19 percent of global primary energy and 22 percent of global electricity. Nuclear is at 11 percent and falling. With many of the UK’s old nuclear power plants off-line due to faults and...

Sweden doubles waste fee for nuclear power plant operators

(Reuters) - Sweden's government has decided to almost double a fee nuclear power plant operators pay to the nuclear waste fund, in order to help it cover the rising costs of decommissioning, the environment ministry said on Thursday.

Read more [Reuters]

#Cofrentes17 acquitted of nuclear protest charges

In a victory for the freedom to engage in peaceful protest, 16 activists from Greenpeace Spain, along with a freelance photojournalist – together known as the #Cofrentes17 – were yesterday acquitted by a court in Valencia of causing public disorder and injury for calling attention to the dangers of nuclear power, during a protest in February 2011.

Nearly four years ago, the activists entered the 30-year old Cofrentes nuclear power plant, some 60 km from Valencia, and painted "Peligro Nuclear" (Nuclear Danger) on one of the plant's cooling towers.

Their argument rested in part on Article 45 of the Spanish Constitution that, "Everyone has the right to enjoy an environment suitable for the development of the person, as well as the duty to preserve it".

This didn't stop prosecutors from demanding prison sentences of two years and eight months for each of the #Cofrentes17. And Greenpeace Spain risked being saddled with a fine, and paying compensation to the operator of the plant, Iberdrola, that would have amounted to nearly €360,000.

Rejecting this, the court ordered the 16 activists to pay costs of €2,232 for damaging a fence around the plant, along with a daily fine of €6 over a six-month period, amounting in total to €17,280.

The freelance journalist who was reporting on the protest faces no costs or fines.

This is a welcome outcome that underlines the essential freedom of journalists to pursue their legitimate news gathering activities without fear of prosecution. Any other result would have had a 'chilling effect' on journalistic freedom in Spain.

Mario Rodriguez, Greenpeace Spain's director, was delighted by the verdict.

"The ruling shows that the protest at Cofrentes was peaceful and did not result in any injuries. It's an important blow against attempts to criminalise peaceful protest and environmental activism. Greenpeace Spain has a 40-year history of peaceful activism and this verdict only serves to strengthen our resolve to continue our work of protecting the environment."

The court's verdict makes it clear that the activists were justified in protesting against nuclear power and drawing public attention to plans to extend the life of the ageing nuclear plant.

The judgement is not yet final, however. Appeals against the verdict may be lodged with the provincial court during the coming 10 days.

In the meantime, Greenpeace Spain wishes to extend its grateful thanks to the thousands of supporters from around the world who took to social media to support the #Cofrentes17, as well as the nearly 200 organisations and individuals who publicly supported the activists and the photojournalist.

Andrew Kerr works on Greenpeace International's press desk.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan nuclear regulator ignores its duty to protect the people

With today's draft decision to approve the safety measures of two currently closed nuclear reactors, Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) is ignoring public concerns and the major nuclear risks in the Kansai region.

The decision to give backing to two reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant puts millions of people at risk. Any severe accident at Takahama would be devastating for Kansai's people and economy – there are no effective emergency plans existing that could protect the people in the region from radiation exposure.

But Kansai Electric Power Co (KEPCO) is keen to restart its reactors and the regulator is doing all it can to help them.

The thing is, KEPCO's reactors have been offline for years which shows that they are completely unnecessary for Japan's energy future.

The thirty-year-old Takahama 3 and 4 reactors in Fukui prefecture have been shut down for 34 and 41 months respectively. Seven of KEPCO's eleven reactors are nearly or over 40 years old with decisions on the horizon on whether they should be closed permanently.

The Shiga Prefectural Government undertook risk analyses on nuclear accidents at KEPCO'S Ohi plant near Takahama in November 2011. They showed that the neighbouring Kyoto prefecture would be severely contaminated in the event of an accident. The area includes Lake Biwa, Japan's largest sea and the source of drinking water for 15 million people.

This decision doesn't mean the Takahama reactors will be restarting immediately, however. The NRA's draft decision is merely the start of a multi-step process that will reach far into 2015.

The next step will be a month-long consultation to collect public comments on the NRA's draft decision. Also, the NRA still needs to review tens of thousands of documents from KEPCO as there are many outstanding safety issues.

One of them, the risk of an earthquake, is the main point of a legal injunction brought by citizens in the region. Another is the highly dangerous plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel which will be installed at the Takahama reactors. Scientists, citizens groups and politicians have long opposed its use.

There is both public and political resistance against the restart of the two Takahama reactors. It comes from within the Kansai region as well as the three prefectures neighbouring Fukui.

The governor of Shiga wants the right to have a say over any restart decision. The governor of Kyoto disapproves of a restart. However, a decision on a local level is likely to be delayed as the Abe government is facing regional elections in April 2015, including for the governorship of Fukui.

At this stage, the NRA draft approval will only increase public and political opposition to any nuclear restart in Takahama.

All of Japan's 48 reactors have remained shut down, with no nuclear plants operating since September 2013. By embracing energy efficiency and renewables, the people of Japan have shown that nuclear power is unnecessary and belongs to the past.

So why isn't the Nuclear Regulation Authority listening to them, the people they are supposed to serve, instead of doing the bidding of the nuclear industry?

Justin McKeating is a nuclear blogger for Greenpeace International, based in the UK.

(Image: Military ship and MV 'Pacific Pintail' in front of Takahama Nuclear Power Plant in Uchirua Bay, Japan. Surrounded by Japanese police and coastguard, Greenpeace activists in inflatables protested in Uchiura Bay. The protest addressed the BNFL ship 'Pacific Pintail' departing after being loaded with rejected weapons-usable Plutonium Mox fuel being shipped back to the UK. 07/04/2002 © Greenpeace/Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert)

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Large Hadron Collider set to go at double power in 2015

After a two-year break the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is located on the outskirts of Geneva, is on target to re-start in March 2015. It’ll be turned back on at nearly double its previous power level and should be ready for atom-smashing experiments by May. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) said on Friday that all of its teams are hard at work ensuring that the LHC will be set to go again next year as planned. The 27km-long particle accelerator is close to being cooled to the necessary temperature of “1.9 degrees above absolute zero”. The CERN Control Centre has a number of tests it has to carry out before the LHC can be said to be fully set to go. Once the machine has been restarted it will run for three years while scientists use it to try and unravel many of the universe’s unsolved mysteries. In its last run the LHC operated at an energy level of 8 TeV (tera electron volts), the overall level for the 2015-2018 run will be 13 TeV. It ... Show more
Read more [ sci & tech]

As Japan burns more coal, climate policies under pressure

TOKYO (Reuters) - Once at the forefront of the fight against global warming, Japan is now facing calls from other big economies such as China to set fresh emissions targets as Tokyo increases its use of dirty coal energy to replace nuclear.

Read more [Reuters]

Anti-Nuke Activists Fight to Close Diablo Canyon

EcoWatch: California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors are surrounded by earthquake faults they were never designed to withstand. They are riddled with design flaws and can’t meet basic fire safety standards. They dump huge quantities of hot water into the ocean in defiance of state water quality standards, killing billions of sea creatures. Their operating costs are soaring beyond renewables, an energy source transforming the California ecology and economy. They continue to pile up huge quantities of deadly...

As Japan burns more coal, climate policies under pressure

TOKYO (Reuters) - Once at the forefront of the fight again global warming, Japan is now facing calls from other big economies such as China to set fresh emissions targets as Tokyo increases its use of dirty coal energy to replace nuclear.

Read more [Reuters]

This generation will ban nuclear weapons

Nearly 25 years after the end of the Cold War there are still estimated to be 16,300 nuclear weapons at 98 sites in 14 countries.  Rather than disarm, nuclear armed states continue to spend a fortune maintaining and modernising their arsenals – an international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons learned this week.

More than 150 governments were represented at the conference in Vienna on December 8 and 9, including, for the first time, delegations from four of the nine countries with nuclear weapons: the US, UK, India and Pakistan.  They heard Pope Francis condemn in a statement that the money spent on nuclear weapons was "squandering the wealth of nations".

Delegates from 44 of the countries called at the event's end for a prohibition on nuclear weapons. The Austrian government pledged to work to “fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons".

This could set the stage for the start of a diplomatic process towards a new treaty with input crucial from civil society organisations, and individuals around the world.

Delegates heard chilling stories of suffering from survivors of nuclear bombs and tests in Japan, Australia, the US and the Marshall Islands.

The speakers, all children at the time, described how their lives changed forever.

Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow told the conference: "Miraculously, I was rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building, about 1.8 km from ground zero.  Most of my classmates in the same room were burned alive.  I can still hear their voices calling their mothers and God for help". 

Michelle Thomas from Utah, recounted her childhood memories of living downwind of the Nevada test site, where 100 atmospheric nuclear tests were carried out by the US in the 1950s.

At the time the government told the community they were part of history. She  remembered feeling embarrassed by her mother  protesting against the tests. Only later did she realise that, "Our own country was bombing the hell out of us".

Many living in those rural areas, including Michelle suffered severe illnesses associated with radiation. The children used to recite:

"A is for atom, B is for bomb". Some added "C is for cancer, D is for death".

Abacca Anjain-Maddison, from Rongelap, the Marshall Islands, described how the children played in the radioactive dust falling from the sky, fallout from the 'bravo' nuclear test, conducted by the US in 1954.

They thought it was snow.  The Marshall Islanders had no word for "bomb" or for "contamination" and yet many had suffered catastrophic health impacts as a result of the testing.

A total of 67 nuclear tests were carried out in the Marshall Islands from 1946-58. Earlier this year the islanders lodged a historic series of cases in the International Court of Justice, The Hague against nuclear armed states for their failure to disarm.

Greenpeace strongly supports the suits and calls on everyone to join the petition and stand in solidarity with the islanders.

Sadly, the tragic legacy of nuclear weapons still lives on and continues to threaten our present and future. As long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of accidental or deliberate use will be present.

Participants of a civil society forum organised by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) before the conference, called on governments to urgently start negotiating a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

The US and other nuclear-armed states may remain strongly opposed, but they can no longer ignore the emerging momentum to jump-start the efforts to reduce, nuclear dangers so the world can live safely.

A powerful video shown at the conference by ICAN on behalf of civil society concluded:

"Every generation has a chance to change the world. This generation will ban nuclear weapons."

Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We cannot live with this threat to life any longer as Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor told the conference in a heartfelt plea for global support.

Jen Maman is a Peace Advisor at Greenpeace International.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

New Mexico slaps federal energy agency with $54 million in fines

(Reuters) - New Mexico regulators on Saturday hit the U.S. government with more than $54 million in fines for violations at a nuclear waste facility where a fire broke out and radiation was released in two mishaps earlier this year.

Read more [Reuters]

Locally-Controlled, Renewable Energy Championed as Key to Climate Justice

Common Dreams: As progress at the UN climate summit in Lima, Peru has been reported as "slow" by many observers so far, green campaigners on Friday called on world governments participating in the talks to end their continued dependence on outdated fossil fuel- and nuclear-powered energy systems and urged investment and policies geared toward building clean, sustainable, community-based energy solutions. "We urgently need to decrease our energy consumption and push for a just transition to community-controlled...

GOP gains put nuclear power back on the table

Hill: Republicans and the nuclear power sector are hopeful that GOP control of the Senate will improve the political landscape for an industry that hasn’t opened a new generator in nearly two decades. As Senate Democrats this week held their tenth hearing on nuclear safety since Japan’s Fukushima Daichii meltdown three years ago, Republicans and observers looked forward to a future with a more business-friendly approach to the industry. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), long a champion of nuclear power and...

#Cofrentes17: why Spain's Constitution Day is important to us all

Right now, 16 Greenpeace activists and an independent photojournalist are standing trial in Valencia for a peaceful protest they staged against the risks posed by the 30-year old Cofrentes nuclear power plant, near Valencia.

They are the #Cofrentes17.

As they worry about the verdict, people all over Spain are today celebrating the anniversary of a referendum held in 1978 that helped to transform their country from a dictatorship to a constitutional monarchy and democracy. Dictator Franco ruled the roost for 36 years, from April 1939 until his death in late 1975.

Spain's new constitution can hardly have a more pro-environmental wording.

Article 45 of the constitution states:

  1. Everyone has the right to enjoy an environment suitable for the development of the person, as well as the duty to preserve it.

  2. The public authorities shall watch over a rational use of all natural resources with a view to protecting and improving the quality of life and preserving and restoring the environment, by relying on an indispensable collective solidarity.

  3. For those who break the provisions contained in the foregoing paragraph, criminal or, where applicable, administrative sanctions shall be imposed, under the terms established by the law, and they shall be obliged to repair the damage caused.

Yes, nobody expects the Spanish Constitution.

All good in Spain, then? Well, not any longer.

Although the anniversary is celebrated with a national holiday, dark clouds are gathering over the freedom to protest and to stand up for the environment.

Four years ago, the #Cofrentes17 entered the Cofrentes nuclear power plant and painted "Peligro Nuclear" (Nuclear Danger) on one of its cooling towers.

They believe that it was their duty and right under Spain's constitution to stand up for the environment.

In a trial that is scheduled to run through to 11 December the #Cofrentes17 are each facing prison sentences of nearly three years. And Greenpeace Spain could be fined nearly €360,000.

The #Cofrentes17 face the harshest punishment that any activists with Greenpeace Spain have encountered in 30 years' of peaceful protest.

Is this part of a pattern of the Spanish government clamping down on peaceful protest?

Just over two weeks ago, a separate group of Greenpeace activists in Spain made the international news when Spanish Navy boats rammed one of our inflatable boats during a peaceful protest against oil exploration in the Canary Islands.

One activist was hospitalised following the Navy's highly aggressive response to Greenpeace Spain's attempt to hang a banner on the drill ship saying, 'no to oil exploration, yes to renewable energy'. These activists, too, believed that they had a duty and a right to stand up for the environment.

What the Cofrentes and Canary Islands protests have in common is that these entirely legitimate and peaceful activities met with disproportionate reactions from the Spanish authorities.

Surely it's the Spanish government that should be on trial for both trying to block the constitutional right and duty of Spanish citizens to preserve the environment, and for its own failings in not doing enough.

What were the #Cofrentes17 doing if not exercising their constitutional duty to preserve the environment?

And, in the Canary Islands, we believe that in allowing irresponsible oil exploration – which is opposed by 75% of the islands' citizens – the Spanish government is failing in its duty to ensure, "rational use of natural resources with a view to protecting and improving the quality of life and preserving and restoring the environment".

After all, Spain has abundant untapped resources of clean renewable energy.

How you can help

In five simple steps you can add your support to thousands of others who are connecting with the #Cofrentes17, and also support the right to peaceful protest in a democratic society.

Here's how:

  1. Pick up a pen

  2. Draw "17" on your hand

  3. Take a selfie or a group pic

  4. Upload the photo onto social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, with the tag #Cofrentes17, or #Misión45 (to do with Article 45 of Spain's constitution)

  5. Invite your friends to support this campaign

How hard is that? Surely not as hard as climbing a power station cooling tower to warn the world about nuclear risks!

The #Cofrentes17 would very much welcome your support.

Thank you, from Helena, Sonia, Amanda Luna, Nacho, Rakel, Virginia, Hernán, Nacho, Marcelí, Sonia, Vicenç, Maite, Araceli, Nelia, Auba, Fausto and Pedro. The #Cofrentes17

Andrew Kerr works on Greenpeace International's press desk.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan's CO2 emissions hit record as fossil fuel consumption rises

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's greenhouse-gas emissions rose to a record in the year ended March as the closure of nuclear power plants increased fossil fuel consumption.

Read more [Reuters]

#Cofrentes17: Renewable bravery!

There are moments to talk and moments to act. Almost four years ago, sixteen Greenpeace activists agreed that the huge risk posed by the Cofrentes nuclear station near Valencia, Spain, required concrete and public action.

On 15 February 2011, they entered the nuclear power plant and painted "Peligro Nuclear" (Nuclear Danger) on one of its cooling towers.

Tomorrow, the sixteen activists and an independent journalist who was documenting the action are facing trial for their actions that could sentence them to almost three years in jail. Moreover, Greenpeace Spain may have to pay a fine of about €360,000.  It will be the harshest trial in 30 years of peaceful activism in Spain‎.

I repeat. There is a time for talking and a time for action. Yesterday afternoon, the Greenpeace delegation at the Conference of the Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru, decided to take a stand in solidarity. We want to believe that climate negotiations are a place of action! This is why we call for your support – media included – by holding up and spreading the message "#Cofrentes17" in solidarity with our 17 activists. Anyhow, the Spanish Constitution is on our side. Article 45 explicitly says, "Everyone has the right to enjoy an environment suitable for the development of the person, as well as the duty to preserve it".

That said, we ask the negotiators present in Lima to take this message back home and guarantee the right to protest everywhere in the world. In the 21st century we cannot allow any country, not Spain, not Peru or any other country, to disrespect the right to protest as a means of influence and transformation. The biggest revolutionary tipping points have been as the result of protest – from the abolition of slavery to the recent uprising for more democracy in Europe and around the world.

At COP20, world leaders must identify and commit to actions that will avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The #Cofrentes17 – as thousands of supporters know them in social media – acted to bring attention to the dangers of nuclear power: the most expensive, risky and centralized energy source. It cannot be considered a solution to climate change or an option to fulfill the global goal of universalizing energy access.

We are confident that the court in Valencia will hold up Article 45 of the Spanish Constitution and we expect the activists to be acquitted from all charges. We hope that this trial will reinforce the right to peaceful protest in Spain and everywhere, while putting a spotlight on the high risks associated with nuclear power.

Spain needs to undertake a transition from nuclear energy and fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil to safe and clean renewable energy. If we want to avert the worst effects of climate change and prevent environmental disasters, e.g. the one close to the Mediterranean coast near Tarragona, Catalonia, a few days ago, we have to phase out dirty energies and phase in solar and wind energy.

To protect the environment, and boost the economy, we need to start a just transition towards a system based on 100% renewable energy for all in 2050. It should be made a priority in Spain and is one of Greenpeace's main demands during COP20 in Lima.

We hope to build on the #Cofrentes17 legacy and abandon the era of fossil and fissile fuels.

We look to a future that is fair and sustainable and supports freedom of speech and democracy. A future in which citizens benefit from an energy community unified by renewable energy.

The dream of a green and peaceful future gives us the strength and courage to take action and keep the future of humanity in our hands.

Mauro Fernández is a climate campaigner with Greenpeace Argentina and is based in Buenos Aires. He is following Latin American perspectives during the limate talks in Lima.

Note: This blog was updated on 5 December 2014 to clarify the text extract from Article 25 of the Spanish Constitution.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

German gov't announces further cut in emissions

APA: The German federal government approved a climate action package on Wednesday to cut more carbon emissions in a bid to meet its previously pledged climate target, APA reports quoting Xinhua. Germany pledged to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels. The target is more ambitious than that of the whole European Union which is only willing to reach the same reduction level by 2030. However, Germany faces challenges in meeting the target as the country abandoned nuclear power and still...

Belgian nuclear crisis continues with fire at Tihange

Belgium's nuclear crisis continued this week with a fire and explosion at the Tihange nuclear power plant. The fire began in the electrical substation transformer building at approximately 10.30am on Sunday, December 1 and led to an emergency shutdown of reactor unit 3. The 29 year old Tihange nuclear reactor is located near Liege and is 70 kilometers west of the city of Aachen. The fire was put out by the local fire service. The reactor restarted at 5.00am on December 2.

Fires at nuclear power plants pose significant risks to reactor safety due to the potential disruption of the electrical supply to vital reactor safety functions. (In 2008, Jack Grobe, Associate Director for Engineering and Safety Systems, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulatory, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said: "Approximately one-half of the core damage risk at operating reactors results from accident sequences that initiate with fire events.")

The transformer at a power plant converts the electricity current generated before it enters the main electrical grid. There have been numerous fires at nuclear power plants in recent years, including at the Krummel plant in Germany and at the Arkansas reactor in the United States. A fire of an oil-cooled transformer that contains several thousand litres of combustible insulating oil can result in severe damage to nearby power plant structural components such as concrete walls, and damage or destroy electrical components.

Tihange's operator Electrabel stressed that the cause of the fire was a technical failure rather than sabotage. The Belgium nuclear industry was shaken in August 2014 when it was revealed that sabotage had caused major damage at the Doel nuclear power plant. Doel's reactor 4 remains shutdown and is undergoing repairs.

The nuclear industry is in crisis in Belgium. The Tihange reactor 2 and Doel reactor 3 have been shutdown since March 2014 due to the discovery of thousands of serious cracks in their reactor core pressure vessels. Investigations are on-going into the extent and cause of the cracks, while Greenpeace has been demanding the release of research tests results on the reactors.

The remaining operating reactors are the oldest in Belgium. In July 2013, Belgium's Council of Ministers made an agreement to close the twin Doel 1 and 2 reactors in 2015, but the nuclear industry is pushing to have their lives extended due in part to the crisis with their newer reactors.

Action at Tihange Nuclear Power Plant in Belgium (03/05/2014 © Nick Hannes / Greenpeace)

Greenpeace has been demanding a complete phase out of nuclear power in Belgium due to the accident risks from their ageing reactors, including protests at Tihange earlier this year.

Shaun Burnie is a senior nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace Germany.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

United Kingdom: E.On’s switch to renewables is a sign of things to come, say experts

Guardian: More companies are likely to follow the German utility giant E.ON and shift their energy generation away from coal and nuclear to renewable power, the president of Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has told the Guardian. E.ON’s surprise announcement on Monday, that it would split its operations to focus on clean energy, power grids and energy efficiency services, also increased the prospect of success for Germany’s ambitious Energiewende [Energy Transition] project, Maria Krautzberger...

Belgian nuclear reactor to return to full capacity on Tuesday

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian utility group Electrabel, part of GDF Suez, said its nuclear reactor Tihange 3 should return to full capacity later on Tuesday, after a fire at a transformer outside the power station caused it to shut down on Sunday.

Read more [Reuters]

The #Cofrentes17 are part of Spain's great tradition of nuclear resistance

A month before the Fukushima catastrophe began in 2011, Greenpeace activists occupied one of Cofrentes' cooling towers and painted "Peligro Nuclear" on its side: Nuclear Danger.

On 28 November, dozens of academics and people from Spain's environmental movement gathered for a seminar at the University of Valencia. They were there to discuss the background to the 2011 protest against the life-time extension of the aging Spanish Cofrentes nuclear power station.

Greenpeace activists climb one of the cooling towers at the Cofrentes Nuclear Power Plant (02/15/2011 © Mario Gomez / Greenpeace)

This week, those activists and one independent photographer will stand trial in Valencia and face charges which could lead to heavy prison sentences and crippling financial penalties.

During the seminar, maybe the most interesting stories came from people who were involved in the critical movement against General Franco's nuclear programme in the 1970s which formed the basis for Spain's current nuclear activities.

The Cofrentes 17 are part of one of the strongest and most successful anti-nuclear movements in Europe. The main themes have remained scarily the same over the four decades of Spain's nuclear programme: a lack of transparency, heavy suppression of criticism, corruption, the cutting of corners in nuclear safety, and confusion around the issue of nuclear waste.

Nevertheless, the Spanish people were able to shut down, or cancel plans for, 27 nuclear reactors. Only seven remain in operation today.

At the seminar, nuclear consultant Yves Marignac commented:

Compare that with the one nuclear reactor out of 60 that the French anti-nuclear movement was able to prevent.

Three of these 27 were operational reactors, five of them were reactors under construction and 19 were at serious planning stages. Even more astonishing is that most of these projects were cancelled before 1975 when General Franco was still in power.

It is in this tradition that the Cofrentes 17 brought attention to the risks of Spain's ageing nuclear fleet. One of its reactors at Garoña is the second oldest reactor in Europe and already shut down, but the current government wants to restart it.

Four of the seven remaining reactors are older than 30 years and face an increasing number of small incidents like leakages of cooling water which indicate the progression of their ageing and their increasing risk. On the other hand, Spain’s seemingly unstoppable renewable energy growth is currently under attack because the main operators of these reactors fear for their market share and want to continue to squeeze profits out of obsolete nuclear power.

Why would you want to stick with these ageing nuclear reactors, with all the attached risks and a growing nuclear waste problem, when the reality on the ground has already shown that Spain can easily and affordably run an electricity system with 100% renewables?

It was brave and prophetic of the Cofrentes 17 to show the threat that Spain's ageing nuclear fleet is posing to its Energy [R]evolution. The Fukushima catastrophe a month later illustrated the urgency of their pledge. The stress tests the European Union conducted on its reactors in the aftermath of the disaster confirmed a list of flaws including crucial ones like missing filtering of vents and insufficient flooding protection. The lack of urgency from Spain's Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) in demanding safety upgrades shows the lack of priority for nuclear safety in the system.

To bring attention to this worrying situation is not a crime, it is a civil duty.

Jan Haverkamp is nuclear expert consultant at Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe

Read more [Greenpeace international]

A rainbow from Machu Picchu to Düsseldorf

Peru! What comes to mind when you think of Peru? Right! The mysterious Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, which attract and inspire so many people from around the world, and still have scientists puzzling over their origin.

Last night, Greenpeace paid tribute to the old Inca culture, also sometimes referred to as the enlightened ones. They believed in the positive energy of the sun, and so do we.

Act for the Climate! Go Solar!

"Act for the Climate! Go Solar" was the message we projected onto Huayna Picchu, the mountain that overlooks the ancient city. Why here and why now?

Today, the twentieth UN climate conference (COP20) begins in the Peruvian capital, Lima.

This is the last major round of negotiations before a new climate treaty is expected to be agreed in Paris in a year's time – a treaty that could pave the way to a global energy transition away from fossil fuels and towards 100% renewable energy. 

What’s giving this conference and the energy transition an added boost is that the costs of wind and solar energy have fallen considerably over the past few years. In many countries renewable power plants are now cheaper and produce energy at a lower cost that fossil power plants. Nuclear energy is losing its allure as it proves to be expensive, dangerous and unsustainable. 

The lowest-cost strategy to ensure a carbon-free energy supply is to increase the share of renewables in the energy mix.

"This must be a good sign"

But back to Machu Picchu, where our team of activist projectionists from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Germany and Spain waited for the last tourists to leave the area. Mosquitos were finding their way through our jackets and pants, making the wait for nightfall feel even longer.

Just before sunset I looked up and saw that a rainbow had appeared above Machu Picchu. "This must be a good sign," I thought to myself.

That sentiment applies equally to today’s fantastic news from 10,418 kilometres away, in Düsseldorf, Germany. There, the CEO of E.ON – one of the largest power companies in Europe – has announced that the company plans to get out of nuclear, coal and gas and instead concentrate on renewables and smart grid management services.

This wise and timely decision by E.ON underlines how more and more organisations understand that renewables really are the best choice in terms of cost effectiveness for a carbon-free energy supply.

It’s not only Brazil, China, India and South Africa that are seeing their energy demand surge due to economic growth; Germany, too, is feeling the strain on its well-established power supply system.

An end to the 'climate circus'?

As a prelude to the talks in Lima, the United States and China - the two leading carbon polluters - recently agreed to reduce their emissions. And governments have pledged more than US$9 billion to the Green Climate Fund.

With initiatives like that of E.ON coming on top, we could see the climate talks cast off their reputation of being a 'climate circus' where nothing is decided. These talks could be the stepping stone to saving our climate with the phase-in of sustainable energy, such as solar power.

The growing importance and competitiveness of the renewable industry brings a new dimension to the climate talks. Renewable energy can be relied upon to replace the large coal-fired power plants that are the main carbon dioxide emitters. With this in mind, governments should feel more comfortable about taking on the tough emissions commitments that are required to combat climate change.

Keep up to date with how we are pushing for action in Lima, here:

Sven Teske is a senior energy expert with Greenpeace International. Since 2005 he has been the project leader for the global energy scenario "Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook".

Read more [Greenpeace international]

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