Nuclear Power news

The answer to alarming climate science: 100% renewable energy

Back in the 1970s dedicated and resourceful Danes made a choice to take control of their energy, turning their backs on nuclear and embracing a renewable energy by building their own wind turbines. It started a true revolution. Now the country is on its way to power all it's heat and power with 100% renewable energy in just 20 years from now – and transport too by 2050.

This week, the city of Copenhagen, Denmark's capital, plays host to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as it finalises its 5th Assessment Report, AR5. Earlier in the year the solutions part of the report already showed that renewable energies are bigger and cheaper than ever and ready to start replacing fossil fuels.

And they are more needed than ever. As the IPCC outlined: "a fundamental transformation of the energy system" is needed, including a "long - term phase - out of unabated fossil fuel conversion technologies".

Sounds like we need a plan!

We contacted some energy experts around the world to hear their thoughts about Denmark's commitment to 100% renewable energy; on 100% renewables as a solution for others too, and on the choices outlined by the IPCC report in general. The responses were truly encouraging.

Paul Gipe, Renewable energy industry analyst and Principal at wind-works.org, US sums it up:

"Making the transition to 100% renewable energy is a political – not technical – decision. The technologies and the knowledge necessary exist today. The choice is simple: Do we make the transition or not? Denmark has made that decision."

Denmark's example inspires energy experts

Denmark's 100% renewable goal has clearly inspired world's energy experts.

"I full heartedly welcome Denmark's bold and inspiring commitment for their 100% energy supply – electricity, heating, industry and transport – is to be covered by renewable energy by 2050", says Dipal Barua from Bangladesh, a Chairman of Bright Green Energy Foundation and advisor to the Green Climate Fund.

The commitment is considered as transformational and unique.

"As the first OECD country, the Nordic country goes beyond the power sector and teaches us that a holistic and integrated approach is the cheapest, fastest and most sustainable strategy", said Harry Lehmann, General Director of the Federal Environmental Agency, Germany.

Denmark's climate targets also include a phase out of coal by 2030, followed by a complete phase-out of fossil fuels by 2050; a 40% reduction on domestic greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 by 2020; and an electricity mix made up 50% from wind by 2020. 

"Denmark remains the only major national government in the world to have acknowledged the increasingly unavoidable fact that others continue to ignore: namely, that it will be impossible to ensure a stable climate for future generations without phasing out the use of coal in the electricity sector", says Toby D. Couture, a Canadian Founder and Director of E3 Analytics.

Power to the people

Today Denmark is a world leader in wind power – both in terms of use and manufacturing, but it all started from regular people wanting to make a difference. Despite the rise of larger turbines and increasing industrialisation, three-quarters of Denmark's wind turbines are still owned by ordinary citizens.

"Denmark is the show-case of energy transition not only towards 100% renewables, but also in the transition from large, centralised monopoly to small distributed community power, in other words, they are democratising energy for the people", commends Tetsunari Iida, Executive Director & Founder of the Institution for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP).

Spreading the Danish revolution globally

Denmark may still be the leader but experts believe that 100% renewables can be made a reality across the world:

"If 100% renewables is possible in Denmark, why not in sunny South Africa?", asks Professor Harald Winkler, Director of the Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

"As AR5 makes clear, many renewable energy technologies have substantially advanced in terms of performance and cost. For South Africa, concentrating solar power with storage is a key technology", he continues.

"By attesting its comprehensive leadership in harnessing wind-electricity within broader energy systems, Denmark's example will likely inspire other Governments. This includes that of my home country, Morocco, who could meet similar objectives," says Khalid Benhamou, Managing Director from Sahara Wind in Morocco.

Professor S.C. Bhattacharya (India) from the World Bioenergy Association believes 100% can work for all countries:

"A global move towards 100%RE is vital for addressing the twin problems of depleting conventional fossil fuel reserves and climate change as well as associated problems such as urban air pollution. Few will disagree that 100%RE is feasible and likely for practically all countries by 2100. With enough political will and concerted efforts, this can be achieved as early as 2050."

Christine Lins, Executive Director of REN21, Germany, agrees, especially on power sector:

"Progress during the last decade has shown tremendous advancements of renewable energy use in the electricity sector. Many scenarios outline possible pathways towards 100% electricity from renewables by mid-century."

No compromising of development and well-being

David de Jager, Managing Consultant on Ecofys and an operating agent for the IEA-RETD, has studied the 100% renewable future in detail.

"There is no doubt that a fully sustainable and largely renewable global energy system is technically and economically possible by 2050. Ecofys did the calculations for The Energy Report (TER) with the following clear message: by utilising today's technologies alone, 95% of all energy can be renewable by 2050, comfortable lifestyles can be developed and sustained, and long-term benefits can outweigh short-term costs."

Other experts, too, agreed that development and well-being will not be compromised.

"Such a conversion [to 100% renewables] will eliminate most all air pollution and global warming, create jobs, and provide energy stability and energy price stability. It will benefit our children and grandchildren and many generations beyond", said Professor Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University

"Fossil fuel consumption reduction without compromising development and human well-being IS possible if a strong energy policy is promoted towards sustainable production and consumption of energy, which implies a strong promotion of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources", says Professor Ana María Cetto, from the Institute of Physics, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Alarming science calls for urgent action

The importance of taking ambitious action will be further emphasised this week, as the IPCC will outline the urgent need to head for zero carbon emissions.

"We know the very simple fact, that we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy system to zero within two to four decades. Our global civilization is at highest risk in case we fail. The energy system needs to be transformed under the constraints of sustainability and least total societal cost. The only solution is a 100% renewable energy system", sums professor Christian Breyer of the University of Lappeenranta, Finland.

Fortunately, the transition has already started, big time, and Denmark is not the only example of the renewable energy technologies have proven scale. Scotland has a target to supply 100% of the country's electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020, while similar aims are taking root in Cape Verde, Africa as well as Latin America where Costa Rica is one of the leading nations.

Meanwhile big cities around the world have set a 100% renewables target including the German cities Frankfurt and Munich, Sydney in Australia and San Francisco in the US.

Professor Peter Lund explains why this idea is taking root:

"Climate change is a result of an unsustainable economy. Denmark has shown that through investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency, countries can simultaneously improve their economy, create new jobs, and mitigate the climate change," he says.

"Energy efficiency and renewable energies are the largest energy sources that we have, and together they are often the least-cost clean energy option as well. The technology and economy aspects clearly speak for a renewable energy turnabout. But these words sound empty unless the politicians all round the world have the courage and vision to decide in favour of a renewable energy future, in the same way as Denmark did. Carpe diem decision-makers."

The 100% RE campaign urges political and business leaders to act on science, and to start phasing in a 100% renewable energy future today, with sustainable energy access for all as by early as possible, but no later than 2050. As the expert statements from around the world underline, this future is fully within our reach, if we decide so.

For full answers from the experts cited, see here.

Anna Leidreiter is the Policy Officer Climate and Energy for the World Future Council and Kaisa Kosonen is a Climate Policy Advisor with Greenpeace Nordic.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Learning the tragic lesson of Fukushima: No nuclear restart at Sendai

In March 2011, Japan suffered the worst nuclear catastrophe in a generation, with triple reactor core meltdowns and exploded containment buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The catastrophe was a stern warning about the perils of depending on nuclear power.

Legislation to promote renewable energy has meant the number of solar power installations has rocketed. With reactors going offline and being unable to restart due in large part to public opposition, Japanese citizens have enjoyed over a year in which no nuclear power plant has operated.

This progress could be reversed if the Abe administration gets its way and begins restarting reactors. The first two to be promoted for restart are at the Sendai nuclear plant in the Kagoshima prefecture, on Japan's southern island of Kyushu. These proposed restarts are not a done deal, as some news reports have suggested. Greenpeace wants Governor Ito and his officials in Kagoshima to respect the opinion of the majority of the prefecture's residents - and the Japanese public at large - and step in to keep Sendai closed.

It's a simple question of public safety: no reactors should be restarted. And especially not the two at Sendai which are situated in a coastal seismic zone next to a super volcano.

I was a member of the team of Greenpeace radiation experts that went to the Fukushima disaster zone 10 days after the catastrophe to investigate and expose the extent of radioactive contamination.

This week, we returned to Fukushima prefecture to continue to document the continuing nuclear crisis. Seeing the tragic reality of the people living there made us think about the people living in the shadow of the Sendai reactors.

A nuclear disaster is an unsolvable problem and ordinary people end up paying when they lose their livelihoods and communities.

Decontamination efforts at Fukushima, which began in 2012, have proved massively expensive and hugely intensive. Thousands of workers have invested tens of thousands of hours removing soil and cleaning houses, unfortunately with very limited success.

One result of the decontamination effort is clearly visible. Immense quantities of radioactive waste have been generated, and it keeps on multiplying. Along the roads, piles of large black bags. each holding around a cubic metre of radioactive waste, await transport to larger temporary storage sites.

We visited one of these sites in Kawauchi. In the breathtakingly beautiful setting of forests and mountains our first sight was of an immense area filled with bag upon bag of radioactive waste. At just this one site no less than 200,000 of these cubic-metre bags lie covered by green tarpaulins.

Around Fukushima there are thousands of similar nuclear waste storage sites.

The supposed 'decontamination' has succeeded only in relocating the radioactive contamination. It's a huge problem without any real, safe solution.

Even these large-scale efforts are proving inadequate in lowering radiation exposure levels to government targets. As evacuation orders are lifted, people are moving back into areas that are still dangerously contaminated. Many residents are effectively being forced to return home, because within a year of the order to return they risk losing their already meagre compensation. Those living in contaminated areas face a terrible dilemma.

This week we again visited Myiakoji, the first village to have its evacuation order lifted. We were there a year ago when former residents were beginning to come to terms with the impact of the lifting of the evacuation order. 

Last year our monitoring work found radiation levels were still higher than the government target despite a decontamination effort that had involved more than a thousand workers whose focus was on 200 homes.

Little in Myiakoji has changed. Radiation levels are similar to those in 2013. Of 5,600 measurements we took along the road, 34% were above the government's radiation target. Away from the roads, where no decontamination had been undertaken, we discovered considerably higher radiation levels.

In Kawauchi, another area where the evacuation order was lifted only a few weeks ago, 59% of our radiation measurements were over the target level and, again, we measured higher levels away from the roads.

Many of those who can afford to are staying away. Like Mrs. Watanabe who will never return to her beautiful home and mountain orchard that have been heavily contaminated by the Fukushima disaster. They are lost to her forever. She would rather live in relative safety in a tiny flat, and bear the heavy cost of building a new house elsewhere, than put her health at risk by returning to her mountain home and the land that she once so cherished. 

It's the same story in Fukushima City, 60 kilometres from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Initial measurements we took in a parking lot suggested it had been well-decontaminated. Compared to last year this was the first real progress of decontamination that we had observed.

But six metres from our first measurement point radiation levels jumped to way above the government target. There we found the ground was contaminated with approximately twelve and a half times more radioactive caesium than the level which would lead the Japanese government to classify it as radioactive waste. Officially, the levels of radioactivity in this parking lot would demand wearing radiation protection and approval by authorities to handle it.

As with everywhere else undergoing decontamination operations, radioactive waste is piled up throughout Fukushima City. On the outskirts, much of it has been shovelled into what were once citizens' gardens.

We also returned to the village of Iitate. We'd taken measurements back in 2011, ten days after the start of the disaster, when citizens had not yet been evacuated. It was still heavily contaminated, having suffered the full extent of the explosions at Fukushima with no shelter from any surrounding mountains that could have blocked some of the radioactive fallout.

The first thing that struck me on returning to Iitate was the heavy traffic – only this time the cars were mostly full of decontamination workers, and the trucks were filled with radioactive waste. Hundreds of workers were labouring intensively in a vain attempt at decontamination. At a rough guess, I would say that over 1,000 workers are engaged in trying to decontaminate this one place.

It appears to be a political operation, one designed to give the impression that even after a nuclear disaster the problem is "manageable". Radiation levels in Iitate show no prospect of falling to what is deemed acceptable. At not less than 96% of the locations we monitored radiation levels that exceeded the government's target level.

This is the overwhelming and unsolvable nature of a nuclear crisis. When a major nuclear disaster occurs, the damage is long-lived, pervasive, and impossible to rectify. It generates enormous amounts of waste for which there is no safe storage. It literally destroys entire communities and people's way of life.

Fukushima's citizens are having to live with the gross injustice of having lost everything to a nuclear disaster for which they were in no way responsible. Now they are being stripped of the meagre and inadequate support they received as they are effectively forced back into radioactively contaminated areas.

They are being offered up purely for political reasons amid the Japanese government's effort to restart nuclear reactors. From the perspective of public safety and human rights there is only one just and fair policy: if citizens do not want to return to contaminated communities, where they cannot work safely in the fields or forests as many once did, they should receive adequate compensation that allows them to establish new lives for themselves elsewhere.

But, if the Abe government gets its way, not only will more Fukushima victims be stripped of their already inadequate compensation, but more Japanese citizens will continue to live with the looming threat of a similar disaster and the same grossly unjust and inhumane fate.

Japan has been nuclear-free for over a year, and no electricity blackouts have occurred. The Japanese government should turn its back on nuclear power and instead opt for an energy policy based on improving energy efficiency and expanding renewable energy. This would protect its citizens from a repetition of the horrors of Fukushima and set the country on track to meet its climate commitments by 2020.

Governor Ito, and his officials in the Kagoshima prefecture where the Sendai nuclear plant is located should heed the lessons of the Fukushima catastrophe and go all-out for a clean and risk-free energy future.

Jan Vande Putte is a specialist in radiation safety who trained at the Technical University of Delft. He has participated in environmental surveys of radioactive contamination in Belgium, France, Japan, Russia, Spain and Ukraine. He is an energy campaigner with Greenpeace Belgium.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

This 'boom' might save the world - 10 quick facts about renewable energy

As the world's leading climate scientists finalise the latest and most comprehensive report on climate change and ways to tackle it, a key question is: What is new? What has changed since the release of the UN climate panel's last Assessment Report (AR4) in 2007?

On the 'solutions' side, the answer is pretty straightforward:

Nuclear power hasn't changed much. IPCC notes that nuclear capacity is declining globally and that, from safety to financial viability, nuclear power faces many barriers. "Carbon capture and storage" (CCS) isn't really breaking the mold either. Although the IPCC identifies a need and potential for future CCS-aided emission reductions, in reality, CCS isn't delivering and, since 2007, "studies have underscored a growing number of practical challenges to commercial investment in CCS".

The big news is the breakthrough in new renewable energy

In just a few years, solar and wind technologies have grown so competitive and widespread that they are gradually reshaping common perceptions of climate change mitigation. 'Saving the climate is too difficult and too costly' is becoming 'We can do this!' Even in purely economic terms, renewable energy (RE) is set to gradually outcompete fossil fuels. According to the IPCC:

"Since AR4, many RE technologies have demonstrated substantial performance improvements and cost reductions, and a growing number of RE technologies have achieved a level of maturity to enable deployment at significant scale (robust evidence, high agreement)."

So, what does the mean in practice? Here are 10 quick facts:

1. There's now 15 times more solar power and three times more wind power in the world than in 2007.

2. The costs of solar and wind have declined profoundly. Renewables are increasingly the cheapest source of new electricity.

According to the IRENA, the price of onshore wind electricity has fallen 18% since 2009, with turbine costs falling nearly 30% since 2008, making it the cheapest source of new electricity in a wide and growing range of markets.

In places as diverse as Australia, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, India and throughout the US, the cost of electricity production from onshore wind power now is on par with, or lower than, fossil fuels.

For solar, the speed of cost decline has been even more dramatic. Solar photovoltaic (PV) prices have fallen by 80% since 2008 (!) and are expected to keep dropping. Solar can now increasingly compete with conventional energy without subsidies.

In 2013, commercial solar power reached grid parity (i.e. the point at which it is comparable or cheaper to produce electricity with solar than purchase it from the grid) in Italy, Germany and Spain and will do so soon in Mexico and France.

Source: http://newclimateeconomy.report/energy/

3. Renewables are now mainstream: In the OECD countries, 80% of new electricity generation added between now and 2020 is expected to be renewable.

Source: IEA (2014) Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report.

In the non-OECD countries, conventional power still dominates, but renewables are already the largest new generation source. Given China's recent action to curb coal use and restrict new coal plants in some regions, the projection on new conventional generation may still change.

Source: IEA (2014) Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report.

4. Individual countries are already reaching high shares of wind, solar and other renewables

  • In Spain, wind power was the country's top source of electricity in 2013, ahead of nuclear, coal and gas. Renewables altogether supplied 42% of mainland Spain's electricity in 2013, and 50% in the first half of 2014.
  • In Denmark, wind provided for 41% of the country's electricity consumption in the first half of 2014.
  • In South Australia, wind farms produced enough electricity to meet a record 43%of the state's power needs during July 2014.
  • In the Philippines, renewable energy – mainly geothermal – provides 30% of the country's electricity.
  • In the United States, the states of Iowa and South Dakota produced about 24% of their electricity with wind in 2012. Altogether nine US states were producing more than 10% of their electricity with wind.
  • In India, the state of Tamil Nadu already gets 13% of its electricity from wind.

5. Any country can now reach high shares of wind, solar power cost-effectively, says the International Energy Agency.

6. Renewable energy now provides 22% of the world's electricity.

By 2030, wind energy alone could produce a fifth of world's electricity.

7. Growth rates prove how fast renewables can be deployed and scaled up.

In just two years, Japan has installed 11 GW of solar energy. In terms of electricity, that equals more than two nuclear reactors (building a nuclear plant typically takes a decade or more). Furthermore, Japan has approved 72 GW of renewable energy projects, most of which are solar. This compares to about 16 nuclear reactors, or about 20 coal fired power plant units.

Last year, China installed as much new wind power as the rest of the world combined. This is as many solar panels as the US installed in the past decade. In four years, China aims to double its wind capacity and triple its solar capacity.

In just three years, Germany has increased its share of renewable energy in power from 17% to 24%. Solar alone produced 30 TWhs of electricity last year, which is equal to the output of about four German nuclear reactors.

Sub-Saharan Africa will add more wind, solar and geothermal energy in 2014 than in the past 14 years in total, while India aims to boost its solar PV capacity more than six-fold in less thank five years, by adding 15 GW by early 2019.

8. Leading investment banks are advising investors to go renewable.

Here's where the renewables breakthrough is truly visible: annual new investments into clean energy have doubled since 2006/2007, with 16% growth recorded so far for this year.

Leading investment banks are advising investors to go renewables.

Citi declared in March this year that the Age of Renewables is Beginning. Renewables are increasingly competitive with natural gas in the US, while nuclear and coal is pretty much out of the game already.

Deutsche Bank considers solar to be competitive without subsidies now in at least 19 markets globally. They also see prices declining further in 2014. HSBC analysts suggest wind energy is now cost competitive with new coal energy in India, and solar will reach parity around 2016-18.

UBS analysts, according to the Guardian, suggest that big power stations in Europe could be redundant within 10-20 years! Technological advances, like electric cars, cheaper batteries and new solar technologies are turning dirty power plants into dinosaurs faster than expected.

9. Renewable energy delivers for communities and builds resilience.

Not having access to electricity means missing out on many opportunities in life. This is still reality for about 1.3 billion people in the world. But now, renewable energy is making energy access more achievable. Its technologies are by now significantly cheaper than diesel or kerosene- based systems, and cheaper than extending the grid in areas with low populations and per capita energy demand.

Local, clean solutions, like microgrids running on solar, give poorer smaller communities control over their own energy destiny. The systems are relatively cheap to maintain and the people living off of their own renewably sourced electricity are not beholden to volatile fossil fuel prices or the unsustainable demands of the massive energy conglomerates.

10. 100% renewable energy is the way to go.

Renewable energy can meet all our energy needs. As the IPCC finds, the technical potential is much higher than all global energy demands.

100% renewable energy is what communities, regions, cities – even megacities – and companies are already making a reality through courageous actions and targets.

Sydney, the most populated city in Australia, is going to switch to 100% renewable energy in electricity, heating and cooling by 2030. The colder cities are on board too: three Nordic capitals (Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen) have all set goals for 100 % renewable energy, while Reykjavik is meeting it already.

Germany's windy state of Schleswig-Holstein will probably achieve 100% renewable electricity already this year, while Cape Verde, an Island country in Africa, aims to get there by 2020. In Denmark, the whole country aims to meet all its heat and power with 100% renewables in just 20 years and all energy, transport included, by 2050.

There's plenty, plenty of more, see for example here and here.

Going 100% renewables is a smart business decision too, says leading businesses, including BT, Commerzbank, H&M, Ikea KPN, Mars, Nestle, Philips and Swiss Re. They are campaigning for a goal that by 2020, 100 of the world's largest companies will have committed to 100% renewable power.

Renewable sustainable energy sources are no longer the stuff of science fiction. Every day there are more and more examples of it being used and improved upon across our fragile planet.

Yet, clean energy hasn't won just yet. The powerful fossil fuel industry with their allies are fighting back hard, with the help of hundreds of billions of government subsidies they are still enjoying annually.

This raises the question: where do you want to be? Stuck in the dark ages of fossil fuels, or basking in the sun and wind of a clean energy future?

Kaisa Kosonen is a Climate Policy Advisor with Greenpeace Nordic.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Owners of the wind

Thirty-odd years ago in the Kingdom of Denmark lived some brave people who disliked nuclear power and loved renewable energy. Determined to keep their country clean and safe, they began building their own wind turbines. Today, thanks to these passionate people, Danes are on their way to getting their heat and electricity from 100% renewable energy.

In the early 1970's, in many parts of the world, people started discussing the risks of nuclear power. Although Denmark did not have any nuclear power plants of its own, its neighbour, Sweden already had several, and during the first oil crisis the Danish electricity companies grew eager to build some in Denmark too. A considerable part of the Danish population, however, could not see any good reason why they should have potentially dangerous nuclear energy when they could simply have safe, clean renewable energy instead.

Nuclear, No Thanks

Some dedicated Danes got together and started a popular, politically independent movement: 'The organisation for the dissemination of knowledge about nuclear energy' – a.k.a. the OOA. T-shirts and banners were adorned with the movement's symbol; a smiling red sun on a yellow background, and the words: "Nuclear Power, No Thank You." And, as the movement grew, it also gained political momentum.

The OOA was joined by another movement known as OVE ('The organisation for the development of renewable energy'). Between them they developed two alternative energy plans, one in 1976 and one in 1983, which demonstrated how Denmark could meet its energy demands without the use of nuclear power.

In addition to broad public support, OOA and OVE were powerful because amongst their active participants were dedicated and resourceful scientists and engineers.

'We had no idea what we were starting'

OOA and OVE's mission was to develop clean, renewable energy that would forever end the need for nuclear power. At the heart of the movement were groups of dedicated individuals who refused to sit back and wait for the government to act. Instead they began building their own wind turbines.

"We were almost all complete amateurs," recalls Sanne Wittrup, now a full-time journalist with the Danish News Magazine, 'The Engineer.'

"After the oil crisis, everyone started talking about nuclear energy. We were so eager to demonstrate that it wasn't necessary to go down that road; that there were really good alternatives."

Sanne Wittrup recalls working through the night cutting out the giant steel plates that went into the building of the iconic 2 MegaWatt Tvind Wind Turbine.

"We had absolutely no idea what we were starting. If, back then, someone had told us that, 35 years later, wind power would cover more than 30% of Denmark's electricity demands and generate annual revenue of more than 80 billion Danish Kroner, we would never have believed it."

A nation of self-taught experts

The late 1970's and early 1980's was a special time in Denmark. All over the country, inspired by the oil crisis, individuals began building their own wind turbines. And, rather than the impressively powerful Tvind Wind Turbine, it was the considerably smaller models that kicked off the Danish 'wind adventure.'

"It was, in many ways, a productive and fantastic time. Everyone and no one was a wind energy expert. All over the country people were busy building and learning through trial and error," recalls Sanne Wittrup.

Humble beginnings

Among the self-taught turbine builders was the current head of technology at Siemens Wind Power, Henrik Stiesdal whose experiments began in his parents' backyard. In 1979 he and his partner, a blacksmith, began their first serial production of 15 kW turbines. They later sold the production rights to Danish Vestas, currently the world's largest producer of wind power.

By the early 1980's, the classic Danish three-blade turbine had come to dominate the market and the Danish wind industry was growing steadily.

Victory before disaster

In March 1985, one year before the infamous Chernobyl disaster, a majority in the Danish parliament finally decided to abandon all plans for future incorporation of nuclear power in the Danish energy development plans.

Instead of nuclear energy, the Danish government began investing in energy efficiency, decentralised cogeneration plants, district heating and, importantly, renewable energy. With the local level of expertise and with access to thousands of kilometres of coastline, wind energy was the obvious choice.

To begin with, the Danish government provided 40% of the capital investment required to build a new turbine. This government support allowed production to expand and, by 1985, Denmark controlled half of the, albeit still limited, global market for wind energy. By then the turbines had grown to 55 kW.

Co-owning the wind

To encourage further investments in wind power, the Danish government also gave tax exemptions to households wishing to engage in renewable electricity production. Whilst some households purchased entire wind turbines, more opted for shares in cooperatives, which in turn invested in communal wind turbines.

The scheme was a great success and by 1996 there were approximately 2,100 wind turbine cooperatives in Denmark.

The cooperatives were also not limited to single turbines. When the 20 turbine-strong Middelgrunden Wind Farm was built in 2000 it became the world's largest offshore wind farm. 50% of the wind farm was financed and is currently owned by the 10,000 members of Middelgrunden Wind Turbine Cooperative; the remaining 50% is owned by the municipal utility company.

In 2001, 86% of all new wind turbines were built by wind turbine cooperatives and, by 2004, in a country of 5.5 million people, more than 150,000 households were either cooperative members or turbine owners and the number of turbines in Denmark had grown to 5,500.

All in favour

Although, in recent years, with increasing private sector involvement, the proportion of cooperatively owned wind turbines has fallen somewhat, the cooperative model remains an undeniable success. Recently, the model has also spread to Germany and the Netherlands.

One major advantage of the participatory model has been its ability to build almost undivided public support for wind energy. Today, 96% of the Danish population are in favour of government policies to further expand the domestic wind industry and 85% are tolerant of such expansions even within their own local area of residence. The take-home message is that, with wind power, some degree of public ownership is desirable because it reduces resistance and builds support.

Turbine adventure

What started as a movement by the people against the threat of nuclear energy has developed into worldwide renewable energy expertise with the Danes now providing cutting edge solutions to a perhaps even bigger threat: Global climate change. Current day masters of the wind and specialists in energy savings and efficiency, Denmark now works closely with China to help transform the carbon intensive Chinese energy supply into a more climate-friendly energy system.

Today, the annual revenue from the Danish wind industry exceeds 80 billion Danish Kroner (more than 14 billion USD), and the sector employs more than 30,000 people. In some regions of the country, up to 25% of private sector jobs are in the wind industry.

People have the power

The tale of the turbines is as instructive as many of the famous fairy tales originating from that same little country. The story demonstrates the achievements that are possible when people come together and make collective demands. And it demonstrates the at times unimaginable ripple effects of fundamentally good ideas. From a childlike drawing of a smiling red sun and a shared desire to create a safe and clean environment for all, to the world's most ambitious climate change policy; this is the power of collective demands. It is replicable and, in the face of climate change, urgently needed.

Wind energy's many benefits

  • By 2020, 50% of Denmark's electricity demands will be met by wind power.
  • Denmark's focus on renewable energy has boosted the economy, reduced reliance on volatile fossil fuel prices and created thousands of jobs.
  • Denmark is currently one of the few countries in the world to have committed to a 100% renewable energy future – the only truly sustainable way to go to protect our climate.
  • By 2035 global wind energy use is expected to have cumulatively avoided 50,000 million tons of CO2 emissions. To put this in context, this is 1200 times the Denmark CO2 annual emissions in 2013, and more than last year's global CO2 emissions.

Right now the Intergovernmental on Climate Change is meeting in Denmark to finalize a report about climate change which will go to our world leaders.

Join us in telling our leaders to act for the climate.

Kat Skeie is a Communications Officer and Tarjei Haaland is a Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Nordic.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Understanding climate science in 10 easy steps

The latest United Nations report on climate change is about to be finalised, written by thousands of scientists. The report is VERY important, but also a bit dull.

What we really want to know is: How bad is climate change? And what can we do about it? Using the latest IPCC findings and a few other recent discoveries, here's our take on what you need to know about climate change and what to do about it.

1. Politicians talk – too little happens

Politicians spend a lot of time talking about reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the planet to heat up. But despite all the chatter, emissions are still growing.

From 2000 to 2010, greenhouse gas emissions grew faster than before. The reason? We keep burning more fossil fuels. The climate scientists' advice, however, is clear: we need to get rid of man-made carbon emissions entirely.

2. Without action, things will get bad

We are running out of time and the consequences of not tackling climate change now will be bad. Without cutting emissions life on Earth is going to get very hot, chaotic and unpredictable. Global warming will act like an old, broken microwave – some parts of the planet will experience mild rises in temperature whilst others will simply burn.

If we don't cut emissions soon, apocalyptic forest fires, deadly heat waves and food production losses could become the new normal. With higher air and sea temperatures, extreme weather events will happen more and more, destroying homes and livelihoods. As sea levels rise, tropical island states can be under water and major cities, such as London and New York will be in serious trouble. Extinction rates will accelerate big time and entire ecosystems could collapse.

Scientists have identified certain 'tipping points' – warming levels beyond which we start a rapid and downhill slide towards extremely dangerous, uncontrollable and irreversible changes. Scientists agree on the reality of these tipping points, but it's still hard to say exactly how much warming it will take to reach them. Because the potential consequences of reaching one or more of these tipping points are so severe, the only sensible solution is to try to avoid them by limiting further warming as much as possible.

3. We can still prevent climate chaos

So far, the planet's average surface temperature has increased by about 0.85°C compared to pre-industrial times. It's been enough to cause major glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise, species to move, and so on.

World leaders have agreed to reduce emissions enough to limit warming to a maximum of 2°C in the hope of avoiding impacts turning very dangerous. But even 2°C would cause serious trouble for many parts of the world. This is why more than 100 countries are demanding that warming is kept below 1.5°C.

The good news is that, according to the IPCC, it is still possible to limit warming to about 1.5°C or maybe even less. To achieve this, we will probably need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by somewhere between 70% and 95% by 2050. We have 35 years to do it.

4. We need a transformation

So, where do greenhouse gas emissions come from and how do we get rid of them? Well, the vast majority of emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels - coal, oil and natural gas.

If we want to avoid run-away climate change, we will have to transform our entire energy system and stop digging and burning these fuels.

A range of alternative energy sources could be used to replace fossil fuels, but most importantly, we must increase energy efficiency.

We also need to stop deforestation, make food production more sustainable, and replace harmful industrial gases and processes with clean alternatives.

5. Coal is public enemy number one

Coal, is the dirtiest of the fossil fuels. It accounts for 73 % of the emissions from electricity production, according to the New Climate Economy Report. Nevertheless, between 2000 and 2010, coal consumption grew rapidly, especially in Asia.

Getting rid of coal is key to tackling climate change. For this reason, it is a great relief to note that, recently, coal seems to be on it's way out.

Global communities and decision makers are starting to realize how outdated and dangerous coal is. Coal use causes air pollution, water shortages and other damage to people and the environment. Getting rid of coal would improve many peoples' health and save many lives. According to the WHO, 1 million people die prematurely every year because of air pollution from coal.

Right now, some of the most dramatic and influential changes are taking place in China and the US. China's coal boom finally appears to be coming to an end, and, in the US, it's use has gone down by nearly 21% since 2007. As investors begin to realise that the days of coal are numbered, coal's reputation is changing from "great business" to "appallingly poor long-term investment."

6. Renewable energy is here, cheap and ready to roll out

Here's what's new since the last big UN climate report in 2007: renewable energy has made a breakthrough.

Renewable energy is growing fast and is becoming much, much cheaper. Wind is now the cheapest source of new electricity in a growing number of places, while solar prices have fallen by 80% since 2008 and they're expected to keep dropping.

From 2005 to 2012, wind power grew five-fold and solar power grew 25-fold. Renewables now cover a fifth of the world's entire energy consumption and a bit more of electricity production. The way things are going, by 2030 wind alone could provide a fifth of world's electricity and by 2050 the sun could be the world's main power source.

Although the shift is already happening, it needs to happen faster. Governments need to make it even more profitable to invest in renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.

7. We can do without nuclear power and CCS

In principle, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies could help to reduce emissions. In practise, it doesn't look like this is going to happen, not on a big scale anyway.

Nuclear power, which currently provides just 10.8% of the world's electricity supply, is on its way out. The reactors across the planet are getting old and the development of new plants is expensive and includes hidden costs. They're also very slow to get up and running. And, we still haven't figured out how to get rid of nuclear waste.

Anyway, according to the IPCC, leaving out nuclear won't make much difference to the emission reduction costs.

As for CCS, it's also expensive and hasn't shown many results. In fact, CCS is so expensive to install and so energy- and water-intensive that the technology just doesn't make sense economically.

As it stands, the only CCS projects that have been able to go ahead are the one's connected to getting more oil out of the ground! The first and only operational coal plant with CCS (the Boundary Dam project in Canada) is based on this idea: CO2, which has been scrubbed from the coal, is used to extract otherwise inaccessible oil from depleted oil fields. As a result, oil that would otherwise have stayed in the ground is being burned. Hardly the "solution" we need.

(CCS is included in many of the emission reduction models assessed by the IPCC. Yet, it's not necessary: there are also ways to achieve the required emissions reductions without prolonging the use of fossil fuels with CCS. So there's no need to wait for anything, but to act here and now with technologies that work and bring the biggest benefits and smallest risks.)

8. No, you can't touch that

There's still a lot of coal, oil and gas that can be dug, sucked and fracked out of the ground. That's just too bad. To stop the climate from going haywire, we need to leave most of those fossil fuels where they are. If we aim to keep below 2°C, the most we can afford to use is about one-fifth of what we have in the reserves. The rest is hands off. And what that also means is: the hunt for new oil is a reckless and costly waste of time.

9. Acting is not expensive. Not acting is.

Scientists have tried to figure out how much it will cost to do what it takes to keep climate change from getting out of hand. It is not much at all. The economy will still continue to grow. Only, it may grow a little bit slower. A little.

According to the IPCC, the expected decrease in consumption growth is around 0.06%. And this estimate doesn't even include the benefits of action!

For comparison, mortality from air pollution in China is now valued at 10% of GDP.

If we phase out fossil fuels, chances are that the money we save on health care because of cleaner air alone will pay back part of the costs of making that change. And switching to renewable energy is good for employment too. When China invested in solar technology in 2010, half a million new jobs were created.

And, in any case, if we don't do anything, the costs would be immeasurable.

10. We need to work together, and we need to be fair

If we are going to transform the entire energy industry in a short amount of time, we will need to work together. Politicians will need to step up and take action, in a spirit of fair sharing of effort.

Rich countries have already emitted vast amounts of CO2 (that's essentially how they got rich), and they carry most of the responsibility for the climate changes we are seeing now. Ironically, those who have contributed to the problem the least, the world's poor, will be hit the hardest. In the middle there are rapidly developing countries like China, with emissions per person already exceeding Europe's, who could become game-changers in climate action.

If you damage another person's property, you pay for it. That's what we call fair. If we want countries with very different levels of responsibility, capability and vulnerability to cooperate, we need to apply the same principles of fairness in dealing with climate change. The polluters must pay. Applying this principle should start from the big corporate polluters. That's where the big money sits – money made with digging and burning of fossil fuels.

Kat Skeie is a Communications Officer at Greenpeace Nordic.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is finalising it's Fifth Assessment Report in Copenhagen 27 Oct – 2 Nov. For a detailed and referenced analysis of the IPCC 5th Assessment Report findings, see here. For a slide show on climate science and other stories, see: www.greenpeace.org/ipcc.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan edges back towards nuclear power with vote to restart reactors

Guardian: Japan has moved closer to a return to nuclear power, more than three years after the Fukushima disaster, after a town in the country’s south-west voted to approve two reactors coming back online. Nineteen of 26 assembly members in Satsumasendai, located 600 miles south-west of Tokyo, voted in favour of restarting the Sendai nuclear power plant. Four voted against and three abstained. The vote does not mean the reactors, the first to win approval to restart since the introduction of stringent...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Japan nuclear plant gets approval to restart, over three years after Fukushima

TOKYO (Reuters) - A town in southwest Japan became the first to approve the restart of a nuclear power station on Tuesday, a step forward in Japan's fraught process of reviving an industry left idled by the Fukushima catastrophe in 2011.







Read more [Reuters]

Lockheed Martin’s compact nuclear reactor? Yet more fusion fantasy!

Clean, abundant, sustainable and commercially viable energy from nuclear fusion is the stuff of science fiction. Lockheed Martin's announcement this week that it plans to produce a fusion reactor that will fit on the back of a truck in just ten years is yet more fantasy.

The joke about commercial nuclear fusion is that it's 50 years away. Always 50 years away. The joke is very old because scientists have been trying, unsuccessfully, to get nuclear fusion to work for a very long time. It's a cliché because it's true.

So weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin's recent announcement sounds like little more than a wild boast that will embarrass them later down the line. It says it can build a compact fusion reactor (CFR) 90 percent smaller - small enough to fit on a truck - than other prototypes and in just ten years.

How will Lockheed Martin succeed where everybody else has failed? There's a suspicious lack of detail in its press release.

"The smaller size will allow us to design, build and test the CFR in less than a year."

The CFR concept isn't even off the drawing board yet. They say it's going to take five years to build the prototype and if Lockheed Martin succeeds where all others have failed, the CFR will be "deployed in as little as ten years."

"As little as ten years". One thing we've learned about the nuclear industry is that you never believe any deadlines or timetables. Everything nuclear is nearly always late. Nuclear fusion is permanently late.

Research into nuclear fusion has been ongoing for more than 60 years and history is littered with its failures. Take a look at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France. Construction began in 2008 and is expected to be finished in 2019.

The reactor won't begin operation until 2027 at the earliest and only if some huge scientific barriers can be broken. By 2027 ITER will be 11 years late. At $50 billion, its cost is already ten times the initial budget.

As for Lockheed Martin, its own timetable is already slipping. It made the exact same announcement in February 2013 that its CFR is just ten years away. It's now 18 months later and the CFR is still ten years away.

It's nuclear fusion history repeating. In his book, Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking, Charles Seife calls fusion research "a tragic and comic pursuit that has left scores of scientists battered and disgraced."

Not only that, but Lockheed Martin is bringing new problems to the party. The idea of a reactor on the back of a truck may look good in a press release but the reality would be a nuclear safety and security nightmare. Which means the CFR is not exactly the basis for a credible global energy solution.

Doesn't Lockheed Martin know we're in a race against time with climate change? It's planning to waste years of research, resources and money that must instead be devoted to clean, affordable and sustainable energy sources like wind and solar whose large scale deployment already underway today needs to move to an even greater scale if rapid carbon reductions are to be achieved. 

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


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan warns of increased activity at volcano near nuclear plant

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan warned on Friday that a volcano in southern Japan located roughly 64 km (40 miles) from a nuclear plant was showing signs of increased activity that could possibly lead to a small-scale eruption and warned people to stay away from the summit.







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US, Europeans row over post-Fukushima nuclear safety step

VIENNA (Reuters) - The United States is lobbying against an amendment to an international nuclear safety pact proposed by Switzerland, which Berne argues could help prevent Fukushima-style disasters but which may also increase industry costs, diplomats said.







Read more [Reuters]

On World Energy Day let's remind the EU that people want ambitious EU 2030 targets

Our ship, the Arctic Sunrise is back with a mission. After a year in Russian custody for a peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Arctic, she is now released, repaired and back in the water. Once again she will challenge reckless dirty fossil fuels plans – this time off the Spanish coasts, which is under the threat of off-shore drillings.

Activists onboard the Arctic Sunrise – and all over Europe – are calling for clean energy the very week that EU leaders are about to make crucial decisions about Europe's energy system for decades to come. They will be talking about how to reduce climate change including through using more renewable energy and improved energy efficiency. I hope the politicians attending will show the same courage and strength.

Image Gallery.. 

These activists are – literally – shouting from the rooftops, reminding the world what poll, after poll in Europe tells us: people want less fossil fuel exploration, more use of renewable energies and more effective energy efficiency.

These two strategies are the most clear and direct way to address climate change. Is this the week that politicians will listen?

Our message to EU leaders is very clear: Don't stand by as we stumble towards catastrophic climate change simply because you don't have the political backbone to modernize our aging, polluting energy system.

These leaders are posturing and wringing their hands, but they know what they have to do. They have to agree that the only way to stop climate change is to fully embrace the need for more renewable energy and implement better energy efficiency.

The choice is simple and their job at the EU summit this week is to do the ground work so this can happen.

If anyone is not sure what people want, take a train anywhere in Europe and see. Farms using wind turbines. Small roofs half covered in solar panels. In fact 60% of the renewables in Germany are used by households, farms and cooperatives. The future is arriving but we need to accelerate the process.

We want to know that when an office block renovates for a new business, planning permission requires that any changes result in the highest possible standards of insulation.

We want to know that any new city buses and private cars use as little fossil fuels as possible, making them cheaper to run.

We want government buildings to put solar panels on their roofs, not only to cut their energy bills, but to reflect the will of their electorate.

We want to reduce the billions of euros a day Europeans pay to import fossil fuel and steer fraction of it towards establishing a credible, smart renewable sector which will excite investors and create jobs.

All of these things would help curb climate change which, if unimpeded, will cost us much, much more in the future.

Greenpeace's volunteers and Europeans want to remind political leaders that they may not see these things but we are watching them and we won't tolerate their tired old arguments.  

Don't pretend drilling for oil is for jobs. Destroying the Canary Island tourism business doesn't help Spain's economy.

Don't pretend it's too expensive to have renewables. The UK's proposed new nuclear reactor will be one of the most expensive power generators in the world.

Don't pretend it's about logic or that a better energy system is unrealistic. Embracing a clean, modern, sustainable future that protects where we live – the planet – is the most logical, most realistic, in fact the only, choice.

Let's hope that this week, those politicians have the guts for the glory of us all and show they are worthy of our votes.

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Virag Kaufer is a European Energy Project Coordinator for Greenpeace Hungary.



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Japan prosecutors set to rule on possible Fukushima indictments

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese prosecutors must decide this week whether to charge Tokyo Electric Power Co executives for their handling of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, in a process that could drag the operator of the stricken nuclear plant into criminal court.

Read more [Reuters]

ROSATOM – the risks of nuclear politics

The Russian state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, is aggressively pursuing export contracts throughout the world – pledging to offer an ideal all-inclusive solution to the huge problems and risks associated with nuclear reactors

Even leaving aside the massive economic and human costs of a Fukushima-like disaster, nuclear reactors are expensive and slow to build. They require maintenance, regulatory infrastructure, and skilled labour to operate. They generate waste that is lethal to life for longer than modern humans have existed on the planet.

For decades Greenpeace has tirelessly exposed the corruption, environmental contamination and exploitation of populations by various nuclear suppliers and operators. These include: Areva, Westinghouse, GE, Hitachi and Toshiba. The nationality of the bad actor is not the issue. The massively negative impacts and socialized risks wrought by these actors, as well as the inherent risks posed by nuclear energy, are the problems.

But a new Greenpeace report exposes Rosatom, the most ambitious nuclear exporter, peddling a supposed cure-all contract solution to the enormous nuclear problems, as a particularly risky and dangerous business partner.

Our report lays bare the troubled history and current problems with the Russian nuclear program. As Rosatom’s predecessors oversaw the worst nuclear disaster in world history at Chernobyl, the company likes to claim it learned from its mistakes and has some of the safest reactors in the world. But a look at both its domestic and foreign projects casts a long shadow of doubt on both these claims and their future ambitions abroad.

Rosatom offers what seems like a deal too good to be true – a Build Own Operate (BOO) contract, which promises to finance, build, and operate reactors abroad – as well as take back and reprocess the waste spent from those reactors.  But the deal has serious financial, environmental and political implications.

Countries attracted to it for what they see as energy independence and security will, in fact, find themselves frequently indebted and beholden to this Russian state company for both the reactors Rosatom owns in their territory as well as uranium fuel imports. They could also find themselves with vast piles of highly radioactive wastes from reprocessing piled back on their doorstep– an important, but often overlooked footnote to the promise of Russian reprocessing.

In short, Rosatom is peddling this BOO scheme because nuclear power equals political power.

To be able to tap that political power, you need to get into the market, and for that you need financing. Rosatom, backed up by the Russian state budget and state controlled banks, can deliver it. Russia can offer loans at low interest rates (the goal is not monetary, but political profit, remember). But, as Hungary could attest, those low rates can come with enough complex punishment paragraphs in the fine print, to tie you hand and foot.

Many countries buying into Rosatom's BOO schemes believe that the company is selling a tested standardised product with its MIR reactor. As a bit of background, "Mir" means peace or world in Russian, MIR stands for Modernised International Reactor. In reality, except for the marketing concept, all VVER 1200 reactors so far have been completely different – as the Czech nuclear envoy Václav Bartuška has concluded.

Of course, in addition to technological safety, and political risks, there are also issues of corruption, cost overruns, and delays.

All of it adds up to a very risky and dangerous business partner – one that should cause a long pause before any policymaker jumps after a shiny promise of Russian nuclear only to find themselves in the nuclear quicksand rather than in greener renewable energy pastures.

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


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Blowin' in the wind

 

Wind power has a pivotal role to play in the world's energy supply over the next few years. By providing huge amounts of clean, affordable power, it can buy us time in the fight against global warming while revolutions in energy efficiency and solar power gain momentum.

Greenpeace and the Global Wind Energy Council have just released a two-yearly status report on wind energy and its prospects up to 2050.

In as little as five years' time wind power could prevent more than a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) from being emitted each year by dirty energy. That's equivalent to Germany's and Italy's emissions combined, or Africa's total CO2 emissions, or those of Japan, or two-thirds of what India pumps out.

Ten years after that, wind power could be supplying up to 19% of the world's electricity and avoiding over three billion tonnes of CO2 a year. By 2050, 25-30% of global power could come from harnessing the wind.

The wind industry has grown at around 26% per year over the past 18 years. Europe and China have been solid wind markets for over a decade.

Now the USA is on the way to gaining a 20% share of the world market. In the coming five years, the rapidly developing economies of Brazil, South Africa and India are likely to be among the next to reap the benefits of wind power.

The main reason for this is that wind power has become the least-cost option for adding new power capacity to the grid in an increasing number of markets. Prices are continuing to fall and smart investors are seizing on the potential. During each of the past four years, an average of €50 billion went into new wind power equipment. This could increase to €104 billion by 2020 and €141 billion by 2030, according to the status report.

There is also good news for jobs. Around 600,000 people currently work in the wind power industry. That figure could rise to around 1.5 million by 2020 and exceed 2 million jobs by 2030.

But what also makes wind power attractive is its 'scalability' and the speed that power can be brought on line. That's particularly important where people have no access to electricity. Contrast that with huge and highly controversial coal-fired or nuclear power plants that involve years of debate and construction.

(By the way, forget the claim by sceptics that more energy is used in manufacturing wind turbines than they supply. A wind turbine 'pays back' all of the carbon dioxide emissions from its manufacturing, installation, servicing and decommissioning in its first three to nine months of operation. That means pollution-free power for the rest of its 20-year design lifetime).

Why all this is important is because the power sector pumps out more than 40% of all CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Wind power is an ideal technology to achieve early reductions in carbon pollution and to keep the window open to avoid global warming crossing the 2°C 'danger' threshold. But time is short for meeting climate protection targets and ensuring that global emissions peak and decline during this decade.

Capturing all of the future opportunities for wind power will once again depend on convincing recalcitrant policymakers and overcoming the vested interests of the fossil fuel lobby.

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]

Climate Change on the Nuclear Subcontinent

Huffington Post: In a recent blog post, Secretary of State John Kerry described climate change as a "gathering storm," already affecting millions around the world and posing direct challenges to our national security and global stability. In a new report, the Pentagon agreed. Indeed, our climate is changing in erratic but decisive ways, as the ice caps melt, seas warm (and rise), and the temperature of the globe increases over time. Diverse disciplines offer perspectives on these issues that could lead to our deeper...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Dr. Caldicott Tells of Fukushima Lethal Toll and Meeting Ronald Reagan

EcoWatch: The great Dr. Helen Caldicott graced the Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show this week with her unique assessment of the health effects of Fukushima and the rest of the nuclear power industry. She tells us about what`s happening to the renewable industry in Australia, and why Dr. James Hansen needs to reassess his views on atomic energy. "Nuclear Power Plants are cancer factories and bomb factories ... because any country that has a nuclear reactor makes 500 pounds of plutonium a year and...
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Lockheed says makes breakthrough on fusion energy project

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp said on Wednesday it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion, and the first reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be ready for use in a decade.







Read more [Reuters]

Lockheed says makes breakthrough on fusion energy project

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp said on Wednesday it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion, and the first reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be ready for use in a decade.







Read more [Reuters]

Japan's nuclear restart unlikely this year, local vote expected in Dec

Reuters: As Japan pitches an unpopular nuclear restart to residents near Kyushu Electric Power Co's Sendai plant, local politicians say approval is unlikely until December, delaying an already fraught process to revive the country's idled reactors. More than three years after the nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima, the worst disaster since Chernobyl, Japan's nuclear plants remain offline nationwide even as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushes to restart reactors that meet new safety guidelines set by an independent...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Japan's nuclear restart unlikely this year, local vote expected in December

SATSUMASENDAI Japan (Reuters) - As Japan pitches an unpopular nuclear restart to residents near Kyushu Electric Power Co's Sendai plant, local politicians say approval is unlikely until December, delaying an already fraught process to revive the country's idled reactors.

Read more [Reuters]

French energy transition law to cut red tape on renewables

PARIS (Reuters) - France's much-delayed energy transition bill passed a key hurdle on Tuesday after a clear majority of the lower house of parliament adopted a text that skirts the key nuclear issue but includes simplification measures likely to boost renewables.

Read more [Reuters]

Companies call on EU leaders to back ambitious climate and energy policies

In the past, politicians have often been the ones pushing companies to become more conscious of health and safety issues. American politicians insisted that car companies install seatbelts. European politicians voted for hormone disrupting chemicals to be removed from children's rubber duckies.

Yet on the biggest issue of our generation, preventing climate change, it is companies showing leadership and trying to drag politicians into understanding what is best for us all; a clean planet where climate change has not become catastrophic.

Greenpeace applauds these 11 companies for embracing the future.

Unilever, IKEA, Philips, Eneco, Interface, Spar, ASN Bank, Heijmans, Swarovski, Actiam, and Zwitserleven understand that Europe's economic future relies on saving more energy using more renewable energy and (of course) immediately reducing greenhouse gases.

They are sending EU leaders a strong message before they meet at a decisive summit on 23-24 October. And they want some serious results from that meeting, as do we. They want an agreement on binding targets for the climate and energy package far more ambitious than what is being considered.

Here's the difference: EU leaders are discussing a 40% drop in European greenhouse gas emission, renewable energy making up at least 27% of overall energy use, and energy consumption being reduced by 30% through increased efficiency. These targets wouldn't be achieved until 2030.

In their statement, these companies ask for both renewable and energy efficiency to be boosted to at least 40%, a significant increase. Of course it's not as ambitious as Greenpeace wants, but these industry leaders are certainly heading in the right direction. And they're not just talking the talk.

They are walking the walk in their own businesses. Unilever has committed to ensuring that 40% of its energy use is from renewable sources by 2020. Philips is aiming for 100% renewable energy by the same year and Ikea wants to do even more by creating renewable energy on site. For instance, they’re building solar farms in Poland.

The company which is so big it has become a verb, Google has invested €2.5bn in Nest, a smart home energy company which improves energy efficiency.

These companies know that their continued success depends on making better use of energy, having more secure sources for it and using the latest technologies to access it.

The world's largest private bank UBS, agrees. Recently they advised their clients that solar power, electric cars and cheaper storage batteries are the future. Not outdated pipelines that leak into water tables all over the world, or expensive risky nuclear plants which never come in on budget and leave us with a painful legacy of waste which – decades later – nuclear operators still haven't figured out how to handle.

Yet our government followers (can we really call them 'leaders'?) line up to support polluting fossil fuel energy, much of which Europe pays to import from undemocratic, corrupt regimes. (Greenpeace's recent report "Tied down: Why Europe's energy giants want to keep us hooked on imported fossil fuels" explores that more closely.)

Europeans aren't waiting for their politicians to catch up. Farmers are running energy cooperatives with their neighbours. Apartment blocks are installing solar panels. Home owners have smart house devices that automatically turn off electricity and heat. More and more people are embracing the new technologies which help us cut our dependence on imported fossil fuels. Like these companies, people know that our very survival depends on it.

When these companies wrote in their statement; "Europe must use this opportunity to move towards a more sustainable future", they weren't referring to those already doing it, rather to the politicians who must catch up with them.

The summit is next week. There is still time to move your political leader to actually lead. Tweet them. Email them. Call them. Tell them to meet us in the future not pull us into the past.

Jorgo Riss is Director of the European Unit Greenpeace.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

The key to nuclear's future or an element of doubt?

CADARACHE France (Reuters) - Behind thick glass in a laboratory nestled in French woodland, a silvery molten metal swirls like a liquid mirror. But the material is no mere novelty; as dangerous as it is captivating, it could offer a solution to the nuclear power debate.







Read more [Reuters]

The key to nuclear's future or an element of doubt?

Reuters: Behind thick glass in a laboratory nestled in French woodland, a silvery molten metal swirls like a liquid mirror. But the material is no mere novelty; as dangerous as it is captivating, it could offer a solution to the nuclear power debate. For sodium, the sixth-most abundant element on the planet, is being held up as the key to one of several new types of nuclear reactor being developed as governments grapple with the problem of making atomic energy more environmentally friendly, safe and financially...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

As nuclear waste piles up, South Korea faces storage crisis

Reuters: Among the usual commercials for beer, noodles and cars on South Korean TV, one item stands in marked contrast. A short film by a government advisory body carries a stark message: the nation faces a crisis over storing its spent nuclear fuel after running reactors for decades. The world's fifth-largest user of nuclear power has around 70 percent, or nearly 9,000 tonnes, of its used fuel stacked in temporary storage pools originally intended to hold it for five or six years, with some sites due...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

As nuclear waste piles up, South Korea faces storage crisis

SEOUL (Reuters) - Among the usual commercials for beer, noodles and cars on South Korean TV, one item stands in marked contrast.

Read more [Reuters]

French MPs back cut to nuclear energy reliance

PARIS (Reuters) - A law which fixes a target of reducing French nuclear power production from 75 percent of the country's energy supplies to 50 percent by 2025 won approval from the lower house of parliament on Friday.

Read more [Reuters]

Japan pitches nuclear restart in tightly controlled townhalls

SATSUMASENDAI Japan (Reuters) - As part of a plan to restart its nuclear industry, Japan on Thursday began a controversial consultation process with local residents near idled reactors that was criticized for failing to give everyone in the region a say.







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Reports: Germany mulls legal action over EU's nuclear Hinkley ruling

BusinessGreen: The Germany government is reportedly considering joining Austria in suing the European Commission for approving UK plans to help finance the £24.5bn construction of new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point, Somerset. According to Montel, the German ministries of energy and environment are studying the contract between EDF and the UK to ensure it complies with state aid guidelines. After a lengthy investigation, the European Commission on Wednesday approved a modified UK plan to offer developer...
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The European Commission’s nuclear decision threatens our clean energy future

Yesterday's authorisation by the European Commission of massive subsidies for the UK's Hinkley Point C nuclear project is an enormous set-back for the country's development of a sustainable and clean energy future. Not only that, it may well stall the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in large parts of Europe for the next decade.

Strong nuclear lobbies in countries like Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia are pinning their hopes for survival on the Hinkley project. The chance to funnel large sums from state coffers and consumers' pockets to these megalomaniac pet projects will cause frantic activity in those countries where old, centralised energy systems are still popular with politicians.

Plans for 19 new nuclear reactors in Europe are based in the east of the European Union. Excluding the 12 reactors planned in the UK, there are none so far in Western Europe. It's hard to believe that even multi-billion euro hand-outs could change the atmosphere in countries like Italy, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, who are all phasing out their nuclear fleets.

There is a small risk that this will lead to new operating nuclear reactors. Nuclear power has priced itself out of the market in Europe with massive construction costs (5000 € / kWe or more). It's simply impossible to find sufficient financial backing unless countries are willing to sell themselves out completely to Russia's Rosatom and Vladimir Putin's financial and energy moguls, as Hungary and Finland are currently doing.

More disturbing is the threat of the discussion about energy efficiency and clean (and cheaper) renewable energy sources being pushed into the margins again. Europe needs to start urgently harvesting its abundant reserves of clean energy and plans for new nuclear reactors stand in the way.

The one non-nuclear country in the midst of it all, Austria, has announced it will fight the Commission decision in the European Court. It stands a good chance, because this deal breaks too many EU rules. As my colleague, Greenpeace EU legal adviser Andrea Carta, says:

"It's such a distortion of competition rules that the Commission has left itself exposed to legal challenges. There is absolutely no legal, moral or environmental justification in turning taxes into guaranteed profits for a nuclear power company whose only legacy will be a pile of radioactive waste."

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


Read more [Greenpeace international]

EU approves Hinkley Point nuclear power station as costs raise by £8bn

Guardian: The European commission on Wednesday gave Britain the green light for a huge government subsidy that will open the way for the first atomic power stations to be built for nearly 20 years. The ruling was welcomed by ministers and the nuclear industry but Austria threatened legal action against it, while consumer champions said it could add more than £5bn a year to energy bills. A majority of commissioners agreed Britain was not breaking state aid rules, overcoming the last regulatory hurdle...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

First new British nuclear plant in decades wins EU funding fight

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A British plan to guarantee the price of power from its first new nuclear project in decades won European Union backing in a landmark ruling on Wednesday that now faces legal challenges.







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First new British nuclear plant in decades wins EU funding fight

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A British plan to guarantee the price of power from its first new nuclear project in decades won European Union backing in a landmark ruling on Wednesday that threatens to trigger legal challenges.

Read more [Reuters]

The Swiss start-up tackling radiation threats

Entrepreneurs have helped develop a new system designed to detect radiological threats, which is being tested at ports across Europe. (SRF ECO, swissinfo.ch) Monitors hidden inside a van can single out freight containing substances such as uranium, plutonium, or radiological components for "dirty bombs”. These are weapons that combine radioactive material with conventional explosives. The information gathered allows operators to exclude the possibility of a detected plutonium source being a “ready-to-go” nuclear weapon. The system is the first of its type in the world to combine fast and thermal neutron detection. The technologies were tested at CERN, the European Laboratory for Nuclear Research near Geneva. The MODES_SNM project – the result of pan-European research and development –unites specialists from a number of fields, ranging from customs to nuclear physics. It was funded by the European Commission and developed by a consortium that includes Swiss start-up Arktis ... Show more
Read more [Swissinfo.org: sci & tech]

Nuclear workers kept in dark on Fukushima hazard pay

HIRONO (Reuters) - Almost a year after Japan pledged to double hazard pay at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, workers are still in the dark about how much extra they are getting paid, if anything, for cleaning up the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Read more [Reuters]

Nuclear workers kept in dark on Fukushima hazard pay

HIRONO (Reuters) - Almost a year after Japan pledged to double hazard pay at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, workers are still in the dark about how much extra they are getting paid, if anything, for cleaning up the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.







Read more [Reuters]

Solar power market could hit 200GW milestone by year end

BusinessGreen: The worldwide solar power industry is set to add the equivalent of five large-scale nuclear power plants in the final quarter of 2014, potentially hitting the 200GW capacity mark by the year end, according to analysts. New research by NPD Solarbuzz published yesterday estimates that global PV installations in quarter four will exceed 19.5GW, taking the annual total to 50GW. As a sign of how strong the market is growing, the installations for the coming quarter alone are likely to surpass the entire...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Should the European Commission wear green goggles more often?

That's the question lawyers were arguing about in Luxembourg last week. It is a case where Greenpeace is challenging the approval of up to €1.6 billion in aid to Spain's coal industry.

Spain is a poster child for clean energy. It has revolutionised its power supply, pushing down harmful emissions, reducing the bill for fossil fuel imports and creating thousands of green jobs along the way — all in the space of a few years. Last year, wind power was Spain's top source of electricity.

But this success story is now under threat. The Spanish government is retroactively changing the rules and cutting back on support for renewables which it says cost too much. At the same time, it continues to defend its support of the country's uncompetitive coal industry which has swallowed over €24 billion in subsidies since 1990.

Our legal challenge relates to the latest major support scheme for coal, a Royal Decree euphemistically entitled "Restrictions to Guarantee Supply", which was adopted in 2010. At that time, mine workers in Castille and León were marching in protest against unpaid wages — a major worry for the socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who hails from the region.

The mines were already receiving direct subsidies, and EU rules prevented a further increase. Instead, the government decided to impose a "production obligation" on 10 power plants which run on Spanish coal, requiring them to continue buying and burning it. In return, the government promised up to €400 million a year in compensation to cover the higher cost of Spanish coal and the purchase of greenhouse gas emission allowances.

Under EU rules, State aid of this kind must be reviewed by the European Commission. The Spanish government argued that the scheme should be approved on the grounds that the 10 coal-fired power plants perform a "service of general economic interest" by keeping the lights on when the wind isn't blowing. They argued that the scheme also reduces Spain's dependence on imported energy.

Power companies that generate electricity from other sources — such as renewables, gas or imported coal — were up in arms. So were environmental organisations, including Greenpeace. They pointed out that, far from being at risk of blackouts, Spain's electricity system suffers from serious overcapacity. Many Spanish gas-fired power plants don't run at full capacity, because there is not enough demand for electricity — and they offer a much cleaner back-up solution than coal does.

Yet, after intensive lobbying by the Spanish government, the Commission approved the aid without opening an investigation. Its effect was immediate — Spain's National Energy Commission estimated that the scheme caused a 35% increase in carbon emissions from the electricity sector in 2011.

A number of power companies decided to sue the Commission before the EU's General Court. Greenpeace applied to join these cases. On Tuesday, the hearing was held in Castelnou Energia v Commission, with Greenpeace Spain intervening.

Castelnou argued some of its gas-fired plants have been put out of action due to unfair competition from subsidised coal. Greenpeace Spain — represented by high-caliber pro bono lawyers — focused on the negative environmental impact of the Spanish scheme. Under EU law the European Commission is required to take environmental requirements into account in all its activities, in order to promote sustainable development. This is called the "integration principle", and is found in Article 11 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). As we put it in court, the Commission should look at the world through "green goggles".

What does a scheme that orders power plants to burn more coal — and tells them not to worry about pollution as the government will pick up the bill — look like through green goggles? Quite brown, and hardly in line with the "polluter pays principle" — which is also enshrined in the same treaty. The Commission, we told the Court, should at least have opened an investigation to see whether "security of supply" could not be guaranteed in a greener way.

Non-governmental organisations like Greenpeace are only very rarely given an opportunity to argue before the EU courts. This case is therefore a special opportunity to challenge some three-quarters of energy subsidies in the EU that still go towards fossil fuels. Will the judges put on green goggles of their own and side with our case? Expect the ruling some time in mid-2015. The Spanish support scheme will have ended by then — it expires at the end of this year. Hopefully, the Spanish government will not attempt to renew it in some form, avoiding the need for further legal action.

At the same time, Greenpeace is trying to convince the Commission to put on green goggles in another case; the unprecedented State aid that the UK government wants to give to the Hinkley nuclear power plant. Let’s hope that the Commission will do the right thing, and will avoid facing more legal challenges, by us and by others.

Daniel Simons is Legal Counsel for Campaigns and Actions at Greenpeace International.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

United Kingdom: New cracks in Hunterston reactor

BBC: New cracks found in the core of the Hunterston-B nuclear reactor could threaten operator EDF's plans to extend the Scottish power station's life. Experts say fissures in two of the 3,000 graphite fuel bricks that make up its No 4 core are of a new type. These "Keyway root cracks" are said to be more serious than previously identified fractures. Safety rules stipulate that if the new problem gets above a certain threshold, the reactor would have to close. Hunterston-B came online in 1976,...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

While politicians are deciding our energy future, let's tell them: Listen to people not the polluters!

In three short weeks, on the 23rd and 24th of October, Europe's political leaders will meet in Brussels to agree on a European energy policy that will last for decades to come.

These politicians are under pressure, especially after the climate summit in NYC. They know they have to do more than talk and wring their hands about global warming. Europeans are expecting them to act.

As winter approaches, President Putin is likely to continue threats to turn off the tap to Europe. The fossil fuel lobby is working hard to convince a political leader that, despite what is happening in Ukraine, and in my home country of Hungary (where the government is folding under Russian pressure), we should not upset the Russian government. The suggestion is: staying quiet will help us stay warm. And the safest bet is to ignore calls for more renewable energy.  

We know that the most secure energy is renewable energy, and every wind turbine we build cuts Europe's fossil fuel bill. The EU pays more than €400 billion every year, to buy more than half of its energy (53%) from abroad.

The cost of renewable energy continues to drop despite receiving smaller public subsidies than either the nuclear or fossil fuel sectors. According to leaked EU figures, in 2011 those industries soaked up a combined €60 billion in public subsidies in the EU – double the amount given to renewable energy producers in the same year.

Then you factor in the health costs of choosing fossil fuels. Air pollution from burning coal alone is costing Europeans €42.8 billion in annual health costs, while the unsolved problem of radioactive waste and nuclear decommissioning costs will continue to drain resources for generations. For instance, to extend the life of the French nuclear fleet to 50 years would, according to EDF, cost €55 billion.

Furthermore, we know that renewables provide jobs. By 2011 the renewable energy business in the EU had already created between 800,000 and 1.2 million jobs. (Commission staff working document 2014: Impact assessment for a 2030 climate and energy policy framework).

And then there is the low hanging fruit: energy efficiency. Every single country in Europe wants to use energy more efficiently. Who in their right mind would be against saving energy? I have never heard a politician say wasting energy is a good plan.

We want politicians to recognise that the people who voted for them have said what they want over and over, most recently by joining climate marches across the globe. Renewable energy = energy security.

We want to ensure that these politicians listen to the people who put them in the rooms of power, not just the fossil fuel and nuclear industries who are loudly knocking on the door. They are knocking on politicians' doors because they are scared. Their business model is outdated. They haven't invested in renewable energy when it is clearly the way of the future. Instead, the core of their business depends on importing dirty fossil fuels from volatile regimes and maintaining Europe's geopolitical vulnerability.

Greenpeace is calling on Europe's politicians to agree on a 45% share of renewables, 40% energy savings and 55% cut in domestic carbon emissions in their energy policy for 2030.

The next step towards the final agreement takes place on Monday October 6th in Milan, Italy. EU energy and environment ministers will prepare the ground for the big leaders' meeting two weeks later.

We want all those ministers to hear from their home countries before they arrive in Milan. We want our supporters to call on them to support more energy efficiency, more renewables and greater carbon cuts.

We want to remind them who they're working for.

Let's speak with one formidable, unavoidable voice for the future we want: renewables and efficiency are our greatest security.

If you live in Europe tweet your energy minister today! Tell him or her you want renewables and energy efficiency for a secure energy future.

Virag Kaufer is a European project coordinator, Energy at Greenpeace Hungary.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

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