Archive | April, 2011

Nukes Delayed

29 Apr

The New York Times reports that half the $17.5B Congress authorized  in loan guarantees back in 2005 has gone unclaimed. Yet Obama is going to add $36B more in guarantees to the budget next year. “Even supporters of the technology doubt that new projects will surface any time soon to replace those that have been all but abandoned.” However:

Mr. Wilmshurst [VP Electric Power Research Institute] said the continued depressed price of natural gas had clouded the economics of new reactors, and he predicted that construction activity would “go quiet” for two to five years. His group has shifted its efforts to helping figure out how existing plants can extend their licenses to 80 years from the current limit of 60.

Just what we need, even older and more fragile plants, NOT!

Fracking in Texas

28 Apr

Sharon Wilson gives us the scoop at Earth island Journal:

…authorities either lack the resources to deal with the air pollution, water contamination and other problems that accompany natural gas production; are limited in their response by inadequate laws and regulations; or continue in the long Texas tradition of favoring the oil and gas industry at the expense of citizens. Texas is just one of the places across the country where OGAP is working with communities impacted by the nation’s natural gas boom. Our new report gives voice to the families and communities on the front lines of a public health crisis that is spreading from the Barnett Shale to other parts of the state. It pulls together for the first time detailed results of air and water testing as well as health effects data linking residents’ symptoms to toxic chemicals used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

What’s most urgently needed is a new attitude: “Regulators and elected officials must protect residents whose health and safety are threatened, rather than industry profits.”

A Culture of Complicity at Work in Fukushima

27 Apr

The old boys network comes though time after time, and did so at the nuclear plant at Fukushima. The plant has had serious problems since 2000, “including cracks in the shrouds that cover reactor cores,” says The New York Times. But regulators, politicians, and company executives colluded in keeping the lid on:

Investigators may take months or years to decide to what extent safety problems or weak regulation contributed to the disaster at Daiichi, the worst of its kind since Chernobyl. But as troubles at the plant and fears over radiation continue to rattle the nation, the Japanese are increasingly raising the possibility that a culture of complicity made the plant especially vulnerable to the natural disaster that struck the country on March 11.

Do we have any reason to think that things are different in the good old USofA. I think not. “Best practices” is a B-school aspirational concept, and is used to sell books and other merchandise, but it’s not used to actually operate nuclear power plants, or deep sea oil drilling rigs. In those worlds the Best Practice is to set up a PR smoke screen.

Familiy resilience in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse

26 Apr

Just before the bottom fell out, he’d quit his job, she needed extensive medical care, and their daughter had her ills. They were well-fixed, however, having earned good salaries and socked away lots of $$$ in their 401K’s. Then Wall Street Roulette went bust and he couldn’t get a job, not even call-backs. But they still had bills to pay

They’ve managed, have grown, and are happy:

When something can’t be paid, we go without until it can. We were given a gift certificate for a meal out, and I tell you, that steak tasted better than any other I’ve had in my life. The value of what we purchase is rated by a new metric: what we truly need and will enrich our lives. That’s a lesson I don’t think we would have learned bumping through life with little thought about the cost of milk or gas. And the issues that lay behind those costs — like our dependence on oil and the importance of up-cycling resources to manage our waste — would have remained distant.

Full story at Salon.

An interesting take on Ron Paul

26 Apr

over at Salon:

A passionate, not insignificant chunk of the Republican base is receptive to him and his message. But most of the conservative establishment is openly hostile to him, partly because of his adamantly non-interventionist foreign policy views and partly because he can be so easily painted as a fringe figure. Elite conservative opinion-shapers long ago succeeded in marginalizing Paul within the GOP. This point was driven home at CPAC the past two years. Each time, Paul won the annual presidential straw poll (with well under 50 percent of the vote), setting off jubilant cheers from his supporters — and angry boos from just about everyone else in the room.

He’s sure to shake up the Republican presidential race and give ’em something to think about on their wasteful and destructive foreign policy views.

Resilience, 25 Years After Chernobyl

26 Apr

A village remains, Redkovka, Ukraine. And handful of families refused to leave, for this is their home, the church its center:

Most of Redkovka’s residents — about 1,000 people — resettled after the disaster. But the five families there today, including Ms. Masanovitz and her husband, Mikhail, 73, refused.

“This was home for them,” Ms. Markosian said. “This was where they grew up.”

“It was something that I had to understand,” she said. “And that came from just being there and seeing the thread that weaves this entire village together.”

Diana Markosian/Redux A Chernobyl card distributed by the Ukrainian government.

The thread, she found, was love: love for one another and love for the place. Together, the villagers endured the Second World War, Chernobyl and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now, they rarely leave. Although a bus drives through, Ms. Markosian never saw anyone board.

A photo essay in The New York Times. And another  at The Boston Globe (owned by NYT).

Captains of Industry, Where are They?

26 Apr

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Dr. Helen Caldicott on Nuclear Fallout

25 Apr

Fukushima is worse than Chernobyl. Radioactivity concentrates in food. We’ve got to get over our hubris; our arrogance threatens our way of life. Video lasts 10 minutes.

Wikipedia entry on Caldicott, Australian anti-nuclear activist.

Teach-in: Shut Down Indian Point Nuclear Plant NOW

25 Apr

Saturday, 30 April, 4 – 8 PM, Judson Memorial Church Assembly Hall, 55 Washington Square South, New York City.

The teach-in will feature 3 speakers: Chris Williams of Pace University and author of”Ecology & Socialism”, Tim Judson President of the Citizens’ Awareness Network and Marilyn Elie-Co-founder of the Westchester Citizens’ Awareness Network. The speakers will go into the specifics of the Indian Point Nuclear Plant, it’s power production and N.Y’s useage, the Fukushima disaster and it’s potential parallels at Indian Point, and a broader context of the political and economic use of nuclear power. We will discuss strategy to shut it down.

Organized by Shut Down Indian Point Now!

Ecology tells us we have limits

24 Apr

Literary critic and philosopher Tim Morris has a very smart post for the philosophically minded: Fighting Modernity with Modernity? No Thanks. What he’s against:

According to one view, humans emancipate themselves from Nature into a more total freedom over its pure plasticity. Yet this would be to continue in the aesthetic-sadistic thought that Nature is a malleable cartoon character who can be stretched and shaped to our whim. And which sadist gets to decide what to do next?

That is to say, modernity has bequeathed us the view that we have the technological tools to push Nature everywhich way we please. So, for example, we can create all the nuclear power we need, and some day we’ll figure out what to do with all that nuclear waste sitting in pools and casks, and some day we’ll figure out how to build plants that aren’t vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis. Someday.

He continues:

The question is, now that we know what we know, do we want to continue imagining different kinds of malleability (capitalism, communism) and is that all we want to do? Note that on my view, even if we achieve some kind of physical enactment of our dream—say we have enough political power and enough Earth shaking equipment—we will still be dreaming.

That is, now that we know we’re fouling our own nest with fracking and nuking and deep-sea drilling and all the rest, now that we know that, can we admit that we don’t really know what to do about all those unintended side-effects that keep getting in our face? Can we admit that we are limited, finite beings, and that we should conserve what we’ve got, both for us, and for the other creatures on that share this planet with us?

Do we keep on using tools from modernity’s toolkit to fix a problem created by that toolkit? Or do we see that the toolkit is a rather confusing part of a much wider configuration space?

Maybe we need a new tool kit? One that isn’t so new-fangled modern. One that is both old and newer than new. Let’s look at the truth, conserve what we got, and dance our way into a more sustainable future.