How our plug-in electric car changed our life

2015 Nissan Leaf - Our electric car changed our life.

We were surprised at how our two-year-old Nissan Leaf all-electric car changed our life.

When Rebecca and I got our 2015 Nissan Leaf in late May, 2017, we thought the biggest change in our life would be that we’d never visit a gas station again.

Surprise! The most important change was something we didn’t expect at all.

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Containment: a Movie Review – Current History, Future History, Stonehenge

David Kraft of NEIS, "Containment" cosponsor

David Kraft of NEIS, “Containment” cosponsor

Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, "Containment" cosponsor

Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, “Containment” cosponsor

Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group and Michigan Safe Energy Future recently hosted showings of the movie “Containment” at Kalamazoo Public Library and at Lake Michigan College’s South Haven campus. Beyond Nuclear and Nuclear Energy Information Service, represented by Kevin Kamps and David Kraft respectively, cosponsored the showings. Kamps introduced the movie. He and Kraft commented and took questions afterwards.

Containment” presents a stark picture of the devastation that nuclear power and its waste products inflict on real people and real places right now. It also imagines how today’s problems will haunt the distant future.

“Containment” brought us new information, expanded on and explained things that many of us thought we already knew, and raised questions few of us had ever considered.

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Palisades shutdown plan gets its first Michigan Public Service Commission hearing.

On December 8, 2016, Entergy Nuclear and Consumers Energy announced a plan to terminate their 15-year power purchase agreement. Both companies agreed that the PPA negotiated in 2007, when Consumers sold Palisades to Entergy, should end in 2018 instead of 2022. Since Consumers is the plant’s only customer, this agreement is essentially a Palisades shutdown plan.

Palisades Shutdown Plan Hearing, by Bruce BrownBruce

Palisades Shutdown Plan Hearing, by Bruce Brown

The closure, scheduled for October 2018, would come 13 years before expiration of the 20-year license renewal that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted Palisades in 2011.

But first, the Michigan Public Service Commission must decide whether to allow or to veto the Palisades shutdown plan. MPSC scheduled its first hearing in the matter for March 9 and told Consumers to publicize the hearing and invite people to attend and comment.

Shortly after Entergy and Consumers announced their Palisades shutdown plan, the Executive Committee of Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group passed a Resolution supporting the plan. The resolution has been uploaded to MPSC’s online docket as a comment. Attorneys have filed petitions to participate in the case on behalf of six different clients. I’ve looked at the case’s documents online, and it appears that the issue at question is how Consumers will pay for the PPA buyout. (Disclaimer: I’m not fluent in legalese.)

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Permanent Palisades Shut Down Announcement: For anti-nuke activists, a celebration. Then what?

Is it really a permanent Palisades shut down?

permanent Palisades shut down

In a December 8, 2016, press release, Palisades nuclear plant owner Entergy announced a permanent Palisades shut down effective October, 2018.

Long story short: Executives at Consumers decided their company was paying Palisades too much for electricity. They negotiated with Entergy, owner-operator of Palisades, to knock the last four years off the fifteen-year purchase plan they agreed to when Consumers sold its Palisades plant to Entergy in 2007. Consumers, Palisades’ only customer, will stop buying electricity from Palisades in 2018, not 2022. For thirteen of the twenty extra years Entergy got in 2011 when the plant’s original 40-year license expired, Palisades has no buyer for its uncompetitively priced electricity. So Entergy officials decided on a permanent palisades shut down.

On December 8, Entergy issued a press release saying, “Entergy intends to shut down the Palisades nuclear power plant permanently on Oct. 1, 2018.”Read more

High-Level Nuclear Waste Disposal: Our Eternal Problem

our high-level nuclear waste disposal problem

Our high-level nuclear waste disposal problem: The industry calls it “clean, safe nuclear energy,” but each plant has been manufacturing tons of waste that’s dangerously radioactive for millions of years – forever, as we humans count time.

300px-little_boyThe experts and geniuses put the finishing touches on The Bomb and looked around and said, “What do we do with all this leftover stuff?” The answer was, “Ella-fine-oh. We’ll figure it out later.” Later was a long time ago. We’re in decade number eight of the “Atomic Age” and no one has figured out what to do about high-level nuclear waste disposal.

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War On Climate Change?

Should World War III really be a war on climate change?

Fred Upton opposes the war on climate change.

Pooh-pooher and ditherer-in-chief Fred Upton has opted out of the war on climate change. In 2009, he called climate change a “serious problem.” As the Union of Concerned Scientists points out, now that Upton heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is getting lobbied by – and getting campaign support from – the likes of Exxon and other fossil fuel giants, Upton says the opposite. He is not entitled to his counterfactual opinion. (Photo from Upton Website.)

Climate change? What climate change? I don’t believe it. It’s all a big hoax!

All our lives we’ve heard that “everyone is entitled to their opinion.” Well, not always. No one is entitled to a counterfactual opinion.

When satellite photos and people on the ground see that our polar icecaps are melting and lakes are forming in Antarctica, no one is entitled to the “opinion” that the Earth’s polar ice is not melting. When we see islands disappearing and people fleeing the coasts, no one is entitled to the “opinion” that sea levels aren’t rising. If icecaps are melting and sea levels are rising, no one is entitled to the “opinion” that the Earth is not warming. Rolling Stone, in a report that doesn’t mention melting ice and rising seas but points at floods, droughts, wildfires, and science, says climate change is here. What more do we need? An open letter signed by 375 of the nation’s top scientists, including 30 Nobel Laureates? Well, here it is. The first sentence, says “Human-caused climate change is not a belief, a hoax, or a conspiracy. It is a physical reality.”Read more

NRC Palisades Review – June 23, South Haven, Michigan

NRC Palisades ReviewHere’s my report on the June 23 NRC Palisades Review. Sorry it took so long. I had a hard time figuring out what to say. I also apologize for my two mess-ups.

My questions about embrittlement at the NRC Palisades Review

The moderator alternated among those who had signed up to talk, people participating by phone, and written questions from audience members who preferred not to speak. He happened to call me to the microphone first. I started by saying I’d have followup questions. I promised my total talking time would stay under the three-minute limit. I said I wanted to learn more about embrittlement.

NRC Palisades Review

My report on the NRC Palisades Review, by Bruce Brown

I asked, “What would happen if inspection and testing were to show that the shell that keeps the nuclear reaction contained – the reactor pressure vessel, or RPV – is too brittle to be safe?”

The moderator introduced Mark Kirk to answer my question. I recognized his name. He’s the NRC official who told MLive about a year and a half ago that “Palisades is one of the most embrittled nuclear reactors in the country.”

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Boycott Bottled Water

Boycott bottled water? Why? What’s the problem with bottled water? Well, for starters, the bottle and the water.

Boycott bottled water because of the water.

The water in the bottle is not worth more than a thousand times as much as the water from your faucet.

Boycott bottled water

The water aisle at my local grocery. Photo: Bruce Brown, Sierra Club SW MI Group.

Here in Portage, my water costs $3.19 per thousand gallons. Let’s round that up slightly to 3.2¢ per ten gallons. One litre (33.8 ounces) of Ozarka Brand 100% Natural Spring Water (one of the lower priced bottled waters) costs 89¢ at Target. To get ten gallons of Ozarka, I’d have to buy (rounding up slightly again) 38 bottles at 89¢ each – or $33.82 for ten gallons. That’s 1,057 times the cost of Portage tap water and about a dollar a gallon more expensive than gasoline here in my neighborhood right at the moment.Read more

CLEAN Nuclear Energy?

“Clean nuclear energy” is giving us a great big dirty problem.

The nuclear power plant is one of the world’s most complicated inventions. We comfort ourselves with the idea that the geniuses who’ve been building and running them – the nuclear physicists, metallurgists, designers, architects, plumbers, electricians – must know what they’re doing. They’ve thought of everything. They’ve got this safe clean nuclear energy stuff all figured out.

Clean Nuclear Energy?

By Bruce Brown

This is Part Three in a series on “Safe Clean Nuclear Energy.” Part One looked at why utilities and the nuclear energy industry call it “clean” and “safe,” and why we seldom question the terms. I argued that nuclear energy is not clean and safe. Part Two looked at how “safe” Palisades is, with its seriously embrittled reactor pressure vessel, its history of safety problems, and how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s weakened safety standards let Palisades get a 20-year license renewal. Part Three is what I’ve learned about how clean nuclear energy is.

Nope! There’s a great big dirty problem, and no one has figured it out. It started seven decades ago when the Manhattan Project finished inventing The Bomb. The problem has been getting bigger and dirtier ever since.

Even before we started going full blast creating all this “safe clean nuclear energy” a question came up. “What are we going to do with all this other stuff we’re making?” The answer was, “We’ll figure it out later.”

We still haven’t figured out a permanent solution to our nuclear waste problem.

While we wait for the experts to come up with an answer, what do we do with our radioactive waste?Read more

Safe Nuclear Energy??

A closer look at Palisades and its version of “safe nuclear energy”

Clean safe nuclear energy? Palisades Nuclear Power Plant near Covert, MI, on Lake Michigan.

Is this clean safe nuclear energy? Palisades Nuclear Power Plant (AKA the mistake on the lake) near Covert and South Haven in SW Michigan. Photo: Grist

This is the second edition in a series on “Clean Safe Nuclear Energy.” The previous post looked at why its proponents almost always attach the words “clean” and “safe” when talking about nuclear energy. It discussed why we tend not to question the terms. It argued in general that nuclear energy is neither clean nor safe. It looked at some of the issues that indicate that the operation at Palisades is not safe nuclear energy.

This edition explains how Palisades’ past performance and present condition show that it’s not safe.