Another from the “Earth: The Operator’s Manual” series.  Worth watching just to try absorbing the scale of the change we will witness in the next few decades.

Also worth pondering, as climate deniers desperately attempt to put the brakes on our inevitable transition to renewables – will they succeed only in handing China global technological leadership for the coming century?

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Cleantechnica:

Thursday, PV-Solar broke through the 20 GW barrier for the first time, but before I managed to write about that, it’s old news already. On Friday, output from PV-Solar climped up to a staggering 22,240 MW as Germany experiences a week of wonderful summer weather.

To start, I will take a short look at Thursday’s record, which was historic to say the least. At about 12.45am, solar peaked at 20,097 MW. Throughout the day, it produced about 167 GWh of electricity.
That sure sounds like a lot, and it is a lot, especially considering that Germany consumes 1,200-1,400 GWh during a typical day in May.
So, 167 GWh, about 12% of the total electricity consumption, is coming from PV-Solar in a highly industrialized country. I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like cool news.
I’ll write more on Friday’s and coming records later, but wanted to get this news out asap.

 

Concerns about the shaky condition of spent fuel storage at the ailing Fukushima nuclear site have been bouncing around the inter-tubes for a couple
months. I’ve been waiting to see if the mainstream media was going to give this a look, or continue treating it all like old news. Our preference is for stories that have a beginning, a narrative, and a wrap that we can put in a mental drawer somewhere. This one is not that simple.

NYTimes:

TOKYO — What passes for normal at the Fukushima Daiichi plant today would have caused shudders among even the most sanguine of experts before an earthquake and tsunami set off the world’s second most serious nuclear crisis after Chernobyl.

Fourteen months after the accident, a pool brimming with used fuel rods and filled with vast quantities of radioactive cesium still sits on the top floor of a heavily damaged reactor building, covered only with plastic.

The public’s fears about the pool have grown in recent months as some scientists have warned that it has the most potential for setting off a new catastrophe, now that the three nuclear reactors that suffered meltdowns are in a more stable state, and as frequent quakes continue to rattle the region.

The worries picked up new traction in recent days after the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, said it had found a slight bulge in one of the walls of the reactor building, stoking fears over the building’s safety.

To try to quell such worries, the government sent the environment and nuclear minister to the plant on Saturday, where he climbed a makeshift staircase in protective garb to look at the structure supporting the pool, which he said appeared sound. The minister, Goshi Hosono, added that although the government accepted Tepco’s assurances that reinforcement work had shored up the building, it ordered the company to conduct further studies because of the bulge.

Bob Alvarez in HuffPost:

More than a year after the Fukushima nuclear power disaster began, the news media is just beginning to grasp that the dangers to Japan and the rest of the world are far from over. After repeated warnings by former senior Japanese officials, nuclear experts, and now a U.S. senator, it’s sinking in that the irradiated nuclear fuel stored in spent fuel pools amidst the reactor ruins pose far greater dangers than the molten cores. This is why:

• Nearly all of the 10,893 spent fuel assemblies sit in pools vulnerable to future earthquakes, with roughly 85 times more long-lived radioactivity than released at Chernobyl

• Several pools are 100 feet above the ground and are completely open to the atmosphere because the reactor buildings were demolished by explosions. The pools could possibly topple or collapse from structural damage coupled with another powerful earthquake.

• The loss of water exposing the spent fuel will result in overheating and can cause melting and ignite its zirconium metal cladding resulting in a fire that could deposit large amounts of radioactive materials over hundreds, if not thousands of miles.

This was not lost on Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who after visiting the site on April 6, wrote to Japan’s U.S. ambassador, Ichiro Fujusaki, that “loss of containment in any of these pools… could result an even larger release of radiation than the nuclear accident.”

The urgency of the situation is underscored by the ongoing seismic activity where 13 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0-5.7 have occurred off the northeast coast of Japan between April 14 and 17. This has been the norm since the first quake and tsunami hit the Dai-Ichi site on March 11 of last year. Larger quakes are expected closer to the power plant.

Senator Ron Wyden:

Washington, D.C. – After an onsite tour of what remains of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facilities decimated by last year’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) a senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, sent a letter to Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki looking for ways to advance and support clean-up and recovery efforts.  Wyden’s principal concern is the relocation of spent fuel rods currently being stored in unsound structures immediately adjacent to the ocean.  He strongly urged the Ambassador to accept international help to prevent dangerous nuclear material from being released into the environment.

“The scope of damage to the plants and to the surrounding area was far beyond what I expected and the scope of the challenges to the utility owner, the government of Japan, and to the people of the region are daunting,” Wyden wrote in the letter. “The precarious status of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear units and the risk presented by the enormous inventory of radioactive materials and spent fuel in the event of further earthquake threats should be of concern to all and a focus of greater international support and assistance.”

Wyden visited Fukushima on April 6, 2012 while on a Congressional delegation trip to the region.  He and a staff member wore radiation suits as they toured the facility and met with workers and managers from the Tokyo Electric Power Company, TEPCO, which is responsible for the clean-up.   Wyden found that the facilities designed to house spent nuclear fuel and the reactors themselves were still in a state of disrepair and located in areas that would make them susceptible to further damage from future seismic events. The reactor buildings still contain large amounts of spent fuel  – making them a huge safety risk and the only protection from a future tsunami, Wyden observed, is a small, makeshift sea wall erected out of bags of rock.

below – Senator Wyden on rising sea level implications for sensitive facilities:

Read the rest of this entry »

I wanted to put in an even bigger plug for Richard Alley’s “How to Talk to an Ostrich”  youtube series, -that has been spun off from the “Earth: an Operator’s Manual” project – so I made it the subject of this week’s video, and wrapped one of my favorite “Ostrich” videos up in a climate crock package.

The piece I chose to highlight is a particularly good one about the military’s early involvement in developing the data which nailed the radiative properties of greenhouse gases. I’ve discussed this before, here, and even, long ago, here, but its amazing how many people still have no knowledge of that puzzle piece. I just returned from the Heartland Institute Denia-palooza conference in Chicago, more on that later, – maybe – but I was struck by the number of blank stares I got when discussing how far back the history of this science goes, even with people who were supposedly scientifically literate.

Newest video from the companion series I am producing for The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media. Intro by Bud Ward:

Peter Sinclair’s monthly Yale Forum video uses historical footage to debunk an assertion that the most well-known climate change ‘advocates’ are … ‘murderers, tyrants, and madmen.’

This month’s “This Is Not Cool” Yale Forum video explores a phrase popularized — or more likely made infamous — by the recent Heartland Institute Chicago highway poster featuring Unabomber Ted Kaczynski: “murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

In a word-association game, it’s unlikely that many would bring up the names of Margaret Thatcher, or of Columbia University’s Wallace Broecker. Nor, for that matter, those of NASA scientist James Hansen; of the late biochemist and novelist Isaac Asimov; of theoretical physicist, author and cosmologist Stephen Hawking; of the late Cornell University astrophysicist and author Carl Sagan; of Microsoft’s Bill Gates; of Navy Admiral David Titley; or of Nobel Laureate, and now Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu.

Through an artful selection and piecing-together of some historical video and audio materials featuring each of those individuals expressing deep concerns about climate change, the video tees-off from a Heartland remark — defending its poster prank while at the same time ending the effort — that “the most prominent advocates of global warming are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

That billboard campaign, the first featuring Kaczynski, initially had been intended to include subsequent posters featuring Fidel Castro, Osama bin Laden, and one or two additional scalawags and scoundrels. Instead, it has led a number of large corporate funders to follow-up Heartland’s pulling of the plug with a pulling of the plug on their own part: A number of well-known corporate sponsors have announced they are ceasing their relationships with, and funding for, further Heartland efforts.

It’s been the year without a winter. Doesn’t look like we’ll miss out on summer, tho.
CBS managed the whole story without the phrase “climate change”.

For more, Climate Progress has an informative post by Jeff Masters on the end of La Nina, and potential for a new el nino this summer.