Don’t try this at home.

Not news.
Nuclear power plants represent a singular security challenge.

The Ukraine crisis is providing us with a unique oppportunity to envision a future that is different.

Craig Hooper holds a PhD in Epidemiology from Harvard, and specializes in analyzing threats from chemical, biological and radiological sources.

Craig Hooper in Forbes:

As Russia’s buildup on the Ukrainian border continues, few observers note that an invasion of Ukraine could put nuclear reactors on the front line of military conflict. The world is underestimating the risk that full-scale, no-holds-barred conventional warfare could spark a catastrophic reactor failure, causing an unprecedented regional nuclear emergency. 

The threat is real. Ukraine is heavily dependent upon nuclear power, maintaining four nuclear power plants and stewardship of the shattered nuclear site at Chernobyl. In a major war, all 15 reactors at Ukraine’s nuclear power facilities would be at risk, but even a desultory Russian incursion into eastern Ukraine is likely to expose at least six active reactors to the uncertainty of a ground combat environment.

The world has little experience with reactors in a war zone. Since humanity first harnessed the atom, the world has only experienced two “major” accidents—Chernobyl and Japan’s Fukushima disaster. A Russian invasion, coupled with an extended conventional war throughout Ukraine, could generate multiple International Atomic Energy Agency “Level 7” accidents in a matter of days. Such a contingency would induce a massive refugee exodus and could render much of Ukraine uninhabitable for decades. 

Turning the Ukraine into a dystopian landscape, pockmarked by radioactive exclusion zones, would be an extreme method to obtain the defensive zone Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to want. Managing a massive Western-focused migratory crisis and environmental cleanup would absorb Europe for years. The work would distract European leaders and empower nativist governments that tend to be aligned with Russia’s baser interests, giving an overextended Russia breathing room as the country teeters on the brink of technological, demographic, and financial exhaustion. 

Put bluntly, the integrity of Ukrainian nuclear reactors is a strategic matter, critical for both NATO and non-NATO countries alike. Causing a severe radiological accident for strategic purposes is unacceptable. A deliberate aggravation of an emerging nuclear catastrophe—preventing mitigation measures or allowing reactors to deliberately melt down and potentially contaminate wide portions of Europe—would simply be nuclear warfare without bombs.  

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My next video, due very soon, profiles the catastrophic wild fire that blowtorched more than a thousand structures across Boulder County, Colorado, just before the New Year.

Associated Press:

A fire raging in an underground Colorado coal field in 1883 sent so much smoke pouring from cracks in the ground that the scene was likened to burning volcanoes and the state’s first mining inspector deemed the blaze “impossible to extinguish.”

Nearly 140 years later two fires still smolder in the now-abandoned coal field near Boulder — the same area where a wildfire last month destroyed more than 1,000 homes and buildings and killed at least one person.

It’s still unknown what caused the December blaze that became the most destructive in Colorado history, but Boulder County authorities have said they’re investigating the area’s abandoned coal mines as one of several possible causes, along with power lines, human activity and other possibilities.

Could smoldering coal have started such a fire? History shows the answer is yes, with at least two Colorado blazes in the past 20 years blamed on mine fires that spread to the surface. And in Montana this past summer slow-burning coal reserves fanned by winds sparked a pair of blazes that burned a combined 267 square miles (691 square kilometers) on and around the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.

Across the U.S. at least 259 underground mine fires burned in more than a dozen states as of last September, according to federal Office of Surface Mining data. There are hundreds and possibly thousands more undocumented blazes burning in coal seams that have never been mined, researchers and government officials say.

Globally, such fires are also a problem, including in India, Australia and South Africa. In China, the world’s largest coal producer, an estimated 10 million to 200 million tons of the fuel annually burn or are left inaccessible by fires, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

As climate change leads to drought across larges swaths of a U.S. West already seeing longer and more destructive fire seasons, experts say smoldering coal fires will pose a continuing threat.

Such fires can be ignited by lightning, humans and even spontaneously at temperatures as low as 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius), said Jurgen Brune a Colorado School of Mines engineering professor. Many are impossible to put out, slowly burning underground as the combustion feeds off a small amount of oxygen present in the coal, he said.

“Covering it up and trying to take away the oxygen from the fire puts out most fires. Not for coal fires,” Brune said.

Underground coal seams burn unpredictably and can break through to the surface without warning long after a fire starts, he said.

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Which is kind of a big deal, because Russia has dropped any pretense that they will try to use their dominant position in supplying European gas to throttle opposition to their aggression.
This whole crisis is stiffening resolve in Europe to decarbonize, and it will send shocks thru gas markets in the US by raising prices, likely permanently, and accelerating clean energy options here as well.

Yahoo Finance:

U.K. wind farms produced a record amount of energy on Saturday, helping to ease the country’s dependence on expensive fossil fuels in the short-term.

Wind generation rose as high as 18,431 megawatts, according to data from National Grid.

Higher wind speeds bring temporary relief to U.K. power prices. Surging natural gas prices are pushing up electricity costs which are feeding into bills for millions of households. Power for delivery on Saturday fell to 150.59 pounds ($201.81) per megawatt-hour, the lowest level since Jan. 3 on the N2EX exchange. The price for power on Sunday, when the wind is set to be lower, jumped to 193.57 pounds per megawatt-hour.

Wind power, in particular offshore, is the cornerstone of Britain’s net-zero plan, and it’s the second-biggest market in the world for the technology. The nation has plans to quadruple its capacity of wind farms at sea by the end this decade. Earlier this month Scotland awarded seabed rights for more than twice the size of the U.K.’s current capacity.

The high amount of generation Saturday wasn’t just due to strong winter winds, but also because of new offshore wind farms that started operating last year. As more projects come online, including the world’s largest offshore wind farm that’s being developed off the east coast of England, the country’s output will increase further.

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Reuters:

General Motors Co (GM.N) is investing in a U.S. lithium project that could become the country’s largest by 2024, making the automaker one of the first to develop its own source of a battery metal crucial for the electrification of cars and trucks.

The deal, announced on Friday, comes as automakers around the world scramble for access to lithium and other electric vehicle (EV) metals as internal combustion engines are phased out.

Detroit-based GM said it will make a “multimillion-dollar investment” in and help develop Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR) Ltd’s Hell’s Kitchen geothermal brine project near California’s Salton Sea, roughly 160 miles (258 km) southeast of Los Angeles.

“This will supply a sizeable amount of our lithium needs,” said Tim Grewe, GM’s director of electrification strategy.

The company declined to be more specific on its investment amount, but said the project’s lithium will be used to build EVs in the United States and that GM engineers and scientists will visit the site once pandemic-related travel restrictions end.

While other automakers, including China’s Great Wall Motor Co (601633.SS)and BYD (002594.SZ), have invested in lithium producers before, none appear to have taken such an aggressive step to be part of the production process, as GM is taking with CTR.

The move could spark other automakers to follow suit with similar partnerships, especially as demand for the metal is expected to outstrip supply by 20% within four years, according to industry consultant Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

As the price of gas soars around the world, we’ll keep seeing blame pointed at the renewable transition.
It’s bogus, of course.

Jan Rosenow on Twitter:

The argument that low renewable electricity generation led to higher gas generation driving up gas prices is clearly false. In the UK in the months Sep-Nov 2021 compared to Sep-Nov 2020 we can observe: Gas generation.

There have been attempts to blame renewables for the massive surge in gas prices which in turn drove up electricity prices. The data simply does not support this.

The main drivers for the high electricity and gas prices are: – rapidly growing global gas demand post-COVID – low gas storage levels – gas supply constraints We @RegAssistProj made those points back in early November.

Regulatory Assistance Project (UK):

Analysis of the root causes of the electricity price ‘roller coaster’ shows that the best and most durable solution to alleviate the social and economic impact of volatile fossil fuel prices is tackling the demand for fossil gas. Reducing Europe’s appetite for this fuel requires prioritising energy efficiency, ensuring a massive rollout of solar and wind, electrifying end uses currently served by natural gas, and limiting the use of hydrogen to green hydrogen solutions devoted strictly to hard-to-reach applications.

European Union Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators in its Preliminary Assessment of Europe’s high energy prices confirmed our analysis: “soaring gas price [is] driven by global demand and supply dynamics f[…] as a result of the global economic recovery from the Covid pandemic.”

The @IEA@fbirol could not be clearer too: “Unfortunately, we are once again seeing claims that volatility in gas and electricity markets is the result of the clean energy transition. These assertions are misleading to say the least.”

And of course there is also the geopolitical issue of Russia and limited gas supplies which were are down 40-50% year-on-year in the first two weeks of 2022 as @DrSimEvans points out.

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For a decade, when talking about climate deniers, Al Gore would say, “Well, some people believe the moon landing was fake, too!”, which would predictably elicit howls of indignation from the science averse community, because, of course they saw it, rightly, I think, as an insult to their intelligence and the general level of discourse in what they tried to present as the “skeptical” community.

Now, Fox News contributor and “conservative influencer” Candace Owens has confirmed that along with her “I don’t know anything about it but I just know it’s fake” stance on climate change, she is also sure that the moon landing was 100 percent deep state doo doo.
I had to read it a couple times to make sure she wasn’t joking, but there it is.

Ms Owens has 3 Million twitter followers, a regular platform on Fox News, appearances on the Joe Rogan show, and regular speaking gigs on college campuses to credulous “conservatives”.

The Overton Window for skepticism vs insanity has moved so far in the last few years, I’m wondering if this will even make a ripple in the right wing info-verse. She dropped it on her twitter feed last night with nary a peep of blowback, and just moved on.
This is not just another point on the contrarian-but-at-least-sentient spectrum. We are in another dimension entirely.

UPDATE: At Trump rally, young man promotes Flat Earth theory, denies evolution and Big Bang. This movement is a grab bag of choose-your-own crazy

Reposting below Owen’s recent conversation with the execrable Joe Rogan, who, to his slight credit, weakly pushed back on the climate denial crazy.

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Climate 101: A warmer ocean adds moisture and energy to a rapidly intensifying monster snowstorm.

The Price of Oil

January 28, 2022

Just prior to President Biden’s arrival in. Pennsylvania this week, a bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh.
Yet another reminder of the long term costs in infrastructure, productivity and opportunities – of endless wars for oil and gas in recent decades.
Now we find ourselves on the precipice of yet another conflict, where oil and gas are key issues.

A major study in 2018 quantified the costs in dollars at nearly 6 trillion dollars, but the real costs are so, so, much more.

CNBC, 11/14/18:

  • The U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001.
  • The figure reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of war is not borne by the Defense Department alone.
  • The report also finds that more than 480,000 people have died from the wars and more than 244,000 civilians have been killed as a result of fighting. Additionally, another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.

The U.S. wars and military action in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001, according to a new study.

That total is almost $2 trillion more than all federal government spending during the recently completed 2017-18 fiscal year.

The report, from Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, also finds that more than 480,000 people have died as a direct result of fighting. Over 244,000 civilians have been killed. Another 10 million people have been displaced due to violence.

The $5.9 trillion figure reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of war is not borne by the Defense Department alone, according to Neta Crawford, the study’s author.

Below, I recorded John Fabian, a farmer in Rosebush Michigan, who rose at an Isabella County Planning Commission meeting in support of a local wind farm. His story reflects yet another level of suffering and sacrifice imposed on the American people in service of fossil fuel dependence, and his hope for how we might set ourselves free.