Gregor MacDonald, energy journalist and renewables guru, flagged up a really interesting piece of data from the latest BP Statistical Review this weekend.
It comes in the shape of the following chart (mocked up by MacDonald) showing an exponential growth in global solar consumption since 2001: Read more
America’s most senior soldier arrived in Israel yesterday for consultations with military and political leaders amid speculation that the two countries are disagreeing on how best to stop Iran’s nuclear programme. Secret talks are expected to focus on Iran and the issue of a possible Israeli strike against its nuclear facilities, reports the FT. Israeli commentators and analysts believe the visit is part of a broader effort by the US administration to persuade Israel not to embark on air strikes in the near future – or at least to give Washington warning before any attack. The US and Israel are thought to differ on a range of issues relating to Iran’s programme. Some senior Israelis believe a decision must be made this year on whether to bomb Iran’s nuclear installations because Tehran is getting close to building a weapon. However, the US believes Iran is still not close to conducting a test.
Geopolitical tensions over Iran have sparked fears of oil rising as high as $200, says the FT. The price of Brent crude, the global benchmark, has rallied to almost $115 a barrel as the war of words between Israel and Washington, on one side, and Tehran over its nuclear programme escalates. Bloomberg reports US and European officials said they will seek to tighten financial sanctions against Iran as soon as possible, armed with a United Nations atomic weapons inspectors’ report that asserts Iran has conducted clandestine activities “specific to nuclear weapons”. The International Atomic Energy Agency concluded the Persian Gulf nation has pursued a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on its ballistic missiles. Yesterday’s statement is the strongest to date from the Vienna-based UN watchdog that Iran isn’t simply seeking peaceful nuclear power, as its leaders insist.
The United States and North Korea on Thursday began discussions on whether to reopen talks on the latter’s nuclear weapon programme. Two years after the countries’ last diplomatic exchange, the US special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, met North Korean negotiator vice foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan in New York. “We’re quite clear, broadly, on what we’re looking for, which is for North Korea to live up to its commitments … it needs to take concrete steps toward denuclearization,” Mark Toner, State department spokesperson, told Reuters.
The mayor of a small town in Japan has signed off the restart of two nuclear reactors, in a decision that could help avert a complete shutdown of Japan’s nuclear power stations, the FT reports. The decision by the mayor of Genkai, a town in Saga prefecture in southwestern Japan marks the first time the mayor of a reactor-hosting municipality has signed off on a restart since the March 11 tsunami. Meltdowns at three reactors at Fukushima Daiichi atomic station after the tsunami have turned a large swath of public opinion against nuclear power, and the government has promised a comprehensive energy-policy review. But so far, authorities in Tokyo have forced only one other atomic plant to close. Instead, it is local governments that have thrown up the biggest hurdles for the eight regional utilities in Japan that rely on nuclear power.
Nuclear technicians in Japan have restarted a problem-plagued water purification system at Fukushima Daiichi atomic power station, as they race to prevent radiation-contaminated water from overflowing into the sea, the FT reports. About 110,000 tonnes of highly contaminated water have accumulated in basements and service tunnels under the plant’s four crippled reactors, a result of three months’ worth of emergency cooling efforts since the March 11 tsunami. The onset of Japan’s early-summer rainy season has made the situation more critical by adding to the build-up. If water cannot be pumped out in the next few days, it is likely to overflow, according to Tokyo Electric Power, the plant’s operator. That would further contaminate the station grounds as well as the nearby ocean, making conditions more dangerous for emergency workers. The company is already struggling to keep to its timetable for bringing the plant to a safe “cold shutdown” by January – a process that depends crucially on its ability to cycle decontaminated coolant water through the reactors.
Extremely high levels of radioactivity were detected on Sunday in a building beside the No 2 reactor at Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, reports the FT. The discovery sparked fresh concerns after reports that the No 3 reactor was unlikely to have been breached, as feared earlier. Efforts to repair the cooling systems at the No 2 and No 3 reactors have been delayed by the need to drain radioactive water from the floors, Tepco, the plant’s owner, said. Workers were ordered out of the No 2 reactor building on Sunday after radiation 100,000 times the normal level was detected in water in the turbine housing unit. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Tepco’s president Masataka Shimizu is facing calls to resign after the crisis that wiped $26bn off the company’s market value.
Japan’s nuclear regulator said one reactor core at the quake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant may be cracked and leaking radiation, reports Bloomberg. “It’s very possible that there has been some kind of leak at the No. 3 reactor,” Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman at the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said in Tokyo on Friday. While radioactive water at the unit most likely escaped from the reactor core, it also could have originated from spent fuel pools stored atop the reactor, he said. Reuters, meanwhile, reports that three more Japanese firms have diverted liquefied natural gas to Tokyo Electric, the operator of the plant, as it becomes increasingly reliant on thermal output to meet the region’s growing electric power needs.
We know uranium stocks were hit badly by events at Fukushima, but here’s the effect on actual uranium ore prices, as quoted weekly by the Ux Consulting group:
The big question facing almost everyone in quake-rocked Japan now is…
… What exactly is going on with the country’s nuclear power plants? Read more