Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup

Quote of the Week:

The reason for so much bad science is not that talent is rare, not at all; what is rare is character.” –Sigmund Freud, H/T William Readdy

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Number of the Week: Approximately 31.6

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By Ken Haapala, Executive Vice President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

The reporting of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan continues with the sensationalism of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant dominating over the human suffering caused by the natural disaster. In the mid-week, three workers at Reactor # 3 stepped into a pool of water that was more radioactive than expected. Reports from AP, and others, speculated that the radioactivity of this water may indicate a breach in the steel reactor vessel. Adding to the fears, Reactor # 3 is fueled by a combination of plutonium and uranium. However, other reports stated that readings from the reactor instruments indicate no change in reactor pressure, which indicates no breach in the reactor vessel. As of this writing, the cause of higher than expected radioactivity in the water is unresolved.

Evidence increases that the automatic mechanisms shutting down the nuclear reaction at all reactors performed as designed and back-up power went on when the reactors were disconnected from the grid. (According to reports, thirteen other nuclear power plants were affected by the earthquake and functioned as designed.) As discussed in TWTW last week, it was the tsunami that followed, about one hour later, which created the emergency at Dai-ichi by destroying the back-up power required to pump cooling water through the reactors and the cooling pools. Reports are conflicting, but, apparently, the tsunami was up to 5 meters (15 feet) higher than anticipated in the design plan for the power plant and sea wall.

The placement of fuel assembly cooling pools on top of the reactor containment structures was a second major flaw in the forty-year-old plans. No doubt such flaws will be addressed in the future.

As the sensationalism of the nuclear incident in Japan diminishes, even as the human tragedy continues, the speculation is shifting to what will happen to the nuclear power industry in Japan and world-wide. In a single issue, the normally staid Wall Street Journal, published articles containing opposing views for Japan: one, no change; two, the industry is derailed. Similar conflicting views abound. Germany, apparently, has reversed course, again, and will shut down its nuclear industry. Italy stopped permitting for a year.

Other than completing construction of a US Tennessee Valley Authority plant started in the 1980’s, the US has no nuclear plants under construction. The Federal government announced reviews of the current operating plants and the on-site storage of spent fuel and other waste. Of course, by closing down the nation’s only engineered nuclear waste facility, at Yucca Mountain, the current administration created a trap for the US nuclear industry. The environmental industry will bitterly fight any new nuclear projects without an existing nuclear waste storage facility, even though the environmental industry bitterly fought, and succeeded, in preventing such a storage facility. (SEPP thinks spent fuel should be recycled, not buried.)

Although it declared to suspend approvals of proposed new projects pending further review, China is pushing forward in its quest to be the world leader in modern nuclear power.

According to reports, the estimated 27 power plants under construction (sources vary) include the following: 18 are advanced designs of the French Generation II pressurized water reactors, 5 are Westinghouse AP 1000 Generation III modular reactors, and 2 are Areva EPR (first called European Pressurized Reactor) which are Generation III plus. Only Finland and France have an Areva EPR under construction and both are experiencing delays and cost overruns. Yet, China is starting two.

In addition, in April, China plans to start construction on the first full-sized pebble bed, modular, nuclear power plant, the HTGR, that will use the inert gas helium, rather than water, for a coolant. (Similar reactors have been tried in Germany and South Africa, but abandoned.) China is calling its venture a necessary step to a Generation IV nuclear power plant.

As explained TWTW last week, Generation III plus reactors have passive safety features – no operators, external power or pumps, etc. are necessary to control the cooling in case of an emergency.

In addition, modular construction as in the AP 1000 and HTGR, with standardization of parts, should allow greater control of construction costs and time tables, reduction of costs with volume, enhanced quality control, and provide systematized maintenance. Many of these issues arise with US reactors that are in a variety of sizes and types.

As the West becomes more introspective, and politicians allied with the environmental industry call for their vision of “21st Century renewable power,” China is becoming the world leader in modern nuclear power.

(Please see articles under “China Leads in Nuclear,” “Calming Fears of Nuclear Energy,” “Fanning Fears of Nuclear Energy,” and “Responses and Issues Remaining.’


Number of the Week: Approximately 31.6. Last week, in discussing the Richter scale, TWTW omitted explaining the second part of the Richter formula, which includes the square root of 10. Several TWTW readers alertly informed us of this error. By the Richter scale, an increase from 8 to 9 represents an increase in strength of an earthquake of about 31.6 times, rather than 10 times, as previously stated.


TWTW Corrections and Amplifications: Nuclear power experts David Manuta and Martin Hertzberg clarified last week’s discussion concerning the reaction of zirconium with steam. The reaction does not occur until temperatures reach about 1000 deg C or more, depending upon the zirconium alloy. After his investigation of Three Mile Island, Hertzberg advised the Electric Power Research Institute that the oxidation of zirconium produces additional heat, raising temperatures, intensifying the chemical reaction, making the combination unstable. Further, he stated that in concentrations above 8% the hydrogen can be an explosive, creating pressures of 140 psi and above. TWTW stands ably corrected.


As its power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions continues to be questioned by the US House of Representatives, the US EPA continues to march forward claiming additional powers and claiming extremely questionable benefits. EPA is proposing new regulations on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. EPA claims an additional 17,000 lives will be saved each year.

The New York Times takes up the EPA clarion call, announcing the 17,000 lives saved each year as definitive. Several days later, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrates that mercury is not an issue in the United States for diseases speculatively associated with mercury. Although the study covered only cardiovascular and similar diseases from the injection of mercury from fish, one must ask, what is the basis for EPA claims so trumpeted by NYT?

Several US Senators are calling for an accounting of EPA claims. TWTW believes EPA claims will crumble before any honest investigation. (Please see referenced under “EPA and other Regulators on the March.”


A US Federal Government funded report stated that the BP Oil Spill was directly caused by the failure of the blow-out preventer to properly close after the explosion on the BP oil drilling rig. According to the report, the blow-out preventer came within 1.4 inches of shutting off the drill pipe, but the explosion of the well caused a shift in the position of the pipe that prevented the blow-out preventer from fully closing.

Now doubt, any engineering and human operating procedures errors causing this failure must be addressed. But shall the recourses be denied? According to reports 4.9 millions of barrels of oil escaped through this small opening. How vast is the field? The poor safety record of BP is no reason for the administration to stop oil exploration and development in the Gulf. (Please see articles referenced under “BP Oil Spill and Administration Control of Drilling.”)


For several years, the defenders of the orthodoxy, including the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have claimed that they can succeed to defeat the few “deniers” if only they could communicate better with the public. Spending tens of millions of dollars, the defenders of the orthodoxy have engaged international advertising firms, pressure groups, Hollywood, etc.

In this process, the defenders of the orthodoxy have shifted from human-caused global warming, to climate change, to climate disruption, and, now, carbon pollution. All of these terms to mask what they desire: control of carbon dioxide – a non-toxic gas, essential for life, that cannot be verified as a toxin by standard scientific tests.

As Bob Carter, and others, boldly expressed, language is important. The defenders of the orthodoxy are manipulating language, as described by George Orwell. Things are made to seem what they are not. (Please see referenced articles under “Communicating Better by Changing Language.”

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For the numbered articles below please see:


1. Japan’s persistence prevails over panic

By Lana Spivak, American Council on Science and Health, Mar 21, 2011

No URL available.

2. Radiation Math: How Do We Count the Rays?

By Carl Bialik, WSJ, Mar 23, 2011


3. We are walking greenhouse gas factories – will they come after us next?

By Joseph D’Aleo, ICECAP, Mar 23, 2011


4. Five Questions for DOE Secretary Chu (so what has DOE R&D done for you lately?)

By Glenn Schleede, Master Resource, Mar 15, 2011


[SEPP Comment: What is the return from spending $150 Billion?]

5. Tsunamis of Information

By Gordon Crovitz, WSJ, Mar 21, 2011


6. Utopian Policies Boosting Prices For U.S. Energy

By Victor Davis Hanson, IBD, Mar 24, 2011


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Climategate Continued

Hide the Decline: Sciencemag # 3

By Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit, Mar 23, 2011


IPCC guru was a student when writing ‘authoritative’ reports

By Thomas Lifson, American Thinker, Mar 19, 2011 [H/t Catherine French]


Challenging the Orthodoxy

What Really Threatens Our Future?

By Willie Soon and Barun Mitra, Townhall, Mar 22, 2011


Global Greening Continues: Did We Cause It/

World Climate Report, Mar 23, 2011


More Climate Disruption Drivel

By Anthony Sadar and Stanley Penkala, American Thinker, Mar 22, 2011


U.S. Life Expectancy at All-Time High

World Climate Report, Mar 17, 2011


Communicating Better by Changing Language

Granholm: Clean energy campaign to steer clear of climate

By Andrew Restuccia and Ben Geman -, Hill, Mar 23, 2011


The Seas are Changing

Climate change-triggered high sea level led to more damage in Japan: Pachauri

By Staff Reporter, Hindu Times, Mar 23, 2011 [H/t WUWT]


[SEPP Comment: If the 17 cm (7.7 inch) increase in sea level during the 20th Century intensified the tsunami, what did the 400 foot increase in sea level from warming melting the Ice Age do?]

Education coordinator in sea level front page scare story in NJ Press ignores or distorts the facts

ICECAP, Mar 25, 2011


[SEPP Comment: ICECAP’s commentary is illuminating.]

Extreme Weather

Global Tropical Cyclone Activity

2010 is in the books

By Ryan Maue, FSU, Feb 2011


Tropical Storm Activity Hits A 40-Year Low – Possibly “Unprecedented”!

By P. Gosselin, NoTricksZone, Mar 21, 2011 [H/t Marc Morano, Climate Depot]


Was 2010 the hottest ever?

By Jo Nova, Mar 23, 2011


Recent Weather Extremes: Global Warming Fingerprint Not

By Chip Knappenberger, Master Resource, Mar 21, 2011


The Political Games Continue

Inhofe, Johanns Introduce Bill to Conduct Economic Analysis of EPA Rules

By Staff Writers, Power News, Mar 23, 2011


[SEPP Comment: Sorely needed!]

EPA and other Regulators on the March

CEI Study Challenges EPA Claim to Deliver $30 in Benefits for Every Dollar of Cost

By Marlo Lewis, Global Warming.org, Mar 23, 2011


EPA’s Utility MACT Proposal: Negative Economics for What?

By Scott Segal, Master Resource, Mar 17, 2011


Long-Delayed Rules for Cleaner Air

Editorial, NYT, Mar 20, 2011


[SEPP Comment: The Gray Lady accepts EPA numbers as unquestionable. Yet, much of the airborne mercury and other pollutants come from China and India which show no interest in such regulations. The question is: do emissions from coal fired power plants in the US cause increases in death from mercury poisonings? See below.]

Mercury Exposure and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Two U.S. Cohorts

Mozaffarin, Dariush, MD, et al., New England Journal of Medicine, Mar 24, 2011


[Conclusions: “We found no evidence of any clinically relevant adverse effects of mercury exposure on coronary heart disease, stroke, or total cardiovascular disease in U.S. adults at the exposure levels seen in this study”. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health.)]

Showdown in Texas over EPA climate rules

By Andrew Restuccia, Hill, Mar 24, 2011


EPA Sets New GHG Reporting Deadline, Delays Water Intake System Rules

By Staff Writers, Power News, Mar 23, 2011


Texas Cites EPA Error in Testing of Wells

By Russell Gold, WSJ, Mar 23, 2011



Editorial, IBD, Mar 24, 2011


EPA tackles acidic oceans

By Les Blumenthal, Olympian, Apr 4, 2010


[SEPP Comment: A dated article that describes an issue coming to a head. The EPA is using its expanded powers under the Clean Air Act in which EPA claims carbon dioxide threatens human health and welfare to expand powers in regulating oceans.]

EPA tells states to consider rising ocean acidity

By Staff Writers, AP, Nov 16, 2010


[SEPP Comment: Totally missed on how EPA expands its preemptive power.]

Cap-and-Trade and Carbon Taxes

Andrew Bold interview of Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery exposes the futility of carbon control (with Note from Bob Carter)

ICECAP, Mar 25, 2011


Subsidies and Mandates Forever

Pull the Plug on Electric Car Subsidies

They are costly and don’t do enough to protect the environment

May Margo Thorning, WSJ, Mar 24, 2011


[SEPP Comment: May be behind a pay wall.]

Energy Issues

China Leads in Nuclear

Nuclear construction milestones at Haiyang 2

By Staff Writers, World Nuclear News, Mar 24, 2011


China 210 MWe pebble bed reactor starts construction in April, 2011

By Staff Writers, Next Big Future, Mar 23, 2011


A Radical Kind of Reactor

By Keith Bradsher, NYT, Mar 24, 2011


Nuclear construction milestones at Haiyang 2

By Staff Writers, World Nuclear News, Mar 24, 2011


US Restriction of Energy

Shouldn’t Canada – our largest oil supplier – come before Brazil?

By Mark Tapscott, Washington Examiner, Mar 21, 2011


Western Energy Alliance documents top 10 ways federal bureaucrats are suffocating U.S. energy

By Mark Tapscott, Washington Examiner, Mar 20, 2011


Top Ten Ways the Federal Government is Preventing Onshore Oil and Natural Gas Production

Western Energy Alliance


The new impossible energy no-fly zone

By Terence Corcoran, Financial Post, Mar 16, 2011


Calming Fears of Nuclear Energy

Nuclear Energy and Health, And he Benefits of Low-Dose Radiation Hormesis

By Jerry Cuttler, and Myron Pollycove, ASCH, Mar 27, 2009


Fanning Fears of Nuclear Energy

The Worst Case: What If the Water Ran Dry in the Japanese Reactors?

By Eli Kintisch and Arian Cho, Science Insider, Mar 17, 2011 [H/t Toshio Fujita]


Anxiety Up as Tokyo Issues Warning on Its Tap Water

By David Jolly and Denise Grady, NYT, Mar 23, 2011


Responses and Issues Remaining

Why what’s happened in Japan should be an ENDORSEMENT of nuclear power

By Michael Hanlon, Mail Online, UK, Mar 19, 2011 [H/t Malcolm Ross]


Top Nuclear Aide Sees No Slowing of Sector

By Norihiko Shirouzu, WSJ, Mar 25, 2011


[SEPP Comment: May be behind a pay wall.]

Japan Nuclear Plans Derailed

By Mari Iwata, WSJ, Mar 25, 2011


[SEPP Comment: May be behind a pay wall.]

Three lessons from Japan’s nuclear crisis

Obama will wreck his energy plan if he fails to learn them

By Iain Murry, Washington Times, Mar 23, 2011


Germany makes plans to abandon nuclear power

By Staff Writers, AP, Mar 23, 2011


Japan Nuclear Crisis Revives Long U.S. Fight on Spent Fuel

By Matthew Wald, NYT, Mar 23, 2011


Obama’s nuclear negligence

Toying with waste storage exposes America to Japan-type disaster

Editorial, Washington Times, Mar 21, 2011


Daiichi Prompts Renewed Scrutiny of Existing, New Reactors

By Staff Writers, Power News, Mar 23, 2011


Natural gas to gain from nuclear crisis

By Staff Writers, Energy Daily, Mar 22, 2011 [H/t Toshio Fujita]


America’s Last Nuclear Hope

By William Tucker, American Spectator, Mar 2011


It Could Happen Here

By Frank Von Hippel, NYT, Mar 23, 2011


BP Oil Spill and Administration Control of Drilling

A preventable bankruptcy in the Gulf of Mexico

Opinion by Randy Stilley, Washington Post, Mar 23, 2011


Device’s Design Flaw Let Oil Spill Freely

Government-Funded Study Finds Blowout Preventer Couldn’t Handle Worst-Case Scenario in Gulf; BP Gets a Small Boost

By Ben Casselman and Russell Gold, WSJ, Mar 24, 2011


[SEPP Comment: Article may be behind a pay wall.]

California Dreaming

Judge places California’s global warming program on hold

By Staff Writers, LA Times, Mar 21, 1011 [H/t Roger Cohen]


Review of Recent Scientific Articles by NIPCC

For a full list of articles see


Trends in Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Characteristics

Reference: Landsea, C.W., Vecchi, G.A., Bengtsson, L. and Knutson, T.R. 2010. Impact of duration thresholds on Atlantic tropical cyclone counts. Journal of Climate 23: 2508-2519.


Earth’s Incredible Dissolving Corals

Reference: Silverman, J., Lazar, B., Cao, L., Caldeira, K. and Erez, J. 2009. Coral reefs may start dissolving when atmospheric CO2 doubles. Geophysical Research Letters 36: 10.1029/2008GL036282.


The Response of Norwegian Sea Temperatures to Solar Forcing

Reference: Sejrup, H.P., Lehman, S.J., Haflidason, H., Noone, D., Muscheler, R., Berstad, I.M. and Andrews, J.T. 2010. Response of Norwegian Sea temperature to solar forcing since 1000 A.D. Journal of Geophysical Research 115: 10.1029/2010JC006264.


The Impact of Urbanization on Indian Monsoon Rainfall

Reference: Kishtawal, C.M., Niyogi, D., Tewari, M., Pielke Sr., R.A. and Shepherd, J.M. 2010. Urbanization signature in the observed heavy rainfall climatology over India. International Journal of Climatology 30: 1908-1916.


Other Scientific News

No joke; Air Force actually creates supercomputer from Playstations

By Anthony Watts, WUWT, Mar 23, 2011


Other News that May Be Of Interest

G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether

By Kavid Kocienewski, NYT, Mar 24, 2011


[SEPP Comment: An unusual article usually reserved for Exxon Mobil and other oil companies. According to the article, GE considers its tax department as a profit center.]

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We can help combat ocean acidification

By Rebecca Martin, Columbian, Mar 20, 2011 [H/t Bill Turlay]


Uncertain Future for Joshua Trees Projected with Climate Change

By Staff Writers USGS, Mar 24, 2010 [H/t WUWT]


[SEPP Comment: What happened to the trees during the long warm period of 8000 to 5000 years ago?]

PLEASE NOTE: The complete TWTW, including the full text of the articles, can be downloaded in an easily printable form at this web site: http://www.sepp.org/the-week-that-was.cfm…

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March 27, 2011 10:10 am

Wonderful quote for the week-
“Quote of the Week:
The reason for so much bad science is not that talent is rare, not at all; what is rare is character.” –Sigmund Freud, H/T William Readdy”
I saved it my great quotes file.

March 27, 2011 10:15 am

Language is certainly important; and, equally certainly, distorted.
For example, those who question the GCM projections regarding future climate changes are called “deniers”, although they are merely sceptical and deny nothing. However, those who deny the documented historical events referred to as the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age are not called “deniers”. They are called the “hockey team”.

March 27, 2011 10:18 am

The reason for so much bad science is the funds are stolen from the taxpayer at the point of the government’s gun then doled out to scientists who will promote the expansion of government power.

John F. Hultquist
March 27, 2011 11:31 am

Regarding the “Number of the Week”
The clarification speaks of approximately 31.6 and also of the square root of 10. Then they say “By the Richter scale, an increase from 8 to 9 represents an increase in strength of an earthquake of about 31.6 times, rather than 10 times, as previously stated.”
Does this help? TWTW should try again.

March 27, 2011 11:50 am

Ed Reid says:
March 27, 2011 at 10:15 am
Language is certainly important; and, equally certainly, distorted.
Do you recall the first time the word denier showed up on the scene?
February 9, 2007 Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe:
“I would like to say we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.”
Back then it caused an uproar.

Harold Pierce Jr
March 27, 2011 4:42 pm

We should let Matt “The Headhunter” Cooke go after the hockey stick team!

Brian H
March 27, 2011 9:38 pm

The “News you can use” links have all been redirected/highjacked to http://go.madmimi.com/redirects/24c301719eb2aee2aa9867e73bf1a24c?pa=3236753283.
And the Hansen IBD article is paywalled.
REPLY: No worries, those links are safe, a redirect service with a very poor choice of a domain name- Anthony

Brian H
March 27, 2011 9:46 pm

The Freud quote is great; very confessional!

March 27, 2011 10:06 pm

My understanding regarding the workers who stepped into the pool is they received the equivalent of a sunburn below the knees but nothing permanent is expected to come of it. Regulations require anyone with any injury related to the radiation be checked over by doctors. The path to sensationalism is built into the system. Where opportunity presents itself, sensationalism follows.
And there was a number crunching problem regarding the level of radiation found. No where near what was reported. But it can’t be a good thing to flush sea water into a pool of spent fuel rods and let the overflow run back into the sea. But without recirculating heat transfer systems it is far better than boiling the pool dry and letting the rods bake in the open air.
It is critical to remain critical of the decisions made that allowed essential cooling systems to be installed in harm’s way, and to remain there for the entire lifetime of the reactor site. That part is inexcusable. It must have been patently obvious to any intelligent fail-safe engineer that the site was exposed to this very disaster.
We cannot claim this recklessness is unique to Japan – we have the example of New Orleans where the city is built below sea level and continually subsiding further, the pumps and motors are below sea level, and the absurdities that kept the sea out, the dikes and levees, subject to subsiding over the years, were built like the walls of old castles – one weak layer above another. And in New Orleans, what was plan B should the levees fail? Nothing. Plan B was for Plan A to work perfectly. That didn’t happen.

March 27, 2011 11:46 pm

The explanation of Richter scale (and one presumes moment magnitude scale as well) is still muddled. One unit change in Richter scale equals a ten fold increase in shaking amplitude or a 31.6 fold incresase in energy released. Which of these is a measure of the strength of an earthquake? Probably both and neither.

March 28, 2011 11:04 am

Regarding the benefits claimed from the mercury rule — the 17,000 saved lives — those saved lives come not from reduction of mercury, but from “co-benefits.”
This means that although the reduction in mercury will have tiny to no effects on anyone dying, the methods of controlling mercury also reduce the gas sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide, once released, eventually becomes a chemically neutral sulfate, ammonium sulfate, which is part of human cells. Ammonium sulfate has been given a toxicity score of zero (range of zero to 100) by Scorecard, a rating system by environmental groups:
Sulfates in the air are in the form of tiny particles. There are other tiny particles in the air as well, including many that are biologically active in ways that ammonium sulfate is not. Yet EPA and environmental groups have maintained for decades that sulfates kill, the lack of toxicity in inhalation laboratory tests notwithstanding (see Schlesinger and Cassee, 2003, “Atmospheric secondary inorganic particulate matter: the toxicological perspective as a basis for health effects risk assessment”).
There are theories for how atmospheric processing of SO2 to sulfates might somehow create substances which might be toxic, but these are theories, unsupported as of yet by toxicological or statistical evidence.
So there you have it. EPA states that any and all tiny particle (called PM2.5, for particulate matter 2.5 microns across or smaller) will kill you, regardless of composition. EPA has not done an across the board evaluation of the evidence for harm from the different components of PM2.5, which conveniently allows them to say that sulfates kill with equal toxicity to particles which can cause chemical changes in cells.
With this blunt instrument in hand, EPA then says that controlling mercury saves lives not because of the effect of mercury per se, but because of the “co-benefits” of reducing SO2 in the mercury control process.
Incidentally, several other recent rules by EPA have been justified on the basis of sulfate “co-benefits.”

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