Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Japan to Cancel Plan to Build More Nuclear Plants

Maratin Fackler, New York Times
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday that Japan would abandon plans to build more nuclear reactors, saying his country needed to “start from scratch” in creating a new energy policy.

Mr. Kan’s announcement came as Japan allowed residents of evacuated areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to briefly revisit their homes for the first time since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March caused the nuclear accident at the plant.

Tuesday’s decision will mean the abandonment of a plan that the Kan government released last year to build 14 nuclear reactors by 2030 and increase the share of nuclear power in Japan’s electricity supply to 50 percent. Japan currently has 54 reactors that before the earthquake produced 30 percent of its electricity.

The cancellation of the planned nuclear plants is the second time that Mr. Kan has suddenly announced big changes in Japanese nuclear policy without the usual endless committee meetings and media leaks that characterize the country’s consensus-driven decision-making process. Mr. Kan appears to be seeking a stronger leadership role after criticism of his government’s sometimes slow and indecisive handling of the Fukushima accident…
(11 May 2011)

Nuclear commission pinpoints 2021 for German atomic shutdown

Timothy Jones, Deutsche Welle
A draft report from Germany’s ethics commission on nuclear power says the country could and should close down all its nuclear power stations by 2021. And it says this date could even be moved forward by some time.

The 22-strong ethics commission set up by Chancellor Angela Merkel to debate the pros and cons of nuclear energy in Germany seems likely to recommend that all nuclear power stations in the country be taken from the grid within the next decade – at the latest.

According to the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the news magazine Spiegel Online, a draft report from the commission says ditching nuclear power is necessary to rule out the risks it entails.

It says that the departure from nuclear energy does not, however, mean abandoning carbon-dioxide reduction goals or suffering “energy poverty.”…
(11 May 2011)

Shrinking Oil Supplies Put Alaskan Pipeline at Risk

Russell Gold, Wall Street Journal
When the famed Trans Alaska Pipeline carried two million barrels of oil a day, the naturally warm crude surged 800 miles to the Port of Valdez in three days and arrived at a temperature of about 100 degrees.

Now, dwindling oil production along Alaska’s northern edge means the pipeline carries less than one-third the volume it once did—and the crude takes five times as long to get to its destination.

That leisurely flow means the oil is above ground longer and more exposed to Alaska’s frigid weather; the crude sometimes arrives chilled to 40 degrees. As the flow and temperature continue to drop, experts say the risks of a clog or corrosion increase, as do the odds of ruptures and spills.

Unless a technological solution can be found, the arcane physics of crude flow may force the multibillion dollar, 48-inch-wide steel pipeline to shut down—and determine the fate of the largest oil field ever found in the U.S…
(11 May 2011)

Methane contamination of water rises near to shale gas sites, study shows

Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian
Methane levels in water supplies close to shale gas extraction sites in Pennsylvania and upstate New York are up to 17 times higher than normal, according to research.

A study on the impact of drilling in the region found that about 85% of drinking water wells within 1km of a natural gas well were contaminated.

The study is the latest to challenge efforts to sell natural gas as a cleaner, safer source of energy, and could build momentum for greater federal governance of the industry.

The US has a headstart in the global market, but companies plan to exploit shale gas sites all over the world – for example there is an experimental drilling site in the UK, near Blackpool. The gas companies argue that shale gas provides a relatively cheap source of energy that is lower carbon then oil and coal. Environmentalists say that the chemicals used in the extraction of the gas can cause significant pollution and that when methane releases are taken into account shale gas is not as low-carbon as it appears.

The federal government last week appointed a panel of experts to look into fracking, or hydraulic fracturing – the technique that has enabled drillers to tap huge reserves of natural gas buried deep underground…
(9 May 2011)

France set to heed shale oil protests

Peggy Hollinger, Financial Times
France’s parliament looks set to ban exploration for shale oil and gas as protests intensify against the technique, accused of polluting the water table in North America.

Hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside the National Assembly as members inside debated a draft bill to cancel exploration permits before a vote on Wednesday…

The French government has come under fire after environmentalists discovered this year that permits had been granted for shale oil and gas exploration without public consultation. Reports of environmental contamination from shale gas exploration in the US have raised fears of similar consequences in France, where exploration has been granted in some of the most scenic regions….
(11 May 2011)