Articles in Category: Public Policy

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If you missed out on the live simulcast of MetalMiner’s inaugural conference, International Trade Policy Breaking Point, now’s your chance to catch up on the action!

MetalMiner and sister site Spend Matters teamed up with sponsors Nucor and Zycus to bring our audience a provocative and timely conference, complete with top industry professionals from the manufacturing, public policy, and purchasing worlds. Three separate panels comprised International Trade Policy Breaking Point:

1. Public Policy Overview and Debate

2. Strategies for Minimizing Risk

3. Total Landed Cost

In this first panel, Public Policy Overview and Debate, William Strauss, senior economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Jennifer Diggins, director of government affairs for Nucor, and Timothy Brightbill, partner in the international trade division at Wiley and Rein discuss and debate the current trade landscape. Strauss gives an economic overview and outlook for the manufacturing sector, Diggins lends insight on legislative activity affecting industry, and Brightbill weighs in on free trade deals and the law. Other topics covered: Chinese currency manipulation, the role of the WTO, and inflation.

*Fill out the form below to view the video! (Check back in on Monday, April 4, to view the second panel!)

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As a follow-up to our previous discussion about recent developments in carbon capture technology in the steel industry, we turn to the policy side of things by looking at the battle between Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The battle boils down to major sides (although of course there are others as well, including subgroups of the following): the environmentalists and the business community. The vote is scheduled to take place today.

According to The Hill, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell introduced an amendment that would permanently block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from Virginia, proposed to delay the EPA’s climate regulations for two years. Finally, Sen. Max Baucus proposed a concessionary amendment that would prevent farms and other small businesses from costs of compliance, but some say that’s won’t be the effect at all. Cap and trade failed in Congress, so why shouldn’t these amendments?

Simply because both Republicans and Democrats will be hard-pressed not to side with business interests on this one in light of high unemployment and stagnant growth. This is especially true for the 14 senators who face uncertain re-election, especially the Democratic ones. As the Wall Street Journal put it, “The question for Democrats is whether their loyalties to President Obama and EPA chief Lisa Jackson trump the larger economic good, not to mention constituents already facing far higher energy costs. Concern that the amendments will die in the Democratic-majority Senate, however, is uncharacteristically low for this one. According to the WSJ, McConnell may have the 13 Democratic votes he needs to get the requisite 60.

Back to “Environment Vs. Business, the League of Conservation Voters put out a poll showing that 63 percent of voters in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania prefer the EPA to set greenhouse gas standards for industry. On the other side, the National Association for Manufacturers (NAM), among others, clearly has a vested interest in keeping compliance with existing and new emissions rules at a minimum, as their television announcement below, for viewers in Michigan, makes clear:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cu59vjXOr4k&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Source: NAM

Straddling the middle, as I often do, it’s clear that both sides cannot nor should they get absolutely everything they want. Should McConnell’s amendment win out? I don’t think so; even though new, overly strict EPA rules may be counterproductive, there should be some semblance of third-party oversight. Is the Baucus counter-amendment a shameless political ploy? Of course; the broad reach of the EPA likely should be scaled down. But should steelmakers and other manufacturers have financial incentives to do what they can to keep our drinking water clean and air less harmless than it was pre-1970 while keeping production efficient? Yes.

We’ll just have to see how this one plays out.

(Continued from Part One.)

As the DOE’s Industrial Technologies Program has a hand in funding or guiding most of the following research on how to reduce steelmaking emissions, the latter half of the report detailing the new technology options reads much like a commercial at times; nonetheless, some of the efforts are worth detailing.

Hydrogen infusion and electrolysis processes have proved to be good reducing agents in producing iron, therefore taking down energy intensity considerably, and have been proposed to take the lead in overall emissions reduction in the steel industry. The American Iron and Steel Institute and the University of Utah undertook efforts five years ago to reduce emissions in the hydrogen reduction process of making iron. They primarily addressed material and energy balances, chemical calculations, evaluating behavior of impurities, and testing a simulation of the reduction process, which proved viable.

Electrolysis, on the other hand (used in aluminum production), emits no carbon as a process byproduct whatsoever. The AISI is also involved in this development (along with MIT), as is the Ultra-Low Carbon Dioxide Steelmaking (ULCOS) European consortium.

Source: DOE, AISI, MIT

Another proposed technology, which may sound more familiar to those outside the industry, is carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Although equally intriguing and mind-blowing the physical capturing and storing CO2 in various places, such as under the ocean the DOE study admits that the economics behind it are sketchy at best. Indeed, it would cost companies and taxpayers a lot of money in the short- to medium-term, not to mention decrease efficiency of energy production, as outlined in my colleague Stuart’s May 2010 post. US DOE Office of Fossil Energy research from 2007 put the cost of capture at $150 per ton of carbon using today’s technology. These costs, according to other studies, would level out over the next two or three decades.

Granted, capturing carbon emissions from the steel industry is admittedly a much smaller endeavor than doing the same for the electricity generation and thermal power production industry as a whole, which makes up nearly 70 percent of all US CO2 emissions. Also, the nature of carbon emissions from steel production is different the Industrial Technologies Program points out that highly concentrated C02 emissions can be “easily captured from flue gases. In essence, the capture of carbon will be more fully and seamlessly integrated with steps in the steelmaking process, unlike burning coal for electricity. Ultimately, however, the costs involved and implications of it must nonetheless be fleshed out. To quote from the report:

“It will be very difficult for the steel industry to meet the CO2 emissions reduction goals called for in proposed climate policies. Available reductions using best available technologies amount to a mere 12% of current emissions intensities, while proposed policies call for 50%80% economy-wide reductions.

One thing is clear: US steelmakers will have to incur hefty costs monetary and otherwise to comply with recently imposed governmental emissions standards.

–Taras Berezowsky

We have written on several aspects of business and the metals markets in Brazil recently; the latest just last week about Gerdau Steel raising billions in a share sale with the probable intent of bidding for one or more of its major domestic competitors. Generally that is taken as a positive sign; although to invest in new facilities for organic growth rather than acquisition would be better, at least buying competitors is a vote of confidence in the economy’s future.

So what should we make of the spat developing between the government of new president Dilma Rousseff and Vale, reported in an FT blog article? Apparently, Vale’s high-profile chief executive Roger Agnelli’s contract is coming up for renewal in May and the government is making every effort to prevent his re-appointment. Although Vale was privatized in 1997, the firm is Brazil’s largest exporter and along with Petrobras, the national oil company, a major source of foreign exchange and tax revenue. Vale tripled profits last year to $17 billion on the back of some $47 billion in revenues according to an FT article this week.

At the heart of the issue is the government’s desire to channel much of the investment and revenues internally to Brazil’s benefit, rather than as the free market has suggested is the most efficient for the firm. The government wants Vale to invest more domestically in developing the steel industry and less on mining iron ore to export to China. Brazil suffers a serious balance of trade deficit with China, part of which is made up of flat rolled steel imports supported by a strong real, making imports more competitive than domestic production. The government is also livid that Vale invested in a fleet of bulk ore carriers to be built in China and South Korea rather than being built in Brazil. Needless to say, the government would also like to get its hands on more of that $17 billion in profits for the state coffers.

In any normal company the shareholders would be expected to resist the replacement of a highly successful CEO and by default the rest of the seven executive directors who have said they would not tolerate a forced change. But in the case of Vale, most of the shareholders are state enterprises. BNDES a government run development bank, and Banco do Brasil, the country’s biggest state-run bank, will be easier to persuade; Bradesco, a listed bank, will be harder to strong arm, but the finance minister Guido Mantega held a meeting last week with just that in mind.

The outcome will say a lot about Brazil and where it is going. Does it honestly hold to the principals of a free market, or is it slipping into socialism? As the article quotes a party close to the board: “This is an attack on the institution, whoever they hire next will have to abide by the government’s rules and no other professional executive wants to be a part of that. We really are at a turning point, and this is a very dangerous situation, not only for the company, but for the whole country. Are we going to go down the path of the free market or the path of Venezuela?

–Stuart Burns

The major takeaways from a new report issued by the US Department of Energy (DOE) are that 1) the US steel industry can boast some of the lowest CO2 emissions in the world, but that 2) new technologies will still be needed to bring the CO2 emissions even lower to come in line with government mandates. But the whole story of the DOE report is only helpful if we use the US CO2 figures to look at the broader global context.

The gradual yet significant reduction in American steel’s CO2 emissions can mainly be attributed to the shift from OHF (open-hearth furnace) production to BOF (basic oxygen) and now EAF (electric arc) production; and the increased use of scrap. According to the report, EAFs accounted for 62 percent of US steel production in 2009. These trends have led to US steel reducing carbon emissions by 35 percent since 1990, making the industry’s CO2 intensity the second lowest in the world after Korea. But the most worrisome story is told in the following graphs, which look at both energy intensity (2.4) and CO2 intensity (2.5) as compared to percentage of steel made through EAF production in each respective country:

 

Sources: DOE; IEA data

Clearly, the trouble in energy consumption and CO2 emission lies with China, Russia and Ukraine. The three nations have the lowest percentage of EAF mills. (Other sources outside the DOE put China’s percentage of EAF production closer to 5 percent, not 10 percent). The paltry energy efficiency in Ukraine and Russia is due to outdated equipment; but the combination of breakneck growth, laxer-than-standard environmental policies, voracious coal and iron ore consumption, and lion’s share of the steel producing market make China the force to be reckoned with when it comes to global, steel-related CO2 emissions. (Interestingly, India was left off the charts above, “because of an unknown data problem in the IEA data set, according to the DOE report. Hmm. I’m sure not all is green and clean in India either.) Consider that China accounted for 47 percent of total world steel production in 2009 — while the US was responsible only for 5 percent and it’s clear that the focus on emissions standards should squarely be placed on Beijing’s policies.

To put the relationship between power production and steelmaking into context, consider that 41 percent of global CO2 emissions came from generating electricity and heat in 2008, according to a separate report from the International Energy Agency. China, India and other emerging economies produce 69 to 94 percent of their electricity by burning coal. By 2030, demand for electricity will be almost twice as high as it was in 2009.

So, as China continues to lead the world in making steel, it will increasingly need to burn more fuel to do so, using more electricity, etc. etc. The majority of Chinese steel is still made with raw iron ore as opposed to scrap; very energy intensive. On the flipside, EAF production uses much more electricity than BOF. So once China’s percentage of EAF mills goes up, so will electricity consumption most of which is produced by coal combustion. Where to get to the bottom of all this? How to best pinpoint and execute emission reduction?

Ultimately, the pinpointing of emission sources and inputs is the biggest issue with this study or any study, for that matter. As the DOE outlines, the problems that arise in calculating emissions for the steel industry:

“Accounting challenges, such as the following, can occur across the entire system and skew study results:

  • Double counting of energy flows: Energy associated with coking coal, as well as its associated products of coke, coke oven gas, and blast furnace gas, may both be counted.
  • Double counting of emissions: Emissions associated with ore reduction may be counted as both process and energy-related emissions.
  • Upstream boundary issues: Energy use at mines for iron ore agglomeration (i.e., sintering and/or pelletizing) and energy used in coke ovens may be included or excluded in totals.
  • Downstream boundary issues: Whether to take energy or emissions credits for energy production from blast furnaces and coke-making being sold to other consumers.
  • Issues of energy accounting for electricity: The energy content of electricity can be counted as either primary or end-use energy.
  • Ore quality: The varying quality of ores and coking coals throughout the world.
  • Heterogeneity: The treatment of steel as a homogenous commodity, when in fact there are several different types with very different energy intensities”

The question then becomes, if we’re not 100 percent sure of how our emissions figures are derived or exactly how accurate they are, then how do we know which new technologies to tackle? And how effectively can the US government regulate the steel industry, let alone the governments of other nations? Check back in tomorrow for Part 2.

–Taras Berezowsky

Last week, the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) affirmed its plan to meet the April 1 date for implementation of their Conflict Free Smelter (CFS) program.   EICC and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) announced the program in early 2010.

Public reports suggested that EICC had considered delaying its program until the formal announcement by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of rules on conflict minerals due diligence and disclosure. Those rules are scheduled to be published April 15, 2011, although some sources indicate that they may be delayed.

The EICC CFS and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, along with the supporting supplement on tin, tantalum and tungsten, serve as the two documents generally referenced as providing “standards for conflict minerals traceability programs. The SEC stated that their intent is to not “dictate the standard for, or otherwise provide guidance concerning, due diligence that issuers must use in making their supply chain determinations.

On its face, this would appear to support the notion that advancing with audits under EICC and OECD seems reasonable. However, neither program complies with one stated element of the US Conflict Minerals Law an independent private sector audit that “is conducted in accordance with standards established by the Comptroller General of the United States, in accordance with rules promulgated by the Commission.”

Conflict minerals traceability audits intended to comply with the US law must therefore meet an array of auditor standards established under SEC rules. In the proposal, the SEC stated that in their discussions with the Government Accounting Office (GAO), their preliminary determination suggested that existing audit/auditor standards would apply to the conflict mineral reports. The SEC and GAO cited the GAO Government Accounting Standards (GAS) GAO-07-731G as applicable, although other audit/auditor standards may also apply.

The OECD program references standards under ISO 19011. Those standards apply to combined environmental/quality management system audits under ISO 9000 and 14000 certification efforts with no substantive overlap with SEC auditing standards. And based on EICC ®-GeSI Conflict-Free Smelter (CFS) Assessment Program Frequently Asked Questions document dated February 25, 2011 the highly-publicized EICC program also does not contain auditor qualification, independence, competence or attestation standards sufficient for SEC.

For companies striving to comply with the US legal mandates for conflict minerals audits, conducting these audits before the SEC standards are published may create unintended consequences, including additional costs for repeating previously-completed audits.

–Lisa Reisman

 

*Please click here to download the MetalMiner Conflict Minerals Legislative Guide, covering the details of the new Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and how mandated audits will affect companies that purchase tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.


I can assure you that we receive no revenue from Accenture for having run with that headline. And as a former Big 5(4) consultant, it does take a lot to impress me. But Accenture’s recent report, “Five Reasons for the World to Care About China’s New Five-Year Program, receives high marks as a must-read for anyone intending to do business in China or, better yet, for anyone that has not yet found success working in China. The report does two things well. First, it not only discusses the major elements of the 12th Five-Year program (many of us have read the various elements elsewhere) but it places this Five-Year program in context with previous plans and peppers in both good data as well as examples. Second, as the report title suggests, Accenture offers up five ideas that not only go beyond what that firm is famous for (e.g. what I call typical recommendations involving the modification of people strategies, process and/or technologies) but extremely pragmatic advice “think national contribution not shareholder distribution and “properly understand and serve China’s varied customers.

That second nugget of advice might sound generic, but not when you read the explanation behind it: “And there can be an unfortunate inclination to treat Chinese customers businesses as well as consumers as “poor relations who are grateful to receive outdated products. These days, nothing could be further from the truth. Chinese customers are becoming very discriminating and much more confident in declaring their likes and dislikes. I found myself thinking, “Hmm¦have I ever considered China as “poor relations? (No comment!)

The paper discusses one of the country’s most formidable problems the urban-rural income gap, which according to the report has grown to its widest spread in 2009 since the policy went into effect, back in 1978 with urban per capita income at $2525 and rural per capita income at $754. China must rebalance to maintain stable growth. In addition to the income disparity, the paper discusses the “greening of China, to which we can devote multiple posts, but Accenture points out that some of the criticisms of China regarding its environmental policies have resulted in some major positive changes, including the lack of approval for Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machines Co. Ltd to acquire the Hummer brand from GM. We have discussed China’s environmental issues at length in previous posts, but this one addresses the likely impact on metals industries.

Perhaps the most interesting points made in the report, at least in my opinion, relate to China’s globalization strategy meaning its strategies around acquiring companies, natural resources and role as a global corporate citizen. Accenture suggests China has had to adjust its “going out strategy on a number of fronts. One interesting point, “¦a growing realization inside the country [China] that its external connections financial, business-wise, societal and environmental are very important to the nation’s future standing, has resulted in China needing to “adjust its approach to acquisitions, partnerships etc., in essence requiring China to adopt a more global corporate citizen approach. Accenture mentions this has come as a result of fierce competition. We’d argue poor perception (often based on many truths) has created a negative impression of many Chinese entities. The report suggests deal structures have also changed toward JVs and more important, from primary industries to manufacturing and service-based industries. In essence, how China acquires assets and in what form those “acquisitions represent trends worth noting. Accenture points to additional evidence that the Chinese have become more collaborative as they go global, though certainly many deals have failed at the highest levels in other countries for some of the same reasons China has sought particular assets national security.

Whether China has changed or will change remains subject to some debate, particularly on an industry-by-industry basis. Regardless, the report makes for good reading.

–Lisa Reisman

 

Any OEM or supplier currently purchasing tin, tungsten, tantalum or gold must now demonstrate via a third party audit that it (and its supply chain) does not source these metals from the DRC. The legislation, passed as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, will likely impact at least 1200 companies that already must comply with SEC regulations, and will now have to also file a Conflict Minerals Report. Experts suggest that for a second group of companies — suppliers to SEC-regulated companies — the number impacted could reach 12,000.  The legislation requires the use of private sector independent auditors. In short, the law “is aimed at conflict materials that are incorporated into a product necessary to the functionality or production of a product.

The SEC has announced it will publish the final rules on April 15. MetalMiner will continue to publish information regarding the legislation and how companies can comply.

In the meantime, feel free to download the MetalMiner Conflict Minerals Legislative Guide to learn important details not mentioned above.

Please review our General Disclaimer for additional details on how we use your information.

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I had originally intended to write a post countering some of the “panic/hysteria/fill in the blank coverage of the nuclear reactors in earthquake/tsunami-stricken Japan. But the headlines of the past three days have placed more than a kernel of doubt in my mind whether Japan’s nuclear reactor(s) would escape the fate of a TMI (Three Mile Island) or Chernobyl. So instead, I reached out to some experts in the nuclear industry to either a) make myself feel better or b) turn that kernel of doubt into something much stronger. I’m going to make a feeble attempt at turning kernels of doubt into some data points. Perhaps by stringing some of these points together we can collectively make some informed impressions about the future of the nuclear energy industry and place this event in context with others as well as comment on the notion of “Black Swans.

To try and make sense of the various reports coming from western media, I turned to John D Metzger, Director of Nuclear Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering and asked him several questions. After the first where does he go for accurate information on the nuclear situation? John suggested two sites: The Nuclear Energy Institute and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Here are ten key takeaways I gathered from our conversation:

  1. Every country that has deployed nuclear power has had some “incidents
  2. These Japanese plants will never operate again
  3. At Chernobyl and TMI, operators did not react correctly. Chernobyl operators didn’t follow procedures and the plant had major design flaws. But the situation in Japan has nothing to do with a faulty design or improper procedure or response. This earthquake (natural disaster) represented the fifth largest in modern times
  4. We can’t design for 1000-year events (Ed. note: we will revisit this point later in this post)
  5. The containment vessels may have a breach — but not a wholesale breach
  6. The culture of safety in the nuclear industry remains so strong and so prevalent that we have to relate this situation into the context of this specific natural disaster. Furthermore, the argument goes, the loss of life due to the nuclear power plants so far appears minuscule in comparison to the loss of life from the tsunami and earthquake. The nuclear power industry still remains one of the safest of all power industries
  7. Even Chernobyl had a small loss of life. The failure of Chernobyl also involved the errors of the Soviet government to quickly distribute potassium iodine pills to minimize instances of thyroid cancer. Few died from the actual radiation effects; however, upwards of 35 people died fighting the initial fire. The real death toll occurred when pregnant women aborted their fetuses as a result of the press accounts of the potential dangers of radiation. TMI also had little-to-no loss of life. Click here to see then-governor Dick Thornburgh’s account of health risks from TMI
  8. Lessons learned from TMI have greatly improved the integrity of nuclear power plants. For example, pressurized water reactors are no longer built with once-through steam generators because they do not have a large enough water inventory. According to Dr. Metzger, the industry adopted both procedural changes as well as design changes. About that time, a GE engineer quit the firm and publicly raised some design concerns about boiling water reactors. The industry went through a lot of changes to address the concerns. With this situation, we’ll also see procedure and design changes
  9. With regard to the observation that the US nuclear industry is “old and outdated, Metzger said this, “We have 104 reactors operating. All are in the process or have been licensed for an extra 20 years. They are in great shape. TMI unit 1 has all new steam generators and a new reactor vessel head. The overhaul cost approximately $1 billion. We see constant upgrading of these plants to ensure safety.”
  10. In terms of materials, we won’t see any wholesale changes, but the DOE continues to fund the development of new materials. Many of these materials will go into the next generation of reactors but they are looking at fuels and cladding with better and higher temperature capabilities. We’ve seen funding go into ceramics. Changing materials becomes challenging because operating history with current materials gives us a performance record and confidence in how the materials work in operation

Yesterday, my colleague Taras suggested the magnitude and combination of the earthquake with the tsunami and the effects of nuclear plant breakdown perhaps equate to a Black Swan. Dr. Metzger suggested we can’t design for a once-in-a-thousand-year event. But certainly we had a thousand-year event in 2004 with the Sumatra earthquake and the ensuing tsunami. Black Swan or not, the future will require a re-examination of risk scenarios. Certainly a Japanese “big one couldn’t have had tiny statistical odds. But rather than a knee-jerk overreaction calling for an across the board shut-down of the nuclear industry, perhaps the NRC will take a page from the risk officers out there and really “run the odds of various climatic or natural disaster possibilities by plant site location. Then we can weigh the economics against the risk scenarios.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

–Lisa Reisman

Postscript: Click here to see the US Industry Nuclear Response Sheet

As MetalMiner continues looking into the effect the Japan earthquake and ensuing tsunami have on the metals supply chain, the nuclear power question seems to be taking a considerable portion of aftermath news. While the natural disaster spurs nuclear worries in Japan, especially in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station failures, the reporting coming out of it paints a picture of imminent radioactive catastrophe. But does the tsunami make the case that nuclear power should be curtailed, or even shelved entirely, as a global energy source?

According to an enterprising Reuters report on the subject, the news organization quotes an executive at state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) as saying, “The nuclear power industry is likely to shrink due to Japan’s nuclear accident¦Rising opposition is seen in developed countries, although developing countries may see less opposition due to their shortage of power unless they reside in earthquake zones.

The last phrase strikes us as the particularly logical if your country and/or your existing or planned nuclear campuses are near earthquake prone-zones, fault lines, or near the ocean shores, then yes, you should plan accordingly. According to Reuters, Taiwan, another island nation in the Pacific arena, mentioned that its state-run energy company Taipower is looking into cutting its nuclear power output. Although Japan’s famously advanced (read: sturdier than most) infrastructure helped prevent even more catastrophic results from the earthquake which seems rather unfathomable, given the unequivocally horrible aftermath — the entire country remains in perpetual danger of tsunamis because of their geographical placement. Admittedly, Japan wasn’t about to stop its path to world’s No. 3 economy due to its geologically volatile island location, just as no one could convince New Orleans not to rebuild because of its prime address in Hurricane Alley.

But do Europe and the US really need to halt or reverse course entirely on nuclear power development and production? The Reuters article cites that Switzerland, Germany and the US all indicated uncertainty in the nuclear sector. Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard “suspended the approvals process for three nuclear power stations for safety standards to be revisited, while German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that “a government decision to extend the life of the country’s nuclear power stations could be suspended following the crisis in Japan. Even US Senator Joe Lieberman weighed in, saying we should “put the brakes on domestic power plants until the “impact of the Japanese disasters “became clear.

The UK’s Guardian newspaper quoted Professor Gerry Thomas, chair of molecular pathology at Imperial College London, as playing it much cooler than American media outlets when it came to the imminent dangers posed by the reactors. “”One thing to note is that there has not yet been a significant release of radiation from this nuclear plant – the reactor core is currently still intact,” he had said, according to the Guardian. “There has been very little release of radiation and there is unlikely to be a significant release. My advice would be not to worry¦I am afraid there is far too much scaremongering! Granted, Professor Thomas was responding to citizens worried about personal effects from radiation, but this lesson could apply to the global especially American media.

The reality is nuclear power has a relatively steady safety track record over the years when compared with other energy sources. These political heads’ comments likely only serve the stock price rises of green energy companies; of course we all need to diversify our energy production sources, but how about we focus on the task at hand, help Japan, put out the fires, and then move forward with green?  The US and Europe don’t seem to be faced with imminent danger when it comes to regular earthquake activity that could trigger massive tsunamis. Sure, the US probably shouldn’t build more nuclear reactors on the California/Oregon/Washington coasts, and should re-evaluate/renew safety procedures in case of future tsunamis but perhaps all-out nuclear freeze should be a last resort.

Human error and shoddy development and maintenance will always exist no one need to look further than the Chernobyl debacle, which is still fresh in many people’s minds nearly a quarter century on. (The 25th anniversary, on April 26, is nearly upon us.) But scaremongering in the fresh face of disaster might not serve anybody well hype does not equal tangible action.

–Taras Berezowsky

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