LADWP Hid Power Plant Methane Leak For Over A Year

For over a year, activists have been fighting to shut down the Department of Water and Power's Valley Generating Station in Los Angeles. Generating Station of the Valley, where red and white smokestacks tower over the San Fernando Valley's northeast corner. 

In late August, DWP employees first told the public and their own board of commissioners about the methane leak. During a Tuesday morning board meeting, Adams, the general manager of the utility, made the abrupt announcement, announcing that staff will present details about "a methane gas problem at Valley, and work that we are doing to regulate methane."

One staffer said the compressor units of the plant had been leaking gas "for the last couple of years." The utility had a plan in place to repair the compressors later in the year, but wanted to go public now because the leak was discovered as part of a drone survey by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and "their information is becoming more public," Adams told the board. 

There were some board members shocked. So were the elected officials. The concerns arose quickly: When did the workers discover the leak? Why wasn't the public informed earlier? How much of the plant's methane was leaking?

But the graffiti artist could have been almost anyone in a city burdened by hundreds of landfills, recycling centers, junkyards, trucking businesses, and other disruptive and polluting manufacturing facilities, and bisected by three major freeways. 

Sun Valley and Pacoima residents are breathing some of the worst air in California and suffering from hospitalizations due to asthma at rates much higher than most of the state. So the civic uproar was loud and fast when the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced last month that its power plant had been leaking methane gas for at least three years.

Here is a map of the Los Angeles Department of Water (LADWP) leaking methane.  Click on the map to browse other locations. 

Pacoima Beautiful an environmental organization that has been working to shut the power plant down for more than a year. Members claim that L.A.'s shift to cleaner sources of energy progresses too slowly and leaves behind their culture. 

The Valley Generating Station is seen by city leaders as a vital tool to keep the lights on when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing, at least before energy storage systems are cheaper and more flexible. 

There were comparisons to the Southern California Gas Co. Aliso Canyon gas spill, which spewed record-setting methane levels into the air around L.A.'s Porter Ranch neighborhood in late 2015 and early 2016. 

The Valley leak, in contrast, was tiny compared to Aliso Canyon's. At the next board meeting, staff presented slides showing that the defective compressors were leaking methane, the main natural gas part, at rates ranging from 168 to 367 kilograms per hour, readings from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory showed. At Aliso, the rate sometimes exceeded 50,000 kilograms an hour.

Community activists also do not believe that DWP gives them the complete story, especially because utility employees said they discovered the leak in August 2019, a full year earlier. Staffers said that because they didn't think anyone was at risk, they didn't alert the public. 

Except in enclosed spaces, methane itself is not harmful to human health. Yet natural gas also contains small quantities of benzene that causes cancer, and when burned, it releases lung-damaging nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.

Evidence of health threats from living near oil and gas installations is starting to appear. A UC Berkeley-led study in July, for example, found that pregnant women living within six miles of oil and gas wells in rural California are much more likely to give birth to babies with low birth weights. And in Porter Ranch, years after the Aliso Canyon spill, people are still experiencing health concerns.

Last week, a committee of the City Council approved motions calling for DWP to faster repair leaks and install air-quality monitors near Valley Generating Station. A third motion, introduced on Tuesday, calls for the establishment of a trust fund for community services to support individuals living near the facility, with the intention of helping residents and schools purchase indoor air purifiers and air conditioners. 

DWP workers state the methane plume has not left the site of the power plant. And recent studies in the local community by the South Coast Air Quality Control District find levels of methane and volatile organic compounds "at normal background levels."

Full article on the LA Times.

Nuclear & Coal Energy Are The Least Popular in U.S.

Nearly half of U.S. adults oppose increasing the country’s number of nuclear energy facilities

The U.S. should keep existing nuclear plants online but not build any new facilities, 1 in 3 adults thinks.

16% believe the U.S. should continue the operation of existing nuclear plants and construct new reactors.

29% view nuclear power favorably and 49% view it unfavorably, rendering it the most controversial source of electricity other than coal.

In general, this hierarchy of preferred power sources tracks the results of another survey, asking respondents which source they would select if they had control over where their utility provider had the power to operate their house or apartment. At 44%, solar was by far the most common, followed by natural gas (18%), wind (10%), nuclear (4%), hydrology (3%), and coal (1%). Nineteen percent said no preference was given to them.

But waste storage appears to be a sticking point, especially when close to home, for the 699 respondents who said they would support raising the number of nuclear facilities.  One notable energy source that was left off this survey is geothermal. 

Asked if they will endorse the disposal of spent nuclear fuel in the vicinity of their own cities, 50 miles is the minimum distance that receives more endorse (47%) than opposition (43%), although the error margin for this community is 4 points. Sixty-three percent would favor the storage within 100 miles of the spent fuel, while 25 percent would feel the same about it being stored within 5 miles.

nuclear waste storage within 20 miles of their own community


Why Is The Unfinished 50 Year Old Satsop Nuclear Plant Still Standing?

Satsop Nuclear Power Plant in Elma, Washington

The Washington Public Power Supply System initiated the largest construction project for nuclear power plants in U.S. history in the 1970s: reactors 1, 2, and 4 at Hanford, and reactors 3 and 5 at Satsop, west of Olympia. The project was scrapped as the budget swelled to $25 billion and public sentiment turned against nuclear power (particularly after Three-Mile Island). 

In the end, only one plant was completed: Washington Nuclear Power Unit 2 (now known as the Columbia Generating Station), located on the Hanford Reserve. Construction was well underway at Satsop, and plant number 3 was approximately 76 percent complete, with the reactor built. Cooling towers were left in place, 480 feet tall-which had never generated a breath of steam-while all power generation machinery was removed. Since then, the site has grown into a special business/technology park. It is now known as Energy Northwest, the Washington Public Power Supply Grid.

The nuclear power plant was 76% complete when the project was canceled; dismantling the structure would have cost millions, so it was left standing. 


Is It Save To Live Near A Nuclear Power Plant?


The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has completed a groundbreaking ecological study of the impact of nuclear power plants on the local population. Despite large studies that say there is no evidence that people living near nuclear power plants are at increased risk of dying from cancer, the federal government is investigating the issue, starting with seven nuclear power plants in Connecticut and California. In a pilot project that will begin in the coming months, the NRC has commissioned the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on cancer risk.

The Office of Radiation Protection continuously monitors radioactivity and trains emergency workers in radiation emergencies. The Office for Radiation Protection monitors radiation levels in the air, water, and soil and continuously checks for radioactive substances and the presence of radioactive substances in air and water.
 
When an accident at a nuclear power plant is expected to release radiation into the area, local authorities activate warning sirens and approved alarms. Information and materials for emergencies can be obtained from the power plant operator, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), or the US Department of Energy. The area within a 10-mile radius of a plant typically includes areas within 1,000 feet of the reactor building or other facilities. If AI has not received information about the safety of people living within 10 miles of nuclear power plants, please contact your local Emergency Management Office.
 
Citizens living near a nuclear power plant must be regularly informed of procedures to inform them of problems at the plant and to take action when protective measures such as evacuation or shelter are required. This EPA fact sheet provides information for people living within a 10-mile radius or within a 10-mile radius of a reactor building or other facility, including how to respond in an emergency. It is an important resource for people, especially those living within ten miles of nuclear power plants and who may be exposed to radiation from nuclear power plants.
 
NPR wants to hear above all from the residents of a nuclear power plant about their experience with radiation pollution. We would like to hear from you at 800-989-8255 to learn more about your experience in the nuclear power plant environment.
 
We spoke to the National Academy of Sciences to remind them of the health studies they have conducted on nuclear power plants and their impact on public health and safety. This report continues to support the fact that US nuclear power plants do not affect public health and safety. It is not just a statistic that other children live near a nuclear power plant and get cancer.
 
We point out that coal-fired power stations release 100 times more radioactivity than nuclear power stations, and there is data showing that people living near a coal-fired power station are at a higher risk of cancer than those not living near the power station. Studies show that the amount of radioactive material released in operated coal-fired power plants is the same as in nuclear power plants. We quote a study by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which states that 'coal-fired power plants have released up to 100,000 tonnes of radioactive waste per year, or more than the total amount of radiation emitted by an operational power plant in the US.
 
The COMARE report contrasts this with a German study which calls for an increase in the risk of leukemia and other cancers in people living near nuclear power stations. The estimated radiation dose that people take in near coal-fired power plants is about twice as high as that of nuclear power plants or coal-fired power plants. However, a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found no significant difference in cancer risk between people with cancer and those who do not live in close proximity to nuclear and coal-fired power plants. In fact, the risk of childhood leukemia in areas with high radiation exposure, such as the United States and Germany, has roughly doubled, according to the CDC.
 
Ten years after the leak began, a person living near the plant was twice as likely to get cancer as someone living elsewhere in the U.S. The latest report by COMARE examined the health of children under the age of 5 living near 13 British nuclear power stations. Such studies deal with radiation exposure to the surrounding population, not just the nuclear power plant itself.
 
Nuclear power stations are built according to certain regulations, so the energy costs are lower when you grow up there. District heating near a nuclear power plant is, however, much more expensive than in other parts of the US and Canada. For example, the first nuclear power plant in the United States, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, was shut down in 1971.
 
The closure has led to an increase in the number of people living closer to the power plant, as proximity to the plant is linked to employment in the vicinity of the power plant. The other part, of course, is how many jobs they create over time, but I ask you to think about how important they are to meet the nation's electricity needs in the years ahead. Is it safe to live near a nuclear power plant, especially if you live in a city with a high concentration of nuclear power plants, such as New York City? 

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