July 3, 2017

Safety Helmets Are Replacing Hard Hats on Construction Sites

KASK Zenith Safety Helmet

edited by kcontents

By Bruce Rolfsen

For 40-plus years the design of construction hard hats hasn’t changed much—a brimmed shell attached to a suspended, adjustable headband.

But that’s changing as designs, first used in mountain climbing and other sports helmets, are adapted for construction workers.

The introduction of the helmets—don’t call them hard hats—is driven by the belief that helmets provide better side impact protection than traditional hard hats and won’t tumble away if a worker falls, company safety officials told Bloomberg BNA.

“If you’re working on a ladder and fall, your head snaps backwards, your hard hat falls off,” Jason Timmerman, safety director for Skanska USA Commercial Development, said. Bureau of Labor Statistics said brain injuries led to the deaths of at least 992 construction workers from 2011 through 2015, although it isn’t clear how many of the fatalities started with a fall.

Bill Drexel, safety director for subcontractor Scaffold Resource in Lanham, Md., recalled workers so concerned their hard hats wouldn’t stay in place that they created their own chin straps to hold hard hats in place in case they fell.

While general contractor employees are predominately using the new helmets, safety managers said that eventually lead contractors or project owners could require subcontractors to use the new helmets or find an equivalent.

Looking for Improvements

The search for new designs and helmets began three to four years ago when the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced it was beginning a review of construction hard hats to quantify head and neck protection and recommend improvements.

That research received funding from Turner Construction, worker’s compensation insurers and hard hat manufacturers. A NIOSH spokesman told Bloomberg BNA that the research is continuing and the agency wasn’t ready to release its findings.

About the same time, a few large general contractors began looking for alternatives.

Jesse Rice, vice president in charge of safety for the Clark Construction Group LLC headquartered in Bethesda, Md., said that part of the company’s 2015 business plan was to evaluate hard hats equipped with chin straps. The search led to using a helmet manufactured by an Italian company, KASK spa, Rice said.

KASK is better known for its helmets designed for skiing, horse riding and bicycling.

The company’s Zenith helmet meets the safety requirements of the consensus standard for construction headwear (ANSI Z89.1) and is approved for work in locations where electrical shock is a potential hazard, Rice said.

Skanska also decided to evaluate the Zenith helmet, with about 30 employees participating in a field test.

“We got rave reviews,” Timmerman said of the staff’s reaction.

In January 2017, Skanska began a pilot program with about 350 employees wearing helmets. The number of participants in the mid-Atlantic region continues to grow, however the company still views the effort as a pilot program, Timmerman said.

One benefit of the helmet is the optional, retractable visor, which satisfies OSHA requirements for eye protection and alleviates the need for safety glasses, Timmerman said.

Balfour Beatty US’s mid-Atlantic region began issuing helmets to about 80 craft workers in the spring, the contractor’s director for safety and health, Mike Saunders said. Because the craft workers don’t regularly work in areas with electrical shock hazards, they wear a helmet with vents, the KASK SuperPlasma, that isn’t ANSI-rated for electrical protection.

In early 2016, Scaffold Resource began offering SuperPlasma helmets to employees after a friend in the tree-care business recommended the KASK helmets his firm used, Drexel said. Now, about 100 employees wear the helmets.

Because the purpose of the new helmet is to protect workers from falls, Scaffold Resource requires employees to wear the helmet only when they are exposed to potential falls. If the immediate task is on the ground, such as unloading scaffolding, workers can go back to hard hats, Drexel said.

Subcontractor Mandate?

How far adopting helmets will go depends on several factors, the biggest being expectations from the general contractors who hire subcontractors, and helmet purchase costs.

Clark’s Rice said the company isn’t yet ready to require subcontractors to change helmets. Some subcontractors are moving toward using helmets on their own, because they see general contractor employees wearing helmets.

Another option for Clark is to set a requirement that hard hats or helmets be secured with a chin strap, Rice said. In one form or another, change is coming.

“I feel, the industry is going to evolve very quickly,” Rice said.

There have been similar changes in gear requirements. In August 2013, Clark began requiring its workers to wear cut-resistant gloves at building sites, even where cutting and sawing wasn’t going on. Some workers didn’t understand the glove policy, he said, but it was accepted as people saw the gloves didn’t interfere with their jobs.

In 2014, the glove mandate was extended to subcontractors.

“Now, it’s just a given,” Rice said.

Adoption Roadblocks

However, safety comes with a price, and helmet purchase costs could be an issue for small builders and subcontractors.

For head protection, an OSHA rule (29 C.F.R. 1926.100) requires employers to provide head protection equipment that meets or exceeds the industry consensus standard ANSI Z89.1 issued 2009. The agency also requires employers to provide safety equipment free to workers.

Hard hats meeting the consensus standard can be bought for less than $20 each.

Advertised prices for most helmets meeting the standard start at around $110, depending on the specific model. Adding a flip-up visor could be an additional $50. Bulk discounts would reduce costs, but competition also has the potential to lower costs. Kask and the French-based Petzl are among the few companies offering helmets meeting the ANSI Z89.1 requirements.

U.S.-based ANSI Z98.1 hard hat manufacturers offer chin straps that can be attached to their products.

Deborah Puracchio, communications manager for the Kentucky-based safety gear manufacturer Bullard, said the company wouldn’t discuss if its considering offering a helmet similar to the Kask and Petzl models because the firm doesn’t discuss its future products.

The company, earning its first hard hat patent in 1919, continues to look at innovations, Puracchio told Bloomberg BNA. Recently Bullard introduced a hard hat, the AboveView, featuring a clear front brim allowing workers to see what is above them without turning their heads.

Scaffold Resource’s Drexel said the new helmets his company uses will pay for themselves by preventing costly injuries.

“We haven’t had a head injury since we switched to them,” Drexel said.



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DONG Energy and Global Infrastructure Partners to form 50/50 partnership to build German offshore wind farm Borkum Riffgrund 2

source Offshore Wind Industry

August 07, 2017 16:12 ET | Source: Global Infrastructure Partners

New York, Aug. 07, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- DONG Energy, one of Northern Europe’s leading energy groups, and Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a leading independent global infrastructure investor, jointly announced today that Global Infrastructure Partners III (GIP III), a fund managed by GIP, has entered into an agreement to acquire a 50% stake in the Borkum Riffgrund 2 Offshore Wind Farm project from DONG Energy for a total consideration of approximately EUR 1,170 million.

Borkum Riffgrund 2 is a 450MW offshore wind project in the German North Sea, currently being constructed by DONG Energy. DONG Energy will provide a full-scope EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contract for the construction of the project. In addition, DONG Energy will provide operation and maintenance services and a route to market for the power production.

The transaction is subject to approval by the competition authorities and is expected to be completed before year end.

Following GIP’s acquisition of a 50% stake in the Gode Wind 1 Offshore Wind Farm in 2015 and its inauguration in June 2017, the Borkum Riffgrund 2 transaction is the second joint venture between DONG Energy and GIP.

Samuel Leupold, Executive Vice President and CEO of Wind Power at DONG Energy, said: “We’re pleased to be able to build on the partnership we established with GIP in relation to Gode Wind 1 in 2015. That partnership has been a success for all parties, and we’re committed to ensuring a similar success in relation to Borkum Riffgrund 2.”

Adebayo Ogunlesi, Chairman and Managing Partner of GIP, said: “This second transaction with DONG Energy continues and strengthens our successful partnership. DONG is a recognized leader in the energy sector and the pioneer in the development and operation of offshore wind farms, and this acquisition underscores GIP’s strategy of investing in superior quality projects and developing long-term strategic partnerships with industry leaders.”

Heerema to Handle Borkum Riffgrund 2 Substation  source Offshore Wind

edited by kcontents

Facts about Borkum Riffgrund 2

The wind farm will be located approximately 59km from Norddeich harbour and 34km north of the island of Borkum.

The wind farm will consist of 56 MHI Vestas V164-8.0MW wind turbines.

The wind farm will have a capacity of 450MW and will produce enough electricity to power more than 460,000 German households annually.

The wind farm is expected to be fully commissioned in 2019.

The wind farm will be operated from DONG Energy's base in Norddeich.

Final investment decision regarding the wind farm was taken by DONG Energy in June 2016.

About DONG Energy

DONG Energy (NASDAQ OMX: DENERG) is one of Northern Europe’s leading energy groups and is headquartered in Denmark. Around 5,800 ambitious employees develop, construct and operate offshore wind farms, generate power and heat from our power stations as well as supply and trade in energy to wholesale, business and residential customers. The Group generated revenue in 2016 of DKK 61 billion (EUR 8.2 billion). Read more on www.dongenergy.com.

About Global Infrastructure Partners

Global Infrastructure Partners ('GIP') is an independent infrastructure fund that invests worldwide in infrastructure assets and business in both OECD and select emerging market countries. GIP targets investments in single assets and portfolios of assets and companies in power and utilities, natural resources infrastructure, air transport infrastructure, seaports, freight railroad, water distribution and treatment and waste management. GIP has offices in New York and London, with an affiliate in Sydney and portfolio company operations headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. For more information, visit www.global-infra.com.


A photo accompanying this announcement is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/572d184c-6115-4dc5-9938-abb1b61bf941




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Video: New Orleans construction worker loses job after speeding through flooded streets in company truck

Advocate staff report AUG 6, 2017 

A New Orleans construction worker is finding out the hard way why driving cautiously and courteously on flooded streets matters thanks to a video that's gone viral in New Orleans. 

New Orleans construction company Gulf Coast Green Construction fired a worker caught on video speeding through flood waters in a company truck after the New Orleans area was inundated with up to eight inches of rain.

A Facebook user recorded the employee driving swiftly through flood waters in Mid-City, making matters worse for people in the neighborhood by pushing large waves into nearby homes and over parked cars.

"Gulf Coast Green Construction, don't use those guys," the man is heard saying in a profanity-filled video that's been viewed nearly 170,000 times and shared more than 4,000 times since being posted.

Can't see the video below? Click here.




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AUGUST 3, 2017 

Russian gas pipelines to go ahead despite U.S. sanctions

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller inspect the work on the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project aboard the Pioneering Spirit pipeline-laying ship in the Black Sea near Anapa, Russia June 23, 2017. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via

MOSCOW/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - New U.S. sanctions will make it harder for Russia to build two gas export pipelines to Europe but the projects are unlikely to be stopped.

U.S. President Donald Trump has reluctantly signed into law further sanctions on Russia but some of the measures are discretionary and most White House watchers believe he will not take action against Russia's energy infrastructure.

This would allow Gazprom's two big pipeline projects to go ahead, although at a higher price and with some delays.

The Kremlin, dependent on oil and gas revenues, sees the pipelines to Germany and Turkey - Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream - as crucial to increasing its market share in Europe.

It also fears that Western partners - needed to develop the deepwater, shale and Arctic gas deposits that will fill the pipelines - will be scared off by sanctions.

Gazprom warned investors last month that the sanctions "may result in delays, or otherwise impair or prevent the completion of the projects by the group."

With all that in mind, the Russian gas giant is taking steps to reduce the impact of sanctions.

It has accelerated pipe-laying by Swiss contractor Allseas Group under the Black Sea for TurkStream - even though there is no final agreement on where the pipeline will make landfall in Turkey. It is also hurriedly building a second TurkStream line to export gas to Europe.

"The construction of the second line is underway just in case the sanctions hit," a senior Gazprom source told Reuters.

A spokesman for Allseas said 100 km of the 900-km first line have been built since June 23 and preparatory work is underway for the second line.


The biggest cost of any delays to the new lines could come from increased transit fees paid to Ukraine, the route by which Russian gas has traditionally reached Europe.

Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream bypass Ukraine, but if they are brought into use late, Gazprom will have to continue using the Ukrainian route and may have to pay more for the privilege.

The European Union, fearing sanctions will hurt oil and gas projects on which it depends, said it was ready to retaliate unless it obtained U.S. guarantees that European firms would not be targeted.

Five Western firms that have invested in Nord Stream 2 - Wintershall (BASFn.DE) and Uniper (UN01.DE) of Germany, Austria's OMV (OMVV.VI), Anglo-Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), and France's Engie (ENGIE.PA) - say it is too early to judge the impact of sanctions.

For now, they are standing by their pledge of up to 950 million euros ($1.13 billion) each to finance the 1,225 km (760 mile) Nord Stream 2.

FILE PHOTO: A man is seen at work at Zagorsk Pipe Plant (ZTZ), which launched the production of large-diameter pipes for Russian gas giant Gazprom, outside Moscow, Russia May 29, 2017.

Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

Despite Trump's desire to promote U.S. liquefied natural gas exports to Europe that would compete with the Russian gas, he said he did not want the sanctions to get in the way of efforts to resolve the conflict in Ukraine.

EU officials, industry sources and experts therefore doubt that Trump will use what he regards as "significantly flawed" sanctions to punish Moscow.

"Their approach is going to be strictly by the letter of the law: what do they have to do," Richard Nephew, a former U.S. deputy chief of sanctions now with Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy.


The sanctions law is however expected to hamper Gazprom's efforts to raise money.

"The price of any project automatically increases," said Tatiana Mitrova, director of the Skolkovo Energy Center.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is seen on a board at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2017 (SPIEF 2017) in St. Petersburg, Russia June 1, 2017.

Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

"Gazprom's relationships with partners, subcontractors, and equipment and service providers are severely complicated," she said. "They will all ask for a risk premium."

Gazprom will have to take on the additional cost itself, depend on Russian state banks, or seek money at higher rates from Asian lenders, financial analysts said.

"This, however, does not mean that Nord Stream 2 won't be built," said Katja Yafimava of the Oxford Energy Institute.

Industry sources say the loans from Western partners for Nord Stream 2 are already at above market rates to reflect the political risk of partnering with Russia in a project that has also faced opposition in Europe.

The added uncertainty ups the stakes further. "It's like reading tea leaves," one source with knowledge of the European side of the Nord Stream 2 financing structure told Reuters.

While big players may be able to stomach the risk, analysts say the smaller contractors on which Gazprom depends to build the pipelines may get spooked. "Not all partners can afford to see things through with Gazprom," said Valery Nesterov, an analyst at Moscow-based Sberbank CIB.

A spokesman for Nord Stream 2 said more than 200 non-Russian companies from 17 countries, most of them European, are building the pipeline. Most of the big contracts for steel, port logistics and construction have already been concluded.

By forcing the pace of construction, Gazprom may have gained enough time to build the new pipelines but longer-term projects will take a hit.

"Unless Trump takes a really sharp turn, it is highly unlikely that companies that are supplying pipeline goods are going to be punished in the next year or so," Nephew said. "A lot of companies are now thinking: 'I've got maybe 12, maybe 18 months in which I can do some stuff but after that maybe I won't'."



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August 06, 2017

Iran: Prospect of Attracting $15b in Energy Finance

NIOC is taking steps to hold an international tender for Azadegan, a huge oil reservoir at its border with Iraq

Iran: Prospect of Attracting $15b in Energy Finance

The $5 billion gas deal reached with Total S.A. last month set a new tone for Iran's energy industry and the country is now poised to seal new oil and gas agreements worth three times the gas deal with the French major.

"The deal with Total to develop Phase 11 of the South Pars Gas Field has laid the groundwork for other projects. It can be used as a model for future deals," Gholamreza Manouchehri, deputy for development and engineering at the National Iranian Oil Company, was quoted as saying by IRNA.

"There is the prospect of attracting up to $15 billion in new investments by the end of the present [fiscal] year" in March 2018, he added.

President Hassan Rouhani and his administration hope the South Pars deal with the French supermajor—the first with a top-flight western company in the energy sector after last year's lifting of sanctions—will usher in a new wave of foreign investments in the energy-rich nation that is short on cash and cutting-edge know-how to develop its oil and gas fields.

SP Phase 11 is also the first deal signed within the framework of Iran Petroleum Contract, Tehran's new model of contracts for oil and gas projects that entails more appealing terms for foreign companies.

The French company will collaborate with China National Petroleum Corp and Iran’s state-owned firm Petropars to produce 2 billion cubic feet, or 56 million cubic meters per day of natural gas from Phase 11 of the joint gas field.

NIOC is now taking steps to hold an international tender for Azadegan, a huge oil reservoir at its border with Iraq, under the IPC framework.

"The tender is in the administrative process and will be finalized by the yearend," Manouchehri said without elaboration.

Total, Japan's Inpex and Malaysia's Petronas are frontrunners in the race for Azadegan development rights, having already submitted their findings along with development proposals for the giant oilfield, which is divided into the northern and southern sections.

Manouchehri underlined the development of South Pars oil layer as NIOC's other priority project. 

Iran began to draw crude oil from South Pars in March. The oil layer is located 130 kilometers off Iran's coast in the Persian Gulf with an estimated 7 billion barrels of oil in place. 

NIOC is in negotiations with Denmark's Maersk Oil on developing the second phase of South Pars oil layer in an effort to lift production to as much as 150,000 barrels per day from the present 25,000 barrels daily.

Petrochem Investment

The National Petrochemical Company is close to finalizing $5 billion worth of petrochemical projects.

"We have signed $10 billion worth of memoranda of understanding in the petrochemical sector post-sanctions … $5 billion of which are expected to be finalized in the near future," Hossein Alimorad, director of investment at NPC, was cited as saying by NIPNA.

Alimorad said three European companies will make the new investments without revealing their names.

Shell and Total are believed to be close to final agreements to construct petrochemical plants in Iran.

Total has reached a preliminary agreement to build three petrochemical plants, with a total capacity of 2.2 million tons in a deal that, if finalized, could see the French oil major investing up to $2 billion in Iran.

Shell also signed an agreement with NPC last year on expanding cooperation in the key petrochemical industry. 

The Anglo-Dutch company has agreed to invest $350 million in a major petrochemical project in Hamedan Province, but analysts say its venture in Iran's petrochemical sector could soar to as much as $6 billion.




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Construction of $5.4 billion Long Son petrochemical complex resumes

Construction of $4.5 billion Long Son petrochemical complex in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau will resume before the end of this year, following the recent restructing of shareholders in the joint venture company.

According to newswire Bangkok Post, SCG now owns 71 per cent through its wholly-owned subsidiaries Vina SCG Chemicals Co., Ltd. (SCG Chemical) and Thai Plastic and Chemicals in the joint venture, while Vietnam's oil and gas group PetroVietnam holds the remaining 29 per cent.

The move marks big progress on the much-anticipated Long Son petrochemical complex. Accordingly, the construction is expected to re-start this year and come into operation in the first half of 2022.

Earlier in March, SCG completed the purchase of a 25-per cent stake in the project from Qatar Petroleum International (QPI), its ex-partner in the project.

The project now has a total investment capital sum of $5.4 billion, up 20 per cent from its initial plan of $4.5 billion due to rising construction costs. About 30 per cent of the total investment will be used for the development of a deep sea port and other facilities to support the petrochemical plant.

It will be installed with advanced technology, meeting environmental protection requirements and ensuring the production of high-quality products, such as PP and PE. The project will create about 15,000-20,000 jobs during its construction and over 1,000 jobs when put into commercial operation.

Once completed, it will be one of the largest of its kind in Vietnam, with a production capacity of 1.6 million tonnes of olefins per year.

Licensed in 2008, the complex was invested by a joint venture of SCG, QPI, and PetroVietnam.

It was previously slated to begin construction in 2014 and be completed in 2017. However, the construction was delayed due to site clearance issues. As further obstacle, in December 2015, the Qatari investor officially withdrew from the project due to the restructuring of its development strategy. QPI and the two remaining investors failed to reach a compromise on capital transfer, leading to a serious delay in the project’s progress.

Up until now, the investor transferred a deposit of approximately $41.95 million to the Ba Ria-Vung Tau People’s Committee and the province finished the site clearance, relocating all 390 households from the main area of the 464-hectare project.



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S. Korea Co. in $1.8b Deal to Renovate Tabriz Refinery

The optimization will help Tabriz Refinery produce fuels with higher value-added, such as Euro-5 quality gasoline and diesel

Tabriz Oil Refining Company signed a €1.6 billion ($1.88 billion) deal on Saturday with a consortium of South Korean and Iranian companies on financing and implementing a project to upgrade Tabriz Refinery in East Azarbaijan Province.

SK E&C Company of South Korea and Oil Design and Construction Company of Iran aim to cut the refinery’s mazut production to less than 2% from the current 20% in four years, ILNA reported.

The optimization will help Tabriz Refinery produce fuels with higher value-added, such as Euro-5 quality gasoline and diesel.

The signing ceremony in uptown Tehran was overseen by government officials of both countries.

SK E&C Company Ltd. provides civil, transportation, telecommunications infrastructure and building construction services to customers in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Latin America. It offers services in the areas of planning, feasibility studies, sale, design, engineering, construction, operation, maintenance and installation for chemical and power plant projects.

The South Korean-Iranian consortium will be in charge of design, engineering, procurement and installation of equipment, with the Export-Import Bank of Korea or Korea Eximbank to finance the venture.

On the sidelines of the signing ceremony, Abbas Kazemi, deputy oil minister, referred to bilateral cooperation with South Korean companies, such as Daelim Corporation and Hyundai, hoping that the SK E&C will expand its operations in Iran.  

State-owned National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company had signed a $20 million memorandum of understanding with the South Korean company last year on conducting feasibility studies on Tabriz Refinery’s development.

Asian companies have actively sought downstream projects in Iran's emerging petroleum industry after the easing of international sanctions in January of last year. As per the terms of the contract, at least 51% of equipment and services for refurbishing Tabriz refinery should be provided by Iranian companies.

Iran’s Behin Energy Company this week signed a preliminary agreement with two South Korean firms for collaboration in wide-ranging energy projects, including SK E&C.

The agreement calls for carrying out oil, gas and petrochemical projects under engineering, procurement, construction and financing contracts, constructing refineries, establishing small liquefied natural gas production plants and power stations as well as building LNG and liquefied gas storage tanks, IRNA reported.

---- Gasoline Production

Tabriz refinery project is part of efforts to raise the output of high-quality gasoline and meet the increasing demand for the fuel at home.

"Gasoline production in the Persian Gulf Star Refinery in the city of Bandar Abbas [Hormozgan Province] stands at 7 million liters per day," Kazemi said on Saturday, adding that the output level reaches 11 ml/d in the next few months as more units of the Middle East's largest gas condensate refinery go on stream.

On gasoline consumption, he said, "An average of 79 ml/d was burned over the last four months. Moreover, 12 million liters of gasoline daily have been imported in the said period."

According to the official, Iran's gasoline reserves amount to 1 billion liters.

Referring to PGSR production, he noted that since the first phase of the refinery went on stream in May, more than 300 million liters of fuel have been distributed in the market.

"The refinery's output level is rising progressively as the launch of one plant, such as the isomerization unit, requires the functioning of other facilities," Kazemi said, noting that the second phase of the refinery will become operational in 2018.




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Will the West Let Russia Dominate the Nuclear Market?

What the Westinghouse Bankruptcy Means for the Future

By Nick Gallucci and Michael Shellenberger

Sometime this fall, a U.S. federal bankruptcy judge in New York will decide the fate of Westinghouse, the venerable nuclear power company that failed financially earlier this year. When the decision is made, it will determine something far more important: whether the West will play an active role in mitigating the twin threats of nuclear proliferation and climate change, or instead cede the global market for nuclear energy to Russia. But to succeed, a reorganized Westinghouse will need a management team capable of breaking from the past and adopting a different, well-tested nuclear plant design; as well as the long-term, low-interest financing required to compete with the Russians.


Westinghouse was founded in 1886, but was reorganized in the mid-1990s and owned by various companies until it was finally bought by Japanese conglomerate Toshiba in 2006—at a time when natural gas prices were high and nuclear energy’s prospects looked bright.

Westinghouse declared bankruptcy earlier this year after long construction delays stemming from building an entirely untested new design, the AP-1000, which resulted in significant and ongoing cost overruns during the building of two U.S. plants, one in South Carolina and the other in Georgia.

The greatest risk is that Westinghouse emerges out of bankruptcy proceedings in the hands of an owner who pulls the company out of the nuclear construction business entirely so that it can focus on its lucrative refueling business, and then sells off the remaining assets. Such an outcome would significantly undermine U.S. and Western national security interests, as well as global climate mitigation efforts.

Moscow views nuclear reactor sales as a vehicle for expanding and enhancing its influence. Russia’s state-owned nuclear corporation, Rosatom, is currently offering to not only build but fully finance and operate nuclear plants abroad, a deal that many cash-strapped and electricity-poor nations are finding hard to refuse.

Russia’s Build, Own, Operate (BOO) contracts are rightly raising flags within Western national security communities. Beyond establishing a measure of energy dependency, such contracts put Russian workers and valuable Russian assets on foreign soil, creating defensible grounds for the Kremlin to introduce a physical troop presence in regions of strategic interest. This is a particularly troubling prospect in the case of Turkey, a NATO member.  

Russia has reactors under construction in Bangladesh, Belarus, China, India, and Slovakia, and recently inked deals for new builds in Armenia, Egypt, Finland, Hungary, Iran, and Turkey. In all, Russia is responsible for 60 percent of global reactor sales and technical assistance, and is positioned to build 34 reactors in 13 countries at a total value of $300 billion. After Westinghouse’s failure, India expanded Russia’s role in its planned nuclear build-out.

Most nuclear reactors, whether for medical research or energy, are closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to detect diversions of nuclear materials to clandestine weapons programs. But the success of safeguards and inspections depends heavily upon cooperation from state regulators, operators, and reactor vendors. A particular region of concern is the Middle East, which has a checkered history of compliance with the IAEA.

Like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia wants to build a nuclear plant, which would allow the country to preserve its abundant oil and gas resources for export. But securityexperts fear the Saudis may be motivated to hedge against the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, perhaps by developing their own clandestine enrichment or reprocessing capabilities. Although it seemed likely that Saudi Arabia would work with KEPCO, in light of South Korea’s recently planned nuclear phase-out, it is more likely that Russia will win that contract, too.

The good news is that, for now, many nations do not want Russia’s influence to expand within their borders, which was part of the reason Vietnam cancelled its plans for a nuclear build-out and is planning to construct coal plants instead.`


With nations in Europe and Asia looking to reduce their reliance on nuclear power, Westinghouse is the last opportunity for the West and its allies to remain in the nuclear construction business.

French-owned Areva, like Westinghouse, failed financially because of construction delays stemming from building an untested new European Pressurized Reactor design. Although Areva was recapitalized and reorganized by the French government, buyer nations will rightly be skeptical of its ability to deliver on projects given its history.

South Korea’s KEPCO has earned a reputation for building nuclear power plants on time and on budget, including abroad in the United Arab Emirates. But now South Korea’s newly elected president is pursuing a phase-out of nuclear energy in response to public fears that have grown since the 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima. If he succeeds in doing so, South Korea will be out of the global nuclear competition, lacking a domestic supply chain and, equally importantly, the trust of foreign nations.

Japan’s Hitachi has a nuclear construction partnership with General Electric, but GE’s last two CEOs were publicly skeptical about the future nuclear construction, and customers are unlikely to contract with a firm from a country that is, like South Korea and France, reducing its domestic reliance on nuclear energy.

A reorganized Westinghouse under more visionary leadership could eventually buy Hitachi, which has proven capable of building its advanced nuclear plants on time and on budget in Japan and Taiwan; what remains of KEPCO; or another nuclear construction company.

For all the challenges Westinghouse faces, the United States still has twice as many nuclear reactors as the world’s second-largest nuclear energy power, France, and is the nation most committed to keeping and expanding nuclear energy to mitigate air pollution and climate change. For example, New York and Illinois last year extended a subsidy to economically distressed nuclear plants in recognition of their environmental benefits. Connecticut, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are considering similar measures.


The future of nuclear energy is too important to be left to a single bankruptcy judge, however forward-thinking. For Westinghouse and a Western-based nuclear construction industry to succeed, the U.S. government must do three things.

First, the Department of Energy (DOE) should take a page from its efforts in the 1990s that led to the shale gas fracking revolution and accelerate the testing of so-called accident tolerant fuels. In the 1990s, the DOE paid for higher-than-normal horizontal drilling and fracking costs to successfully test the technology. It should do the equivalent today for accident tolerant nuclear fuels, which promise to withstand temperatures three times higher than those withstood by today’s fuels, preventing hydrogen gas explosions like the kind that occurred at Fukushima in 2011.

If accident tolerant fuels prove successful, the cost of operating nuclear plants could decline by as much as 30 percent, making nuclear energy instantly competitive even with rock-bottom natural gas prices. After several decades of laboratory testing, these type of fuels are set to be loaded into a U.S. civilian nuclear reactor in 2018, but there is no reason they could not be loaded into civilian reactors this fall—something that would require a modest investment by DOE of well-under $500 million. If after 18 months these fuels have performed as expected, they should be subsidized across the U.S. nuclear fleet.

Second, Washington must recommit to becoming its own primary source of nuclear fuel enrichment and production, as well as a globally competitive supplier. The only U.S. firm capable of realizing that status is Centrus, which just completed a three-year demonstration of its advanced AC100 centrifuges at its Piketon, Ohio facility. Yet despite the DOE’s finding that the AC100 represents “the most technically advanced and lowest risk option” to meet the nation’s long-term national security needs, additional financing is needed to scale up and commercialize the technology.

Congress must greatly expand the financing available to reorganize Westinghouse so that it can compete with Rosatom.

Third, Congress must greatly expand the financing available to reorganize Westinghouse so that it can compete with Rosatom. In the past, some conservative members of Congress have objected that such financing should be the exclusive domain of private banks. But in the current situation, national security must take precedence over ideological purity.

In the end, the future of Westinghouse must be decided less on the size of the offer from competing bidders and more on a realistic plan for the United States to realize the vision offered by President Dwight Eisenhower in his famous “Atoms for Peace” speech to the United Nations General Assembly. The ultimate purpose of nuclear energy, Eisenhower said, was to “provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.” Yet today, just ten percent of the world’s electricity comes from nuclear, almost all of it in power-rich rather than power-starved areas. American leaders can work together to turn today’s crisis, facing both Westinghouse and our largest source of clean energy, into the opportunity the West needs to guarantee its security while also realizing a humanitarian dream




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Roads could be covered with 'tunnels' to absorb pollution

Highways Agency studies Dutch scheme using ‘cantilevered canopies’ covered with pollution-absorbing material in effort to improve air quality

Major roads could be covered with tunnels with pollution-absorbing material in an effort to cut emission fumes.

 Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA

Major roads could be turned into tunnels covered with pollution-absorbing material in an effort to cut emission fumes and improve air quality.

Highways Agency officials are studying a Dutch scheme in which cantilevered canopies are constructed over the most polluted sections of road to prevent local residents breathing in noxious car fumes.

Poor air quality is reported to kill as many as 40,000 people a year prematurely in the UK, and levels in many areas regularly breach European legal limits. The government has twice had its plans to tackle the issue ruled illegal by the courts.

The tunnel plans are outlined in an air improvement strategy plan to help reduce pollution. Officials say they are investing millions of pounds in new technology to improve air quality around roads in the next five years. The Department of Transport predicts traffic volumes are expected to increase by 55% between 2010 and 2040.

“The best solution to accommodating the extra traffic on our roads, without negatively impacting on air quality, is cleaner low-emission vehicles. In the meantime we are investing £100m to test new ideas including less-polluting fuels and road barriers which can absorb harmful emissions,” said an agency spokesman.

‘‘We have identified that a cantilever barrier or canopy, which is a tunnel-like structure designed to prevent vehicle emissions, might be a possible solution, though the air quality benefits of this are still to be fully understood. We are now working with the Dutch Roads Authority to measure air quality around an existing cantilever barrier on their network.’’

Highways officials said they have also trialled two different types of barriers. The first, featuring wood panels 4 metres and 6 metres high, were fitted to the M62 near junction 18 in Manchester.

A second trial, which is ongoing, features a 3 metre high fence coated in a mineral polymer material capable of absorbing nitrogen dioxide. “The results from the monitoring of this trial will help us understand if this has been a success with the potential to implement it on the rest of our network,” said a Highways Agency spokesman.

A Highways England spokesman said on Wednesday they were also carrying out emission testing from a range of diesel vehicles using a new type of fuel believed to help improve emissions on both motorways and urban driving.

To help boost electric car use they will aim to ensure that 95% of the roads network will have a vehicle charging point every 20 miles.




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2nd Construction Worker Rescued from Failed Suspended Scaffolding in Sarasota, Florida Within a Month

August 2, 2017 Shane Hedmond

via Youtube

You may remember a story we shared at the end of June about a rescue of a construction worker who was dangling from a suspended scaffold 15 stories in the air.  The Sarasota County Fire Department completed a very skilled rescue, in which one firefighter scaled down the side of the building to the trapped worker, attached him to a harness, and both men were hoisted back up to the roof.  The cause of that failure was a snapped line. At that time, the fire chief mentioned that he rarely sees events like this and that only 5 or 6 rescues like this have happened in his 29 year career.

So imagine the fire chief’s and other Sarasota, Florida resident’s surprise when another suspended scaffolding collapse rescue had to occur less than a month after the previous one. The second rescue was at a different construction site, but the situation was eerily similar.  One worker was 10 stories high on the outside of a new high rise condominium, when one of the two scaffold motors malfunctioned, sending one side down, while the other stayed put. 

Thankfully, the worker was wearing his safety harness and was able to stay inside the basket until the fire department could get there and perform the rescue. In total, the man was stuck for around 2 hours before being lowered to the ground.  One of the firefighters’ original ideas was to break through one of the windows to get the worker to safety, but, since they were rated for a hurricane, they agreed that would do more harm than good.

As bad as both of these scaffold failures looked, no fatalities occurred.  It’s a strong reminder that wearing a harness can save your life in the event of an unforeseen malfunction. This is also a great reminder to inspect jobsite hoists and equipment prior to use.




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