writes "Twenty-eight years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, its effects are still being felt as far away as Germany – in the form of radioactive wild boars.
Wild boars still roam the forests of Germany, where they are hunted for their meat, which is sold as a delicacy.
But in recent tests by the state government of Saxony, more than one in three boars were found to give off such high levels of radiation that they are unfit for human consumption.
Outside the hunting community, wild boar are seen as a menace by much of Germany society. Autobahns have to be closed when boar wander onto them, they sometimes enter towns and, in a famous case in 2010, a pack attacked a man in a wheelchair in Berlin.
But radioactive wild boars stir even darker fears.
They are believed to be a legacy of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, when a reactor at a nuclear power plant in then Soviet-ruled Ukraine exploded, releasing a massive quantity of radioactive particles into the atmosphere.
Even though Saxony lies some 700 miles from Chernobyl, wind and rain carried the radioactivity across western Europe, and soil contamination was found even further away, in France.
Wild boar are thought to be particularly affected because they root through the soil for food, and feed on mushrooms and underground truffles that store radiation. Many mushrooms from the affected areas are also believed to be unfit for human consumption."Link to Original Source
writes "Areva-Siemens, the consortium building Finland's biggest nuclear reactor, said on Monday the start date of the much delayed project will be pushed back to late 2018 — almost a decade later than originally planned.
Areva-Siemens blamed disagreements with its client Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) over the plant's automation system, the latest blow for a project that has been hit by repeated delays, soaring costs and disputes."Link to Original Source
writes "The U.S. government is looking for trains to haul radioactive waste from nuclear power plants to disposal sites. Too bad those trains have nowhere to go.
Putting the cart before the horse, the U.S. Department of Energy recently asked companies for ideas on how the government should get the rail cars needed to haul 150-ton casks filled with used, radioactive nuclear fuel.
They won't be moving anytime soon. The latest government plans call for having an interim test storage site in 2021 and a long-term geologic depository in 2048.
No one knows where those sites will be, but the Obama administration is already thinking about contracts to develop, test and certify the necessary rail equipment."Link to Original Source
writes "A perfect slashdot story, the NSA and Yucca Mountain rolled into one:
"Whenever I explain the OffNow Project to someone, they initially respond enthusiastically. Something to the effect of, “Wow! That’s cool! The federal government shouldn’t be spying on us!” But when I further explain that the idea behind OffNow includes shutting off state supplied resources to NSA facilities – like the water necessary to cool the super-computers at the Bluffdale, Utah spy facility – those same people get nervous. “Shutting off the water seems like an extreme move. Can we even do that?” they ask.
Yes, we can do that.
And it will work.
It’s been done before at a place called Yucca Mountain, Nevada....." The water rights case in Nevada is described here: http://www.law360.com/articles..."Link to Original Source
writes "Cosmic rays can help scientists do something no one else can: safely image the interior of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.... [M]uon tomography, is similar to taking an X-ray, only it uses naturally produced muons. These particles don’t damage the imaged materials and, because they already stream through everything on Earth, they can be used to image even the most sensitive objects. Better yet, a huge amount of shielding is needed to stop muons from passing through an object, making it nearly impossible to hide from muon tomography.
“Everything around you is constantly being radiographed by muons,” says Christopher Morris, who leads the Los Alamos muon tomography team. “All you have to do is set some detectors above and below it, and measure the angles well enough to make a picture.”
By determining how muons scatter as they interact with electrons and nuclei within the item, the team’s software creates a three-dimensional picture of what’s inside.... To prove the technology, the Los Alamos team shipped a demo detector system to a small, working nuclear reactor in a Toshiba facility in Kawasaki, Japan. There, they placed one detector on either side of the reactor core.
“When we analyzed our data we discovered that in addition to the fuel in the reactor core, they had put a few fuel bundles off to the side that we didn’t know about,” says Morris. “They were really impressed that not only could we image the core, but that we also found those bundles.”
Based on that successful test, Toshiba signed an agreement with Los Alamos and later with Decision Sciences to design and manufacture muon-detector components for use at Fukushima Daiichi."Link to Original Source
writes "Florida Power & Light needs millions more gallons of freshwater to manage cooling canals that keep two nuclear reactors at Turkey Point from overheating, company officials said in an emergency request to the South Florida Water Management District.
The hot canals do not pose a safety risk, federal regulators have said, but they have forced the utility to dial back operations over the scorching summer.
So with the heat showing no sign of easing, could brownouts be far off?
“We have record electricity demand and what we’re doing is taking proactive action to make sure we can effectively manage the situation in an environmentally responsible way while maintaining reliability for our customers,” said FPL spokesman Michael Waldron.
To cool the canals, the Water Management District on Thursday authorized pumping up to 100 million gallons of water a day from a nearby canal system, but only if it doesn’t take too much water stored for Everglades restoration. The canals carry freshwater to Biscayne Bay and tamp down salinity, which can fuel algae blooms and harm marine life.
The 100 million gallons would be in addition to 14 million gallons a day from the Floridan aquifer that water managers approved in June, after high temperatures threatened to shut down the reactors."Link to Original Source
writes "The five-member board that oversees the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday voted to end a two-year moratorium on issuing new power plant licenses.
The moratorium was in response to a June 2012 decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that ordered the NRC to consider the possibility that the federal government may never take possession of the nearly 70,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel stored at power plant sites scattered around the country.
In addition to lifting the moratorium, the five-member board also approved guidance replacing the Waste Confidence Rule.
"The previous Waste Confidence Rule determined that spent fuel could be safely stored on site for at least 60 years after a plant permanently ceased operations," said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC.
In the new standard, Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel Rule, NRC staff members reassessed three timeframes for the storage of spent fuel — 60 years, 100 years and indefinitely."Link to Original Source
writes "With wind power filling the energy gap left by shutdown nuclear reactors in the UK, and police investigating allegations of sabotage at a reactor in Belgium, the myth of "reliable" nuclear energy is being exposed like never before.
The nuclear industry tells us that nuclear power is a reliable energy source, that it offers "energy security". Tell that to Belgium and the UK who are seeing significant parts of their nuclear fleet shutdown.
It's been confirmed that the major damage that shut down Belgium's Doel 4 reactor was caused by sabotage. Meanwhile, cracks found in two other reactors – Tihange 2 and Doel 3 — means they may never reopen. The three reactors make up over half of the country's nuclear power output.
(Worryingly, there are 22 other reactors around the world that share the same design as Tihange 2 and Doel 3.)
In the UK, four nuclear reactors – at Heysham and Hartlepool – are out of action while defects are investigated.
There have previously been issues with nuclear power plants being closed in EU and USA at times of drought because of water shortages.
What fills the energy gap while these "reliable" nuclear reactors are shut down?
Belgium is having to rely on electricity from its neighbours. So much for nuclear power giving the country energy security.
In the UK, things are much more optimistic. Renewable energy has come to the rescue. "Demand is low at this time of year, and a lot of wind power is being generated right now," said the UK's National Grid. Electricity supplies have been unaffected....
Here we have yet more reasons to abandon nuclear power. It's not reliable and does not guarantee energy security. It's not your friend and is going to let you down sooner or later."Link to Original Source
writes "The University of Sydney has become the first institution of its type in Australia to halt further investments in coalmining, a move likely to send ripples through the funds industry.
On Monday, the university said it had halted investments in Whitehaven Coal, the miner developing the controversial Maules Creek open-cut coalmine, which is the largest such project in the country.
As part of a review being undertaken by the Mercer Group, however, Sydney University told Fairfax Media the bar on investments extended beyond Whitehaven.
"The university has issued an instruction to its Australian equities managers to make no further investments in the coal and consumable fuels subsector of the ASX," a spokeswoman for the university said.
The institution is yet to decide what to do with existing coal investments in its $1 billion portfolio, although divestment of its $900,000 holding in Whitehaven is one of "various options" being considered, she said.
The spokeswoman declined to detail the reason for stopping purchases of coal stocks, which other companies are affected and when the halt kicked in.
The current consultation "over our investment in coal and consumable fuels is part of our ongoing review to ensure we meet our responsibilities to students, staff and donors", the spokeswoman said."Link to Original Source
writes "A Japanese court has ruled that Fukushima nuclear operator Tokyo Electric was responsible for a woman's suicide after the March 2011 disaster and must pay compensation, in a landmark ruling that could set a precedent for other claims against the utility.
The civil suit by Mikio Watanabe claimed that Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc (9501.T) (Tepco) was to blame for the July 2011 death of his wife, Hamako, 58, who doused herself in kerosene and set herself on fire after falling into depression.
The district court in Fukushima ruled in favor of Watanabe, a court official told reporters. Kyodo news reported that Tepco was ordered to pay 49 million yen ($472,000) in compensation. Watanabe had sought about 91 million yen in damages.
The court decision is the latest blow for the utility, which was bailed out with taxpayer funds in 2012 and expects to spend more than $48 billion in compensation alone for the nuclear disaster.disaster.
The triple nuclear meltdowns forced more than 150,000 people from their homes, about a third of whom remain in temporary housing."Link to Original Source
writes "A senior federal nuclear expert is urging regulators to shut down California’s last operating nuclear plant until they can determine whether the facility’s twin reactors can withstand powerful shaking from any one of several nearby earthquake faults.
Michael Peck, who for five years was Diablo Canyon’s lead on-site inspector, says in a 42-page, confidential report that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not applying the safety rules it set out for the plant’s operation.
The document, which was obtained and verified by The Associated Press, does not say the plant itself is unsafe. Instead, according to Peck’s analysis, no one knows whether the facility’s key equipment can withstand strong shaking from those faults — the potential for which was realized decades after the facility was built.
Continuing to run the reactors, Peck writes, “challenges the presumption of nuclear safety.”
Peck’s July 2013 filing is part of an agency review in which employees can appeal a supervisor’s or agency ruling — a process that normally takes 60 to 120 days, but can be extended. The NRC, however, has not yet ruled. Spokeswoman Lara Uselding said in emails that the agency would have no comment on the document."Link to Original Source
writes "Tucked away from major roadways and nestled amid more than 80 acres of forest sits a massive warehouse-like building where inside, a device that can produce temperatures hotter than the sun has sat cold and quiet for more than two years.
But the wait is almost over for the nuclear fusion reactor to get back up and running at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.
“We’re very excited and we’re all anxious to turn that machine back on,” said Adam Cohen, deputy director for operations at PPPL.
The National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX) has been shut down since 2012 as it underwent a $94 million upgrade that will make it what officials say will be the most powerful fusion facility of its kind in the world. It is expected to be ready for operations in late winter or early spring, Cohen said."Link to Original Source
writes "RATHER than searching for aliens phoning home, scientists are looking for signs of the homes themselves. A new project proposing that galaxy-spanning alien civilisations should generate detectable heat has turned up a few dozen galaxies that hold promise as harbours for life.
The best-known technique used to search for tech-savvy aliens is eavesdropping on their communications with each other. But this approach assumes ET is chatty in channels we can hear.
The new approach, dubbed G-HAT for Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies, makes no assumptions about what alien civilisations may be like.
"This approach is very different," says Franck Marchis at the SETI Institute in California, who was not involved in the project. "I like it because it doesn't put any constraints on the origin of the civilisation or their willingness to communicate."
Instead, it utilises the laws of thermodynamics. All machines and living things give off heat, and that heat is visible as infrared radiation. The G-HAT team combed through the catalogue of images generated by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, which released an infrared map of the entire sky in 2012. A galaxy should emit about 10 per cent of its light in the mid-infrared range, says team leader Jason Wright at Pennsylvania State University. If it gives off much more, it could be being warmed by vast networks of alien technology – though it could also be a sign of more prosaic processes, such as rapid star formation or an actively feeding black hole at the galaxy's centre.
The team's preliminary survey suggests that such galaxies are rare, but they are out there. "We have found several dozen galaxies giving out a superlative amount of mid-infrared light," says Wright. About 50 of these are emitting more than half of their starlight in the mid-infrared, the team reports http://iopscience.iop.org/0004..."Link to Original Source
writes "An environmental group is demanding the State Department fork over all of its communications over changes that were made to the final Keystone XL pipeline environmental impact review.
Friends of the Earth filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on Monday over a correction the State Department made in its final environmental analysis on the controversial pipeline.
The change reflected a substantial increase in the number of deaths that could be caused if Keystone is rejected. The revision said that State now estimates 18 to 30 people would be killed each year from the increase in oil shipments by rail without construction of the pipeline. Earlier estimates had said six deaths but that was under a three-month period.
Friends of the Earth called the statistics "highly questionable" and wants to know what prompted the change. They are asking for all staff communications over a five-month span.
"More questionable still is what prompted the State Department to update these particular numbers while neglecting numbers that show how Keystone XL would catalyze an increase in emissions," said Luisa Abbot Galvao of Friends of the Earth.
In the final impact review, the department said Keystone XL would not significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, a finding that hasn't sat well with environmentalists.
Friends of the Earth wants all records between State's staff and lobbyists or other individuals representing pipeline developer TransCanada, and Environmental Resources Management, the contractor that worked on the final environmental review.
Its request asks for all of the communication, contracts or agreements made between State and TransCanada from January to June of this year.
It also asks for documents on the oil rail analysis, greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation measures compiled in the same time period."Link to Original Source
writes "The U.S. Department of Energy has completed its environmental review of a $2.2 billion project that will run a 330-mile electric line from Canada to New York City.
The 1,000-megawatt transmission cables will have a 5-inch diameter and run underwater or underground for the line’s entire length. The project, called the Champlain Hudson Power Express, will siphon hydro and wind-produced energy from the Canadian border to a converter station that will be built in Astoria, Queens, and feed into the Consolidated Edison system.
Transmission Developers Inc., the Albany-based company developing the project, claims the transmission line would reduce energy costs for customers by as much as $650 million per year, creating an average of 300 construction jobs over the four years it takes to build."Link to Original Source