mdsolar writes: The Canadian Medical Association’s General Council, held last week in Vancouver, may well be remembered as the moment that Canadian MDs made climate change — dubbed “the biggest health threat of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization — a priority.
First, the diagnosis of climate change as a health emergency was laid out in detail by one of Canada’s most well-respected doctors, Dr. James Orbinski, who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) in 1999. The Canadian Medical Association then confirmed it had in fact completed the divestment of its organizational funds from fossil fuels.
The meeting kicked off with a keynote address by Dr. Orbinski, one of Canada’s most noted humanitarians. “There is no question that climate change is the biggest health threat of our time,” he said, adding that "we cannot possibly live, we cannot possibly survive, we cannot possibly thrive” without a functioning biosphere. He spoke of the disproportionate impacts on Canada’s North, where temperature increases are already in the range of three degrees Celsius, and about the risks of extreme weather, wildfires, flooding and changing patterns of infectious disease.
One of the most passionate moments of Dr. Orbinski’s speech came when he was discussing the malnutrition and food-security risks of climate change.
“In 2011, climate-change driven drought affected 13 million people and 500,000 people died, in the Horn of Africa. This is utterly unacceptable," he said. "That we simply know this and we allow it to continue. It requires that we see ourselves differently in relation to others in the world. This is the consequence of climate change. It is profound and it is utterly unacceptable.“
mdsolar writes: Nuclear fusion has been powering our sun for the past 4.5 billion years. Unlike fission — the process that powers our current nuclear facilities — fusion generates energy by fusing the nuclei of lighter atoms into heavier ones, and produces no long-term radioactive waste.
Imagine if we manage to replicate and miniaturize the process taking place in the core of stars. This would not only provide us a low-cost, clean and virtually limitless source of energy, it would also end our unsustainable reliance on polluting fossil fuels.
In a recent paper published in the journal Nuclear Fusion, a team of physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), has detailed the design of a viable and efficient fusion device — one that already exists in an experimental form.
The spherical device, known as a “tokamak,” can contain high-energy, superheated plasma produced through nuclear fusion using relatively low and inexpensive magnetic fields. This, the researchers believe, makes it a leading candidate to complement the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor — a doughnut-shaped tokamak that 35 nations are building in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power.
The PPPL tokamaks spherical, “cored apple” design also allows tritium — a rare hydrogen isotope — to be created,
mdsolar writes: Five years after the second-worst nuclear accident in history, contaminated water is still hampering efforts to gain control of the site. Local residents are reluctant to return to their homes. Julian Ryall reports.
It has been five years and five months since three of the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant were crippled by the biggest earthquake and tsunami to strike Japan in living memory. Work continues at the site to clean up the radioactivity that escaped into the atmosphere and to regain control of the reactors.
In its press releases, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) insists that steps taken since the accident are slowly but surely having an effect. But not everyone accepts their assurances — or those of the wider nuclear industry as it seeks public support to restart reactors across the country that have been mothballed since March 2011.
"There are numerous problems that are all interconnected, but one of the biggest that we are facing at the moment is the highly contaminated water that is being stored in huge steel tanks at the site," Aileen Mioko-Smith, an anti-nuclear activist with Kyoto-based Green Action Japan, told DW.
mdsolar writes: There’s an idea for a world without trash.
Items are not just recycled, but created with the intention of making new things out of them after they are used. Imagine if every pair of Levi’s jeans were manufactured with fibers made to be pulled apart and repurposed into a new pair of jeans after the old ones are cast off. The cycle repeats itself endlessly, meaning old jeans become new jeans, rather than being chucked into a landfill.
This is the promise of the “circular economy,” a metaphorical description of a world where nothing ever needs to be discarded because goods are designed with materials that can be constantly remade into something else. It’s important to note that the concept is pretty theoretical at this point. There are companies that are working on making their operations more circular — even big ones like Walmart — but no one yet can claim to have a business free of waste.
Proponents call our current production model the “linear model,” meaning goods are manufactured with the intention of being thrown away at the end of their useful life. Not only does most of what we buy on a daily basis end up getting tossed out, but all the materials used to make and package our stuff get discarded, too. Think about the plastic packaging — just the packaging — of the products sold in most stores.
If things keep going this way, by 2025 the ocean will contain a ton of plastic for every three tons of fish, according to a report on rethinking plastics by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular economy-focused think tank. By 2050, the ocean could have more plastic than fish, by weight.
mdsolar writes: THE police force charged with guarding UK nuclear power plants has admitted to a substantial increase in the number of breaches of security last year.
There were 21 separate incidents involving stolen or lost smart phones and identity cards, up from 13 the previous year.
In one case a Blackberry was taken in a “domestic burglary”, and in another a SIM card was “accidently thrown in disposal chute at home address.” Emails containing sensitive information, including an armoury access code and personal data, were sent in breach of security protocols.
“Terrorists must be delighted with this catalogue of cock-ups,” said Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland.
“It seems you just have to follow some nuclear police around for a while and they'll drop their pass in a car park, leave a work phone on the train or accidentally send secret info through Google mail. It would be laughable if it wasn’t about the safety of some of the most dangerous sites in the UK.”
The revelations uncovered by the Sunday Herald have been condemned as well as prompting alarm from campaigners and politicians. They point out that there have recently been concerns about Chinese state companies stealing nuclear industry secrets.
mdsolar writes: An atomic safety investigation at a Columbia nuclear fuel factory uncovered additional problems this week as inspectors discovered more radioactive material had built up in the plant than they previously knew about.
An air pollution control system pipe potentially contained enough uranium to cause a nuclear accident at the Westinghouse plant on Bluff Road, records show. The amount of uranium found in the pipe might have exceeded a federal safety limit, according to a federal event notification report.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission became aware of the problem Tuesday, about five weeks after Westinghouse notified the agency that uranium had built up in another part of the air pollution scrubber system, records show. In that case, the amount of uranium found in the scrubber was three times higher than federal safety limits, the notification report says.
mdsolar writes: Chemists at the University of Waterloo have developed a long-lasting zinc-ion battery that costs half the price of current lithium-ion batteries and could help enable communities to shift away from traditional power plants and into renewable solar and wind energy production.
Professor Linda Nazar and her colleagues from the Faculty of Science at Waterloo made the important discovery, which appears in the journal, Nature Energy.
The battery uses safe, non-flammable, non-toxic materials and a pH-neutral, water-based salt. It consists of a water-based electrolyte, a pillared vanadium oxide positive electrode and an inexpensive metallic zinc negative electrode. The battery generates electricity through a reversible process called intercalation, where positively-charged zinc ions are oxidized from the zinc metal negative electrode, travel through the electrolyte and insert between the layers of vanadium oxide nanosheets in the positive electrode. This drives the flow of electrons in the external circuit, creating an electrical current. The reverse process occurs on charge.
The cell represents the first demonstration of zinc ion intercalation in a solid state material that satisfies four vital criteria: high reversibility, rate and capacity and no zinc dendrite formation. It provides more than 1,000 cycles with 80 per cent capacity retention and an estimated energy density of 450 watt-hours per litre. Lithium-ion batteries also operate by intercalation--of lithium ions--but they typically use expensive, flammable, organic electrolytes.
mdsolar writes: A state-owned Chinese power company under indictment in the U.S. pressed American nuclear consultants for years to hand over secret technologies and documents they weren’t supposed to disclose — and in some cases it got them, several of the consultants have told the FBI. Summaries of the consultants’ interviews with agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were filed this month in a federal court where the company, China General Nuclear Power Corp., has been charged with conspiring to steal nuclear technology. The FBI documents surfaced shortly after the same company became a focus of concerns across the Atlantic: The U.K. last month delayed approval of the country’s biggest nuclear power station in a generation as questions swirled about whether China General Nuclear’s investment in the plant poses a security risk.
The filings provide a window into the tactics of CGN, China’s biggest nuclear power operator. One of the consultants said CGN employees asked for off-limits operational manuals to nuclear equipment and software, according to the interview summaries. Another said he was asked to provide proprietary temperature settings for material used to contain nuclear fuel. After he refused, he wasn’t offered more consulting jobs, he told the FBI. Employees of CGN “frequently asked for documents which were proprietary or limited to restricted access,” according to a summary of one interview. In several instances, the company got what it wanted, according to the FBI documents.
mdsolar writes: Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, already one step from being forced by federal regulators to close down based on poor performance, remained powered down for a third day Tuesday as crews tried to repair a malfunctioning valve designed to prevent radioactivity from leaking into the environment during a nuclear accident.
Patrick O'Brien, a spokesman for plant operator Entergy, said inspectors discovered during routine test last week that one of the valves was not closing fast enough. The plant had already been lowered to 47 percent power last Tuesday for maintenance and was powered down completely on Sunday to allow crews to repair the valve.
This is the second time in a year that a problem in the valve system has shut down the reactor. Critics say it is further evidence that parts are wearing out and not being replaced in time at the 44-year-old reactor because owner-operator Entergy Corp. plans to permanently shutter the plant in mid-2019.
“Even with increased federal oversight, repetitive failure of critical safety equipment is yet another serious warning that Pilgrim's ongoing degradation continues to threaten our region,” Diane Turco, co-founder of the watchdog group Cape Downwinders, wrote in an email. “Pilgrim is an accident waiting to happen. Closure should be now, not in 2019.”
mdsolar writes: Climate change has forced us to rethink how we get electricity. Use of renewable sources like solar and wind is rapidly increasing, while nuclear, though long a reliable source of carbon-free electricity, is not. Meanwhile, a number of startups are promising cheap, safe, proliferation-resistant nuclear energy in the next decade (see “Fail-Safe Nuclear Power”).
Can these startups fulfill their promises? Outside of China, nuclear power is expanding nowhere. China has 21 new reactors under construction; Russia has nine, India six. The U.S. is bringing five new plants online, but since 2012, five other reactors have been retired, with seven more to be shuttered by 2019. California’s Diablo Canyon plant recently announced it will close by 2025. With other plants closing in Japan, Germany, and the U.K., more reactors may be decommissioned than built in the near future. Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes: When a drum containing radioactive waste blew up in an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico two years ago, the Energy Department rushed to quell concerns in the Carlsbad desert community and quickly reported progress on resuming operations.
The early federal statements gave no hint that the blast had caused massive long-term damage to the dump, a facility crucial to the nuclear weapons cleanup program that spans the nation, or that it would jeopardize the Energy Department’s credibility in dealing with the tricky problem of radioactive waste.
But the explosion ranks among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history, according to a Times analysis. The long-term cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.
The Feb. 14, 2014, accident is also complicating cleanup programs at about a dozen current and former nuclear weapons sites across the U.S. Thousands of tons of radioactive waste that were headed for the dump are backed up in Idaho, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere, state officials said in interviews. Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes: A strong national commitment to nuclear energy goes hand in hand with weak performance on climate change targets, researchers at the University of Sussex and the Vienna School of International Studies have found.
A new study of European countries, published in the journal Climate Policy, shows that the most progress towards reducing carbon emissions and increasing renewable energy sources – as set out in the EU’s 2020 Strategy – has been made by nations without nuclear energy or with plans to reduce it.
Conversely, pro-nuclear countries have been slower to implement wind, solar and hydropower technologies and to tackle emissions.
While it’s difficult to show a causal link, the researchers say the study casts significant doubts on nuclear energy as the answer to combating climate change.
“By suppressing better ways to meet climate goals, evidence suggests entrenched commitments to nuclear power may actually be counterproductive.” Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes: Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s “frozen wall of earth” has failed to prevent groundwater from entering the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, and the utility needs a new plan to address the problem, experts said. An expert panel with the Nuclear Regulation Authority received a report from TEPCO on the current state of the project on Aug. 18. The experts said the ice wall project, almost in its fifth month, has shown little or no success. “The plan to block groundwater with a frozen wall of earth is failing,” said panel member Yoshinori Kitsutaka, a professor of engineering at Tokyo Metropolitan University. “They need to come up with another solution, even if they keep going forward with the plan.” Link to Original Source
mdsolar writes: We’re under attack from climate change—and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in WWII. BY BILL MCKIBBEN
In the North this summer, a devastating offensive is underway. Enemy forces have seized huge swaths of territory; with each passing week, another 22,000 square miles of Arctic ice disappears. Experts dispatched to the battlefield in July saw little cause for hope, especially since this siege is one of the oldest fronts in the war. “In 30 years, the area has shrunk approximately by half,” said a scientist who examined the onslaught. “There doesn’t seem anything able to stop this.”
In the Pacific this spring, the enemy staged a daring breakout across thousands of miles of ocean, waging a full-scale assault on the region’s coral reefs. In a matter of months, long stretches of formations like the Great Barrier Reef—dating back past the start of human civilization and visible from space—were reduced to white bone-yards.
Day after day, week after week, saboteurs behind our lines are unleashing a series of brilliant and overwhelming attacks. In the past few months alone, our foes have used a firestorm to force the total evacuation of a city of 90,000 in Canada, drought to ravage crops to the point where southern Africans are literally eating their seed corn, and floods to threaten the priceless repository of art in the Louvre. The enemy is even deploying biological weapons to spread psychological terror: The Zika virus, loaded like a bomb into a growing army of mosquitoes, has shrunk the heads of newborn babies across an entire continent; panicked health ministers in seven countries are now urging women not to get pregnant. And as in all conflicts, millions of refugees are fleeing the horrors of war, their numbers swelling daily as they’re forced to abandon their homes to escape famine and desolation and disease.