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Saturday, July 7, 2012

The everyday denial of climate change

The everyday denial of climate change

For nearly three decades, natural and physical scientists have provided increasingly clear and dire assessments of the alteration in the biophysical world. Yet despite these urgent warnings, human social and political response to ecological degradation remains wholly inadequate. While apathy in the United States is particularly notable, this gap between the severity of the problem and its lack of public salience is visible in most Western nations. As scientific evidence for climate change pours in, public urgency and even interest in the issue fails to correspond.

Vermont Loses Lawsuit Against NRC about Water Quality Permit


Vermont Loses Lawsuit Against NRC about Water Quality Permit



At Yes Vermont Yankee, Meredith Angwin analyses the opponent attempt to shut down Vermont Yankee by suing the NRC. The Vermont Department of Public Service and a local opponent organization claimed the NRC license renewal to Vermont Yankee was invalid.  They said Vermont Yankee didn't have a proper water quality license from the state.  Since the state is in charge of water quality licenses, and the state never mentioned water quality concerns until after the NRC license extension had been granted, the state was on thin ground indeed.  Reading about such folly is fun, when you can also read about how they lost in court.

Japan will probably restart most nuclear reactors during 2013 and China accelerating shift to Gen III Nuclear reactors

Japan will probably restart most nuclear reactors during 2013 and China accelerating shift to Gen III Nuclear reactors

1. Japan's top utility Tokyo Electric Power Co aims to gradually restart the nuclear reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant starting from April 2013, to curb fossil fuel costs.

Following are the company's goals for restarting the seven
reactors at the 8,212 megawatt plant, the world's biggest
nuclear complex by output. But it remains unclear if the
reactors would restart as scheduled, as the firm needs to have
the local governments' backing before restarting any of them.

         Plant name  No.      MW  Restart schedule
  Kashiwazaki-Kariwa    1   1,100        April 2013
  Kashiwazaki-Kariwa    2   1,100         Sept 2015
  Kashiwazaki-Kariwa    3   1,100         July 2014
  Kashiwazaki-Kariwa    4   1,100          Feb 2015
  Kashiwazaki-Kariwa    5   1,100          Oct 2013
  Kashiwazaki-Kariwa    6   1,356          Dec 2013
  Kashiwazaki-Kariwa    7   1,356          May 2013

2. Forbes - Because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, China may free itself more quickly from reliance on imported nuclear-power technology, according to a Harvard scholar of global nuclear expansion.

Read more »

US science official says more extreme events convincing many Americans climate change is real


US science official says more extreme events convincing many Americans climate change is real



http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/us-climate-official-says-more-extreme-events-convincing-many-americans-climate-change-is-real/2012/07/06/gJQAHNZ5QW_story.html?tid=wp_ipad

Friday, July 6, 2012

First 'bottom-up' estimates of China's CO2 emissions

First 'bottom-up' estimates of China's CO2 emissions

Atmospheric scientists have produced the first "bottom-up" estimates of China's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, for 2005 to 2009, and the first statistically rigorous estimates of the uncertainties surrounding China's CO2 emissions.

Arctic warming linked to combination of reduced sea ice and global atmospheric warming

Arctic warming linked to combination of reduced sea ice and global atmospheric warming

The combination of melting sea ice and global atmospheric warming are contributing to the high rate of warming in the Arctic, where temperatures are increasing up to four times faster than the global average, a new study has shown.

The Wise Way to Regulate Gas Drilling

The Wise Way to Regulate Gas Drilling

Jody Freeman, New York Times
AMERICA’S energy future has been transformed by the production of natural gas made possible by hydraulic fracturing. This gas is a much cleaner source of electricity than coal. The problem is that the fracturing process used to extract the gas can, if done improperly, pollute surface and drinking water and emit dangerous air pollution.

Explosion Causes Huge Fire at Thailand's Largest Oil Refinery

Explosion Causes Huge Fire at Thailand's Largest Oil Refinery

Early investigations into the cause of a huge fire at an oil refinery, which happened early Wednesday morning in Bangkok, suggest that an oil or gas leak was to blame.Anusorn Sangnimnuan, the president of Bangchak Petroleum, the company operating the refinery, announced that “there are no injuries. We assume oil or gas leaked out and somehow it caught fire. I don't think the cause was human error, it was caused by equipment.”The leak caused an explosion which woke local residents, and then quickly sparked a massive blaze, sending plumes…Read more...

Shell Confirm that they Cannot Recover 95% of an Arctic Oil Spill, Only Find it

Shell Confirm that they Cannot Recover 95% of an Arctic Oil Spill, Only Find it

As Shell’s rigs head toward the Arctic to exploit melting sea ice to drill for more oil, the company took a small step this weekend in clarifying what would happen in an oil spill during the company’s planned Arctic drilling operations this summer.Despite the oil industry’s spin, experts know it is impossible to recover more than a small fraction of a major marine oil spill, as retired Coast Guard Admiral Roger Rufe told NPR: “But once oil is in the water, it’s a mess. And we’ve never proven anywhere in the world…Read more...

Water Is A Major Geopolitical Power Tool In Israel

Water Is A Major Geopolitical Power Tool In Israel

A resource rests at the heart of one of the most aggravating issues Palestinians living in the West Bank must face every day: water.
Israeli settlers living in the West Bank can purchase unlimited amounts of water from Israel's national water authority, Mekorot. The firm digs deep wells to tap supplies of water deep below the surface, many of which are located in the West Bank.
At the same time, various Palestinians we spoke to living in the West Bank told us they get access to water about once a week, forcing them to conserve whatever water they can access by storing it in water tanks:

Climate change suspended coral reef growth for 2,500 years

Climate change suspended coral reef growth for 2,500 years
Climate change drove coral reefs to a total ecosystem collapse lasting thousands of years, according to a paper published this week in Science. The paper shows how natural climatic shifts stopped reef growth in the eastern Pacific for 2,500 years. The reef shutdown, which began 4,000 years ago, corresponds to a period of dramatic swings in the El NiƱo–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). "As humans continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the climate is once again on the threshold of a new regime, with dire consequences for reef ecosystems unless we get control of climate change," said coauthor Richard Aronson, a biology professor at Florida Institute of Technology.

US Drought Monitor shows record-breaking expanse of drought across US

US Drought Monitor shows record-breaking expanse of drought across US
More of the United States is in moderate drought or worse than at any other time in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor, officials from the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said today.

Nitrogen pollution changing Rocky Mountain National Park vegetation

Nitrogen pollution changing Rocky Mountain National Park vegetation
A new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder indicates air pollution in the form of nitrogen compounds emanating from power plants, automobiles and agriculture is changing the alpine vegetation in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Toward a better understanding of earthquakes

Toward a better understanding of earthquakes
The earth is shaken daily by strong earthquakes recorded by a number of seismic stations worldwide. Tectonic tremor, however, is a new type of seismic signal that seismologist started studying only within the last few years. Tremor is less hazardous than earthquakes and occurs at greater depth. The link between tremor and earthquakes may provide clues about the more destructive earthquakes that occur at shallower depths. Geophysicists of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) collected seismic data of tectonic tremor in California. These data are now being evaluated in order to better understand this new seismic phenomenon.

Evacuations from Fukushima and Chernobyl

Evacuations from Fukushima and Chernobyl

The part of the Fukushima disaster I find so disheartening are the stories of those forcibly evacuated from their homes. There have been a number of articles warning of long evacuation times, such as this in the Washington Post, saying that it might be decades before all of the 78,000 evacuees could return. The exposure to radioactivity appears to be very low among the public. One worker died of a heart attack or stroke, and one worker may die over the next 70 years from cancer—perhaps still safer than a fossil fuel plant. But not being able to go home, because your town/farm is so radioactive?
reactor at Fukushima Daiichi plant
reactor at Fukushima Daiichi plant
Evacuation center
Evacuation center
There have now been two nuclear accidents, Chernobyl and Fukushima, that have led to evacuations. Here is how they compare.
What happened at Chernobyl?
Unless otherwise indicated, the following comes from World Nuclear Association summary of the Chernobyl accident.
April 26, 1986, an accident was caused by an incompetent director of a poorly designed reactor, lacking basic safety devices such as a containment structure, in a country without a regulatory system. When people ask about worst case, this is it. From World Nuclear Association,
It was a direct consequence of Cold War isolation and the resulting lack of any safety culture.
What was the exposure to radioactivity and its effect on health at Chernobyl and Fukushima?
Among the Chernobyl operators and firemen (those putting out the initial fire), 134 suffered acute radiation poisoning (from an exposure of more than 1,000 mSv), and 28 died, all within weeks or months. 2 – 3 died from other causes on the day of the accident, or soon after. No dose at Fukushima was high enough to cause acute radiation poisoning.
IAEA photo of Chernobyl
Chernobyl—Unit 4—See article for interviews with victims of accident
The next most exposed group, the liquidators, numbering 200,000 initially, cleaned up the reactor in 1986 – 7. (Another 400,000 came later, but their exposures were fairly small.) Among this group, the average dose equivalent was 100 millisievert. According to UNSCEAR (see Annex J), “It is, however, notable that no increased risk of leukaemia, an entity known to appear within 2- 3 years after exposure, has been identified more than 10 years after the accident.” The model used by National Academy of Sciences in BEIR VII predicts 168 cases of leukemia, and 135 deaths, in this group. (See appendix for more information on normal exposures.)
This includes 20,000 whose dose equivalents from Chernobyl were about 250 mSv, 500 mSv for a few, with highest doses on the first day.
Worker exposure at Fukushima was considerably lower: 107 workers received a dose equivalent between 100 and 200 mSv, for 8 workers it was 200 – 250 mSv, and for 9 workers, more than 250 mSv.
For the general population, there are a number of pathways that lead to exposure.
pathways
Since the thyroid is so small, less than 1 ounce (10 – 15 grams), and iodine was the majority of radioactive ions taken up by the body, thyroid cancer, particularly among the very young, became a serious problem, especially in areas where the soil was iodine deficient. By 2002, according to Chernobyl Forum, 4,000 thyroid cancers had been diagnosed among those who were children at the time of the accident, a large fraction of which are attributable to Chernobyl; 15 of these have died. [Chernobyl Forum recommends continued screening of those who were children and adolescents in 1986, but at some point, the danger from invasive procedures on benign lesions will outweigh the benefits. Some of the lesions counted were benign.]
According to Chernobyl Forum,
Apart from the dramatic increase in thyroid cancer incidence among those exposed at a young age, there is no clearly demonstrated increase in the incidence of solid cancers or leukaemia due to radiation in the most affected populations. There was, however, an increase in psychological problems among the affected population, compounded by insufficient communication about radiation effects and by the social disruption and economic depression that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union….
Any traumatic accident or event can cause the incidence of stress symptoms, depression, anxiety (including post-traumatic stress symptoms), and medically unexplained physical symptoms. Such effects have also been reported in Chernobyl exposed populations. Three studies found that exposed populations had anxiety levels that were twice as high as controls, and they were 3–4 times more likely to report multiple unexplained physical symptoms and subjective poor health than were unaffected control groups.
All 2 million people in Fukushima prefecture are being tested for exposure, and all 360,000 who were 17 or younger in at the time of the accident will have their thyroid tested. United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) plans a report in late 2012 on total radioactivity released, and exposure to workers and the public.
Who was evacuated from Chernobyl?
International Atomic Energy Agency, in 25 years, 25 stories, tells us about some of them. See especially Strelichevo teacher, the story of a girl evacuated from outside the evacuation zone—other children worried about catching radioactivity from her. Exclusion Zone Life is the story of an older woman who returned to her village to live out her years. Pictures of Pripyat. Abandoned villages, and those not abandoned. Farmers’ stories.
Unit 3
Unit 3 operated until December 2000
While much of the area was evacuated, 6,000 workers continued at the other three reactors at Chernobyl, until the last ceased operations in December 2000; their exposure was within acceptable limits. (Because the graphite at Chernobyl exploded, much of the radioactivity fell far away. The soil near the other reactors was deep-plowed to bury radioactivity. And the control rooms were fairly clean.) 3,800 workers are still there (see Chernobyl Village).
From World Nuclear Association,
The plant operators’ town of Pripyat was evacuated on 27 April (45,000 residents). By 14 May, some 116,000 people that had been living within a 30 kilometre radius had been evacuated and later relocated. About 1000 of these returned unofficially to live within the contaminated zone. Most of those evacuated received radiation doses of less than 50 mSv, although a few received 100 mSv or more.
In the years following the accident, a further 220,000 people were resettled into less contaminated areas, and the initial 30 km radius exclusion zone (2800 km2) [1100 sq miles] was modified and extended to cover 4300 square kilometres [1660 sq miles]. This resettlement was due to application of a criterion of 350 mSv projected lifetime radiation dose, though in fact radiation in most of the affected area (apart from half a square kilometre) fell rapidly so that average doses were less than 50% above normal background of 2.5 mSv/yr.
Assuming the 350 mSv refers to the extra exposure over 70 years due to Chernobyl, an average of 5 mSv/year, the criterion for evacuation was smaller than the 7.5+ mSv/year increase from moving to Denver (population 2.4 million, compared to 340,000 evacuated from Chernobyl). In the beginning, radioactivity was higher, and short evacuation of some towns made sense (especially of those who received 50 – 100 mSv in a fairly short time, definitely hot spots). However, I don’t understand why evacuation was forced on people whose exposure is less than many choose voluntarily in deciding where to live and visit.
What are returnees to the area around Chernobyl facing?
The radioactive iodine decayed pretty rapidly, with a half-life of 8 days. Cesium constitutes the majority of the radioactivity remaining after the iodine is gone. Quoting myself:
Physical half-life of cesium is 2 years for Cs-134 and 30 years for Cs-137. However, even in the absence of remediation, ecological half-life is less. In real ecosystems, cesium disappears more rapidly, at a rate that depends on soil characteristics. A recent report from the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) found, “a relatively fast decrease with a half-life of between 0.7 and 1.8 years (this dominated for the first 4–6 years after the [Chernobyl] accident, and led to a reduction of concentrations in plants by about an order of magnitude compared with 1987); and (b) a slower decrease with a half-life of between 7 and 60 years.” In some areas, no decline was found after the first 4–6 years. (pp 76-7) At the end of one year, from 37 – 65% of the cesium remains. After 4 – 6 years, from 3 – 20% of the cesium remains.

This is a guest post from A Musing Environment by
Karen Street
Friends Energy Project blog  

http://pathsoflight.us/musing/index.php

A Musing Environment


http://pathsoflight.us/musing/?p=1557

Evacuations from Fukushima and Chernobyl

The article is sufficiently important to be produced

in its entirety.



Radioactivity does vary across the zone, and some food is more radioactive. According to International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP),
Certain areas such as alpine pastures, forests, and upland areas may show longer retention in soils than agricultural areas, and high levels of transfer to particular foods, e.g. berries and mushrooms in forests, may give rise to elevated intakes.
Individual behavior matters: while most average about 0.1 mSv/year exposure above normal from the food they eat, a very small number with “particular dietary habits” may ingest 1+ mSv/year. This is true outside of nuclear accidents; eating shellfish can add 0.5 mSv/year, and 30 – 40 Brazil nuts/week adds 0.2 mSv/year, to a normal intake of 0.27 mSv/year from food.
So the average area in the evacuation zone is a tad more radioactive (<3.75 mSv) than average for the US (3 mSv), <50% as radioactive as Finland, and <40% as radioactive as Denver. Most of us ignore which radon zone we live in, and we ignore the increased radioactivity with altitude. People living in areas near Chernobyl with exposures up to an extra 1 mSv per year, far less than regional variations in the US, even those who will receive as little as 0.1 mSv/year, are seeing protective measures. I also would be neurotic if the government were warning me about such small dangers.
Ukraine’s decision to set a 1 mSv limit wasn’t completely arbitrary. ICRP recommends the “lower part of the 1–20 mSv/year band”. That choice may have been arbitrary, somewhere below where any evidence of health danger has been seen, to meet the ALARA standard, as low as reasonably achievable. Standards for “reasonable” appear to vary, since a good portion of humanity lives willingly in areas that are much more radioactive.
Or work: due to the granite (and marble) at Grand Central Station, workers receive a dose of 1.2 mSv/year.
Yet an evacuation zone remains. Communication about radiation effects doesn’t sound insufficient, but too clear: “You were exposed to dangerous levels and we have to monitor exposures as little as 1 mSv/year or less, because they are dangerous.”
Assuming that the Japanese are aiming for a 20 mSv/year maximum, still safer than air pollution in Tokyo (see here), much of the mandatory evacuation zone is safe now, and almost all of the evacuation zone should be available within 4 – 6 years, assuming the same ecological half life as the area around Chernobyl—the most polluted village, 2 miles from the plant, may be safe as well. Remediation will presumably speed up the process. If the standards are the same as for Chernobyl, where people are not allowed back in unless background radioactivity falls below levels common in the US and elsewhere, the timing of decades makes more sense.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

No Fracking Way: The Natural Gas Boom is Doing More Harm Than .

No Fracking Way: The Natural Gas Boom is Doing More Harm Than ...
U.S. Geological Survey The USGS answers frequently asked questions regarding the link between fluid injection and earthquakes. Wastewater from the fracking ...
intelligencesquaredus.org/.../639-no-fracking-way-the-natural-...

West Coast of North America experiencing decreasing trends in salmon spawning

West coast of North America experiencing decreasing trends in salmon spawning

The number of adult sockeye salmon produced per spawner has been decreasing over the last decade or more along the western coast of North America, from Washington state up through British Columbia and southeast Alaska.

Plastic pollution reaching surprising levels off coast of Pacific Northwest

Plastic pollution reaching surprising levels off coast of Pacific Northwest

Vancouver, Canada (SPX) Jul 04, 2012
Plastic pollution off the northwest coast of North America is reaching the level of the notoriously polluted North Sea, according to a new study led by a researcher at the University of British Columbia. The study, published online in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, examined stomach contents of beached northern fulmars on the coasts of British Columbia, Canada, and the states of Washingto

Exploring one of climate's 'known unknowns'

Exploring one of climate's 'known unknowns'

Bristol, UK (SPX) Jul 04, 2012
The influence of aerosols (small particles less than 1 micrometre in diameter) and clouds (liquid droplets 1 - 1000 micrometres diameter) represents one of the largest uncertainties in our understanding of trends in past global climate and predicting future climate change, as recognised by the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. One of the most significant 'known

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Stunning map shows 100 years of earthquake data


 
Stunning map shows 100 years of earthquake data
Grist Magazine
Fracking-related earthquakes would fall in that category, but it's not clear what else causes them, says Boing Boing: One of the theories explaining intraplate earthquakes is based off the fact that the tectonic plates we know today have not been ...
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