Switzerland votes to ban nuclear power and invest in renewable energy

May 22, 2017 by  
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Switzerland just passed a new energy law that promotes renewable energy and bans nuclear power plants. The landmark vote brings the nation closer to meeting its goal of generating 4,400 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of renewable energy by 2020, and 11,400 GWh by 2035. Over the weekend, approximately 42% of the population turned up to vote in the national referendum, which marks the eighth time in recent history Swiss citizens have voted on the issue. Though the Energy Strategy 2050 was approved by Parliament last year, the country’s right wing Swiss People’s Party challenged the reform to the referendum in an attempt prevent the move from taking place. The move to initiate the reform passed easily with a 58.2% vote, however, shutting down any talk of investment in nuclear energy . At a press conference, Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said “After six years of debate in parliament and at committee level, a new chapter in Switzerland’s energy policy can begin. But there is still a lot of work to do.” Related: Tunnel collapses at America’s most contaminated nuclear waste facility Energy Strategy 2050 mandates that general licenses provided for nuclear power plants (which presently provide 38% of the country’s energy) will no longer be sold, beginning in 2019. Additionally, when existing nuclear power plants reach the end of their lifespan, they will be closed and not replaced. The reform also aims to reduce per capita energy consumption by 16 percent within the next three years, and by 43 percent by 2035. Energy Strategy 2050 intends for electricity consumption to decline by 3 percent in 2020 and 13 percent in 2035. This will be managed by increasing the output of solar , wind, biomass, and geothermal energy. Supporters of the law say that investing in renewables will make Switzerland less dependent on energy imports. At the same time, the country will maintain its highly supply standard. Activists are also celebrating the fact that by phasing out investments in nuclear energy, the environment and future generations will undoubtedly benefit. Via Swiss Info Images via Pixabay

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Switzerland votes to ban nuclear power and invest in renewable energy

Architect designs solar-powered research center to save dying Lake Chad

May 22, 2017 by  
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Lake Chad in Africa spanned over 770,000 square miles in 50,000 B.C., according to Cameroon -based architecture firm Hermann Kamte & Associates (HKA). But over the centuries it has shrunk, dwindling to a mere 1,544 square miles in 2001. HKA hopes to use architecture to jumpstart regeneration of the dying lake in the form of a desalination and research center called The Forgotten – Dead or Alive. The center would begin a process that would eventually be handed over to nature . The first humans made their home near Lake Chad, according to HKA, but this body of water is in danger of disappearing forever. It could die out in this century if no steps are taken to preserve it. Lake Chad – bordered by Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, and Niger – is vital to the health of the region; HKA says its disappearance would impact over nine million people nearby, and indirectly, 30 million people in the region. Related: Green-roofed wooden tower in Lagos maximizes daylight and natural ventilation So they designed a center to help keep the lake alive. The self-sufficient Limnology Center would offer a location for researchers to study Lake Chad and the surrounding region. A desalination center onsite would actually connect the lake to the Atlantic Ocean via pipelines , which would transport water from the ocean. The desalination center would treat the saltwater so it could be reused as fresh water to help restore Lake Chad and provide a source of water for people in the region. HKA designed the center to have an amphibian-like form to blend in with the lake surroundings. They envision three stages to help revitalize the lake, beginning with the center and then slowly transitioning the job over to nature. Construction of the pipelines and lake research would take place between 2016 and 2026. In 2020 trees and vegetation will be planted around the lake. The greenery will eventually take over the job of regeneration; in 2080 pipelines will stop bringing in Atlantic Ocean water as natural regeneration takes over thanks to a thriving woodland. + Hermann Kamte & Associates Images courtesy of Hermann Kamte & Associates

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Architect designs solar-powered research center to save dying Lake Chad

Finland’s Green Party says humanity must embrace nuclear power

April 17, 2017 by  
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Nuclear energy must be an option as humanity shifts away from fossil fuels , according to a recent article penned by four candidates of Finland’s Green Party , or Green League. The party strictly opposed the controversial fuel source in the past, but these four candidates said we’re running out of time to fight climate change and no longer have the luxury of picking between renewable energy and nuclear power. Humanity should take another look at nuclear power, according to Jakke Mäkelä, Tuomo Liljenbäck, Markus Norrgran, and Heidi Niskanen of the Finnish Greens. They wrote a March 6 blog post, translated by J.M. Korhonen , detailing why Finland should develop nuclear energy. Related: Germany’s massive nuclear fusion reactor is actually working Finland’s temperatures are spiking quicker than any other place in the world due to climate change, according to Forbes contributor James Conca. The country has pledged to end coal use by 2030, but they’re also widely utilizing biomass . The four Greens condemned the government’s burning of wood chips for power since it emits carbon dioxide and will destroy forests . The Greens said renewable energy won’t be able to help us wean completely off fossil fuels yet. They said solar and wind work very well up to a point, but on a large scale require lots of raw materials and land. They pointed to Germany, which shuttered nuclear power plants, but the consequence was renewable energy largely replaced nuclear energy and not fossil fuels. The four Greens said we no longer have the option of choosing between renewables and nuclear. They wrote, “Unless we spend a lot more money in all clean energy sources, we are certain to be doomed.” Korhonen notes their viewpoint is not an official recommendation from the Green Party or of the Viite, the technology and science subgroup of which Mäkelä is vice-chairman and the others are members. It’s simply the opinion of the four candidates, who were up for election in Turku. The Green Party won 12 percent of the total vote in the recent elections, gaining seats and winning the largest share in their history. Via J.M. Korhonen and Forbes Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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Fukushima radiation levels at highest since 2011 disaster

February 3, 2017 by  
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As cleanup efforts threaten to span decades, radiation levels inside a Fukushima Daiichi reactor are at their highest since the 2011 disaster. Inside reactor number two’s containment vessel, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) found levels of 530 sieverts per hour. As only one sievert can cause radiation sickness, some experts described the recent reading as unimaginable. The previous record in the same part of the Fukushima reactor was just 73 sieverts per hour, which doesn’t sound like much compared with 530 but is still higher than a fatal level. Five sieverts would be enough to kill half of the people exposed in a month, and 10 sieverts would be fatal after just weeks. The high radiation levels recently recorded serve as a reminder there’s still a long way to go with cleanup at the damaged nuclear power station; some people say it could take as long as 40 years. Tepco says radiation is not leaking from the reactor. Related: Japan builds controversial ice wall to solve groundwater issues at Fukushima The presence of the high radiation complicates cleanup. Tepco plans to send a remote-controlled robot into the number two reactor’s containment vessel. But the robot is only designed to endure 1,000 sieverts of radiation and thus will likely break down in under two hours. The company still thinks the robot could be useful as it could move around in varying levels of radiation. The company also said image analysis of the reactor revealed a three-foot-wide hole in a pressure vessel; melted nuclear fuel could have made the hole after the back-up cooling system failed in the tsunami’s wake. Late last year, in December, the government said they think it will cost 21.5 trillion yen, which is around $190 billion, to decommission the plant, clean up the area, store radioactive waste, and pay compensation. The hefty amount is almost double a 2013 estimate. Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons and IAEA Imagebank on Flickr

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Japan builds controversial ice wall to solve groundwater issues at Fukushima

September 2, 2016 by  
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About two years ago, the Japanese government pledged millions of dollars for a huge ice wall designed to halt flowing groundwater at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power station after the 2011 meltdown. Now, $320 million later, the wall is nearly ready, but will it work? Critics wonder if the ” elaborate and fragile wall ” will last. Groundwater flowing into the plant’s reactor buildings has caused major issues. When it enters the buildings, it becomes radioactive, and Fukushima’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco, has to put the water in tanks. They’ve had to build over 1,000 tanks and are now storing over 800,000 tons of the water. Meanwhile, every day around 40,000 gallons of groundwater continues to flow into the buildings. Related: Japan to Build Massive 1.5km Ice Wall in Order to Stop Radiation Leaks from Fukushima Nuclear Plant The controversial ice wall, known as the Land-Side Impermeable Wall, is supposed to halt the groundwater flow and stop radioactive water from leaking into the Pacific Ocean. The 100-foot-deep and nearly a mile-long ice wall is comprised of pipes filled with a brine solution. The pipes are meant to freeze the surrounding soil to create the wall. Still solidifying, the wall could be ready later this fall. 30 refrigeration units will solidify the wall; they will consume as much electricity as 13,000 homes in Japan could use for lighting in one year. Tepco said the seaside portion of the ice wall is ” about 99 percent solid ” this month. They’re working to fill a few places that haven’t solidified with cement. Engineers from Kajima Corporation, the company building the wall, say the soil around the pipes will likely only be frozen completely in around two months. So will the ice wall actually work? Some worry the brine solution will break down the pipes, and some say concrete or steel would have been a more simple, effective alternative. Radiation monitoring group Safecast researcher Azby Brown called the ice wall a “Hail Mary play.” He told The New York Times, “Tepco underestimated the groundwater problem in the beginning, and now Japan is trying to catch up with a massive technical fix that is very expensive.” Via The New York Times Images via IAEA Imagebank on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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European wind energy is now cheaper than nuclear power

July 26, 2016 by  
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Wind energy has officially overtaken nuclear power as the most affordable energy option – at least in countries surrounding the North Sea . In nearby European nations, the cost of wind is now 30 percent lower than nuclear, a promising development in the push for renewable energy around the world. At the rate of present installations, industry group WindEurope predicts these wind farms will generate a full 7 percent of all energy within Europe by 2030. The reason for the drop in price is largely due to the fact that offshore wind farms are becoming cheaper and easier to build. In the past, constructing these farms has been expensive and impractical – and given the relatively low cost of fossil fuels , it simply hasn’t made sense for many companies to invest in the projects. However, the closure of many drilling projects in the North Sea has left offshore installation vehicles without enough work, causing the cost of transporting turbines out to sea to plummet. Other factors which have helped lower the price include low oil and steel prices, reduced maintenance requirements, and the ability to mass produce turbines. Related: The world’s largest floating wind farm will be operational next year While these falling wind power costs only represent a small part of the global energy market, there’s no reason other regions can’t build up a similar capacity. China, for instance, has built so many solar and wind facilities that it’s already on track to exceed its own emissions targets by 2020. And while wind power is currently developing at a slower pace in the US, that may not be true for long – new turbine designs could potentially upend the entire industry and fuel exponential growth on the American side of the Atlantic. Via ENN Photos via  Andreas Klinke Johannsen  and  m.prinke

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Uranium extracted from the oceans could power cities for thousands of years

July 5, 2016 by  
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Over four billion tons of uranium present in the ocean could help provide energy for ” the next 10,000 years ,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The element could be used to fuel nuclear power plants , except extraction poses significant challenges. The DoE funded a project involving scientists from laboratories and universities across the United States, and over the last five years they have made strides towards successfully extracting ocean uranium using special adsorbent fibers. People have attempted to mine ocean uranium for around 50 years. Japanese scientists in the 1990s came close with the development of adsorbent materials, or materials that can hold molecules on their surface. Building on their ideas, U.S. scientists worked on an adsorbent material that reduces uranium extraction costs ” by three to four times .” Related: Scientists develop new way to generate electricity via seawater The adsorbent material is made of ” braided polyethylene fibers ” that have a coating of the chemical amidoxime. The amidoxime attracts uranium dioxide, which sticks to the fibers. Scientists then use an acidic treatment to obtain the uranium, which is collected as uranyl ions. The uranyl ions must then be processed before they can be turned into fuel for nuclear power plants. Chemists, marine scientists, chemical engineers, computation scientists, and economists all worked on the project, and the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research published several studies in an April special issue . The journal also presented research from Chinese and Japanese scientists. Phillip Britt, Division Director of Chemical Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said, “For nuclear power to remain a sustainable energy source, an economically viable and secure source of nuclear fuel must be available. This special journal issue captures the dramatic successes that have been made by researchers across the world to make the oceans live up to their vast promise for a secure energy future.” What’s next? While the new adsorbent material does reduce costs, the process to gather ocean uranium is still costly. Nor is it efficient yet, but if perfected it could offer an important alternative fuel source. Via Scientific American Images via Krisztina Konczos on Flickr and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

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World’s top climate scientists again calling for zero-GHG emissions nuclear power to replace fossil fuels

December 7, 2015 by  
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Four of the world’s top climate scientists got together to pen a recommendation for steering away from the ill effects of global warming. As the UN climate conference ticks on outside Paris, leading climate experts presented a call for practical solutions to very real problems, on a global scale. Now, this group of experts are echoing a sentiment they backed in 2013 , saying that cutting greenhouse gas emissions by replacing fossil fuel energy generation with nuclear power – utilized alongside other renewable sources of energy – is the only realistic approach to combating climate change. Read the rest of World’s top climate scientists again calling for zero-GHG emissions nuclear power to replace fossil fuels

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Japan awards workers’ compensation claim to cancer-strikken Fukushima cleanup worker

October 22, 2015 by  
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Just a few days after Japanese authorities restarted the second nuclear power plant since the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, a cleanup worker has been awarded payment for the cancer his doctors believe was caused by radiation in the years following the meltdown. The unidentified man developed leukemia after working at the nuclear site for more than a year and has now been awarded an undisclosed amount, marking the first official admission that exposure to radiation from the nuclear sites is likely linked to cancer. Read the rest of Japan awards workers’ compensation claim to cancer-strikken Fukushima cleanup worker

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Obama announces plans to bring energy efficiency to households across the US

August 27, 2015 by  
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Last month, Obama announced his plan to increase renewable energy use in the United States, saying that he would  use all of his powers — including the power of the veto — to defend it. Now Obama is augmenting that plan with initiatives to encourage home owners to get in on the green movement. At this week’s Clean Energy , Obama announced incentives that will allow home owners to install efficient appliances and that will also increase money geared toward supporting clean energy innovations – which could be a real game changer for green energy. Read the rest of Obama announces plans to bring energy efficiency to households across the US

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