Vulnerable nuclear waste stockpiles are becoming a"global crisis"

February 4, 2019 by  
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Nuclear waste is quickly becoming one of the world’s biggest problems. Earth’s growing stockpile of radioactive waste is troublesome, because these chemicals remain in their radioactive state for several millennia — and we have yet to come up with a foolproof storage solution. A new study explored facilities that store nuclear waste in seven locations around the world, including the United States, France, Japan, Belgium, Britain, Finland and Sweden. Officials discovered that the majority of nuclear waste lacked proper defense mechanisms, like secondary protocols, and are vulnerable to failing in the wake of natural and man-made disasters. Related: Blue dye could be the next key to harnessing renewable energy Storage of nuclear waste is one of the biggest obstacles facing nuclear power plants . It was once thought that deep underground was a good storage option, but that is not the case. According to Greenpeace , all of the storage facilities in the study showed some percentage of radiation leaks, which is incredibly detrimental to the environment. “More than 65 years after the start of the civil use of nuclear power, not a single country can claim that it has the solution to manage the most dangerous radioactive wastes ,” Shaun Burnie, who works with Greenpeace Germany and led the new study, explained. Even worse, some storage facilities are located in areas prone to natural disasters. For example, the U.S. is in the process of building a major nuclear waste site in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain range, which features seismic and volcanic activity, hardly suitable for keeping radioactive waste safe. The building of the Yucca Mountain facility was placed on hold by former President Barack Obama in 2010. Donald Trump, however, has expressed interest in reviving the construction and finishing the site before his term is up. As if that is not bad enough, governments are seemingly turning a blind eye to public concerns. The nuclear waste report comes after it was revealed that the U.S. government secretly moved weapons-grade plutonium across several states, despite passionate opposition from politicians in South Carolina. If scientists do not come up with a better method of disposing of nuclear waste, then it really could become the next global crisis. Fortunately, countries are exploring alternative renewable sources for energy that do not result in radioactive waste and are healthier for the environment. + Greenpeace Via EcoWatch Image via Pixabay

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Vulnerable nuclear waste stockpiles are becoming a"global crisis"

EU proposes plan to ban 90 percent of microplastics

February 4, 2019 by  
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Microplastics may appear small on the outside, but they take a major toll on the environment. Not only do these plastics ruin soil and jeopardize ocean life, but they also create health issues for people all around the world. Fortunately, a newly proposed ban on microplastics might offer a solution to this growing problem. This week, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) put forth a new law that seeks to ban over 90 percent of Europe’s microplastics. If countries in the European Union agree to the legislation, the prohibition could significantly lower the amount of microplastics on a global scale. “Microplastics are a growing concern to a number of human rights. The steps proposed by Echa are necessary to help ensure present and future generations can enjoy what is their human right: a clean, healthy and sustainable environment ,” UN reporter Baskut Tuncak shared. According to The Guardian, there are close to 400,000 tons of these small plastic particles that end up in European environments. These microplastics come from a variety of household sources, including fertilizers, detergents, paint products and cosmetics. The proposed ban would eliminate the vast majority of microplastics that are integrated into these products, many of which are not necessary. Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world If passed, the law would not go into effect until 2020. By that time, companies would need to have made drastic changes in the production of goods. This includes removing microplastics from a variety of products, a move that would require a major change in design . The new ban is similar in nature to what the U.K. passed last year. The country prohibited the use of microbeads in certain personal products, such as shower gel and toothpaste. The new law, however, is much larger in scope and would eventually remove the vast majority of microplastics from production. The ban, of course, would only apply to countries that are still in the EU. Following Brexit, there is a chance that the U.K. will not adopt the law, though that has yet to be determined. In the meantime, the ECHA will continue to explore the proposed ban and will vote on the measure in three months. If passed, the law is not expected to go into effect until at least another eight months after the vote is tallied. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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EU proposes plan to ban 90 percent of microplastics

The Nuclear Doomsday Clock is as close to midnight as it has ever been

January 25, 2018 by  
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Today, the world is the closest it has ever been to doomsday since since the nuclear arms race of the ’50s. Scientists and researchers moved the Doomsday clock – an indicator for how close humanity is to nuclear annihilation – to 2 minutes to midnight today. Researchers at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists cited the threat between North Korea and the United States, facilitated by President Trump’s harmful rhetoric, as the main reason for the shift. The closest we have ever been to midnight was in 1953, during the height of the nuclear arms race between the US and the USSR – when it was also 2 minutes to midnight. Last year, the clock ticked to 2.5 minutes to midnight, from an all-time distance of 17 minutes to midnight in 1991. Related: Several scientists predict the apocalypse will occur uncomfortably soon According to concerned scientists, the rhetoric between the leaders of the US and North Korea has gone a long way towards threatening all of humanity. But the US withdrawal from the Paris agreement and denigrating the nuclear deal with Iran has also contributed to the problem. “Divorcing public policy from empirical reality endangers us all. What we need is evidence-based policy making, not policy-based evidence making,” said theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Via CNN Images via Deposit Photos and Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

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The Nuclear Doomsday Clock is as close to midnight as it has ever been

Suspicious radioactive cloud over Europe may have originated in Russia

November 16, 2017 by  
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A radioactive cloud of pollution sounds like a plot point out of a B movie – but that’s what multiple European monitoring stations recently detected. Official monitors in Germany and France detected ruthenium 106, a nuclide, in late September, and some people suggested it originated in Kazakhstan or southern Russia . Multiple European monitoring stations confirmed the presence of ruthenium 106, according to France’s Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety , in the atmosphere of the majority of countries in Europe. The cause for alarm appears to have drifted away for now: the institute said since October 13, they have not detected ruthenium 106 in France. They said in a recent statement , “The concentration levels of ruthenium 106 in the air that have been recorded in Europe and especially in France are of no consequence for human health and for the environment .” Related: UNEP chief: Polluters should pay for environmental destruction, not taxpayers But there is some question over how much ruthenium 106 leaked in the first place. The institute said the amounts at the source would have been significant. If such an accident had occurred in France, authorities would have had to implement measures to protect populations for a few kilometers around the point of release. Where did the ruthenium 106 come from? Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection said on October 11 , “Recent analyses as to the source of the radioactive substance suggest a high probability of a radioactive release in the Southern Ural, although other areas in the South of Russia still cannot be ruled out.” Just a few days earlier, on October 8, they’d said in a statement “Russia must be assumed to be the region of origin” and called on Russian authorities to provide information. The German and French agencies did not think the ruthenium 106 came from a nuclear reactor accident, as other nuclides probably would have been detected in such an event. France’s institute said the source could have been “nuclear fuel-cycle facilities or radioactive source production.” French agency senior official Jean-Christophe Gariel said he talked to counterparts in Russia last week, and “they told us that our results were coherent and correct, but that they were not aware of any event that could have caused that.” Via The New York Times , the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety , and the Federal Office for Radiation Protection ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Depositphotos and Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety

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Suspicious radioactive cloud over Europe may have originated in Russia

Biggest grid operator in US attacks Perry’s proposal to prop up coal

October 24, 2017 by  
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Energy Secretary Rick Perry is attempting to keep coal alive under the guise of grid resiliency , but the largest grid operator in the United States called on regulators to scrap the plan. PJM Interconnection CEO Andrew Ott called Perry’s pricing proposal unworkable and discriminatory, and even said it’s inconsistent with federal law. Multiple other grid operators have also called for its rejection. Perry has urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to alter how wholesale power markets price electricity – so some nuclear and coal generators can recover costs, according to Bloomberg. Perry’s plan would attempt to reward power plants able to store 90 days of fuel supplies onsite. Ott told reporters, “I don’t know how this proposal could be implemented without a detrimental impact on the market.” Related: Trump administration halts study on health risks of living near coal mining sites Ott said it seems the rule targets PJM – between 2011 and 2016, they retired over 19 gigawatts of coal-fired power, according to Bloomberg. But “the PJM market is more diverse and reliable today than we’ve seen,” Ott said. PJM serves over 65 million people in over a dozen states in the Midwest to Mid-Atlantic. Bloomberg said hundreds of energy companies commented on the proposal, with firms like ExxonMobil , Anadarko Petroleum , and Devon Energy pointing to the low cost and reliability of natural gas . The Solar Energy Industries Association said nuclear and coal plants aren’t invulnerable to outages. FirstEnergy supported Perry’s plan because they said the grid will be at risk if nuclear and coal plants are retired. They operate several coal plants in the PJM market. Grid operators like the New York Independent System Operator , the Midcontinent Independent System Operator , and ISO New England called for FERC to toss out Perry’s plan as part of a coalition that also included organizations the proposal wouldn’t impact, such as the California Independent System Operator , the Electric Reliability Council of Texas , and the Southwest Power Pool . Via Bloomberg Images via Pixabay and U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr

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Singapore is banning all new private vehicles from its roads

October 24, 2017 by  
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The government of Singapore , one of the densest countries in the world, has announced that the number of private cars on its roads will be frozen next year, even as the number of vehicles used for public transit are expected to increase. The rate of growth for all passenger cars and motorcycles will be decreased from the current 0.25 percent per year to effectively zero percent starting in February 2018. In going forward with this move, Singapore, one of the wealthiest countries in Asia , is building on its past successes related to its vehicle growth caps, such as its prevention of monstrous traffic jams that plague other cities in the region. Singapore is already one of the most expensive places to purchase a personal vehicle in part because of a requirement that vehicle owners acquire a “certificate of entitlement,” which is valid for only 10 years and has an average price tag of US$37,000. Even a relatively standard sedan can cost up to four times as much as it would cost in the United States . For this reason, there are only around 600,000 private cars in Singapore, which has a population of over 5.5 million people. Related: Green-roofed desalination plant is world’s first to treat both fresh and saltwater In making the growth cap announcement, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) stated that more than 12 percent of Singapore’s land area (only 277.6 square miles) is already taken up by roads and there is very little room left for the expansion of private vehicle ownership. To compensate for the decrease in private vehicles on the road, the Singapore government will invest Sg$28 billion over the next five years to develop and improve its public transit system . This includes Singapore’s metro rail, which, like many rapid rail systems in major cities , has been suffering from significant delays. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Florida power company scraps nuclear project, will pursue solar power instead

September 1, 2017 by  
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A controversial nuclear project won’t be moving forward in Florida . Power company Duke Energy Florida filed a proposed settlement agreement with the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) that would end the Levy Nuclear Project – which customers were paying for before it was even begun – and prioritize grid modernization and solar energy . Part of the settlement includes a four-year plan to install 700 megawatts (MW) of solar in western Florida. Ratepayers have forked over around $800 million for the Levy Nuclear Project, which was first proposed in 2008. In 2013, Duke Energy Florida cancelled construction and engineering agreements, although they said they hoped to return to the project. The Levy plant would have offered 2.2 gigawatts of power. $150 million remained in costs, which the company said they would have recovered via rates, but under the settlement customers won’t have to pay more money for the nuclear project that never got far off the ground. Related: Abandoned nuclear power plant given new life as a solar farm Under the revised settlement, the company would invest in grid modernization efforts like smart meters and as much as 50 MW of battery storage . They’d install over 500 electric vehicle charging stations. They also plan to put in 700 MW of solar power, including the 74.9 MW Hamilton Solar Plant, which they hope to begin building in early 2018. The solar plant, the company’s sixth, could power over 20,000 homes. Residential customers could see their average monthly bill cut by $2.50, according to Tampa Bay Times, although they won’t be reimbursed for the $800 million. 1.8 million customers receive power from Duke Energy Florida, and the settlement means their bills might go up a little bit less than the company recently forecast, according to Tampa Bay Times. Duke filed for a 8.5 percent increase from the present rate last week, which under the new settlement would be a 4.6 percent increase. Duke Energy Florida said in a statement they anticipated a decision from the FPSC by December. Via Ars Technica , Tampa Bay Times , and Duke Energy Florida Images via NASA and Duke Energy Facebook

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Abandoned nuclear power plant given new life as a solar farm

July 10, 2017 by  
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Solar farms can pop up in unlikely places – like the site of an old, unfinished nuclear power plant in Tennessee . The Phipps Bend Nuclear Power Plant was abandoned in 1981, but today nearly 3,000 solar panels rest on the site. The new one megawatt (MW) farm provides clean energy for around 100 homes. The Phipps Bend Nuclear Power Plant has scarred the landscape since it was abandoned in 1981. Popular concern over the Three Mile Island incident and increased costs to meet regulations prompted the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors to stop building the nuclear plant, which was once expected to re-energize the local economy. Phipps Bend was never operational, and for decades was utilized only for safety training exercises. Related: China is building a giant solar plant at Chernobyl That was until Birdseye Renewable Energy and United Renewable Energy came along. Birdseye already boasts over 430 MW of clean energy greenfield projects. They installed solar panels on around four acres on the old nuclear plant site. The panels rotate throughout the day to maximize the energy they absorb from the sun. Holston Electric will purchase the electricity to power homes in eastern Tennessee. The Phipps Bend Nuclear Power Plant would have been large if completed, offering more than 2,400 MW and powering around 1.8 million households. The new solar farm at Phipps Bend won’t be able to meet that, but it will generate around 1,100 to 1,400 megawatt-hours per year, and it will be operational for at least 30 years. United Renewable Energy executive vice president Keith Herbs said in a statement, “Due to its location, this project visibly demonstrates how clean, efficient solar energy matches other forms of power generation to meet our country’s growing energy needs.” The United States has around 100 cancelled nuclear power plants – perhaps some of them could receive new life as solar farms as well. Via PRNewswire and Electrek Images via United Renewable Energy and Wikimedia Commons

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Abandoned nuclear power plant given new life as a solar farm

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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Finland’s Green Party says humanity must embrace nuclear power

Chernobyl reactor covered by world’s largest-ever moveable metal structure

November 29, 2016 by  
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Dealing with the remnants of a nuclear disaster is no easy task. As a case in point, take a look at the Chernobyl reactor, where the world’s largest moveable metal structure is about to seal the plant’s fourth reactor for decades to come. Seeker reports that Ukrainian authorities are about to unveil an arch nearly as long as two football fields and taller than the Statue of Liberty to cover the crumbling remains of Reactor Number Four’s contaminated structure. The goal is to help keep future generations across Europe safe from the nuclear radiation that continues to emanate from the reactor that melted down over 30 years ago. According to Seeker , Chernobyl remains the world’s worst civil nuclear accident , having spread contamination throughout the Ukraine and 75 percent of Europe after an experimental safety check gone wrong caused an explosion and subsequent meltdown that spewed radiation out into the atmosphere. The death toll from the event ranges from about 4,000 to 100,000 depending on whom you ask – due to a cover-up by Russian authorities after the disaster. Ukrainian authorities now keep a 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the facility, but concerns over the crumbling concrete dome built to contain the reactor after the meltdown have led to $2.2 billion in funding from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the massive new protective structure – which is badly needed. Related: China is building a giant solar plant at Chernobyl “Radioactive dust inside the structure is being blown out through the cracks,” said Sergiy Paskevych of Ukraine’s Institute of Nuclear Power Plant Safety Problems. Paskevych also noted that the existing structure could crumble under extreme weather. “This would especially be a potential problem if there was a tornado or an earthquake.” The new covering is designed to hold up to tremors as great as 6.0 on the Richter scale, and tornados stronger than the region is ever likely to see. The arch took three weeks of careful work to put in place, and contains special equipment to help disassemble the structure from inside. But there are no plans yet to deal with the real problem of the leftover nuclear fuel. Via Seeker Images via Tim Porter , Wikimedia Commons and mattsh , Flickr Creative Commons

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Chernobyl reactor covered by world’s largest-ever moveable metal structure

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