|2014-06-02. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Announces Clean Power Plan. On June 2, 2014, the EPA proposed the Clean Power Plan
to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants. Under President
Obama’s Climate Action Plan, EPA is proposing commonsense approaches to reduce carbon pollution from new and existing power plants.
2014-05-17. The coal plant to end all coal plants?
Excerpt: KEMPER COUNTY, Miss. — Last November, Energy Secretary Ernest
Moniz rode an elevator to the top of the 11-story scaffolding
surrounding Southern Co.’s new coal-fired power plant here and gazed out
over the Mississippi flatlands. ...Sixty-five percent of the plant’s
carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas released by all coal-fired power
plants, would be captured, carried through a 62-mile-long pipeline and
injected into old oil reservoirs to boost output of precious crude. The
carbon dioxide would remain buried in the ground, where it would not
contribute to climate change. That would make this the first U.S. power
plant designed to include commercial carbon-capture technology. “The
risks of global warming and climate change are very real, and we are
experiencing the impacts already,” Moniz said later to a gathering of
notables that included Mississippi’s governor and Norway’s petroleum
minister. “I consider seeing this plant a look at the future.” Six
months later, the future has been postponed. Southern’s advanced coal
plant, already running over budget and behind schedule when Moniz
visited, has suffered new setbacks. On April 30, Southern said the
Kemper plant would not open until May 31, 2015 — a year behind the
original target.... http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/intended-showcase-of-clean-coal-future-hits-snags/2014/05/16/fc03e326-cfd2-11e3-b812-0c92213941f4_story.html - By Steven Mufson, The Washington Post.
2014-04-27. Chernobyl: Capping a Catastrophe.
Excerpt: Chernobyl, Ukraine. Against the decaying skyline here, a
one-of-a-kind engineering project is rising near the remains of the
world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster. An army of workers, shielded
from radiation by thick concrete slabs, is constructing a huge arch,
...by 2017 the 32,000-ton arch will be delicately pushed on Teflon pads
to cover the ramshackle shelter that was built to entomb the radioactive
remains of the reactor that exploded and burned here in April 1986.
...The arch will also allow the final stage of the Chernobyl cleanup to
begin — an arduous task to remove the heavily contaminated reactor
debris for permanent safe storage. ...With nations debating the future
of atomic power as one way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and fight
climate change, the arch is also a stark reminder that nuclear energy,
for all of its benefits, carries enormous risks. When things go wrong,
huge challenges follow. Containment and cleanup push engineering
capabilities to their limits, as Japan is also finding out since the
meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant three years ago. The costs are
enormous — the Chernobyl arch alone will end up costing about $1.5
billion, financed largely by the United States and about 30 other
nations. And making the site of a radioactive disaster truly secure can
take generations. ...The Chernobyl accident can be likened to a huge
dirty bomb, an explosion that spewed radioactive material in all
directions ... followed by a fire that sent even more contaminants into
the atmosphere that were then carried by winds across the region and
into Western Europe. ...at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979 and
Fukushima in 2011... reactor cores melted down, but the core material —
the nuclear fuel — remained within protective containment structures.
The four reactors at the Chernobyl plant had no such containment. ...An
exclusion zone of about 1,000 square miles still exists around the
plant, with access controlled through checkpoints. ...the zone remains
virtually empty. Many of the villages were bulldozed; ...equipment had
become so radioactive during the initial cleanup that it had been simply
buried in place. ...Mr. Korneyev, 65, a radiation specialist and native
of Kazakhstan, ... understands more than most people the extent of the
radioactive mess that remains in what was Unit 4. While the number of
radioactive particles released during the explosion and subsequent fire
was enormous, they came from only about five tons of the reactor fuel.
Close to 200 tons of fuel — uranium and its highly radioactive fission
byproducts — remain in the bowels of the destroyed building. ...Mr.
Korneyev, the radiation specialist who knows better than most the
conditions in the sarcophagus, has enormous doubts about the long-term
project. “There is not the technology available to access this fuel
inside the unit,” he said.... http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/27/science/chernobyl-capping-a-catastrophe.html. By Henry Fountain, The New York Times.
2014-03-24. Fish Embryos Exposed to Oil From BP Spill Develop Deformities, a Study Finds.
Excerpt: ...Embryos of tuna and amberjack that were exposed to crude
oil collected from the Deepwater Horizon spill developed heart and other
deformities that would probably kill some of the developing fish and
shorten the lives of others, a new study by a team of marine scientists
reported on Monday. Their findings, published in the peer-reviewed
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, will figure in the
final assessment of damages for the disaster that will be borne by BP,
which operated the oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico when the disaster
occurred. An explosion and fire nearly four years ago spewed roughly 4.1
million barrels of oil into the gulf; another 800,000 barrels were
contained before it could escape into the water. Remnants of the spill
continue to wash up.... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/25/us/fish-embryos-exposed-to-oil-from-bp-spill-develop-deformities-a-study-finds.html. Michael Wines, The New York Times.
2014-02-09. Nuclear Waste Solution Seen in Desert Salt Beds.
Excerpt: CARLSBAD, N.M. — Half a mile beneath the desert surface, in
thick salt beds left behind by seas that dried up hundreds of millions
of years ago, the Department of Energy is carving out rooms as long as
football fields and cramming them floor to ceiling with barrels and
boxes of nuclear waste. ...At a rate of six inches a year, the salt
closes in on the waste and encapsulates it for what engineers say will
be millions of years. ...The material buried at the plant, which began
accepting waste in 1999, is limited by law to plutonium waste from
making weapons, which is exceptionally long-lived but not highly
radioactive. The waste from spent nuclear fuel, which is far more
radioactive in its first few centuries, is not permitted. But experts
say that proper testing and analysis might show that the salt beds at
WIPP are a good home for the radioactive waste that was once meant for
Yucca. ...Allison M. Macfarlane, a geologist who is chairwoman of the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission..., said ...“The main lesson from WIPP
[Waste Isolation Pilot Plant] is that we have already developed a
geologic repository for nuclear waste in this country, so we can in the
future,” she said. The key, she said, is a site that is acceptable to
both scientists and the local community. ...In the nearby community,
business and political leaders are agitating for expansion. ...But at
the state level, there is active opposition.... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/10/science/earth/nuclear-waste-solution-seen-in-desert-salt-beds.html. Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times.
2013-11-11. ISSUE 82: Something Inside of Us.
Excerpt: How 4 million tons of Tennessee coal ash ended up in Alabama's
black belt.... From July 2009 to December 2010, four million tons of
coal ash were trucked in and dumped just across a two-lane county road
from the homes of residents, who wrote a letter to the Environmental
Protection Agency saying they were “trapped in a cloud of coal ash.” It
covered their houses, cars, gardens, and yards. Today, residents in
Perry County aren’t sure where the $4 million has gone, .... Coal ash
contains mercury, selenium, lead, manganese, chromium, cobalt,
magnesium, arsenic, and other toxic heavy metals. A report released in
2009 by environmental watchdog groups Earthjustice and the Environmental
Integrity Project revealed that the EPA’s own investigations have found
that people living near coal ash ponds have an increased risk of damage
to their lungs, livers, kidneys, and other organs because of exposure
to toxic metals. But the EPA still considers coal ash a “nonhazardous”
solid waste, and has no specific federal regulatory program for it,
despite having promised to put forth a ruling by the end of 2010.
Regulation is thus left up to individual states, and most often it’s the
poor states, like Alabama, that have the fewest regulations and very
few inspectors to enforce the rules that are on the books.... http://www.oxfordamerican.org/articles/2013/nov/11/something-inside-us/. Holly Hawarth, Oxford American.
2013-11-28. South Carolina Threatens Washington Over Cleanup.
Excerpt: AIKEN, S.C. — The Energy Department began cleaning up an
environmental nightmare at the old Savannah River Site nuclear weapons
plant here in 1996 and promised a bright future: Within a
quarter-century, officials said, they would turn liquid radioactive bomb
waste into a solid that could not spill or dissolve. But 17 years
later, the department has slowed the work to a pace that makes
completion of the cleanup by the projected date of 2023 highly unlikely.
Energy officials now say the work will not be done until well into the
2040s, when the aging underground tanks that hold the bomb waste in the
South Carolina lowlands will be 90 years old. ...The slowdown has set
off a fierce battle between the Energy Department and South Carolina,
where officials say they have been double-crossed in what they view as
the state’s biggest environmental threat. In an unusual display of
resistance from a state that was host to a major part of the Cold War
effort to make nuclear weapons — and is now home to most of the
resulting radioactive waste — South Carolina is threatening to impose
$154 million in fines on the federal government for failing to meet its
promised schedule.... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/29/us/slow-cleanup-of-bomb-waste-pits-south-carolina-against-washington.html. Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times.
2013-10-21. For Tepco and Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, toxic water stymies cleanup.
Excerpt: TOKYO — Two and a half years after a series of nuclear
meltdowns, Japan’s effort to clean up what remains of the Fukushima
Daiichi power plant is turning into another kind of disaster. The site
now stores 90 million gallons of radioactive water, more than enough to
fill Yankee Stadium to the brim. An additional 400 tons of toxic water
is flowing daily into the Pacific Ocean, and almost every week, the
plant operator acknowledges a new leak. ... The leaks into the ocean are
far less toxic than the radioactive plumes that emanated from the plant
after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, forcing 160,000 people to move
out of the vicinity. Thanks to that quick evacuation, experts say, there
are no expectations of a Chernobyl-style spike in cancer cases —
although the government is conducting thyroid checks of thousands of
children. But the flow of contaminated water amounts to a slow-burning
environmental disaster with implications for Japan’s wildlife and its
food chain. ... The 40-year decommissioning is expected to cost 10
trillion yen, or about $100 billion — roughly two years’ worth of
Tepco’s revenue.... http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/for-tepco-and-japans-fukushima-daiichi-nuclear-plant-toxic-water-stymies-cleanup/2013/10/21/406f4d78-2cba-11e3-b141-298f46539716_story.html. Yuki Oda, for The Washington Post.
2013-09-03. Errors Cast Doubt on Japan’s Cleanup of Nuclear Accident Site.
Excerpt: NARAHA, Japan — In this small farming town in the evacuation
zone surrounding the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant,
small armies of workers in surgical masks and rubber gloves are busily
scraping off radioactive topsoil in a desperate attempt to fulfill the
central government’s vow one day to allow most of Japan’s 83,000
evacuees to return. Yet, every time it rains, more radioactive
contamination cascades down the forested hillsides along the rugged
coast. ...The government announced Tuesday that it would spend $500
million on new steps to stabilize the plant, including an even bigger
project: the construction of a frozen wall to block a flood of
groundwater into the contaminated buildings. The government is taking
control of the cleanup from the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric
Power Company. The triple meltdown at Fukushima in 2011 is already
considered the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. ...Some
critics have dismissed the “ice wall” as a costly technology that would
be vulnerable at the blackout-prone plant because it relies on
electricity the way a freezer does, .... Nuclear experts also questioned
the government’s longer-term plan to extract the fuel cores from the
reactors, which if successful would eliminate the major source of
contamination. Some doubted whether it was even technically feasible to
extricate the fuel because of the extent of the damage during the
explosions and subsequent meltdowns. Even at Three Mile Island, where
the reactor vessel remained intact, removing the fuel by
remote-controlled machinery was a tricky engineering feat. While great
strides have been made in robotics since then, damage to the containment
vessels at Fukushima makes the problems there much more complex. Molten
fuel not only piled up like wax from a candle on the vessel floor, as
at Three Mile Island, but ran through cracks into the piping and
machinery below.... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/04/world/asia/errors-cast-doubt-on-japans-cleanup-of-nuclear-accident-site.html. Martin Fackler, New York Times.
2013-08-15. Study: All 107 U.S. nuclear reactors vulnerable to terrorists.
Excerpt: Every commercial nuclear reactor in the United States is
insufficiently protected against "credible" terrorist threats, according
to a new report (PDF) from the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project
at the University of Texas at Austin. ...all 107 commercial nuclear
power reactors were thought to be vulnerable.... ...the Sept. 11
hijackers considered flying a passenger jet into a New York City-area
nuclear reactor.... http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57598723/study-all-107-u.s-nuclear-reactors-vulnerable-to-terrorists/. Brian Montopoli, CBS News.
2013-07-09. Pollution Leads to Drop in Life Span in Northern China, Research Finds.
Excerpt: Southern Chinese on average have lived at least five years
longer than their northern counterparts in recent decades because of the
destructive health effects of pollution from the widespread use of coal
in the north, according to a study released Monday by a prominent
American science journal. ...the higher mortality rates were found
across all age groups. ... Several recent scientific studies have
revealed the toll that China’s outdoor air pollution is taking on
humans. This spring, new data released from the 2010 Global Burden of
Disease Study revealed that such pollution contributed to 1.2 million
premature deaths in 2010, or nearly 40 percent of the global total.... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/09/world/asia/pollution-leads-to-drop-in-life-span-in-northern-china-study-finds.html. Edward Wong, New York Times.
2013-05-31. A Floating Wind Tower Is Launched in Maine.
Excerpt: One reason that offshore wind has not caught on in the United
States is the steep cost of erecting a tower in the water, but
researchers at the University of Maine tried another approach on Friday
by launching a floating wind machine. It is the first offshore wind
installation in United States waters, according to the Energy
Department, which helped pay for it. The tower, launched in Brewer, Me.,
sits on three hollow concrete tubes and will be anchored in the Gulf of
Maine. It is a mere 20 kilowatts in capacity, an amount of power that
could be soaked up by a handful of big suburban houses on a hot summer
day. But it is one-eighth the dimensions of the one the researchers hope
to deploy in the next few years, a gigantic 6-megawatt model, with each
blade as long as the wingspan of a Boeing 747. ...it will have two big
advantages over machines on land, according to Habib J. Dagher, a
professor of civil engineering at the university. Onshore wind machines
produce most of their energy at night, when it is least valuable to
utilities buying the power, but this one will catch the predictable,
strong breezes that come up every sunny summer afternoon, he said, when
the sun heats the land more than the sea, creating an onshore breeze....
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/01/business/energy-environment/a-floating-wind-tower-is-launched-in-maine.html. Matthew L. Wald, New York Times.
2013 January 19. Rift Widens Over Mining of Uranium in Virginia.
By Trip Gabriel, The New York Times. Excerpt: …After years of
government reports and hundreds of thousands of dollars in political
donations that included a trip to France for state lawmakers, the issue
[of uranium mining in Coles Hill, VA] has reached the crucible of
Virginia’s General Assembly. Bills introduced last week would lift a
moratorium on uranium mining at the site here, known as Coles Hill.
Political supporters say that the mining would bring economic benefits
and that risks from radioactive wastes, or tailings, can be safely
managed. Opponents fear the contamination of drinking water in case of
an accident, and a stigma from uranium that would deter people and
businesses from moving to the area….
2012 October 25. Fish Off Japan’s Coast Said to Contain Elevated Levels of Cesium.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times. Excerpt: TOKYO — Elevated levels of
cesium still detected in fish off the Fukushima coast of Japan suggest
that radioactive particles from last year’s nuclear disaster have
accumulated on the seafloor and could contaminate sea life for decades,
according to new research. …More than 18 months after the nuclear
disaster, Japan bans the sale of 36 species of fish caught off
Fukushima, rendering the bulk of its fishing boats idle and denying the
region one of its mainstay industries. Some local fishermen are trying
to return to work. Since July, a handful of them have resumed
small-scale commercial fishing for species, like octopus, that have
cleared government radiation tests….
2012 July 04. Troubles at a 1960s-Era Nuclear Plant in California May Hint at the Future. By
Ian Lovett, The NY Times. Excerpt: More than seven million people live
within 50 miles of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which is
about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. But for decades,
residents here largely accepted, if not exactly embraced, the hulking
nuclear plant perched on the cliffs above this popular surfing beach as a
necessary part of keeping the lights on in a state that uses more
electricity than all of Argentina. All that changed, however, after the
Fukushima Daiichi meltdown in Japan last year, followed in January by a
small leak of radioactive steam here caused by the deterioration of
steam tubes that had been damaged by vibration and friction…The leak has
galvanized opposition to the nuclear plant among local residents, who
are calling for San Onofre to remain shuttered for good. Antinuclear
activists from across the country have seized on problems at San Onofre
as an opportunity to push California toward a future without nuclear
power…Still, any efforts to permanently close the nuclear plant face the
ever-growing appetite for electricity in Southern California. San
Onofre, the largest power plant in the region, produced 2,200 megawatts,
enough to power 1.4 million homes, and also helps import power to the
region…Without any power from San Onofre, a severe heat wave could bring
rolling blackouts, but state energy officials said they expected to get
through the summer without problems….
2012 Jun 25. Seeking a Profitable Place to Put Captured Carbon.
By Matthew L. Wald, The NY Times. Excerpt: Two major oil companies
joined by a chemical company and an investment group have invested $9
million in a commercial carbon capture project in Texas that will treat
the flue gases from a coal-fired cement kiln and turn them into
marketable chemicals. Joe David Jones, the chief executive of Skyonic,
emphasized that the plant would be different because it was
“non-pump-it-in-the-ground carbon capture.” Most efforts so far have
focused on carbon capture and sequestration, which turns the gas into a
liquid that is pumped deep underground at a significant energy cost.
This process will also cost energy, but he said it would be commercially
viable. Commercial recovery of carbon dioxide is rare but not unheard
of…But even if the market for sodium bicarbonate, the main product, is
small, Mr. Lashof said it was encouraging to see a company try to make
money from an activity that could help slow the buildup of
climate-changing gases in the atmosphere. The biggest market for
captured carbon dioxide is likely to be pumping it into old oil wells to
stimulate greater production, which could be on the order of 40 million
tons per year, he said....
2012 Jun 25. Fears Accompany Fishermen in Japanese Disaster Region.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, The NY Times. Excerpt: The catch from six small
fishing boats, the first to resume commercial fishing in the waters off
Fukushima since last year’s nuclear catastrophe, went on sale at local
supermarkets on Monday, raising hopes and concerns in a region
struggling to return to something like normal. For now, the catch is
limited to octopus and whelk, a type of sea snail, because those species
are thought to trap fewer radioactive particles in their bodies. What
that means for sea life is far from clear. But the fishermen’s hope to
resume working the waters they fished for decades is causing unease all
around. Experts say the effects of the disaster on the ocean are still
not fully understood. Hours before the boats set out, the central
government hastily banned Fukushima’s fishermen from selling 36 types of
fish other than octopus and whelk. Until then, there had been no
explicit ban on fishing near Fukushima, because the region’s fishermen
had voluntarily suspended work after the tsunami and nuclear disaster.
In return, they have received about $125 million from the plant
operator, Tokyo Electric Power…Away from the immediate area of the
plant, the radiation is too diffuse to pose an immediate risk to human
health, but experts worry that radioactive material will accumulate in
the marine food chain. Radiation levels in some fish exceed the
government’s safety limits of 100 becquerels a kilogram, including one
bottom-dwelling poacher fish that registered 690 becquerels a kilogram
in April. But other sea produce show negligible radiation readings,
including octopus and sea snails caught by fishermen from Soma…Still,
local residents said it was a milestone for a vital source of food and
employment in the region....
2012 Jun 08. Growing Distaste for Nuclear Power Dims Prospects for R&D.
By Dennis Normile, Science. Excerpt: The Japanese government promised a
sweeping review of the country's nuclear-centric energy policy…Targets
for nuclear power range from 35% of generating capacity down to zero—a
total nuclear phase-out...While that scenario would not require Japan to
go cold turkey on nuclear power, it would rule out building new
reactors for the immediate future. It would also cloud prospects for
R&D. Governmental support for nuclear research has already declined
for more than a decade and is now shifting to decontamination and
decommissioning studies. Utilities will have less incentive to invest in
nuclear R&D. Already, universities are taking a hit: Enrollments in
nuclear energy departments at seven universities dropped 16% for the
school year starting on 1 April, according to Kyodo News. The cumulative
effect will be “a gap in knowledge and expertise in the future,” says
Hisashi Ninokata, a nuclear engineer who recently retired from the Tokyo
Institute of Technology. Ninokata and others worry that this gap will
leave Japan poorly equipped to develop and deploy advanced reactors and
maintain a nuclear power option in the face of uncertainties surrounding
global energy markets and the capabilities of renewables. “Japan should
continue fundamental studies” in nuclear energy, says Satoru Tanaka, a
nuclear engineer at the University of Tokyo and president of the Atomic
Energy Society of Japan. But in putting their case to policy-makers and
the public, nuclear scientists and engineers are clearly on the
2012 May 26. Spent Fuel Rods Drive Growing Fear Over Plant in Japan.
By Hiroko Tabuchi and Matthew L. Wald, The NY Times. Excerpt: What
passes for normal at the Fukushima Daiichi plant today would have caused
shudders among even the most sanguine of experts before an earthquake
and tsunami set off the world’s second most serious nuclear crisis after
Chernobyl. Fourteen months after the accident, a pool brimming with
used fuel rods and filled with vast quantities of radioactive cesium
still sits on the top floor of a heavily damaged reactor building,
covered only with plastic. The public’s fears about the pool have grown
in recent months as some scientists have warned that it has the most
potential for setting off a new catastrophe, now that the three nuclear
reactors that suffered meltdowns are in a more stable state, and as
frequent quakes continue to rattle the region....
2012 May 28. Japan's Former Leader Condemns Nuclear Power.
By Martin Fackler, The NY Times. Excerpt: Japan’s prime minister during
last year’s nuclear crisis told a parliamentary inquiry on Monday that
the country should discard nuclear power as too dangerous, saying the
Fukushima accident had pushed Japan to the brink of “national
collapse.” In testimony to a panel investigating the government’s
handling of the nuclear disaster, the former prime minister, Naoto Kan,
also warned that the politically powerful nuclear industry was trying to
push Japan back toward nuclear power despite “showing no remorse” for
the accident However, Mr. Noda apparently did not the heed the warning.
Hours later, the prime minister indicated that he may soon make a
decision on restarting the Oi nuclear plant in western Japan, which he
hopes will be a first step toward turning on Japan’s other idled
2012 May 4. How to generate power from a volcano
by Paul Willis, TG Daily. Excerpt: A plan to tap the geothermal
potential of one of the Cascade Range’s most impressive volcanoes has
been thrown open for public consultation. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS)
has begun the consultation to decide whether forest land near Mount
Baker should be leased out to power companies for the purpose of
producing geothermal energy. It is believed that power companies would
use thermal vents in the vicinity of the peak to tap the energy of the
2012 Mar 8. Japan’s Nuclear Energy Industry Nears Shutdown, at Least for Now,
by Martin Fackler. Excerpt: OHI, Japan — All but two of Japan’s 54
commercial reactors have gone
offline since the nuclear disaster a year ago, after the earthquake and
tsunami, and it is not clear when they can be restarted. With the last
operating reactor scheduled to be idled as soon as next month, Japan —
once one of the world’s leaders in atomic energy — will have at least
temporarily shut down an industry that once generated a third of its
electricity. ...Japan has so far succeeded in avoiding shortages,
thanks in part to a
drastic conservation program that has involved turning off
air-conditioning in the summer and office lights during the day.
...“March 11 has shaken Japan to the root of its postwar identity,” said
Takeo Kikkawa, an economist who specializes in energy issues at
Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. “We were the country that suffered
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but then we showed we had the superior
technology and technocratic expertise to safely tame this awesome power
for peaceful economic progress. Nuclear accidents were things that
happened in other countries.”....
2012 Jan 9. As Fukushima Clean-Up Begins, Long-term Impacts are Weighed.
By Winifred Bird, Yale Environment 360. …Lacking land for resettlement
and facing public outrage over the accident, the Japanese government
has chosen ... a decontamination effort of unprecedented scale.
Beginning this month, at least 1,000 square kilometers of land — much of
it forest and farms — will be cleaned up as workers power-spray
buildings, scrape soil off fields, and remove fallen leaves and
undergrowth from woods near houses. The goal is to make all of Fukushima
livable again. But as scientists, engineers, and ordinary residents
begin this massive task, they face the possibility that their efforts
will create new environmental problems in direct proportion to their
success in remediating the radioactive contamination….
…The radioactive particles the Japanese are trying to get rid of can be
quite “sticky.” Removing them without removing large amounts of soil,
leaves, and living plants is nearly impossible. The Ministry of
Environment estimates that Fukushima will have to dispose of 15 to 31
million cubic meters of contaminated soil and debris by the time the
decontamination projects end. Costs are predicted to exceed a trillion
2012 Feb 9. Federal Regulators Approve Two Nuclear Reactors in Georgia.
By Matthew L. Wald, New York Times. Excerpt: The Nuclear Regulatory
Commission voted 4 to 1 on Thursday to grant a license to build and
operate two reactors at a nuclear plant in Georgia, a crucial threshold
for an industry that has not had a new start since 1978.
2012 Jan 27. Japanese Experts Question Safety of—and Need for—Nuclear Power. Science
(subscription needed). Excerpt: Japan is preparing for the possibility
of a summer without nuclear power as utilities and safety experts
squabble over the safety of the country's remaining reactors. Of Japan's
54 nuclear reactors, only three are currently operating, and they must
shut down for periodic inspection by the end f April. In the wake of the
Fukushima disaster, last summer the governing Democratic Party of Japan
required “stress tests,” analyses of a facility's ability to withstand
natural disasters, to be part of periodic inspections. Based on that
analysis, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has
concluded that two reactors at a plant in Ohi on the Japanese sea coast
have passed. ...A new national energy policy is due by the end of the
summer, and observers expect it could call for a phase-out of nuclear
power. A sudden and permanent shut down of all reactors, however, would
be a huge surprise.
2012 Jan 5. A Coal-Fired Plant That Is Eager for U.S. Rules.
By Matthew L. Wald, The NY Times. Excerpt: BALTIMORE - As operators
of coal-fired power plants around the country welcome a court-ordered
delay on tighter pollution rules, the owner of a retrofitted plant here
says that the rules cannot come too soon….
…Having invested the $885 million — nearly as much as it cost to build
the two generating units in 1984 and 1991 — Constellation Energy argues
that laggard plants should also have to comply with the emission limits
or shut down. Otherwise, it argues, the utility will be operating at a
big disadvantage: simply running the retrofitted plant requires 40
megawatts of electricity, enough to keep a small town humming….
…Constellation’s competitors see it differently, saying that they cannot build for rules that do not yet exist....
2011 December 19. Uranium Mining Debate in Virginia Takes a Step.
By Theo Emery, The NY Times. Excerpt: The National Academy of
Sciences delivered a long-awaited report on uranium mining to the
Virginia legislature on Monday, warning that the state faced “steep
hurdles” if it is to safely mine and process the nuclear reactor fuel….
The report’s release marks the start of what is certain to be
impassioned debate over whether to lift a nearly three-decade moratorium
and permit landowners in southern Virginia to extract ore from a vast
2011 November 24. Loan Request by Uranium-Enrichment Firm Upends Politics as Usual.
By Matthew L. Wald, The NY Times. Excerpt: The only American-owned
company capable of enriching uranium is asking for government help to
modernize its plant and remain in business….
…For years, USEC has been seeking a $2 billion loan guarantee, but the
Energy Department was reluctant to back it. And that was before the
Solyndra bankruptcy cast a harsh light on the risks the government was
taking to support private energy projects.
The Piketon project, though, has scrambled the usual balance of partisan
politics. Even harsh critics of the Solyndra loan, including John
Boehner, the Ohio Republican and speaker of the House, are demanding
that the government come through with the loan. Piketon is about 100
miles from Mr. Boehner’s district….
...Those opposed to the loan guarantee say there is not enough of a
market for the product to justify another enrichment technology at such a
2011 November 10. Coal Project Hits Snag as a Partner Backs Off.
Matthew L. Wald, The NY Times. Excerpt: The leading American effort to
capture carbon dioxide from coal plants has hit a stumbling block that
could imperil the project and set back a promising technology for
addressing global warming, people involved in the venture said….
…It is the latest setback for the program, which was long seen as the
nation’s best hope for taking a worldwide lead in developing ways to
capture and bury carbon dioxide from coal burning. Globally, coal
burning now accounts for roughly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas
emissions, and rising energy demand is only expected to drive up coal
consumption, especially in nations with large reserves like China and
…Word that this effort, too, could be set back frustrated experts in the
field, given a general industry consensus that the federal government
should be underwriting demonstrations of technologies to limit carbon
dioxide emissions so the market can judge which are most practical….
2011 October 14. Citizens' Testing Finds 20 Hot Spots Around Tokyo.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, The NY Times. Excerpt: …It has been clear since the
early days of the nuclear accident, the world’s second worst after
Chernobyl, that that the vagaries of wind and rain had scattered
worrisome amounts of radioactive materials in unexpected patterns far
outside the evacuation zone 12 miles around the stricken [Fukushima
Daiichi] plant. But reports that substantial amounts of cesium had
accumulated as far away as Tokyo have raised new concerns about how far
the contamination had spread, possibly settling in areas where the
government has not even considered looking….
…The government’s failure to act quickly, a growing chorus of scientists
say, may be exposing many more people than originally believed to
potentially harmful radiation. It is also part of a pattern: Japan’s
leaders have continually insisted that the fallout from Fukushima will
not spread far, or pose a health threat to residents, or contaminate the
food chain. And officials have repeatedly been proved wrong by
independent experts and citizens’ groups that conduct testing on their
2011 August 9. Researching Safer Nuclear Energy.
By Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times. Excerpt: The nuclear power
industry faces hard times, with tough competition from natural gas for
meeting new electricity needs and a prevailing nervousness about nuclear
safety after the Fukushima Daiichi accident in March. On Tuesday, the
Energy Department, handing out research grants in all kinds of energy
fields that are low in carbon dioxide emissions, is announcing that it
will give $39 million to university programs around the country to try
to solve various nuclear problems...
Two researchers at Clemson University, for example, will get $1 million
to study the behavior of particles of nuclear waste when buried in clay
in metal canisters that have rusted. One open question, according to the
researchers, is how a high temperature, which would be generated by the
waste itself, affects the interactions. These are important to
understanding how the waste would spread over time...
…In a statement, Steven Chu, the energy secretary, said that nuclear
energy had an important role to play in a low-carbon energy future and
that the grants would help the country “maintain global leadership in
2011 August 1. Fatal Radiation Level Found at Japanese Plant.
By Martin Fackler, The New York Times. Excerpt: The operator of the
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said Monday that it measured the highest
radiation levels within the plant since it was crippled by a
devastating earthquake. However, it said the discovery would not slow
continuing efforts to bring the plant’s damaged reactors under control.
The operator, Tokyo Electric Power, said that workers on Monday
afternoon had found an area near Reactors No. 1 and 2, where radiation
levels exceeded their measuring device’s maximum reading of 10 sieverts
per hour — a fatal dose for humans.
… Tokyo Electric said it has closed off an area of several yards around where the lethal radiation level was found…
2011 July 11. Hydrofracking fluid has toxic impact on forest life, study shows.
By David O. Williams, The Colorado Independent. Excerpt: Hydraulic
fracturing itself may not directly contaminate groundwater supplies, as
the oil and gas industry has steadfastly maintained for years, but the
wastewater associated with the controversial process can be very
hazardous to forest life, at least according to a new study produced by a
U.S. Forest Service researcher.
Mary Beth Adams applied more than 75,000 gallons of fracking fluid to a
quarter-acre plot of land in the Fernow Experimental Forest in West
Virginia. All of the groundcover on the plot died almost right away, and
within two years 56 percent of the approximately 150 trees in the area
2011 Summer. Can it Happen Here?
Union of Concerned Scientists. Excerpt: On March 11, when a massive
earthquake and tsunami damaged Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power
plant, our team of nuclear power experts began examining information
coming from Japan to help American journalists, policy makers, and the
general public understand that a potentially catastrophic situation was
In the weeks that followed, UCS fielded thousands of calls from
reporters, held daily press briefings, and continuously updated our
website with new information on what was happening in Japan and its
implications for nuclear power in this country. One question we have
been asked with regularity is, Could it happen here? Based on our nearly
40 years of experience in evaluating nuclear power plant safety, the
short answer is yes... [A relevant folk song: The Arkansas Traveler]
2011 April 26. Report Urges Storing Spent Nuclear Fuel, Not Reprocessing It.
By Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times. Excerpt: Experts on nuclear
power predict that Japan’s Fukushima crisis will lead to a major
rethinking of how spent nuclear fuel is handled in the United States but
have cast doubt on a proposed solution: reprocessing the fuel to
recover plutonium and other materials for reuse…
Rather than processing the fuel to retrieve plutonium, the report
suggests, the fuel should be “managed” so that the option of doing so is
preserved — perhaps by storing the fuel in above-ground silos for a
century. It recommends moving it to a centralized repository, starting
with fuel from nuclear reactors that have been retired and torn down.
2011 April 11. Japan Nuclear Disaster Put on Par With Chernobyl.
By Hiroko Tabuchi and Keith Bradsher, The New York Times. Excerpt:Japan
has decided to raise its assessment of the accident at the crippled
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to the worst rating on an
The decision to raise the alert level to 7 from 5 on the scale amounts
to an admission that the accident at the nuclear facility, brought on by
the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, is likely to have substantial and
long-lasting consequences for health and for the environment. Some in
the nuclear industry have been saying for weeks that the accident
released large amounts of radiation...
On the International Nuclear Event Scale, a Level 7 nuclear accident
involves “widespread health and environmental effects” and the “external
release of a significant fraction of the reactor core inventory.”
2011 April 5. U.S. Sees Array of New Threats at Japan’s Nuclear Plant.
By James Glanz and William J. Broad, The New York Times. Excerpt:
…United States government engineers sent to help with the crisis in
Japan are warning that the troubled nuclear plant there is facing a wide
array of fresh threats that could persist indefinitely, and that in
some cases are expected to increase as a result of the very measures
being taken to keep the plant stable, according to a confidential
assessment prepared by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Among the new threats that were cited in the assessment, dated March
26, are the mounting stresses placed on the containment structures as
they fill with radioactive cooling water, making them more vulnerable to
rupture in one of the aftershocks rattling the site after the
earthquake and tsunami of March 11. The document also cites the
possibility of explosions inside the containment structures due to the
release of hydrogen and oxygen from seawater pumped into the reactors,
and offers new details on how semimolten fuel rods and salt buildup are
impeding the flow of fresh water meant to cool the nuclear cores….
2011 April 5. Crisis Saddles Village With Unwanted Notoriety.
By Martin Fackler, The NY Times. Excerpt: …Iitate (pronounced
EE-tah-tay) has felt itself under siege since the damaged Fukushima
Daiichi Nuclear Power Station showered the village with far higher
levels of radiation than neighboring communities. Although Iitate’s
inland location helped it escape the earthquake and tsunami with little
damage, villagers blame an unfortunate combination of winds and the
shapes of the mountains for channeling radioactive fallout from the
plant, 25 miles to the southeast….
…Since the nuclear crisis began, about half of Iitate’s 6,200 residents
have fled of their own accord, though a few have returned to their
homes as the plant has appeared to avoid a full-scale meltdown. Those
who remained say a lack of clear guidance from the national government,
and the sometimes contradictory assessments of the danger levels by
outside experts like the atomic energy agency have left them confused
and scared about the fate of their village….
2011 March 23. Japan Nuclear Crisis Revives Long U.S. Fight on Spent Fuel.
By Matthe L. Wald, The NY Times. Excerpt: The threat of the release
of highly radioactive spent fuel at a Japanese nuclear plant has revived
a debate in the United States about how to manage such waste and has
led to new recriminations over a derailed plan for a national repository
...Pools holding spent fuel at nuclear plants in the United States are
even more heavily loaded than those at the Japanese reactors, experts
say, and are more vulnerable to some threats than the ones in Japan....
...Adding to those concerns, no plan to move the waste has emerged to
replace a proposed repository at Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert.
President Obama promised to cancel the project during his 2008 campaign,
and last year he told the Department of Energy to withdraw an
application that it had submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
for a construction license....
2011 March 17. The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010: A Brighter Spotlight Needed.
Union of Concerned Scientists. Excerpt: ...The Nuclear Regulatory
Commission, the federal agency responsible for ensuring that U.S.
nuclear plants are operated as safely as possible, gets mixed reviews in
a March 2011 UCS report, The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in
2010: A Brighter Spotlight Needed. The report—the first of an annual
series—was prepared and scheduled for release before the crisis in Japan
began to unfold, but the disaster makes the report’s conclusions more
timely than ever.
Authored by UCS nuclear engineer David Lochbaum, the report examines 14
“near-misses” at U.S. nuclear plants during 2010 and evaluates the NRC
response in each case. The events exposed a variety of shortcomings,
such as inadequate training, faulty maintenance, poor design, and
failure to investigate problems thoroughly….
2011 Mar 15. Nuclear meltdowns and some thoughts for science center responses [PDF].
By Alan J. Friedman, Ph.D., Consultant for Museum Development and
Science Communication. Excerpt: …I’ve seen several commentators and
reporters use the words “nuclear” and “explosion” in close proximity
while failing to distinguish between nuclear detonations (like a nuclear
bomb, which can’t happen) and non-nuclear ones (like a steam or
hydrogen gas explosion inside the plant, which can and perhaps already
have happened). Both kinds of explosions are extremely dangerous, but
for very different reasons. The measures to prevent them, the kind of
damage they cause, and the steps to mitigate that damage are also
different. It may keep viewers glued to their sets, waiting for video of
a mushroom cloud, but this kind of sloppy journalism can also cause
panic, accelerate false rumors, and hinder appropriate responses….
2011 March 15. UC Berkeley engineers concerned about reactor leak
[Article and video]. By Tomas Roman, KGO-TV San Francisco. Excerpt:
States of emergency are in effect at five nuclear power plants in Japan.
Evacuations are underway as the concern grows about the possibility of a
Berkeley nuclear engineers say the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which
is now shut down, is about 40 years old. The 8.9 earthquake caused the
reactor to leak radiation in a way that they say they could not have
anticipated and caused evacuations of 50,000 people, within six miles of
the plant. Japanese engineers are now concerned about cooling the
reactor and avoiding more leaks.
"This increase of radioactivity in the control room makes me very nervous," said UC Berkeley Professor Joonhong Ahn....
2011 March 14. Emerging Economies Move Ahead With Nuclear Plans.
By Heather Timmons and Vikas Bajaj, The NY Times. Excerpt: …The
Japanese disaster has led some energy officials in the United States and
in industrialized European nations to think twice about nuclear
expansion. And if a huge release of radiation worsens the crisis, even
big developing nations might reconsider their ambitious plans. But for
now, while acknowledging the need for safety, they say their unmet
energy needs give them little choice but to continue investing in
2011 March 14. In Stricken Fuel-Cooling Pools, a Danger for the Longer Term.
By William J. Broad and Hiroko Tabuchi, The NY Times. Excerpt: Even as
workers race to prevent the radioactive cores of the damaged nuclear
reactors in Japan from melting down, concerns are growing that nearby
pools holding spent fuel rods could pose an even greater danger….
…The pools are a worry at the stricken reactors at the Fukushima
Daiichi plant because at least two of the three have lost their roofs in
explosions, exposing the spent fuel pools to the atmosphere. By
contrast, reactors have strong containment vessels that stand a better
chance of bottling up radiation from a meltdown of the fuel in the
March 14, 2011. Japan Faces Potential Nuclear Disaster as Radiation Levels Rise.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, David E. Sanger, and Keith Bradsher, The NY Times.
Excerpt: Japan’s nuclear crisis verged toward catastrophe on Tuesday
after an explosion damaged the vessel containing the nuclear core at one
reactor and a fire at another spewed large amounts of radioactive
material into the air, according to the statements of Japanese
government and industry officials....
…The two critical questions over the next day or so are how much
radioactive material is spewed into the atmosphere, and where the winds
carry it. Readings reported on Tuesday showed a spike of radioactivity
around the plant that made the leakage categorically worse than in had
been, with radiation levels measured at one point as high as 400
millisieverts an hour...
...The extent of the public health risk depends on how long such
elevated levels persist — they may have declined after the fire at No. 4
reactor was extinguished — as well as how far and fast the radioactive
materials spread, and whether the limited evacuation plan announced by
the government proves sufficient….
2011 March 13. A Look at the Mechanics of a Partial Meltdown.
By Henry Fountain, The NY Times. Excerpt: …A partial meltdown, like
those suspected at two reactors in northeastern Japan over the weekend,
may not necessarily mean that any of the uranium fuel in the core has
melted, experts said. The fuel rods may be only damaged, a portion of
them having been left uncovered by cooling water long enough to crack,
allowing the release of some radioactive elements in the fuel….
…With loss of power and pumps after the earthquake, the fission
reactions at the plants were successfully halted. But there is much
residual heat in the reactors, both because they operated at about 550
degrees Fahrenheit and because the radioactive elements in the fuel
continue to produce heat as they decay. Without pumps to circulate the
water, it will boil off quickly….
2010 December 26. A Battle Over Uranium Bodes Ill for U.S. Debate.
By Kirk Johnson, NYTimes. Excerpt: ...A proposal for a new mill to
process uranium ore, which would lead to the opening of long-shuttered
mines in Colorado and Utah, has brought global and local concerns into
collision — jobs, health, class-consciousness and historical memory
among them — in ways that suggest, if the pattern here holds, a bitter
national debate to come….
2010 September 18. Ancient Italian Town Now Has Wind at Its Back.
By Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times. Excerpt: Faced with sky-high
electricity rates, small communities across a country known more for
garbage than environmental citizenship are finding economic salvation in
making renewable energy.
…A quintessential Italian town of 2,700 people in Italy’s poor
mountainous center, with its well-maintained church and ruined castle,
Tocco is in most ways stuck in yesteryear… Yet, from an energy
perspective, Tocco is very much tomorrow. In addition to the town’s wind
turbines, solar panels generate electricity at its ancient cemetery and
sports complex, as well as at a growing number of private residences.
…Italy is an unlikely backdrop for a renewable revolution…It is not on
track to meet either its European Union-mandated emissions-reduction
target or its commitment to get 17 percent of its total power from
renewable sources by 2020, experts say. Currently, only 7 percent of
Italy’s power comes from renewable sources.
But the growth of small renewable projects in towns like Tocco — not
only in Italy, but also in other countries — highlights the way that
shifting energy economics are often more important than national
planning in promoting alternative energy.
…In countries where energy from fossil fuels is naturally expensive —
or rendered so because of a carbon tax — and there is money to be made,
renewable energy quickly starts to flow, even in unlikely places like
… Tocco is now essentially energy independent from a financial
standpoint, generating 30 percent more electricity than it uses.
Production of green electricity earned the town 170,000 euros, or more
than $200,000, last year. The town is renovating the school for
earthquake protection and has tripled the budget for street cleaners.
2010 October 1. In California, a Grid Storage Mandate.
By Felicity Barringer, The New York Times. Excerpt: It’s no news to
most people that renewable energy sources like wind and solar power have
their off-moments, or off-days... A potential remedy was just signed
into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, whose governorship
has long had a greenish tinge. The state will now require utilities
(first, investor-owned utilities, and later, publicly owned ones) to
have storage capacity on hand that can quickly be put into use when the
wind dies down… Like California’s renewable energy mandates, the
requirement is meant to jump-start new battery and storage technologies
by guaranteeing them a broader market.
…The law will also serve another purpose… determining how energy storage should be defined for regulatory purposes.
… As a result of the law and the definitions to be developed by
regulators, “there will be more market certainty about what storage is
and what you use it for.”
… Lawmakers backed away from the idea of setting timetables for the new
program or determining how much storage the utilities must have on
hand. So it will be up to the California Public Utilities Commission and
the board of publicly owned utilities to work out those details over
the next two years.
2010 August. Small nuclear reactors raise big hopes.
By Paul Guinnessy, Physics Today. Excerpt: …The nuclear industry has
begun to think smaller than the 1700 MW of power a typical nuclear
reactor produces. Modular reactors that generate between 30 MW and 300
MW per module and work in sync with other modules to produce up to 600
MW, the equivalent of an average gas-fired power plant, are on the rise.
…Small reactors aren’t new—nuclear submarines use them—but they still
face regulatory, technical, and licensing hurdles. The main attraction
for both electrical utilities and reactor builders is the potential cost
savings: Producing electricity could be 10–20% cheaper per
kilowatt-hour than with a standard reactor.
…One of the biggest selling points is that as the power output is the
same as fossil-fuel plants, SMRs can easily hook into existing
electrical grids; expensive grid upgrades required by typical nuclear
reactors can be bypassed. That makes nuclear power an option for smaller
utility companies. And smaller reactors are easier to cool, a benefit
for water-scarce regions.
…Although SMRs do not burn fuel as efficiently as larger reactors,
some, like the mPower, can operate for 4.5 years without refueling,
twice as long as the average for large reactors. The US designs are also
easily refueled… A plant can be refueled one module at a time without
interrupting overall power generation. Most SMR plants are designed to
keep spent fuel on-site in air- or water-cooled underground storage for
60 years, the expected lifetime of the plant, or send it back to the SMR
builder. Those procedures, claim the reactor builders, will keep spent
fuel safe and thus not pose a proliferation risk.
…Competing against fossil fuels is still tough. Nearly all SMR cost
studies, including an upcoming report from the US Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC), assume that a carbon tax will eventually be introduced
in the US. Such a tax would, as a side effect, help make running SMRs
2010 July 22. China: Oil Spill Prompts Warning.
AP, The New York Times. Excerpt: China’s largest reported oil spill
emptied beaches along the Yellow Sea as its size doubled Wednesday… An
official warned that the spill posed a “severe threat” to sea life and
water quality… In the five days since a pipeline exploded at the
northeastern port of Dalian, the oil spread over 165 square miles of
water. State media have said no more oil is leaking into the sea, but
the total amount of oil that was spilled is not yet clear.
2010 July. Working toward a world without nuclear weapons.
By Sidney D. Drell, Physics Today. Excerpt: …Today, 65 years after the
end of World War II and two decades since the dismantling of the Berlin
Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union into the dustbin of
history, we are still living in a world armed with approximately 20 000
nuclear bombs. And a growing number of nations are seeking to join the
nuclear weapons club.
...Relying on nuclear weapons for deterrence is becoming increasingly
hazardous and decreasingly effective in a world in which nuclear
know-how, materials, and weapons are spreading ever farther and faster.
With the spread of advanced technology, we face a growing danger that
nuclear weapons may fall into the hands of rogue states or terrorist
organizations that do not shrink from mass murder on an unprecedented
…The good news is that no law of nature stands in the way of ridding
the world of nuclear weapons. The political problems can, in principle,
be overcome. The bad news is that as Einstein once said, “Politics is
much harder than physics.”
…The only way to contain and control the danger of proliferation is
with a mechanism for international control of the entire fuel cycle at
all stages. Such a cooperative regime will also need to guarantee the
availability of fuel to all nations that agree to comply with the NPT.
That will be difficult because of concerns about placing valuable
proprietary information under international control. Several nations are
exploring the development of such a nuclear power infrastructure.
…During the coming year, I hope the US Senate, after careful
preparation, will again consider the CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty]. There are good reasons why legitimate skeptics back in 1999
could now support ratification.
…Getting to zero and monitoring the end state will require
comprehensive cooperation and improvements in all types of verification
tools: national technical means, data exchanges, on-site inspections,
continuous perimeter and portal monitoring, tags and seals, sensors and
detection devices, and remote viewing as conducted already by the
International Atomic Energy Agency.
2010 June 22. Will the world be a safer place without nuclear weapons?
By David Kramer, physicstoday.org. Excerpt: A wealth of technical
challenges must be overcome before President Obama's vision of a world
without nuclear weapons can ever become a reality, in the view of
weapons expert Stephen Younger.
…Younger told a Washington conference on 9 June that below some
threshold—certainly at a level of 100 or fewer weapons—the US could
become vulnerable to a preemptive nuclear attack. With a US stockpile
that small, an enemy might calculate that it can "ride out" a
retaliatory response comprising whatever is left of the US strategic
force in the aftermath of the aggressive act. Younger also dismissed the
commonly held assertion that a terrorist or other subnational group
could design and build a nuclear weapon using information available on
the Internet. "Uranium is tough stuff; try machining it," he said.
"Plutonium is the most complex material on the planet. It changes phases
if you look at it."
Apart from the unlikelihood that Russia, France, Israel, Pakistan, and
North Korea would give up their nuclear arsenals, he said, there are
multiple political and technical obstacles standing in the way of
achieving the global disarmament that President Obama has pledged to
work toward. What constitutes the dismantlement of a warhead, for
example, will need to be resolved, since disassembling the weapons into
their components provides no assurance of enduring nuclear abolition… No
one knows exactly how much weapons-usable material exists and where it
is located. Preventing the clandestine movement of those materials or
weapons may require a global network of sensors, perhaps numbering in
the millions, to be installed in roads, railroads, and seaports.
…Adding further complexity to the design of a verification regime is
the fact that much of the supporting technology underlying nuclear
weapons…also has legitimate non-weapons uses. No better illustration of
that dual-use quandary is the ongoing dispute with Iran over the nature
of its uranium enrichment enterprise.
2010 June 5. Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Prof. Cutler Cleveland, Encyclopedia of Earth. This is a comprehensive article on the oil spill, regularly updated.
2010 June 1. A Bullish View of Wind Power Out West.
By John Collins Rudolf, NY Times blog. Excerpt: …The study, released in
late May, found that the power grid for five western states – Arizona,
Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming – could operate on as much as
30 percent wind and 5 percent solar without the construction of
extensive new infrastructure.
…Wind power proponents have long faced skepticism that renewables could
ever displace conventional power sources in a meaningful way, with
critics asserting that large coal or nuclear plants would always need to
stand ready to provide backup power whenever the wind ceased to blow or
clouds blocked the sun.
…Still, the outlook for wind power is far from grim. The industry
installed 9.8 gigawatts of capacity in 2009, a record, and is on pace to
install at least 6 gigawatts in 2010. And a recent industry study has
projected $330 billion in new wind investment between 2010 and 2025.
2010 May 15. Giant Plumes of Oil Forming Under the Gulf.
By Justin Gillis, NY Times. Excerpt: Scientists are finding enormous
oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as
large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots. The
discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well
could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP
… Dr. Joye said the oxygen had already dropped 30 percent near some of
the plumes in the month that the broken oil well had been flowing. “If
you keep those kinds of rates up, you could draw the oxygen down to very
low levels that are dangerous to animals in a couple of months,” she
said Saturday. “That is alarming.”
…“This is a new type of event, and it’s critically important that we
really understand it, because of the incredible number of oil platforms
not only in the Gulf of Mexico but all over the world now,” Dr.
Highsmith said. “We need to know what these events are like, and what
their outcomes can be, and what can be done to deal with the next one.”
2010 May 13. Size of Oil Spill Underestimated, Scientists Say.
By Justin Gillis, NY Times. Excerpt: Two weeks ago, the government put
out a round estimate of the size of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico:
5,000 barrels a day. Repeated endlessly in news reports, it has become
…Ian R. MacDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State University who is
an expert in the analysis of oil slicks, said he had made his own rough
calculations using satellite imagery. They suggested that the leak could
“easily be four or five times” the government estimate, he said.
…“If we are systematically underestimating the rate that’s being
spilled, and we design a response capability based on that
underestimate, then the next time we have an event of this magnitude, we
are doomed to fail again,” said John Amos, the president of SkyTruth.
“So it’s really important to get this number right.”
2010 April 28. Big Wind Farm Off Cape Cod Gets Approval.
By Katharine Q. Seelye, NY Times. Excerpt: BOSTON — After nine years of
regulatory review, the federal government gave the green light on
Wednesday to the nation’s first offshore wind farm, a fiercely contested
project off the coast of Cape Cod.
Opponents said they would continue to fight construction of the farm,
known as Cape Wind, which would sprawl across 25 square miles of
But the decision is expected to give a significant boost to the nascent
offshore wind industry in the United States, which has lagged far
behind Europe and China in harnessing the strong and steady power of
ocean breezes to electrify homes and businesses.
...Friends and foes have squared off over the impact it would have on
nature, local traditions, property values and electricity bills; on the
profits to be pocketed by a private developer; and even the urgency of
easing the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, a priority of the Obama
...Developers say that Cape Wind will provide 75 percent of the power
for Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard — the equivalent of that
produced by a medium-size coal-fired plant. It would also reduce carbon
dioxide emissions by the equivalent of taking 175,000 cars off the road,
officials said, and provide 1,000 construction jobs....
2010 April 27. ‘Controlled Burn’ Considered for Gulf Oil Spill.
By Leslie Kaufman, NY Times. Excerpt: With a vast oil slick now within
only 20 miles of the ecologically fragile Louisiana coastline, Coast
Guard officials said they were considering a “controlled burn” of the
petroleum on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.
Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry, the federal on-scene coordinator for the
spill, said such a burn might be conducted as soon as Wednesday.
A joint government and industry task force has been unable to stop
crude oil from streaming out of a broken pipe attached to a well 5,000
feet below sea level. The leaks were found Saturday, days after an oil
rig to which the pipe was attached exploded and sank in the gulf about
50 miles southeast of Venice, La. An estimated 42,000 gallons a day are
now spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.
...Controlled burns have been done and tested before, Admiral Landry
said, and had been shown to be “effective in burning 50 to 95 percent of
oil collected in a fire boom.” The downside, she said, was a “black
plume” of smoke that would put soot and other particulates into the
2010 April 26. Robots Work to Stop Leak of Oil in Gulf.
By Campbell Robertson and Clifford Krauss, NY Times. Excerpt: NEW
ORLEANS — Oil continued to pour into the Gulf of Mexico on Monday as the
authorities waited to see if the quickest possible method of stopping
the leaks would bring an end to what was threatening to become an
Remote-controlled robots operating 5,000 feet under the ocean’s surface
were more than a full day into efforts to seal off the oil well, which
has been belching crude through leaks in a pipe at the rate of 42,000
gallons a day. The leaks were found on Saturday, days after an oil rig
to which the pipe was attached exploded, caught on fire and sank in the
gulf about 50 miles from the Louisiana coast....
...Wind has kept the spill from moving toward the coast. Officials said
the spill had a 600-mile circumference Monday, but most of that was a
thin sheen of oil-water mix. Only 3 percent of the area was crude oil
with a “pudding-like” consistency, they said.
The wind was expected to change direction by Thursday, however, and the
spill’s distance from the coast has not prevented a threat to marine
On Sunday a crew from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service
spotted three sperm whales in the vicinity of the spill. Planes that
were dropping chemicals to break down the oil were told to steer clear
of the whales.
The chemicals, known as dispersants, can be as toxic to mammals as the
oil itself, said Jackie Savitz, a marine biologist with a background in
toxicity with Oceana, a Washington nonprofit group that focuses on ocean
Ms. Savitz said environmental concerns were not alleviated by
assurances that the spill was not yet a threat to the coast. “There is a
misconception that if water doesn’t hit the beach it isn’t dangerous,”
2010 April 22. 2 Mines Show How Safety Practices Vary Widely.
By Dan Barry, Ian Urbina and Clifford Krauss, NY Times. Excerpt:
Earlier this year, in the subterranean workplace of a southern West
Virginia coal mine, methane kept building up because of a lack of fresh
air. Odorless, explosive, this natural gas must be dispersed from where
miners work, and yet it became such a familiar presence at the mine
called Upper Big Branch that entire sections had to be evacuated four
times this year alone.
Many of the miners suspected they knew a major source of the gas
buildup: a coal shaft, unused for years, that passed down through
several old mines before reaching theirs. According to a longtime
foreman at the mine, who provided previously undisclosed details of its
operation, the shaft was never properly sealed to prevent the methane
above from being sucked into Upper Big Branch.
Instead, the foreman said, rags and garbage were used to create a poor
man’s sealant, which he said allowed methane to permeate the mine,
displacing much-needed oxygen.
“Every single day, the levels were double or triple what they were
supposed to be,” said the foreman, whose account of the shaft was
corroborated in part by records collected by the federal Mine Safety and
It is not clear whether the coal shaft played a role in the explosion
of the Upper Big Branch mine two weeks ago, a disaster that killed 29
miners, rattled West Virginia and, once again, raised questions about
Massey’s safety practices. But with federal investigators saying they
suspect that a buildup of methane and coal dust led to the explosion,
the handling of the shaft seems a particularly egregious example of the
mining practices that have set Massey apart from the rest of the coal
2010 April 2. A Race to Reap Energy From the Ocean Breezes.
By Sindya N. Bhanoo, NY Times. Excerpt: As New Englanders await a
decision in Massachusetts on a bitterly contested proposal to build the
nation’s first offshore wind farm, the State of Rhode Island is forging
ahead with its own project in the hope of outpacing — and upstaging —
...Instead of having a private developer dominate the research on
potential sites, as Massachusetts has, Rhode Island embarked on a
three-year scientific study, to be completed in August, of all waters
within 30 miles of its coast. It has spent more than $8 million on
research into bird migration patterns, wildlife habitats, fish
distribution, fishermen’s needs and areas that might be of cultural
importance to Indian tribes.
Its goal has been to head off the hurdles that have been in the way of
the Massachusetts project, which has pitted coastal Indian tribes,
business interest and homeowners against the developer, Cape Wind, and
proponents of alternative energy. Frustrated by the failure of the two
sides to broker an agreement, the Obama administration’s interior
secretary, Ken Salazar, has promised to determine the fate of the
project on his own this month....
2010 March 4. The Newest Hybrid Model.
By Jad Mouawad, NY Times. Excerpt: INDIANTOWN, Fla. — In former
swamplands teeming with otters and wild hogs, one of the nation’s
biggest utilities is running an experiment in the future of renewable
Across 500 acres north of West Palm Beach, the FPL Group utility is
assembling a life-size Erector Set of 190,000 shimmering mirrors and
thousands of steel pylons that stretch as far as the eye can see. When
it is completed by the end of the year, this vast project will be the
world’s second-largest solar plant.
But that is not its real novelty. The solar array is being grafted onto
the back of the nation’s largest fossil-fuel power plant, fired by
natural gas. It is an experiment in whether conventional power
generation can be married with renewable power in a way that lowers
costs and spares the environment.
This project is among a handful of innovative hybrid designs meant to
use the sun’s power as an adjunct to coal or gas in producing
electricity. While other solar projects already use small gas-fired
turbines to provide backup power for cloudy days or at night, this is
the first time that a conventional plant is being retrofitted with the
latest solar technology on such an industrial scale....
2010 February 2. More Than 25 pct of US Nuclear Reactors Leaking Carcinogen into Groundwater.
EIN Press Wire. The Associated Press reports that at least 27 of the
104 nuclear reactors in the US have been leaking a cancer-causing
by-product of nuclear fission, with the leaks mostly occurring through
deteriorating underground pipes.
The carcinogen tritium has been discovered in potentially dangerous
levels (more than three times the federal safety standard) in the
groundwater around the nuclear plants, most recently at the Vermont
Yankee Nuclear plant.
Tritium has been linked to cancer if ingested, inhaled or absorbed
through the skin in large amounts, and the concentration of tritium
found in groundwater has caught the attention of the Nuclear Regulatory
2009 December 11. Geothermal Project in California Is Shut Down.
By James Glanz, The NY Times. Excerpt: The company in charge of a
California project to extract vast amounts of renewable energy from
deep, hot bedrock has removed its drill rig and informed federal
officials that the government project will be abandoned.
The project by the company, AltaRock Energy, was the Obama
administration’s first major test of geothermal energy as a significant
alternative to fossil fuels and the project was being financed with
federal Department of Energy money at a site about 100 miles north of
San Francisco called the Geysers.
...The project’s apparent collapse comes a day after Swiss government
officials permanently shut down a similar project in Basel, because of
the damaging earthquakes it produced in 2006 and 2007. Taken together,
the two setbacks could change the direction of the Obama
administration’s geothermal program, which had raised hopes that the
earth’s bedrock could be quickly tapped as a clean and almost limitless
2009 October 13. Catching the Wind in Rural Malawi.
By Maywa Montenegro, SEED. Excerpt: From the blustery plains of Texas
to the Danish island of Samsø, wind power—and the giant, bladed towers
that generate it—is all the rage in a warming world searching for
cleaner sources of energy. Fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba had never
heard of windmills, or climate change, for that matter, when he
stumbled across a photograph one day and it changed his life forever.
Now 22, Kamkwamba has become something of an international DIY
celebrity: He’s spoken at the World Economic Forum, at the Aspen Ideas
Festival, and at TED Global—twice. He’s chatted with Al Gore, Bono, and
Larry Page. A documentary about his life is currently in the works. But
Kamkwamba’s story isn’t really about stardom: It’s about the grit,
resourcefulness, and audacity of a young engineer who built a windmill
from scrap in his native Malawi and brought power to his home—and
eventually lit up every house in the village....
2009 September 14. Hawaii Tries Green Tools in Remaking Power Grids.
By Felicity Barringer, The NY Times. Excerpt: NAALEHU, Hawaii — Two
miles or so from this tiny town in the southernmost corner of the United
States, across ranches where cattle herds graze beneath the distant
Mauna Loa volcano, the giant turbines of a new wind farm cut through the
Sixty miles to the northeast, near a spot where golden-red lava streams
meet the sea in clouds of steam, a small power plant extracts heat from
the volcanic rock beneath it to generate electricity.
These projects are just a slice of the energy experiment unfolding
across Hawaii’s six main islands. With the most diverse array of
alternative energy potential of any state in the nation, Hawaii has set
out to become a living laboratory for the rest of the country, hoping it
can slash its dependence on fossil fuels while keeping the lights
2009 August 19. Drilling Ordeals Said to Delay Geothermal Project.
By James Glanz, The NY Times. Excerpt: The Obama administration’s first
major test of geothermal energy as a significant alternative to fossil
fuels has fallen seriously behind schedule, several federal scientists
said this week, even as the project is under review because of the
earthquakes it could generate in Northern California.
Intended to extract heat from hot bedrock, the project has been delayed
because the bit on a giant rig, meant to drill more than two miles
underground, has struggled to pierce surface rock formations, the
...The scientists who told of delays in the project...said that after
nearly two months of the highly expensive drilling, the rig had reached
depths of less than 4,000 feet. The original schedule called for it to
reach a final depth of 12,000 feet, or 2.3 miles, after no more than 50
days of drilling, according to company officials.
The problems are particularly surprising given that the drilling
essentially started at 3,200 feet, at the bottom of an older hole at the
site, north of San Francisco at a place called the Geysers.
...Advocates for the technique, known as an “enhanced geothermal
system,” say it could eventually generate vast amounts of energy and
reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels. But the latest delays come
as AltaRock awaits word on whether the federal government will allow the
fracturing of rock at all....
2009 July 2. Should We Depend on Coal or Nuclear?
Five Experts Discuss how Clean Coal Works, how Dangerous Nuclear Waste
Really Is, and Whether the Root of the Problem is Money. BY Veronique
Greenwood, Seed Magazine. Excerpt: "If I compare the downsides of coal
versus nuclear, I have to say I’d rather see renewed investment in
nuclear power plant generation of electricity in this century than to
build more coal plants,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a NOVA
special released recently. “There’s no question in my mind, that’s the
lesser of the two evils.”
Wave, wind, sun—the buffet of renewable energy options is attractive.
But the sheer amount of power generated by coal and fission cannot be
rivaled by any current system of renewable energy. Between them, nuclear
and coal provide more than 70 percent of US electricity. Renewable
sources provided 9 percent as of 2007. While research is advancing by
leaps and bounds, for the foreseeable future some dependence on these
super-producers will be necessary. But when deciding between a new coal
plant or a nuclear plant, a knot of difficult decisions, many of them
decades old, rear their heads.
Coal-fired plants, of course, spew out CO2 and toxins like nitrous
oxide and sulfur dioxide. The cumulative greenhouse effects promise
catastrophic weather phenomena, widespread flooding, food shortage,
displacement, and extinction....
Nuclear plants produce radioisotopes with half-lives ranging from a few
days to a few million years. Their pollution tends to occur in
bursts—either in catastrophic accidents or waste leaks—but, as with CO2,
the effects can propagate for decades or centuries. Storage and
disposal of nuclear waste are longstanding problems, complicated by
President Obama’s plan to abandon the long-term nuclear storage project
at Yucca Mountain....
...The questions when it comes to coal and nuclear are: Which process’s
byproducts—CO2 or radioisotopes—are the least frightening? Which are we
most likely to figure out a solution for in the near future, and which
has the most pressing effects?...
2009 June 8. New Tech Could Make Nuclear the Best Weapon Against Climate Change.
By Elizabeth Svoboda, Discover Magazine. Excerpt: ...Buoyed by an
allocation of $1.25 billion in funding for reactor research from the
2005 Energy Policy Act, Idaho National Laboratory scientists are working
to improve safety, boost efficiency, minimize waste, and decrease cost
in a new generation of nuclear reactors. Even if renewable energy goes
mainstream, INL researchers still believe nuclear will be essential for
supporting the electrical grid’s base load—that portion of the nation’s
electricity that must be supplied at a constant rate, in contrast to the
variable supplies from the sun and wind....
Unlike burning coal or other fossil fuels, fission—the breaking apart
of atomic nuclei, the process underlying nuclear energy—emits no carbon
...Nuclear’s day-in, day-out reliability makes it an essential
companion to renewable energy, argues Burton Richter, winner of the 1976
Nobel Prize in Physics. “The sun doesn’t shine at night, and wind power
is highly variable,” he says. “To meet our emissions goals, we’re going
to have to grasp every arrow in the quiver, and nuclear is one of those
Before that can happen, though, nuclear power will have to overcome the
unresolved issue of how to dispose of radioactive fuel waste....
That is exactly what the INL scientists are aiming to do, however,
confident that their work is essential to the planet’s well-being. Their
efforts focus on two new designs: the very-high-temperature reactor
(VHTR) and the sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR). Both incorporate
inherent safety features to prevent core overheating and the release of
radioactive material. The hope is that these new approaches will finally
erase the memory of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and eliminate some
of the political opposition that has stymied the American nuclear power
industry for three decades....
2009 May 10. Students, faculty design green way to absorb power plant waste.
By Dana Bartholomew, LA Daily News. Excerpt: As drought dries the
Southland, Cal State Northridge has sprouted a new home for the jungle
yodeler - a subtropical rain forest.
The campus ... has already won national awards for its fuel-cell power
plant, the largest operated by any university in the world.
Now it has created a "rain forest" of 115 tropical species that inhale
its greenhouse gas and ingest its wastewater stream, the first such
design on the planet.
...The university built its award-winning 1-megawatt fuel-cell plant
two years ago after its main plant hit capacity during hyper campus
The $3 million fuel-cell plant, which converts natural gas into
electricity via an electrochemical process, now supplies 18 percent of
the campus' electricity and air conditioning needs.
But while the combustion-free plant produces zero particulate
emissions, it cranks out planet-warming carbon dioxide, in addition to
wastewater high in potassium chloride.
So faculty members joined students to design a "green" means to absorb the waste.
...rather than spew 3,600 cubic-feet per minute of carbon dioxide into
the sky, as traditional condensers do, the gas is aimed into a bed of
flowering tulip trees, hibiscus, cana lilies and more.
...And up to 6 gallons a minute of wastewater rich in plant nutrients leaches into the soil....
..."What we're going for here is a marriage between nature and
technology, because this equipment is usually hidden on rooftops," said
Ben Elisondo, manager of Physical Plant Management....
2009 March 10. E.P.A. Proposes Tracking Industry Emissions.
By Kate Galbraith, The NY Times. Excerpt: The Environmental Protection
Agency proposed a rule on Tuesday that would require a broad range of
industries to tally and report their greenhouse gas emissions.
The proposal...would require about 13,000 factories, power plants and
other facilities to report their emissions of carbon dioxide, methane,
nitrous oxide and other gases that climate scientists link to global
...The E.P.A. says that the rule, promulgated under the Clean Air Act,
would account for 85 percent to 90 percent of the country’s emissions of
...“This is the foundation of any serious program to cap and reduce
global warming pollution,” said David Doniger, the policy director for
the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “You have
to have source-by-source data on how much of global warming pollution is
emitted and from where.”...
2009 March 10. Energy Dept. Said to Err on Coal Project.
By Matthew L. Wald, The NY Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — The Energy
Department made a $500 million math error a year ago when it withdrew
its support from a “near-zero emissions” coal plant in Illinois,
The error led the department to say mistakenly that the project, known
as FutureGen, had nearly doubled in cost — an increase the Bush
administration deemed too expensive.
At the time, FutureGen was the leading effort to capture and sequester
carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming. If
the project were resumed and proved successful, it could provide a model
for curbing the carbon dioxide that coal adds to the atmosphere.
The new energy secretary, Steven Chu, has said that he will consider
renewing support for FutureGen but that changes will be needed....
2009 March 9. Turn, Turn, Turn.
By C. Claiborne Ray, The NY Times. Excerpt: Q. Why is it that nearly
every time I see a wind farm, like the one at Altamont Pass, so few of
the turbines are spinning, even in a stiff breeze?
A. The wind farm at Altamont Pass in California is one of the oldest in the country, and technology has marched on.
“The performance and reliability of older wind turbines from the 1970s
and 1980s era, of which there are quite a few in California, is
analogous to an older computer,” said Mark Rodgers, communications
director of Cape Wind, the developer of an offshore wind farm in
Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts. “It would be like offices still using
Apple II’s or Commodores from 1978.”
“With modern wind farms,” he said, “it is possible that an individual
turbine could be down for maintenance. Or if the winds were light, it
could be right on the edge where some turbines are getting just enough
wind to operate, others slightly less.”...
2009 March 2. Can Geothermal Power Compete with Coal on Price?
By Christopher Mims, Scientific American. Excerpt: Although the
environmental benefits of burning less fossil fuel by using renewable
sources of energy—such as geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind—are
clear, there's been a serious roadblock in their adoption: cost per
That barrier may be opening, however—at least for one of these sources.
Two recent reports, among others, suggest that geothermal may actually
be cheaper than every other source, including coal. Geothermal power
plants work by pumping hot water from deep beneath Earth's surface,
which can either be used to turn steam turbines directly or to heat a
second, more volatile liquid such as isobutane (which then turns a steam
Combine a new U.S. president pushing a stimulus package that includes
$28 billion in direct subsidies for renewable energy with another $13
billion for research and development, and the picture for renewable
energy—geothermal power among the options—is brightening. The newest
report, from international investment bank Credit Suisse, says
geothermal power costs 3.6 cents per kilowatt-hour, versus 5.5 cents per
kilowatt-hour for coal.
That does not mean companies are rushing to build geothermal plants:
There are a number of assumptions in the geothermal figure. First, there
are the tax incentives, which save about 1.9 cents per
Second, the Credit Suisse analysis relied on...the total cost to
produce a given unit of energy. Embedded within this figure is an
assumption that the money to build a new geothermal plant is available
at reasonable interest rates—on the order of 8 percent.
In today's economic climate, that just isn't the case....
...There's another significant issue: finding geothermal resources. In
that way, the geothermal industry has the same challenges as the oil and
gas industry. The Credit Suisse analysis doesn't factor in exploration
costs, which can run hundreds of thousands of dollars for per well....
2009 February 17. Alaska Is a Frontier for Green Power.
By Stephan Milkowski, The NY Times. Excerpt: TOKSOOK BAY, Alaska —
Beyond the fishing boats, the snug homes and the tanks of diesel fuel
marking this Eskimo village on the Bering Sea, three huge wind turbines
tower over the tundra. Their blades spin slowly in a breeze cold enough
to freeze skin.
One of the nation’s harshest landscapes, it turns out, is becoming fertile ground for green power.
...Alaska is fast becoming a testing ground for new technologies and an
unlikely experiment in oil-state support for renewable energy....
In remote villages like this one, where diesel to power generators is
shipped by barge and can cost more than $5 a gallon in bulk, electricity
from renewable sources like wind is already competitive with power made
from fossil fuels. In urban areas along the state’s limited road
system, large wind and hydroelectric projects are also becoming
Alaska produces more oil than any state except Texas, but most of it
leaves the state. Small markets and high transportation costs have kept
local fuel prices high. As oil prices spiked last year, the state’s
coffers overflowed with oil tax revenue, but the rising cost of diesel
and other fuels became a local crisis.
...Advocates of renewable energy here say Alaska, with its windy
coasts, untapped rivers and huge tidal and wave resources, could quickly
become a national leader. The state already generates 24 percent of its
electricity from renewable sources — almost exclusively hydroelectric —
and Ms. Palin last month announced a goal of 50 percent by 2025....
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