Apr 17, 2014

New MIT floating nuclear plant would be safer and lower cost #energy

A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms, modeled after those used for offshore oil drilling, could help avoid problems from Tsunamis and earthquakes. Such floating plants would be designed to be automatically cooled by the surrounding seawater in a worst-case scenario, which would indefinitely prevent any melting of fuel rods, or escape of radioactive material.

Plants could be built in a shipyard, then towed to their destinations five to seven miles offshore, where they would be moored to the seafloor and connected to land by an underwater electric transmission line. The concept takes advantage of two mature technologies: light-water nuclear reactors and offshore oil and gas drilling platforms. Using established designs minimizes technological risks, says Buongiorno, an associate professor of nuclear science and engineering (NSE) at MIT.

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Apr 16, 2014

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Approves Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act

On April 3, ACA attended the mark-up of the Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act, or S. 1961. This bill was introduced by Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). The bill passed out of committee by a voice vote. Members of the committee on both sides of the aisle expressed how this bill is a product of many hours of bipartisan negotiations.

The Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act was introduced in response to the Jan. 9, 2014, chemical spill from Freedom Industries, Inc. in Charleston, W. Va. About 7,500 gallons of a chemical called 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) leaked into the Elk River in Charleston, causing over 300,000 West Virginia residents to go without access to clean water for weeks. The spill not only negatively impacted residents — businesses and tourism in West Virginia also suffered from the spill.

The bill requires states to establish chemical storage facility source water protection programs to provide for the protection of public water systems from a release of a chemical from chemical facilities. The bills set out minimum requirements for these state programs as well as information sharing, notification, inspection, and cost recovery provisions. The bill also requires covered chemical storage facilities under these plans to be inspected every three years and any other covered storage facilities every five years. ACA met with Congressional staff to share its recommendations to make the bills narrower in scope and less burdensome on chemical facilities, and to utilize existing regulatory programs to the furthest extent possible.

Since the bill’s introduction, the legislation has gone through a number of revisions in response to many affected industries voicing their concerns about the broad scope of the bill. Chairwoman Boxer revised the introduced bill through a Manager’s Amendment during markup, so the amended bill now includes several key changes:
  • Includes a definition of a chemical
  • Establishes criteria for exclusions for which a state may apply
  • Narrows the scope of the bill to aboveground storage tanks rather than chemical storage facilities
  • Adds annual inspections for “high hazard” tanks
  • Allows pre-transfer inspections to be performed by third parties
  • Encourages states to incorporate existing standards into state programs
  • Requires EPA to issue guidance to states on implementation of state programs, and issue public notice and opportunity for comment on this guidance
Representative Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia has also introduced a bill in the House that is substantially similar to Senator Manchin’s bill to implement aboveground storage tank regulation programs in the states. Her bill remains in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Additionally, just days before the markup, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law a bill to implement an aboveground storage tank regulation program in the state. This bill requires annual inspections of aboveground storage tanks and establishes registration, inventory, permitting, proof of financial responsibility, notification, information sharing, signage, and inspection requirements. The bill does exclude certain categories of aboveground storage tanks from some of these new requirements, sets up a “Protect Our Water Fund” to ensure adequate response to leaking aboveground storage tanks, and includes civil penalties for violations.

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House Homeland Security (DHS) Subcommittee Supports CFATS Extension Bill

The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies on April 3 passed by voice vote a bill that would eauthorize the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program for an additional three years.

The full House Homeland Security Committee is expected to consider the legislation in late April or early May.

On Feb. 5, Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX), Chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee and Rep. Pat Meehan, Chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, IP and Security Technologies, introduced H.R. 4007, the CFATS Authorization and Accountability Act of 2014: a multi-year reauthorization of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, with important policy fixes.

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Apr 14, 2014

#Wisconsin #Chemical Coaters Chapter Scholarship Opportunity

Wisconsin Chemical Coaters Association Int'l:
The Wisconsin annual Golf Outing is coming up on July 11, 2014. This event is a fund raiser for the CCAI Wisconsin chapter scholarship fund. With this money we hand out scholarships to individuals that are not only going to school for Coatings and Finishing, but also in Environmental, Business, Engineering among others. We are currently accepting applications for the scholarships. 

This is open to not only high school students but students currently in college, and people in the industry that are going back to school to advance their education. People that are eligible for a scholarship:

  • Current CCAI Members
  • Family members or dependents of current Wisconsin CCAI Members
  • Employees of Companies that are current Wisconsin CCAI Corporate Members
Applications are to be turned in by May 1, 2014. The scholarship committee will review the applications and notify the winners by June 1, 2014. Recipients will be awarded the scholarships at the Golf Outing.

This year the Wisconsin CCAI will be awarding three named scholarships:
  • 1 for James F. Wright
  • 1 for David J. Wright
  • 1 for James Steffes
These scholarships are for $750.00 to $1,000.00 each. 

We will also be awarding several additional scholarships from the CCAI Wisconsin Chapter for up to $1,000.00 each.

Please email ccai@goyermgt (dot) com or WISCCAI@yahoo (dot) com for current application and instructions. 

Thank you for taking the time to fill out the application. This is very important to the CCAI. We are about teaching and helping people learn more in the industry.

Post #Fukushima #Japan Chooses Coal Over #Renewable #Energy - #EpicFail

BloombergPrime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing Japan's coal industry to expand sales at home and abroad, undermining hopes among environmentalists that he'd use the Fukushima nuclear accident to switch the nation to renewables.

A new energy plan approved by Japan's cabinet on April 11 designates coal an important long-term electricity source while falling short of setting specific targets for cleaner energy from wind, solar and geothermal. The policy also gives nuclear power the same prominence as coal in Japan's energy strategy.

In many ways, utilities are already ahead of policy makers. With nuclear reactors idled for safety checks, Japan's 10 power companies consumed 5.66 million metric tons of coal in January, a record for the month and 12 percent more than a year ago, according to industry figures.

"You cannot exclude coal when you think about the best energy mix for Japan to keep energy costs stable," said Naoya Domoto, president of energy and plant operations at IHI Corp., a developer of a technology known as A-USC that burns coal to produce a higher temperature steam. "One way to do that is to use coal efficiently."

Regulators suspect feed ingredient, made from the blood, as a cause in deaths of millions of pigs, but lack concrete proof

Trying to find why a disease has killed millions of young pigs in 27 states, scientists and regulators are examining a wide variety of possible causes, including porcine plasma, "a widely used feed ingredient made from the blood of slaughtered hogs and fed to piglets," Jesse Newman reports for The Wall Street Journal. The virus, porcine epidemic diarrhea, is thought to have killed four million pigs, but actual numbers could be higher because deaths are reported voluntarily. (WSJ graphic)
"The number of new confirmed cases of the virus has accelerated recently, confounding farmers and veterinarians, who have ramped up their already stringent 'biosecurity' measures since last spring," Newman writes. "Those precautions include more aggressively disinfecting trucks and workers' boots and clothing when they enter and leave farms and barns."

The Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and pork-industry officials "are examining a range of feed ingredients and manufacturing processes as well as other possible pathways for the virus, like contaminated air or dust particles carried from farm to farm," Newman writes. "Though the evidence is inconclusive, some researchers say that porcine plasma could be spreading the virus from adult pigs that show few symptoms, or that some plasma may have been contaminated in transit."

While come cases of PED are being linked to plasma, it's still not clear if feed is the cause of the illness, Newman writes. Greg Stevenson, a veterinary pathologist at Iowa State University who has studied the virus, told Newman, "Many people think that feed is the most likely suspect. But practically speaking, we have no proof." (Read more)

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"Leading enviro journo @Kenwardjr tells how he does it, advises would-be followers to work for newspapers

Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette, whose work on the West Virginia chemical spill again proved his rank among America's top reporters, has some advice for journalists and would-be environmental and labor reporters in an interview with Beth Daley of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting in the latest edition of SEJournal, the magazine of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

"It's always critical not to take the government's word for anything," Ward says, quoting muckraker I.F. Stone: "All governments lie." In covering the spill that fouled the water of 300,000 people, "It was especially important to have outside sources and independent experts," he says, including fellow SEJ members who knew experts he didn't.

Asked how he "cuts through emotion and rhetoric" on his Coal Tattoo blog, Ward says he's not sure he does, "and I would say there's absolutely nothing wrong with people being emotional about issues that affect both their health and safety and their ability to provide for their families. Journalists or government officials or industry lobbyists who pretend emotion has no place in these discussions are sending us down the wrong path in covering environmental stories."

Finally, asked for advice yo young journalists who want to cover environmental news, Ward warmed out hearts by saying, "Find a small, community-based and locally owned newspaper in your home state and work there. [He did that.] Avoid Washington and New York. Smaller communities need good journalism, and the stories you find will be much richer – so will your life. Think especially about reporting in and on the place you came from – a sense of place is all too rare in journalism these days. And try to stick around a while, so you can include a sense of history and context in your reporting." (Read more)
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The Troubling Truth Behind the Ebola Outbreak | 90 people have died

In the Guardian's article, "Panic as deadly Ebola virus spreads across West Africa," it reports:

Since the outbreak of the deadly strain of Zaire Ebola in Guinea in February, around 90 people have died as the disease has travelled to neighbouring Sierra Leone, Liberia and Mali. The outbreak has sent shock waves through communities who know little of the disease or how it is transmitted. The cases in Mali have added to fears that it is spreading through West Africa.

UN: Renewables, Nuclear Must Triple To Save Climate

On the heels of a study that concluded there was less than a 1% chance that current global warming could be simple fluctuations, U.N. scientists say energy from renewables, nuclear reactors and power plants that use emissions-capture technology needs to triple in order keep climate change within safe limits. From The Washington Post: 'During a news conference Sunday, another co-chair, Rajendra K. Pachauri of India, said the goal of limiting a rise in global temperatures "cannot be achieved without cooperation." He added, "What comes out very clearly from this report is that the high-speed mitigation train needs to leave the station soon, and all of global society needs to get on board."'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

H5N1 Bird Flu Needs Just 5 Mutations to Spread Easily in People with a 60% kill rate

Los Angeles TimesIt's a flu virus so deadly that scientists once halted research on the disease because governments feared it might be used by terrorists to stage a biological attack.

Yet despite the fact that the H5N1 avian influenza has killed 60% of the 650 humans known to be infected since it was identified in Hong Kong 17 years ago, the "bird flu" virus has yet to evolve a means of spreading easily among people.

Now Dutch researchers have found that the virus needs only five favorable gene mutations to become transmissible through coughing or sneezing, like regular flu viruses.

World health officials have long feared that the H5N1 virus will someday evolve a knack for airborne transmission, setting off a devastating pandemic. While the new study suggests the mutations needed are relatively few, it remains unclear whether they're likely to happen outside the laboratory. Please read full and follow Via: Los Angeles Times

Apr 13, 2014

Peak Energy: Leggett:"global market shock" from "oil crash" could hit in 2015

The Guardian has an article on Jeremy Leggett's new book "The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance" - Ex govt adviser: "global market shock" from "oil crash" could hit in 2015.

In a new book, former oil geologist and government adviser on renewable energy, Dr. Jeremy Leggett, identifies five "global systemic risks directly connected to energy" which, he says, together "threaten capital markets and hence the global economy" in a way that could trigger a global crash sometime between 2015 and 2020.

According to Leggett, a wide range of experts and insiders "from diverse sectors spanning academia, industry, the military and the oil industry itself, including until recently the International Energy Agency or, at least, key individuals or factions therein" are expecting an oil crunch "within a few years," most likely "within a window from 2015 to 2020."

Despite its serious tone, The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance, published by the reputable academic publisher Routledge, makes a compelling and ultimately hopeful case for the prospects of transitioning to a clean energy system in tandem with a new form of sustainable prosperity.

The five risks he highlights cut across oil depletion, carbon emissions, carbon assets, shale gas, and the financial sector:

"A market shock involving any one these would be capable of triggering a tsunami of economic and social problems, and, of course, there is no law of economics that says only one can hit at one time."
At the heart of these risks, Leggett argues, is our dependence on increasingly expensive fossil fuel resources. His wide-ranging analysis pinpoints the possibility of a global oil supply crunch as early as 2015. "Growing numbers of people in and around the oil industry", he says, privately consider such a forecast to be plausible. "If we are correct, and nothing is done to soften the landing, the twenty-first century is almost certainly heading for an early depression."

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China Drills Into The "Roof Of The World" To Alleviate Foreign Oil & Resource Dependence

Zero Hedge: From copper to iron to oil, China is the world's leading importer of almost every raw mineral. Wary of the risks this dependence brings, Beijing is looking ever inward to exploit the mineral wealth of its interior, including the politically contentious and technically challenging Tibetan Plateau. The most recent development is a 7-kilometer deep borehole drilled by Chinese resource exploration teams. The exact location of the borehole, the deepest ever drilled at such a high altitude, as well as the companies involved in the exploration are being kept secret.

The Plateau is estimated to contain 30-40 million tons of copper, 40 million tons of lead and zinc, and billions of tons of high-grade iron ore—it is also estimated that the Plateau's Qiangtang Basin contains upwards of 70 billion barrels of oil, potentially making it the largest such reserve on the planet.  If these estimates are even remotely accurate, the rewards for Beijing will be enormous.

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More Americans Go Hungry Than All But 2 European Nations | via @ZeroHedge / @economistniraj


Since 2007, when the financial crisis touched down across the world, the proportion of people going hungry in Europe has soared, according to the OECD. As Bloomberg's Niraj Shah notes, the number has doubled in Greece alone from 8.9% in 2007 to almost 18% currently unable to afford food. Across the European Union, the proportion of people going hungry ranges from 4.6% in Germany to over 30% in (ironically) Hungary. However, before one gloats at the weakness in Europe and the cleanest dirty shirt the US pretends to be, at 21.1% of Americans unable to afford food, only Hungary and Estonia are in worst shape…

Source: @economistniraj via Bloomberg Briefs

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Racing To Contain Ebola, one of the most deadly diseases known to humans, started killing people in Guinea a few months ago.

Ebola, one of the most deadly diseases known to humans, started killing people in Guinea a few months ago. There have been Ebola outbreaks in the past, but they were contained. The latest outbreak has now killed over 100 people across three countries. One of the biggest difficulties in containing an outbreak is knowing where the virus originated and how it spread. That problem is being addressed right now by experts and a host of volunteers using Open Street Map. 'Zoom in and you can see road networks and important linkages between towns and countries, where there were none before. Overlay this with victim data, and it can help explain the rapid spread. Click on the colored blobs and you will see sites of confirmed deaths, suspected cases that have been overturned, sites where Ebola testing labs have been setup or where the emergency relief teams are currently located.'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Honey is a new approach to fighting antibiotic resistance: How sweet it is!

DALLAS, March 16, 2014 — Honey, that delectable condiment for breads and fruits, could be one sweet solution to the serious, ever-growing problem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, researchers said here today.

Medical professionals sometimes use honey successfully as a topical dressing, but it could play a larger role in fighting infections, the researchers predicted. Their study was part of the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society.

The meeting, attended by thousands of scientists, features more than 10,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. It is being held at the Dallas Convention Center and area hotels through Thursday.

"The unique property of honey lies in its ability to fight infection on multiple levels, making it more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance," said study leader Susan M. Meschwitz, Ph.D. That is, it uses a combination of weapons, including hydrogen peroxide, acidity, osmotic effect, high sugar concentration and polyphenols — all of which actively kill bacterial cells, she explained. The osmotic effect, which is the result of the high sugar concentration in honey, draws water from the bacterial cells, dehydrating and killing them.

In addition, several studies have shown that honey inhibits the formation of biofilms, or communities of slimy disease-causing bacteria, she said. "Honey may also disrupt quorum sensing, which weakens bacterial virulence, rendering the bacteria more susceptible to conventional antibiotics," Meschwitz said. Quorum sensing is the way bacteria communicate with one another, and may be involved in the formation of biofilms. In certain bacteria, this communication system also controls the release of toxins, which affects the bacteria's pathogenicity, or their ability to cause disease.

Meschwitz, who is with Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., said another advantage of honey is that unlike conventional antibiotics, it doesn't target the essential growth processes of bacteria. The problem with this type of targeting, which is the basis of conventional antibiotics, is that it results in the bacteria building up resistance to the drugs.

Honey is effective because it is filled with healthful polyphenols, or antioxidants, she said. These include the phenolic acids, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid and ellagic acid, as well as many flavonoids. "Several studies have demonstrated a correlation between the non-peroxide antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of honey and the presence of honey phenolics," she added. A large number of laboratory and limited clinical studies have confirmed the broad-spectrum antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties of honey, according to Meschwitz.

She said that her team also is finding that honey has antioxidant properties and is an effective antibacterial. "We have run standard antioxidant tests on honey to measure the level of antioxidant activity," she explained. "We have separated and identified the various antioxidant polyphenol compounds. In our antibacterial studies, we have been testing honey's activity against E. coliStaphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, among others."


A press conference on this topic will be held Sunday, March 16, at 4:30 p.m. Central time in Room A122/A123 of the Dallas Convention Center. Reporters can attend in person or access live video of the event and ask questions at the ACS Ustream channel http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive.

Apr 12, 2014

Scientists' Aquaculture Holy Grail: Fish-Free Prawn Food will introduce greater sustainability into a growth industry

A team of CSIRO scientists has discovered the holy grail of aquaculture by developing the world's first fish-free prawn food: Novaq. According to the article there is intense global interest in Novaq because it solves one of the farmed prawn industry's biggest problems — its reliance on wild fisheries as a core ingredient in prawn food. The Novaq formula is a closely guarded secret, but it is known that the product is based on microscopic marine organisms. Not only will the new feed introduce greater sustainability into a growth industry but prawns fed on the new diet grow 40% faster and are healthier and more robust.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apr 11, 2014

James River Coal Co. files for bankruptcy, blaming weak economy and environmental regulations

"James River Coal Co. said Monday that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as part of its efforts to turn around its business as it struggles along with much of the U.S. coal industry," reports theRichmond Times-Dispatch. The company, which said "it has secured $110 million in financing to keep its operations going, pending court approval," said  "it has assets valued at about $1.06 billion and liabilities of about $818.7 million. The company estimated its number of creditors at 10,000 to 25,000." (James River Coal map of operations) 

The Richmond-based company, which filed for bankruptcy after missing a $208,000 debt interest payment in March, blames its financial woes on the weak economy, environmental regulations and competition from natural gas, the Times-Dispatch writes. "The company missed the payment on $13.3 million of convertible notes due in March 2018, and the company said it had a 30-day grace period — until April 14 — in which to make the payment before going into default."
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Most Endangered American Rivers 2014

Most Endangered Rivers | American Rivers

WASHINGTON - April 9 - American Rivers today announced its annual list of America's Most Endangered Rivers®, naming California's San Joaquin River the Most Endangered River in the country. Outdated water management and excessive diversions, compounded by the current drought, have put the San Joaquin River at a breaking point.

American Rivers is calling on the California State Water Resources Control Board to increase flows in the river to protect water quality, fish, and recreation, and support sustainable agriculture. American Rivers is also urging Congress to preserve agreements and laws designed to protect the San Joaquin River and the jobs and communities it supports.

"The San Joaquin River is ground zero for water supply challenges, but it is also fertile ground for new and innovative water supply solutions," said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers. "We want a future with a healthy river and sustainable agriculture. This 'Most Endangered River' listing is a call to action for all of us to come together around solutions to protect and restore reliable and predictable clean water supplies and a healthy river for future generations. We're all in this together."

Four million people live in the San Joaquin watershed. The river and its tributaries support some of the most productive and profitable agriculture in the world, irrigating more than two million acres of arid land. However, the river is so heavily exploited that it runs dry in certain stretches. The current drought is placing additional stress on the river and revealing the inadequacies of status quo water management for both people and the environment.

"On the San Joaquin and across the nation, communities can increase their ability to deal with drought now and in the future by protecting and restoring rivers and using water more efficiently," said Irvin. "By prioritizing healthy rivers and sustainable water management, we can enjoy reliable clean water supplies, healthy fish and wildlife, recreation, and quality of life for generations to come."

For the second year in a row, the America's Most Endangered Rivers® report underscores the problems that arise for communities and the environment when we drain too much water out of rivers. Last year the Colorado River was #1 on the list because of outdated water management. The Colorado River Basin remains in the spotlight this year, with water diversion threats placing the Gila River and the rivers of the Upper Colorado Basin on the Most Endangered list.

The annual America's Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers' fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

America's Most Endangered Rivers® of 2014:

#1 San Joaquin River
Threat: Outdated water management and excessive diversions
At Risk: River health and resilient communities

#2 Upper Colorado River System
Threat: New trans-mountain water diversions
At Risk: River health and recreation

#3 Middle Mississippi River
Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky
Threat: Outdated flood management
At Risk: Wildlife habitat and public safety

#4 Gila River
New Mexico
Threat: New water diversions
At Risk: River health, fish & wildlife, recreation, and tourism

#5 San Francisquito Creek
Threat: Dam
At Risk: Fish and wildlife habitat and public safety

#6 South Fork Edisto River
South Carolina
Threat: Excessive water withdrawals
At Risk: Fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, and water quality

#7 White River (CO)
Threat: Oil and gas drilling
At Risk: Drinking water supplies and fish and wildlife habitat

#8 White River (WA)
Threat: Outdated dam and fish passage facilities
At Risk: Salmon, steelhead, and bull trout populations

#9 Haw River
North Carolina
Threat: Polluted runoff
At Risk: Clean water

#10 Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers
Threat: Industrialization of a Wild and Scenic River corridor
At Risk: Scenery, solitude, world-class recreational values



Apr 10, 2014

Deadly bat disease found in Wisconsin, Michigan: wildlife officials

Reuters: Bats in Wisconsin and Michigan have been infected with a disease that has killed millions of the mosquito-eating mammals elsewhere in the U.S. and could have a detrimental impact on farming and forestry, wildlife officials said on Thursday. White-nose syndrome appeared in five small brown bats collected in February and March in northern Michigan during routine surveillance, the state's Department of Natural Resources said in a statement. "Even though we've known this disease was coming, it...

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Panasonic's HIT solar cell hits record 25.6 percent conversion efficiency using solar cells of a "practical size."

Panasonic is reporting a 25.6 percent conversion efficiency for its HIT (Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin layer) solar cells. This is an improvement of almost 1 percent over the 24.7 percent conversion efficiency Panasonic achieved in February 2013, with the company claiming it as a world record for crystalline silicon-based solar cells of a "practical size.".. Continue Reading Panasonic's HIT solar cell hits record 25.6 percent conversion efficiency 
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Israeli company develops anti-radiation belt to protect from up to 1,000 rads in nuclear disaster

A body belt that protects people from the worst effects of gamma radiation has been developed by an Israeli company called Stemrad. The device, called Stemrad 360 Gamma, could be a real boon for the emergency services in case of a nuclear incident, RT reports.

....The device can protect the wearer for doses of up to 1,000 rads – a high level of radiation poisoning that can cause serious illness and even death – though it doesn't offer full protection or allow an unlimited stay in an irradiated area.

Please continue reading: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_04_10/Israeli-company-develops-15-kg-anti-radiation-belt-to-protect-from-nuclear-disaster-5574/

Apr 9, 2014

China's Smog Splits Expatriate Families as Companies Pay for Fresh Air - Bloomberg

Bloomberg, April 7, 2014: 

As a thick smog hung over Beijing last year, Stephanie Giambruno and her husband decided it was time for her and their two girls to return to the U.S.

Giambruno's husband stayed back in China for his job as general manager of a global technology company. He now skypes with the family twice a day and lives with "constant jet lag" as he travels to Florida once a month to see them, she says.

While it's hard to be apart, Giambruno says Beijing's record air pollution left them no choice. She saw friends' children develop asthma. Their own daughters, at age 6 and 21 months, were often forced to remain indoors.

"It's not a way to live, to keep your baby inside with an air filter running," she said.

As bad air chokes Chinese cities, some expatriates are starting to leave families in their home countries, the latest sign of pollution's rising cost to themore than half-a-million foreigners working in China and the multinationals seeking to retain them. Smog in Beijing was worse than government standards most days last year, and environment ministry statistics show that 71 of 74 Chinese cities failed to meet air-quality standards.The World Health Organization said in March that air pollution contributed to 7 million deaths worldwide in 2012 — with 40 percent of those coming from the region dominated by China under the WHO's classification system. Outdoor air pollution can cause lung cancer, a WHO agency said last year, ranking it as a carcinogen for the first time.

Hardship Packages

"We are seeing some companies reverting to 1980s and 1990s hardship packages for executive-level candidates in cities that are hard hit with pollution," said Angie Eagan, managing director for China at recruitment firm MRIC, in an e-mail. "These packages are shaped around executives leaving their families in their home country and receiving an allowance for frequent home trips."

CRS — EPA and the Army Corps’ Proposed Rule to Define “Waters of the United States”

EPA and the Army Corps' Proposed Rule to Define "Waters of the United States"(PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On March 25, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) jointly proposed a rule defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The proposed rule would revise regulations that have been in place for more than 25 years. Revisions are proposed in light of Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 that interpreted the regulatory scope of the CWA more narrowly than previously, but created uncertainty about the precise effect of the Court's decisions.

In April 2011, EPA and the Corps proposed guidance on policies for determining CWA jurisdiction to replace guidance previously issued in 2003 and 2008; all were intended to lessen confusion over the Court's rulings. The 2011 proposed guidance was extremely controversial, with some groups contending that it represented a massive federal overreach beyond the agencies' statutory authority. Most environmental advocacy groups welcomed the proposed guidance, although some would have preferred a stronger document. The 2014 proposed rule would replace the existing 2003 and 2008 guidance, which remains in effect because the 2011 proposed guidance was not finalized.

According to the agencies, the proposed rule would revise the existing regulatory definition of "waters of the United States" consistent with legal rulings—especially the Supreme Court cases—and science concerning the interconnectedness of tributaries, wetlands, and other waters to downstream waters and effects of these connections on the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of downstream waters. Waters that are "jurisdictional" are subject to the multiple regulatory requirements of the CWA: standards, discharge limitations, permits, and enforcement. Non-jurisdictional waters, in contrast, do not have the federal legal protection of those requirements.

This report describes the March 25 proposed rule and includes a table comparing the existing regulatory language that defines "waters of the United States" with that in the proposal. The proposed rule is particularly focused on clarifying the regulatory status of waters located in isolated places in a landscape, the types of waters with ambiguous jurisdictional status following the Supreme Court's ruling. The proposal does not modify some categories of waters that currently are jurisdictional by rule (traditional navigable waters, interstate waters and wetlands, the territorial seas, and impoundments). Changes proposed in the proposed rule would increase the asserted geographic scope of CWA jurisdiction, in part as a result of the agencies' expressly declaring some types of waters categorically jurisdictional (such as all waters adjacent to a jurisdictional water), and also by application of new definitions, which give larger regulatory context to some types of waters, such as tributaries. The proposal does not identify specific waters—particular streams or ponds—that would be jurisdictional as a result of the rule.

Plato Philosophy in the Googleplex: technology has democratized information....and that is very dangerous for democracy,'

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein on Philosophy - 
"Dr. Goldstein's Plato starts his tour at Google because she thinks that tech entrepreneurs 'may be the new philosopher kings,' she says. 'They are the new elite.' At first, her Plato approves of the way that technology has democratized information. 'Then he realizes everybody's going to the sources that agree with them … and that is very dangerous for democracy,' she adds, admitting that 'there's a lot of me in that.' Dr. Goldstein says that she now forces herself to read news from sources she disagrees with, which has helped her to change her stance on a few issues. 'With technology, everyone has more of a voice, but … is it broadening our minds, or is it narrowing our minds?' she wonders. Reading Plato convinced her of the need to be able to change her own mind, even about Plato himself."

A List of the Problems with plastic via @Ecowatch #nontoxic

EcowatchIn the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments—like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles—are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.

Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.

50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.

Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.

We currently recover only five percent of the plastics we produce.

The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.

Plastic accounts for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate.

Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year

Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.

46 percent of plastics float and it can drift for years before eventually concentrating in the ocean gyre.

It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one.

Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean's surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.

One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.

44 percent of all seabird species, 22 percent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.

Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body—93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical). Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.

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dredmorbius comment on "Navy lab makes gasoline from seawater, as low as $3 per gallon"

dredmorbius: Since this story is making rounds but the reportage is so godawful terrible, I've dug into the source Naval Research Lab papers and press reports for a bit more context on this.
  • The US Navy's study is looking at producing 100,000 gallons/day of aviation fuel. Technically, that's a high-grade kerosene, not gasoline. For comparison, an F-18 Super Hornet has a fully-loaded capacity of about 430 gallons, so this would supply around 230 flights/day. It's about 1/8400 the total petroleum consumption of the US (20 million barrels/day, more later).

  • The process consumes energy which must be input from elsewhere. The benefit is obtaining liquid hydrocarbon fuel, which is useful, versatile, and very energy dense. Power requirements for 100k gal/day is around 240 MW, which happens to be roughly the output of a Nimitz-class carrier's reactors.

  • There are three parts to the process:

    1. Electrolysis of hydrogen, which consumes most of the energy, and is, on an energy-delivered basis, about 60% efficient. That is, you're losing 40% of your input energy, but you get storable energy in the form of hydrogen, which is converted to hydrocarbons later.
    2. Carbon dioxide is present in seawater at about 140x greater volumetric densities than in the atmosphere, in the form of dissolved gas (2-3%) and as bicarbonate and carbonate (97-98%). This can be extracted via partial vaccuum and pH changes which, conveniently, accompany hydrogen electrolysis.
    3. Fischer-Tropsch process long-chain hydrocarbon synthesis. This is a well-understood, long-established chemical process developed in the 1920s. Most liquid petrochemical fuels are long-chain hydrocarbons, the Navy's goal is a chain length of eleven.
  • The process will require a lot of seawater: 8.8 billion liters/day. That's 3520 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth. I strongly suspect that pumping and water-handling costs and energy usage will be significant.

  • Reactor size based on existing electrolysis vessels would be roughly 24,500 m3 , or a cube 157 m on a side. This exceeds the practical dimensions of a carrier -- we're not talking about a system which could fit within an existing ship's hull dimensions. Instead the Navy is considering a fixed-location plant, and possibly a floating platform which could accompany a carrier task group. More below.

  • Supplied energy for a fixed-site plant is seen coming from an ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) facility as a renewable source. Alternatively, an aircraft carrier's reactor output could supply a floating platform, though this would involve tethering a carrier to another vessel to supply power. Reports suggesting that existing tender and supply logistics would be eliminated are, as far as I can tell, entirely bogus. You've still got fuel which requires transfer. The logistics will change but they'll still exist.

  • On a rough back-of-the-envelope basis, scaling this to national levels is at least within the realm of possibility, though it would be tremendously expensive. The plant size could be as small as a few square kilometers (compared with tens of thousands to a few million km2 for biomass algae or crop fuel scenarios), electric power would be a couple of terawatts (a 180 km square of solar output), and cost would be around $8 trillion (about half of annual GDP of the US), for the fuel synthesis alone. Solar generation costs would likely double that.

  • The technology should be carbon-neutral. It's extracting carbon dioxide from seawater, and the fuel is then burned, returning it to the atmosphere. This doesn't reduce net biosphere carbon, but it doesn't increase it either. This is contrasted with both fossil fuel use, in which ancient carbon stored underground is released to the atmosphere (which increases biospheric CO2) and carbon sequestration, in which carbon is removed (by technical or biological means) and buried (decreasing biospheric CO2).

State of the project is that some very small-scale (relative to the proposed size) tests have been conducted, with reasonably positive results. I tend not to get very excited about much in the way of alternative energy / fuel suggestions, but this at least seems like it's based on solid technical foundations. I suspect the eventual costs will be higher than what's currently projected ($3-$6/gallon fuel). The military has a huge interest in energy and fuel, and navies in particular have driven a number of fuel revolutions: adoption of coal in the mid-19th century, oil during WWI, and nuclear power following WWII.

Apr 8, 2014

U.S. Navy Scaling Up Fuel from Seawater Program. developed for the recovery of carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2) from seawater and conversion to a liquid hydrocarbon fuel.

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory : Navy researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Materials Science and Technology Division, demonstrate proof-of-concept of novel NRL technologies developed for the recovery of carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2) from seawater and conversion to a liquid hydrocarbon fuel.

Fuel From Sea Concept - First Demonstrated FlightFlying a radio-controlled replica of the historic WWII P-51 Mustang red-tail aircraft—of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen—NRL researchers (l to r) Dr. Jeffrey Baldwin, Dr. Dennis Hardy, Dr. Heather Willauer, and Dr. David Drab (crouched), successfully demonstrate a novel liquid hydrocarbon fuel to power the aircraft's unmodified two-stroke internal combustion engine. The test provides proof-of-concept for an NRL developed process to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce hydrogen gas (H2) from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. 
(Photo: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory) 

Fueled by a liquid hydrocarbon—a component of NRL's novel gas-to-liquid (GTL) process that uses CO2 and H2 as feedstock—the research team demonstrated sustained flight of a radio-controlled (RC) P-51 replica of the legendary Red Tail Squadron, powered by an off-the-shelf (OTS) and unmodified two-stroke internal combustion engine.

Using an innovative and proprietary NRL electrolytic cation exchange module (E-CEM), both dissolved and bound CO2 are removed from seawater at 92 percent efficiency by re-equilibrating carbonate and bicarbonate to CO2 and simultaneously producing H2. The gases are then converted to liquid hydrocarbons by a metal catalyst in a reactor system.

"In close collaboration with the Office of Naval Research P38 Naval Reserve program, NRL has developed a game changing technology for extracting, simultaneously, CO2 and H2 from seawater," said Dr. Heather Willauer, NRL research chemist. "This is the first time technology of this nature has been demonstrated with the potential for transition, from the laboratory, to full-scale commercial implementation."

CO2 in the air and in seawater is an abundant carbon resource, but the concentration in the ocean (100 milligrams per liter [mg/L]) is about 140 times greater than that in air, and 1/3 the concentration of CO2 from a stack gas (296 mg/L). Two to three percent of the CO2 in seawater is dissolved CO2 gas in the form of carbonic acid, one percent is carbonate, and the remaining 96 to 97 percent is bound in bicarbonate.

- See more at: http://www.nrl.navy.mil/media/news-releases/2014/scale-model-wwii-craft-takes-flight-with-fuel-from-the-sea-concept#sthash.UtTMikYv.dpuf 
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Apr 6, 2014

Wind Power Can Be Cost-Comparable to natural gas for electricity , New Analysis Reveals

Syracuse University | The costs of using wind energy and natural gas for electricity are virtually equal when accounting for the full private and social costs of each, making wind a competitive energy source for the United States, according to a new study on the federal tax credit for wind energy.

Just released by researchers at Syracuse University and the University of California, the analysis shows that wind energy comes within .35 cents per kWh when levelized over the 20-year life of a typical wind contract, compared on an equivalent basis to the full costs for natural gas-fired energy, according to Jason Dedrick, associate professor at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies (iSchool).

Under Revised Quake Estimates, Dozens of Nuclear Reactors Face Problems, cannot show that their reactors would withstand the most severe earthquake

Owners of at least two dozen nuclear reactors across the United States, including the operator of Indian Point 2, in Buchanan, N.Y., have told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that they cannot show that their reactors would withstand the most severe earthquake that revised estimates say they might face, according to industry experts. As a result, the reactors' owners will be required to undertake extensive analyses of their structures and components. Those are generally sturdier than assumed in licensing documents, but owners of some plants may be forced to make physical changes, and are likely to spend about $5 million each just for the analysis.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apr 5, 2014

29 dead dolphins found since oil spill

Houston Chronicle - Scientists are trying to determine whether an oil spill two weeks ago in Galveston Bay contributed to a higher-than-normal number of dolphin deaths.

At least 29 dead dolphins have been found in the Galveston area since a ship and barge collided, spilling nearly 168,000 gallons of thick oil into Galveston Bay. The number brought the total for March to 47, above the average of 34 dolphin strandings for the month and triple last years' total of 15, said Heidi Whitehead, state operations coordinator for the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

Testing will needed to determine what role, if any, oil played in the dolphin deaths. But it is certain that oil is affecting hundreds of birds, and the numbers appear to be increasing, said Richard Gibbons, Houston Audubon conservation director.

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Crib mattresses expose infants to harmful #chemical emissions #nontoxic

University of Texas at Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering has found that crib mattresses expose sleeping infants to high levels of chemical emissions. Specifically, the team analyzed the foam padding from crib mattresses and found that the mattresses release significant amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are potentially harmful chemicals found in many household items including cleaners and scented sprays.
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Bananageddon: Millions face hunger as deadly fungus Panama disease decimates global banana crop

The Independent Scientists have warned that the world's banana crop, worth £26 billion and a crucial part of the diet of more than 400 million people, is facing "disaster" from virulent diseases immune to pesticides or other forms of control.

Apr 4, 2014

OSHA forms alliance to reduce chemical hazards,such as formaldehyde, in beauty industry

US Department of Labor's OSHA forms alliance with Concerned Beauty Professionals to reduce chemical hazards in the beauty industry
Alliance signing ceremony to be held on March 31, 2014, in Atlanta

ATLANTA – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has formed an alliance with the Georgia Concerned Beauty Professionals in Atlanta to provide hair salon owners and workers with information, guidance and training to protect employees from exposure to products that contain hazardous chemicals, such as formaldehyde.

The agreement will be signed between OSHA and the Concerned Beauty Professionals at noon on Monday, March 31 at the Georgia Institute of Technology, 250 14th St. NW, 5th floor, Atlanta 30318.

"OSHA and other federal, state and non-U.S. government agencies have taken action to address the emerging problem of formaldehyde exposure to hair smoothing products," said Teresa Harrison, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Atlanta. "This alliance demonstrates OSHA's commitment to the safety and health of workers in this industry."

OSHA requires manufacturers, importers and distributors of products that contain formaldehyde to include information about formaldehyde and its hazards on product labels and in the material safety data sheets sent to employers. Formaldehyde presents a significant health hazard if workers are exposed. It can irritate the eyes and nose; cause allergic reactions affecting the skin, eyes and lungs; and is linked to nose and lung cancer.

Federal OSHA has found formaldehyde in the air in salons where hair smoothing products were used. Some of these products have formaldehyde listed on their labels or on material safety data sheets, as required by law. However, through investigations, the agency's air tests showed formaldehyde at levels greater than OSHA's limits in salons, even though the products tested were labeled formaldehyde-free.

Companies and groups interested in learning more about OSHA's activities to improve employee safety and health in Georgia may contact OSHA's representatives in the Atlanta-West Area Office at 678-903-7301, the Atlanta-East Area Office at 770-493-6644, or the Savannah Area Office at 912-652-4393.

Through its Alliance Program, OSHA works with unions, consulates, trade and professional organizations, faith- and community-based organizations, businesses and educational institutions to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. The purpose of each alliance is to develop compliance assistance tools and resources and to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities. Alliance Program participants do not receive exemptions from OSHA inspections. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/alliances/index.html.

Cheaper process could slash the cost of turning plant biomass into biofuels.

Wood is great for building and heating homes, but it's the bane of biofuels. When converting plants to fuels, engineers must remove a key component of wood, known as lignin, to get to the sugary cellulose that's fermented into alcohols and other energy-rich compounds. That's costly because it normally requires high temperatures and caustic chemicals. Now, researchers in the United States and Canada have modified the lignin in poplar trees to self-destruct under mild processing conditions—a trick that could slash the cost of turning plant biomass into biofuels.

Fascinating technology for low cost/sustainable buildings..and it looks "futuristic" too.

Image: Monolithic Dome Schools:  Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Okmulgee, Oklahoma—20,000-square-foot facility that includes spectator seating, classrooms, concessions and several multi-use areas.   Read our Letter to all Oklahoma School Superintendents and Legislators
Image: Monolithic Dome Churches: Legacy Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico is a sanctuary with a diameter of 192 feet and a height of 50 feet.
Image: Monolithic’s BRUCO — Inside Bruco – the Caterpillar, Monolithic Airforms can design and manufacture an Airform large enough for a 200-foot diameter Monolithic Dome, a 300-foot diameter Crenosphere, or a grain tarp to cover a two-acre grain pile.
Image: Monolithic Dome Rentals — The Inn Place is a thriving example of Monolithic Dome Rentals. There are over fifty Io-20 rental units in this complex with more to come.
Image: Monolithic Fertilizer Blend Plant — Blend plants are currently being constructed in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. Shown here is a 95’ diameter dome with a 3000 ton capacity.

Monolithic Domes, for personal and public use, that are disaster-resistant, energy-efficient and cost-effective.

Monolithic Domes are the most energy efficient and safest buildings that can be built and that can be designed for many uses. Manyschools now conduct their classes in Monolithic Domes. Some are designated as tornado shelters. Others have Monolithic Domegymnasiums, auditoriums, multipurpose centers, libraries, cafeterias, etc. Because Monolithic's technology meets FEMA criteria for a structure that can provide near-absolute disaster protection, some schools have received FEMA grants of 75% of their construction costs. These schools will save 60% to 75% of the energy costs as compared to conventional buildings. The energy savings will pay for the building in total in less than 20 years. And in most cases, they save money on first cost for the construction. 

In addition to schools, Monolithic designs homeschurches, office complexes, bulk storages, etc. Located in Italy, Texas, Monolithichas been constructing these quality buildings for more than 35 years. The buildings are built to last for centuries.

Please continue reading from website devoted to broadening the understanding and education of this technologically advanced construction process. Monolithic teaches this technology at workshops to those who would like to learn it