Jul 30, 2014

Boom-or-Doom Riddle For Nuclear Industry

The nuclear industry remains remarkably optimistic about its future, despite evidence that it is a shrinking source of power as renewables increasingly compete to fill the energy gap. LONDON, 26 July, 2014 − The headline figures for 2014 from the nuclear industry describe a worldwide boom in progress, with 73 reactors presently being built and another 481 new ones either planned or approved. The World Nuclear Association (WNA) official website paints a rosy picture of an industry expected to expand dramatically by 2030. It says that over the period 1996 to 2013 the world retired 66 reactors, and 71 started operation. Between now and 2030, the industry expects another 74 reactors to close, but 272 new ones to come on line. This represents a much larger net increase in nuclear electricity production than the basic figures suggest because most of the newer power stations have a bigger capacity than those closing down. Pipe dream Detractors of the industry say that these projections are a pipe dream and that nuclear power will not expand at that pace, if at all, and that solar and wind power will grow much faster to fill the energy gap. 
Please continue reading from:   Boom-or-Doom Riddle For Nuclear Industry

Jul 28, 2014

Parched West is using up underground water: Study points to grave implications for Western U.S. water supply -- @ScienceDaily

sciencedaily...new study by University of California, Irvine and NASA scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.

This study is the first to quantify the amount that groundwater contributes to the water needs of western states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the federal water management agency, the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years.

The research team used data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission to track changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin, which are related to changes in water amount on and below the surface. Monthly measurements in the change in water mass from December 2004 to November 2013 revealed the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater, almost double the volume of the nation's largest reservoir, Nevada's Lake Mead. More than three-quarters of the total -- about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic kilometers) -- was from groundwater.

"We don't know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don't know when we're going to run out," said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at UC Irvine and the study's lead author. "This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking."

Water above ground in the basin's rivers and lakes is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and its losses are documented. Pumping from underground aquifers is regulated by individual states and is often not well documented.

"There's only one way to put together a very large-area study like this, and that is with satellites," said senior author Jay Famiglietti, senior water cycle scientist at JPL on leave from UC Irvine, where he is an Earth system science professor. "There's just not enough information available from well data to put together a consistent, basin-wide picture."

Please continue reading from: 

2500 Ground Zero responders have come down with cancer

NY Post - More than 2,500 Ground Zero rescuers and responders have come down with cancer, and a growing number are seeking compensation for their illnesses, The Post has learned.

The grim toll has skyrocketed from the 1,140 cancer cases reported last year.

In its latest tally, the World Trade Center Health Program at Mount Sinai Hospital counts 1,655 responders with cancer among the 37,000 cops, hard hats, sanitation workers, other city employees and volunteers it monitors, officials told The Post.

The tragic sum rises to 2,518 when firefighters and EMTs are added. The FDNY, which has its own WTC health program, said Friday it counts 863 members with cancers certified for 9/11-related treatment.

WTC epidemiologists say studies show that 9/11 workers have gotten certain cancers at a significantly higher rate than expected in the normal population — prostrate, thyroid, leukemia and multiple myeloma. 

Newly Discovered Virus Widespread in Human Gut

Exploring genetic material found in intestinal samples, the international team uncovered the CrAssphage virus. They say the virus could influence the behaviour of some of the most common bacteria in our gut. Researchers say the virus has the genetic fingerprint of a bacteriophage - a type of virus known to infect bacteria. Phages may work to control the behaviour of bacteria they infect - some make it easier for bacteria to inhabit in their environments while others allow bacteria to become more potent. [Study lead Dr. Robert] Edwards said: "In some way phages are like wolves in the wild, surrounded by hares and deer. "They are critical components of our gut ecosystems, helping control the growth of bacterial populations and allowing a diversity of species." According to the team, CrAssphage infects one of the most common types of bacteria in our guts.National Geographic gives some idea why a virus so common in our gut should have evaded discovery for so long, but at least CrAssphage finally has aWikipedia page of its own.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Jul 27, 2014

Report: Nuclear Plants Should Focus On Risks Posed By External Events

"Engineers at American nuclear plants have been much better at calculating the risk of an internal problem that would lead to an accident than they have at figuring the probability and consequences of accidents caused by events outside a plant, a report released Thursday by the National Academy of Science said. Accidents that American reactors are designed to withstand, like a major pipe break, are "stylized" and do not reflect the bigger source of risk, which is external, according to the study. That conclusion is one of the major lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Japan in 2011, which began after an earthquake at sea caused a tsunami.// b Slashdot

Jul 25, 2014

#Fukushima monkeys show signs of 'blood abnormalities' following 2011 nuclear disaster

The Independent
The wild monkeys showed low blood counts and detectable levels of caesium - though scientist say these are not necessarily related to the nuclear meltdown

Wild Japanese macaques were found to have lower than normal white and red blood cell levels and detectable levels of caesium in their body, all of which could make them more susceptible to disease.

The new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, looked for signs of radiation exposure in 61 monkeys living in a 43 mile distance (70 kilometres) of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
...The author's reports suggest that the caesium in the macaques’ bodies comes from the monkey’s winter diet of tree buds and bark - now contaminated.

The 61 animals monitored in the Fukushima area were compared with 31 monkeys living in the Shimokita Peninsula some 400km (249m) away. None of the Shimokita troop showed signs of caesium in their bodies.

Read more at The Independent

Internet Explorer Vulnerabilities Increase 100% hackers are better at attacking Internet Explorer, doing it more frequently.

Bromium Labs analyzed public vulnerabilities and exploits from the first six months of 2014. The research determined that Internet Explorer vulnerabilities have increased more than 100 percent since 2013, surpassing Java and Flash vulnerabilities. Web browsers have always been a favorite avenue of attack, but we are now seeing that hackers are not only getting better at attacking Internet Explorer, they are doing it more frequently.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Mapping the Spread of #Drought Across the U.S. - via @NYTimes


June 10
Droughts appear to be intensifying over much of the West and Southwest as a result of global warming. Over the past decade, droughts in some regions have rivaled the epic dry spells of the 1930s and 1950s. About 34 percent of the contiguous United States was in at least a moderate drought as of July 22.
Things have been particularly bad in California, where state officials have approveddrastic measures to reduce water consumption. California farmers, without water from reservoirs in the Central Valley, are left to choose which of their crops to water. Parts of Texas, Oklahoma and surrounding states are also suffering from drought conditions.
The relationship between the climate and droughts is complicated. Parts of the country are becoming wetter: East of the Mississippi, rainfall has been rising. But global warming also appears to be causing moisture to evaporate faster in places that were already dry. Researchers believe drought conditions in these places are likely to intensify in coming years.
There has been little relief for some places since the summer of 2012. At the recent peak this May, about 40 percent of the country was abnormally dry or in at least a moderate drought.

One Trillion Bq Released By Nuclear Debris Removal At #Fukushima So Far

The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant says more than one trillion becquerels of radioactive substances were released as a result of debris removal work at one of the plant's reactors. Radioactive cesium was detected at levels exceeding the government limit in rice harvested last year in Minami Soma, some 20 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi. TEPCO presented the Nuclear Regulation Authority with an estimate that the removal work discharged 280 billion becquerels per hour of radioactive substances, or a total of 1.1 trillion becquerels. The plant is believed to be still releasing an average of 10 million becquerels per hour of radioactive material.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Jul 24, 2014

“Tokyo Should No Longer Be Inhabited” Eastern Japan and Metropolitan Tokyo have been contaminated with radiation

Tokyo Doctor Moves Because "It is clear that Eastern Japan and Metropolitan Tokyo have been contaminated with radiation."

Urges fellow doctors to promote radiation protection describes changes in blood tests and symptoms of radiation poisoning of people in Tokyo

Doctor Shigeru Mita, who recently moved to Okayama-city, Okayama prefecture, to open a new clinic there, wrote a short essay in the newsletter published by Association of Doctors in Kodaira, metropolitan Tokyo.

Although the target readers for this essay were not the general public, it has been cited in a weekly e-mail magazine published by journalist Kota Kinoshita, who has been organizing actions to urge people to leave radiation affected areas (including Tokyo) since 3.11, 2011.

On many occasions, public talks and gatherings, both Dr. Mita and Mr. Kinoshita have acknowledged the danger of radiation and they have called out for immediate action for radiation protection.

In November 2013, WNSCR translated an essay that Dr. Mita wrote for parents concerned about radiation: (Please read the article here). Despite the interests of many parents in Japan, there are very few doctors who show serious concern on the issues of radiation, and commenting on the issue publicly is even rarer.

China seals off town after man dies of bubonic plague, 151 people placed in quarantine

A Chinese town has been sealed off and 151 people placed in quarantine since last week after a man died of bubonic plague, state media said Tuesday.

The 30,000 people living in Yumen in the northwestern province of Gansu are not being allowed to leave, and police at roadblocks on its perimeter are telling motorists to find alternative routes, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said.

New device generates electricity from condensation

Harvesting electricity from condensation could take renewable power to remote areas (Photo...

MIT researchers have found a way to generate small amounts of electricity from condensation, by having electrically-charged droplets jump between superhydrophobic (water-repelling) and hydrophilic (water-attracting) metal plates. The advance could be especially useful in remote areas or developing countries, not least because it produces clean water as a side product. .. Continue Reading New device generates electricity from condensation  // Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine

Russia will be building 1200 MWe fast neutron reactors as the core of its next generation nuclear fleet

Russia plans to start construction of three BN-1200 sodium-cooled fast neutron reactors before 2030. OKBM Afrikantov has said it envisages about 11 GWe (9 of the 1200 MW plants) of such plants by 2030, possibly including South Urals plant.

The BN-1200 reactor for Beloyarsk will generate 1220 MWe and have a 60-year life. The core of a fast reactor is much smaller than that of a normal nuclear reactor, and it has a higher power density, requiring very efficient heat transfer.

We associate fast reactors with our strategic goal of a closed nuclear fuel cycle," Romanov said. The first of these units will be located at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in Zarechny, in the Urals, he said.

Last month, Rosenergoatom engineers brought to criticality Beloyarsk 4 - a 789 MWe fast-neutron reactor of the BN-800 design.

Power units with BN reactors have a "unique competitive advantage" and the BN-800 will be able to operate for about 100 years.

Read more »// Next Big Future

Elon Musk says 500 mile range electric car will soon be possible

Tesla Electric cars have the highest energy density battery in the world, twice that of the Nissan Leaf. But their range is more than twice that of the Leaf so we come into other factors: what's the drag co-efficient of the car, how much does it weigh, what's the efficiency of the motor and gearbox, what's the rolling resistance? All those factors affect the range.

Recently Telsa Model S was assessed against a whole bunch of other cars for drag efficiency, in a drag queen contest! Our car came out best with a drag co-efficient of 0.24.

Elon says it will be possible to have a 500-mile range car. In fact we could do it quite soon, but it would increase the price. Over time you could expect to have that kind of range.

Read more »// Next Big Future

Jul 23, 2014

Comments on Dept. of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) on Proposed Priority Products Listing

Timothy Serie (ACA)
On June 30, ACA submitted comments to California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) on the agency’s pre-regulatory proposed Priority Products listings under the California Safer Consumer Products Regulations. Since the California “Green Chemistry Program” was enacted in 2008, ACA and its California Paint Council have engaged with California’s DTSC in the development of the California Safer Consumer Products Regulations. DTSC finalized the Safer Consumer Product Regulations on Oct.1, 2013, and since then, DTSC has embarked on implementing the next phase of the regulations.

On March 13, 2014, DTSC proposed the following three Priority Products: 1) spray foam systems containing unreacted diisocyanates; 2) paint and varnish strippers containing methylene chloride; and 3) children’s sleeping pads containing chlorinated tris.

In its comments, ACA responsed to DTSC’s March proposed listing of the Priority Products. ACA’s comments focused on the broader process of proposing the three Priority Products, as well as the specific listing of paint and varnish strippers containing methylene chloride. Regarding the overall process, ACA commented that the Priority Product profiles should not have been released in a seemingly final format before contacting affected industries and ensuring the profiles were accurate and complete. ACA maintains that these Priority Product profiles highlighted human health exposure and environmental impacts targeting the Priority Product, but the profiles were not complete or 100 percent accurate. Further, ACA commented that affected industries should have been contacted prior to the Priority Product announcement, since the release could negatively impact their business sectors.

ACA also stressed that the most significant exposures and impacts that spurred the listing should be prioritized. This step is important for industry, as companies that are subject to the regulations will need to focus their alternatives analysis based on the department’s final rationale for listing a Priority Product. Additionally, ACA urged DTSC to consider a more prioritized approach to listing Priority Products, to provide clear regulatory signals to the chemical industry.
Read more by Timothy Serie at (ACA)

House Passes DHA - CFATS Reauthorization Bill for Chemicals via @airish1

Allen Irish (ACA)
On July 8, the U.S. House of Representatives, by voice vote, passed The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program Authorization and Accountability Act of 2014 (H.R. 4007). The bill reauthorizes for three years the Department of Homeland Security's Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, with some policy fixes.
The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies on April 3 passed, by voice vote, the bill introduced on Feb. 5 by Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee and by Rep. Pat Meehan, chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, IP and Security Technologies.
ACA signed on to an industry-coalition letter of support for the legislation, which addresses several important policy goals. First, it provides a multi-year authorization for DHS to confidently implement CFATS and for the industry to make important investments with the certainty that goes along with knowing the program will be authorized. ACA believes that the current practice of year-to-year extensions, or worse, short-term continuing resolutions through the appropriations process, is a destabilizing force in the implementation and investment process. Secondly, the legislation addresses some of the major impediments to completing site security plans and full implementation of the program. It restores the principle that facilities have flexibility to choose how to meet personnel surety requirements for access, gives covered facilities the ability to meet site security plans through alternate security plans approved by DHS and an option to use third parties as inspectors, improves Congressional oversight regarding tiering methodology, and ensures better coordination with state and local officials.
ACA believes multi-year authorization gives DHS just enough guidance to more successfully carry out its duties, while at the same time providing Congress the ability to monitor the program and make any necessary changes to it after the expiration of the multi-year period.
CFATS, which was first authorized under the 2007 DHS Appropriations Act, requires facilities with threshold quantities of particular “chemicals of concern” to complete a “top screen” notifying DHS that they possess such chemicals on site. Once notified, DHS can direct the facility to submit a Security Vulnerability Assessment (SVA) and then might assign the facility to one of four tiers based on the potential security threat on site, which triggers a requirement to submit a site-security plan (SSP) to DHS for authorization and approval.
Please
Allen Irish
and follow (ACA)

Increased AIM VOC Regulation Activities Around the States and in California Air Districts

Several Northeastern states in the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC)
and local California Air Districts have recently proposed amendments,
or will likely propose amendments next year, to their regulations
governing volatile organic compound (VOC) limits in architectural and
industrial maintenance (AIM) coatings.

The following provides an update on AIM VOC activities in and around the states.

California's South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) held
its first AIM Rule 1113 amendment meeting on June 5, 2014. This
rulemaking is significant because the SCAQMD is seeking to make a
number of drastic changes to Rule 1113, including: reducing the VOC
limits for flats, nonflats, and primers (down to 25 g/l); limiting the
sale/use of architectural coatings sold in one liter containers or
smaller; and imposing control efficiency requirements on spray
equipment. In addition, it is likely that SCAQMD will make include
changes for Building Envelope Coatings, Architectural Mold Release
Agents, Wood Finishes, Reactive Penetrating Sealers, and Faux Finish
Glazes. These changes will likely be adopted in 2015 or 2016 and
become effective in 2019.

Several additional California air districts have adopted or recently
proposed amendments to their regulations to be consistent with the
California Air Resources Board (CARB) 2007 Suggested Control Measure
(SCM). The Santa Barbara Air Quality Management District adopted
amendments on June 19 that included a Jan. 1, 2015 compliance date.
San Diego released a proposed rule in November 2014, and is expected
to adopt these changes at the end of 2014. Feather River recently
released its proposed rule and intends to adopt the proposed changes
in August 2014 (the proposal language has the changes effective upon
the proposed Aug. 4 adoption date; however, ACA will ask for a Jan. 1,
2015 compliance date). El Dorado and Sacramento Air Quality Management
Districts are likely to propose AIM rule amendments later in 2014 or

The state of Utah adopted the OTC Phase II Model Rule - similar to the
2007 CARB SCM - i n September 2013. Of note, the rule applies only to
seven counties in Utah (Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele,
Utah, and Weber counties), and includes a Jan. 1, 2015 compliance

Several OTC states have stated their intentions of proposing
amendments based on the OTC Phase II Model Rule in the fall, including
New York, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland. The District of
Columbia and New Jersey will likely begin their rulemakings in 2015.
In addition, New Hampshire just proposed amendments to its AIM rule;
however, the proposed changes are generally minor editorial edits,
with no VOC limit changes.

With regard to Consumer Paint Thinners and Multi-purpose Solvents,
several states have already adopted or are planning on adopting the
most recent OTC Consumer Product Model rule, which includes a VOC
limit of 3% by weight VOC content limit for paint thinners and
multi-purpose solvents. Utah adopted this rule in 2013, and the 3% VOC
by weight limit takes effect on Jan. 1, 2015 (multi-purpose solvents)
and Jan. 1, 2016 (paint thinners). New Hampshire adopted the OTC Model
Rule in February 2014, and the 3% VOC by weight limit effect on Jan.
1, 2015. Several states including Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland
are likely to propose their consumer products regulations in 2014, and
the District of Columbia and New Jersey in 2015. The 3% VOC by weight
limit has been in effect in California since Dec. 31, 2013 and 25 g/l
in SCAQMD since Jan. 1, 2011.

ACA's AIM VOC Committee tracks, reviews, and comments on AIM VOC
regulations on behalf of industry. ACA offers members resources to
track and comply with these rules.
Source: http://paint.org/news/industry-news/item/1537-increased-aim-voc-regulation-activities-around-the-states-and-in-california-air-districts.html

Weighing the Price of #Safety in OSHA’s New Video Game #OHS #EHS

The Baffler: In recent years, one of the most fertile markets for gaming technology has been training and education, with games being used to train people in everything from scooping ice cream to running disaster relief programs. With its Web-based game, the Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA) has hopped on the wagon toward this new frontier in its efforts to help reduce workplace hazards. The stakes are high: a bad game, lacking impact and immediacy, could bore players instead of enlightening them. In the case of OSHA's game, the potential consequences are much more dire.

Titled the Hazard Identification Training Toolthe game was developed for OSHA by Etcetera Edutainment of Pittsburgh, PA. The game, which OSHA's website says is "aimed at entrepreneurs and managers," seeks to encourage owners of small businesses to identify and head off common workplace risks. It does so, however, within a curious context, telling them to make their safety improvements without cutting into their all-important profits. In fact, the game's instructions tell the player that the main goal is to "Maximize your profits in 20 weeks."

Framing the choices it offers players as mere financial cost-benefit transactions seems a peculiar decision for a regulatory agency, and it raises some significant questions about OSHA's role in the workplace. Should OSHA be teaching business owners that it's okay to avoid addressing potential safety risks, just to help the bottom line? The game's design appears to send the message to employers that profits are to be valued and preserved above all else. Here's the game's trailer:

The basic structure of OSHA's game is simple: in settings such as a construction site and a manufacturing facility, the player must find and fix as many potential safety hazards as possible, without overspending. Hazards can be identified in several ways: observing equipment and machinery in operation; "talking" with workers (though players don't get to read or hear these conversations); and reviewing operators' manuals and OSHA publications.

Each hazard the player finds is scored on a scale of one to five, for "severity" (how dire a physical threat it poses) and "exposure" (how likely the hazard is to cause an actual accident), and then assigned a dollar value for how much it would cost to fix. The player then has to choose which risks are worth paying to prevent, and which ones are not.

Please continue reading from: 

WHO: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome could be airborne

Meghan DeMaria: In a scientific paper published Tuesday, scientists suggested that Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) may be airborne. The disease has already claimed at least 288 lives since its appearance in 2012.

Researchers at King Fahd Medical Research Center in Saudi Arabia analyzed air samples from an infected camel barn, and the samples tested positive for a strain of the viral genome MERS RNA, CNN reports. The possibility of MERS being airborne has been in question after reports found that some infected people had close contact with other MERS patients. The WHO recommends that "airborne precautions should be applied" when treating MERS, in case the disease may spread through air particles.

"These data show evidence for the presence of the airborne MERS in the same barn that was owned by the patient and sheltered the infected camels," the study authors said in a statement. However, doctors are still looking into the difference between dead and live virus particles and are unsure whether MERS can be transmitted through aerosols. Watch CNN's report on the spread of MERS at: 


By  --Meghan DeMaria

Growing Deficits, Federal Debt to Exceed 100% of GDP by 2039

How large would federal debt be in 25 years if current laws remained generally unchanged, and what would be the consequences of large and growing federal debt?

Please continue reading from: CBO Publications

Jul 22, 2014

New battle: marijuana vs. water, drought in California exacerbated by marijuana farms

Indian County - The drought in California is exacerbating the effect that illegal marijuana farms have on the Yurok 's water supply, and on July 21 federal and state agencies raided several properties on or adjoining the reservation along the Klamath River.

The Yurok are not the only ones contending with the effects of illegal pot grows on their lands. The Hoopa Tribe has been actively combating incursions as well.

Even without the ongoing and worsening drought, the farms put a strain on Yurok life in a number of ways. Rat poison kills sacred fish and other animals, lower water levels become too warm and unhealthy for salmon to spawn in, and water pressure is just about nil on the reservation.

"They're stealing millions and millions of gallons of water, and it's impacting our ecosystem," Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O'Rourke said during the raid, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We can no longer make it into our dance places, our women and children can't leave the road to gather. We can't hunt. We can't live the life we've lived for thousands of years."

"We are coming close to being prisoners in our own land," O'Rourke said. "Everything we stand for, everything we do is impacted." 

MERS Virus May Be Able To Spread Through The Air

Popular Science - Research strongly suggests that camels carry Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a viral illness that has sickened nearly 700 and killed at least 209 people as of early June, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization. For this reason, the government of Saudi Arabia recently warned people to stay away from close contact with camels, at least those that appear to be sick, which prompted some to defiantly post photos of themselves kissing camels on various social media sites.

Until now it was thought that MERS could only be spread via close contact, but a new finding may challenge that assessment: A study published in the journal mBio found the virus in an air sample taken from a camel barn near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The genetic signature of the virus was identical to that found in the sick camels, and the owner, who came down with MERS a week after administering a topical medicine to his camels' runny noses. The owner later died from MERS.

"The clear message here is that detection of airborne [MERS] molecules, which were 100 percent identical with the viral genomic sequence detected from a camel actively shedding the virus in the same barn on the same day, warrants further investigations and measures to prevent possible airborne transmission of this deadly virus," said study lead author Esam Azhar, a virologist at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. The finding implies that virus could possibly be spread in enclosed spaces such as hospitals and therefore "further studies are urgently needed," the scientists wrote.

The scientists took air samples and looked for the DNA found in MERS viruses on three consecutive days. They only found the virus one of the days, the same day that one of the camels tested positive for MERS. This suggests that MERS may not last long in the air, which would be welcome news. 

In May, the CDC reported the first case of a man getting the MERS virus in the United States without traveling to the Middle East--though luckily the man didn't appear to have symptoms and wasn't considered contagious. 

Please read full and follow at: Popular Science

With recent blunders with smallpox and H5N1, why Are the World's Scientists Continuing To Take Chances With Smallpox?

MIT's Jeanne Guillemin looks at the recent blunders with smallpox and H5N1 at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health to chronicle the fascinating history of smallpox eradication efforts and the attempts (thwarted by Western scientists) to destroy lab collections of the virus in order to make it truly extinct. "In 1986, with no new smallpox cases reported, the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO, resolved to destroy the strain collections and make the virus extinct. But there was resistance to this; American scientists in particular wanted to continue their research." Within a few years, secret biological warfare programs were discovered in Moscow and in Iraq, and a new flurry of defensive research was funded. Nevertheless, Guillemin and others believe that changes in research methods, which no longer require the use of live viruses, mean that stocks of the live smallpox virus can and should finally be destroyed.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Offers a Million Bucks For a kW-scale power inverter with the highest power density

With the Little Box Challenge, Google (and IEEE, and a few other sponsors like Cree and Rohm) is offering a $1 million prize to the team which can "design and build a kW-scale power inverter with the highest power density (at least 50 Watts per cubic inch)." Going from cooler-sized to tablet sized, they say, would make whole lot of things better, and the prize is reserved for the best performing entrant. "Our testing philosophy is to not look inside the box. You provide us with a box that has 5 wires coming out of it: two DC inputs, two AC outputs and grounding connection and we only monitor what goes into and comes out of those wires, along with the temperature of the outside of your box, over the course of 100 hours of testing. The inverter will be operating in an islanded more—that is, not tied or synced to an external grid. The loads will be dynamically changing throughout the course of the testing, similar to what you may expect to see in a residential setting." The application must be filled out in English, but any serious applicants can sign up "regardless of approach suggested or team background." Registration runs through September.// b Slashdot

New material is reported to convert as much as 85% of received #solar #energy into steam.

A composite of graphite flakes and carbon foam is claimed to convert 85 percent of solar e...
Researchers working at MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering claim to have produced a sponge-like substance that helps convert water to steam using sunlight one-hundredth as bright as that required by conventional steam-producing solar generators. A composite of graphite flakes layered on a bed of carbon foam, the new material is reported to convert as much as 85 percent of received solar energy into steam... Continue Reading Sponge-like structure generates steam using lowest concentration of solar energy yet
// Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine

Jul 21, 2014

Solar Power in India: Making it Affordable for People without Electricity via @Sustainablog

Sustainablog ; Have you priced a solar energy system for your home lately? While new incentives and financing options make solar power more attractive than ever, purchasing a system isn't cheap: you're still looking at $20,000 minimum in most cases (before incentives, of course). Now, imagine you've never been able to afford electricity for your home, and trying to make ends meet on less than $10 a day. A solar system, even a small one that could run a light, and maybe charge a phone, could easily create a ton of opportunity for you and your family… but there's no way you can afford to purchase one.

400 million people – more than the entire population of the United States – live in such circumstances in India. In spite of these overwhelming numbers, the country's current prime minister, Narenda Modi, wants all of them to have access to solar power in the next five years… at least enough to power a light bulb. Given the economic circumstances of these people, that sounds like a tall order… as long as these people believe purchasing a solar panel or system is their only option. But just as in Central America and Africa, a different business model can make solar available to India's most impoverished citizens.

We associate "pay as you go" with cheap cell phone access, but, as we've shown before, this model is working for electricity in the developing world. In India, the poor have access to energy either with wood or with diesel. Both are dirty, unhealthy, and expensive in terms of either time or money. Simpa Networks, an Indian company, sees an opportunity to provide its fellow citizens with clean electricity through a pay-as-you-go model. A simple solar system that could power a few lights and a phone charger would run about $300-400 retail, but the company can provide them to its fellow citizens "if only they could pay for such a system over time, in small, irregular, and user-defined increments."

Please read full and follow at:  The post Solar Power in India: Making it Affordable for People without Electricity at Sustainablog

Jul 19, 2014

Is This Tesla Tower A Scam Or Just Bad Science? Via @adele_peters #energy #tech #news

Via @adele_peters, fastcoexist.com: A team of Russian physicists wants to resurrect one of Nikola Tesla's old ideas: A huge tower that would, in theory, transmit electricity all around the world. An enormous solar farm in the desert could supply the power. The only problem? There's no way it could work.

The Moscow-based team is raising money now on Indiegogo, and as of this writing, had collected over $40,000. So far, it's well short of their $800,000 goal, but they'll get to keep all of it--and it's enough to illustrate a fundamental problem with crowdfunding. Just because someone says something is possible doesn't mean it actually is, and no one's fact-checking the science for the people donating money.

"It's a 100-year-old idea," says Tom Lee, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University who calls Tesla a hero and has studied Tesla's patents and notebooks. "It's certainly a nice sounding dream. But as with everything else, the fantasy kind of falls apart the closer you look at the details."

One of the biggest problems is the fact that the device can't direct power only where needed. "There are so many ways this thing fails," says Lee. "If you're going to deliver a useful amount of power to an arbitrary point somewhere distant, that means you're going to have to be spraying an enormous amount of power to lots of other points that aren't necessarily using the power."

"Imagine a fire hose spraying all over a gigantic sphere," he explains. "All you wanted was to water the lawn over there, but you're spraying water everywhere else. In principle, yes, you could in fact supply energy this way, but it would be a horribly, horribly inefficient way to do it."

EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

Both proponents and opponents of nuclear power expect the Environmental Protection Agency in coming months to relax its rules restricting radiation emissions from reactors and other nuclear facilities. EPA officials say they have no such intention, but they are willing to reconsider the method they use to limit public exposure—and the public's level of risk.

At issue is a 1977 rule that limits the total whole-body radiation dose to any member of the public from the normal operation of the uranium fuel cycle—fuel processing, reactors, storage, reprocessing or disposal—to 0.25 millisieverts per year. (This rule, known as 40 CFR part 190, is different from other EPA regulations that restrict radionuclides in drinking water and that limit public exposure during emergencies. Those are also due for revision.) "We have not made any decisions or determined any specifics on how to move forward with any of these issues. We do, however, believe the regulation uses outdated science, and we are thinking about how to bring the regulation more in line with current thinking," said Brian Littleton, a chemical engineer with EPA's Office of Radiation and Indoor Air."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

California City Will Fine Couple $500 For Not Watering Brown Lawn, State Will Fine’em $500 If They Do – Consumerist

consumerist.com/ When you're in a steady relationship, communication is clear. Because when mom says to do one thing, and dad says another, the kids get really confused. Such is the case in California, where the state has issued rules for homeowners to conserve water in the midst of extreme drought, with fines of $500 per day or violating those guidelines, but one city is threatening to fine a couple $500 — unless they water their lawn.

In the epitome of a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation, Laura and Mark received notice from Glendora, Calif. that they'd get a $500 penalty for not watering their brown lawn… on the same day the state approved mandatory outdoor watering restrictions with the same fine for violating that attached, $500.

Why is the lawn brown? Because they're conserving water. Why are they conserving water? Because California asked them to — the state water board chairman even called brown lawns in Cali a "badge of honor."

But Mom and dad aren't communicating effectively, it seems.

"Despite the water conservation efforts, we wish to remind you that limited watering is still required to keep landscaping looking healthy and green," says the letter, according to the Associated Press, setting a 60-day deadline to get the brown green again.

They're not alone in the confusion, Laura adds.

"My friends in Los Angeles got these letters warning they could be fined if they water, and I got a letter warning that I could be fined for not watering," she explains. "I felt like I was in an alternate universe."

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Japan To Offer $20,000 Subsidy For Fuel-Cell Cars

Toyota is on track to launch the first consumer fuel-cell car in Japan next year, and the country's Prime Minister says the government wants to assist the new alternative to gas-driven vehicles. Shinzo Abe announced that Japan will offer subsidies of almost $20,000 for fuel cell cars, which will decrease the Toyota model's cost by about 28%. He said, "This is the car of a new era because it doesn't emit any carbon dioxide and it's environmentally friendly. The government needs to support this. Honda is also planning to release a fuel-cell car next year, but experts expect widespread adoption to take decades, since hydrogen fuel station infrastructure is still in its infancy.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Largest Landfill On Earth: Plastic Garbage In The Oceans — plastic that will still be around up to 1,000 years from now.

(OilPrice, July 15, 2014):

Think about the last time you got takeout or ate at a fast food restaurant. Or the last time you bought a pre-packaged food item from a store, or drank a bottle of water or soda. Chances are, plastic was involved in all those items — plastic that will still be around up to 1,000 years from now.

Americans throw away over 30 million tons of plastic every year, of which only about 25 percent is recycled. The rest goes to landfills. Unfortunately, the largest "landfill" on Earth is actually in the North Pacific Ocean.

The "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" is estimated to be anywhere from 3,100 square miles to twice the size of Texas.

You may be wondering how garbage dumped on land can make it to the ocean. Well, first of all, some garbage is directly dumped into the ocean. Secondly, as Scripps Institution marine biologist Miriam Goldstein puts it, "the ocean is downhill from everywhere;" if someone in Iowa throws a bottle into a river, it will eventually end up in the ocean. Finally, about 20 percent of the debris in the garbage patch comes from sea-going vessels and oil platforms.

Caption: The Five Main Ocean Gyres
Credit: Wikipedia

The garbage patch forms in the North Pacific gyre, one of five main ocean gyres worldwide: North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic and Indian Ocean. These gyres are created when the jet stream goes one way and the trade winds go the opposite way – creating a huge, gently swirling circle. On the outside of the circle, the currents move around, but the inside remains calm, making it the perfect place for debris to accumulate.

In the case of the North Pacific gyre, pretty much everything that falls off the west coast of North America and the east coast of Asia will most likely end up in there. While the North Pacific garbage patch is the largest, each of the five gyres has its own accumulation. In fact, the trash from all five gyres put together covers 40 percent of the world's oceans.

So what exactly are these oceanic garbage patches? Well, first let's be clear as to what they're not. Contrary to popular myth they are NOT huge floating trash islands. The patches are made up of millions of small and microscopic pieces of plastic. The patches won't show up on satellite and if you were to take a boat through them, you might not even necessarily notice the plastic floating in them. So does that mean we don't need to be concerned?  Nope. The fact that the debris is so small means that cleanup is nearly impossible. As Goldstein explains, you'd basically have to clear-cut the upper layer of the ocean to remove it all.

Caption: Don't be fooled. This photo often accompanies stories about the garbage patches, but it was actually taken at Manila Harbor. The real pieces of oceanic plastic garbage are typically smaller than your pinky fingernail. 
Credit: i09.com

So the pieces are too small to easily clean up – that might make it seem as though they're too small to do much damage, but that's far from correct. Some of the plastic remains in large chunks and many animals and birds become entangled in them and die every year.

The plastic pellets are small enough that birds and fish mistake them for food. This is especially disastrous for birds – the plastic stays in their stomachs, keeping them from eating anything with nutritional value and causing them to slowly starve to death. For fish, whose digestive systems are much different, the effect of eating the plastic may not be so catastrophic, but scientists are still trying to understand the extent to which ingesting these plastic pellets is effecting marine life, but for some, like the albatross below, the deadly effects are clear.

Caption: Dead albatross with a stomach full of plastic debris
Credit: Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Some creatures have actually been granted a boon by this massive plastic soup, but don't feel too cheerful about that. The plastic has created a surface for small creatures like water insects, barnacles, small crustaceans and invertebrates called bryozoans. These creatures would normally not make it to the middle of the ocean, so their presence will change the ocean's ecosystem. Especially in the case of barnacles and bryozoans – they have caused considerable damage to other ecosystems they've invaded.

And it's not just about ecosystems in the middle of the ocean – the surface the plastic provides could enable these creatures to travel to places they've never been before, for example, their introduction to the Pacific Northwest islands' coral reefs could be a real problem.

So what can be done? The most important thing is for people to be aware. As biologist Goldstein puts it, "It really is an issue that effects everybody, but that's great because that means that everybody can help."

Using fewer plastic products would help, as would more recycling of what we already use. There are also scientists who are working to make plastic products from renewable products. According the Science channel, starches, cellulose, soy protein, vegetable oil, triglycerides and bacterial polyesters all contain polymers that can be processed to produce biodegradable plastics.

Even so, reducing the amount of new plastic dumped into the ocean won't get rid of what's already there. For that monumental task, The Ocean Cleanup – a group of oceanographers, marine biologists, recycling experts and engineers — is raising money through crowd funding to launch a massive cleanup effort.

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Forging a path for #Biogas #Energy in Alberta, decade-long adventure into the somewhat unchartered waters of Canadian renewable energy.

hazmatmag.com/ There was a time not long ago when Stefan Michalski knew regulators were happy to see him leave their office. As much as they supported the concept of biogas and green energy, it was more of a technology left to the Germanys of the world, from where Michalski hails, not the wilds of Alberta.

Lethbridge Biogas LP

But now, more Stefan Michalskis are coming out of the woodwork, looking for answers from Canadian regulators, particularly in Alberta, where the feedstock-laden landscape is an anaerobic digester's dream.

Still, the question remains whether provincial officials will eventually craft legislation that deals directly with the burgeoning technology of biogas, or continue what Michalski calls a "one-off" approach—a kind of regulatory patchwork that pulls heavily from the traditional oil and gas sector, one that in some ways operates completely antithetical to the greener principles of a company like Lethbridge Biogas LP, Michalski's decade-long adventure into the somewhat unchartered waters of Canadian renewable energy.

Lake Huron is no place for a nuclear waste dump

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Is dilution really the solution to pollution — especially when it's nuclear waste that can stay radioactive for 100,000 years? A four-member expert group told a federal joint review panel it is.

The panel is examining an Ontario Power Generation proposal to bury low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste from the Darlington, Pickering and Bruce nuclear plants in limestone at the Bruce site in Kincardine, beside Lake Huron. According to the Toronto Star, the experts reported that 1,000 cubic metres of contaminated water could leak from the site, although it's "highly improbable." But even if it did leak, they argued, the amount is small compared to Lake Huron's water volume and the quantity of rain that falls into it.

If the materials were instead buried in Canadian Shield granite, any leaking waste would be diluted by active streams and marshes, the experts claimed: "Hence, the volumes of the bodies of water available for dilution at the surface are either immense (Great Lakes) or actively flowing...so the dilution capacity is significant."

Others aren't convinced. The Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump group has more than 62,000 signatures on a petition opposing the dump. Many communities around the Great Lakes, home to 40-million people, have passed resolutions against the project, including Canadian cities Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Kingston, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Windsor and more, and local governments in the states of Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and Ohio. The United Tribes of Michigan, representing 12 First Nations, is also opposed.

Michigan's Senate recently adopted resolutions to urge President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Congress to intervene, and for the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Commission and all Great Lakes States and Ontario and Quebec to get involved.

According to Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, burying such highly toxic wastes in limestone next to 21 per cent of the world's fresh water "defies common sense." The group's website notes, "There are no precedents anywhere in the world for burying radioactive nuclear waste in limestone. The repository must function to safely contain the nuclear wastes for over 100,000 years. No scientist or geologist can provide a 100,000 year guarantee." The Great Lakes are only 12,000 years old!

On top of that, retired Ontario Power Generation research scientist and chemist Frank R. Greening wrote to the review panel stating that OPG has "seriously underestimated, sometimes by factors of more than 100" the radioactivity of material to be buried.

Greening says the company acknowledged his criticism but downplayed its seriousness, which he believes raises doubts about the credibility of OPG's research justifying the project. "Their response has been, 'Oops we made a mistake but it isn't a problem' and that really bothers me as a scientist," he toldKincardine News. "It is rationalizing after the fact."

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New study shows how existing cropland could feed billions more

phys.org/ Feeding a growing human population without increasing stresses on Earth's strained land and water resources may seem like an impossible challenge. But according to a new report by researchers at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, focusing efforts to improve food systems on a few specific regions, crops and actions could make it possible to both meet the basic needs of 3 billion more people and decrease agriculture's environmental footprint.

The report, published today in Science, focuses on 17 key crops that produce 86 percent of the world's crop calories and account for most irrigation and fertilizer consumption on a global scale. It proposes a set of key actions in three broad areas that that have the greatest potential for reducing the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture and boosting our ability meet global food needs. For each, it identifies specific "leverage points" where nongovernmental organizations, foundations, governments, businesses and citizens can target food-security efforts for the greatest impact. The biggest opportunities cluster in six countries—China, India, U.S., Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan—along with Europe.

"This paper represents an important next step beyond previous studies that have broadly outlined strategies for sustainably feeding people," said lead author Paul West, co-director of the Institute on the Environment's Global Landscapes Initiative. "By pointing out specifically what we can do and where, it gives funders and policy makers the information they need to target their activities for the greatest good."

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"World’s largest" hybrid renewable energy project unveiled in Jamaica

WindStream Technologies says it has installed the world's largest wind-solar hybrid genera...
Generating renewable electricity at home or commercial buildings is becoming increasingly viable. WindStream Technologies has installed what it says is the world's largest wind-solar hybrid array on an office roof in Kingston, Jamaica. The array is expected to generate over 106,000 kWh annually... Continue Reading "World's largest" hybrid renewable energy project unveiled in Jamaica // Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine

Experimental diesel/gas engine could give 2009 Saturn a big boost in fuel efficiency

Five years ago we first heard about a Caterpillar diesel engine located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that had been modified to run on an unlikely-sounding mixture of diesel and gasoline. Not only did the one-cylinder engine work, but it was more efficient than pure-diesel or pure-gas engines at converting the chemical energy of fuel into motion. Sitting in a basement lab, however, isn't the same as experiencing use in the real world. That's why students at UW-Madison, led by Prof. Rolf Reitz, have now put another diesel/gas engine into a 2009 Saturn. .. Continue Reading Experimental diesel/gas engine could give 2009 Saturn a big boost in fuel efficiency // Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine

Jul 18, 2014

Google Street View Maps Show Extent of Methane Leaks in Cities

Yale Environment 360New maps from Google reveal the locations of natural gas leaks in U.S. cities and highlight the extent of "fugitive" methane emissions associated with the nation's aging infrastructure. The Environmental Defense Fund partnered with Google Street View to map leaks in the nation's natural gas system, using cars equipped with air-quality sensors that collected millions of readings across Boston, Indianapolis, and Staten Island. The analysis found thousands of methane leaks in highly-populated areas — particularly in Boston, where half of the pipes are more than 50 years old and leaks were detected every few blocks. Although the leaks did not appear to pose explosion hazards, their prevalence highlights the potential for fugitive methane — a greenhouse gas with an impact 20 times that of carbon dioxide — to contribute to global warming. Please read full and follow at: Yale Environment 360

One-Third Of Borneo's Rainforest Has Been Cut Down

Popular Science - In the image on the right, areas in red have been logged between 1973 and 2010.
In the last 40 years, nearly one-third of the rainforest on Borneo have been cut down. That's nearly twice as fast as the average deforestation rate for tropical rain forests worldwide. That raises the question: What's going on?

In part, it's because of the high-quality forests on Borneo, the world's third-largest island, an incredibly biologically diverse landmass that is divided between Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, and is one of only two remaining habitats for orangutans. Between 1980 and 2000 more wood was harvested from Borneo than from Africa and the Amazon combined, for example.

This logging can take place because many areas of the island are not protected, or their protections are not well enforced. Protections are "often inadequate or are flagrantly violated, usually without any consequences," the environmental group WWF noted. Illegal logging has also become a way of life and source of income for many communities, they added. 

Many areas of Borneo are also perfect for growing palm oil plantations, and as demand for this oil has increased--especially in the last decade--more land has been cleared for this purpose. About 10 percent of the entire island now consists of single-crop monocultures such as these plantations, according to the study that documented the deforestation, published in PLOS ONE.

The study documented forest loss by using satellite images, which can gauge by how much light is reflected what type of vegetation exists over an area. The study was done in part because deforestation isn't well-documented by local governments, and some statistics kept by the Indonesia, for example, are highly suspect, underestimating forest loss, the authors wrote. Borneo also has large coal deposits, as well as abundant minerals--including tin, copper, gold, silver, coal, diamonds--which are increasingly being mined, and land developed to allow for this activity.

In semi-related and less depressing news, a new species of ground squirrel was recently discovered in Borneo, which breaks a record for tail size and may eat deer's hearts. Please read full and follow at: Popular Science