• Lodi, CA considers privatizing $36 million water plant

    The city of Lodi, California is in the midst of building a new $36 million water treatment plant, and is considering privatizing the facility; the new plant will open in 2012 and provide the city with one-third of its drinking water; Lodi is in a tight financial situation and is considering methods to reduce costs like privatizing the new treatment plant; the treatment facility is expected to cost $1.8 million to operate annually with an additional $1 million for payroll; Lodi residents have proposed that the city hire a private company to save money on payroll

  • Politics stalls $250 million water plant in North Vegas

    A $250 million wastewater treatment plant in North Las Vegas suffered a major setback after county commissioners denied the plant’s request to use county land; the city had planned to route treated water through unincorporated county territory and pay the county $50,000 a year, but the county voted six to one against the plan; county commissioners say that the city has not been cooperative; commissioners were particularly upset about the city’s lucrative deal with Nellis Air Force Base that would take $1.25 million in revenues from the county each year; the plant has been under construction for years and needed the use of a Clark County pipeline to operate

  • New reactor design lessens risks

    One of the major vulnerabilities of the four Japanese reactors which failed as a result of the combined force of the earthquake and tsunami, was that they relied on active cooling systems that require electricity; if there is a power outage, and if diesel back-up generators stop working, water stops flowing into the reactor pool to keep the uranium rods cool; newer reactor design relies on a passive cooling system: water is suspended over the reactor housing, and if pressure within the system drops, this allows the water to fall into the reactor area, submerging it in enough water to keep it cool

  • U.S. most vulnerable reactor: Indian Point 3, N.Y.

    What are the odds that a nuclear emergency like the one at Fukushima Dai-ichi could happen in the United States? Tasked with ensuring nuclear power is safely used, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has compiled a ranking of 104 nuclear reactors to address such a question and they have found that each year, at a typical U.S. nuclear reactor, there is a 1 in 74,176 chance that an earthquake could damage the core and expose the public to radiation

  • Germany ends nuclear program

    Last Thursday German chancellor Angela Merkel declared that her government plans to close its nuclear power plants in a “measured exit”; the decision to end Germany’s nuclear power program was a result of the continuing nuclear crisis in Japan; some believe that Chancellor Merkel’s announcement is driven more by politics than safety concerns; recent polls show that 80 percent of voters are opposed to nuclear power; Merkel’s party faces close regional elections in states where nuclear plants are located; Switzerland, Venezuela, and China have also announced that they will suspend or delay plans to build new nuclear plants

  • U.S. nuclear program under greater scrutiny

    The ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan has caused countries around the world to reconsider its nuclear plans; Germany recently announced that it was ending its nuclear program, while Sweden, Venezuela, and China have all announced that they were temporarily suspending their nuclear programs to conduct safety reviews; lawmakers and engineers in the United States are also pushing for greater scrutiny of nuclear power plants; in its latest report the Union of Concerned Scientists sharply criticized the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for not properly enforcing safety regulations at nuclear power plants;

  • Senate proposes new $10 billion "infrastructure bank"

    Several U.S. Senators are pushing for the creation of a $10 billion “infrastructure bank” to spur investment in new infrastructure and to repair America’s rapidly aging roads, power grids, and bridges; the bill could attract as much as $640 billion in private investment over the next ten years; the Obama administration has proposed a similar plan; the bank would be self-sustaining as it is not allowed to finance more than 50 percent of a project’s costs; this bill faces an uncertain future given the current Congressional budget climate

  • Oregon declares state of emergency to repair damaged ports

    The 11 March tsunami born of Japan’s 8.9 magnitude quake battered U.S. coasts and ports from Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest to southern California; the governor’s office in Hawaii expects damages to run about $10 million with estimates heading toward $50 million in California; one county in Oregon is reporting $25 million worth of destruction in one of three damaged ports

  • Oil industry creates center for off-shore safety

    Following several accidents on off-shore oil rigs, the U.S. oil and gas industry will launch a center dedicated to investigating safety issues related to off-shore drilling; the center will be operated by the American Petroleum Institute (API) but will be walled off from the trade group’s lobbying work

  • Nuclear crisis worsening; growing radiation leaks at reactors nos. 3, 4

    The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant appears increasingly dire, as efforts to cool overheating reactors have failed; Japanese military fire trucks are now spraying water at the plant’s no. 3 reactor; earlier efforts on Thursday to use helicopters to dump water on the rods have failed; the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman is particularly concerned about reactor no. 4 which houses spent fuel rods; spent fuel rods, placed in cooling tanks, are rapidly overheating as they are boiling away the water they are submerged in; the secondary containment unit at reactor no. 4 has been breached and radiation is now freely leaking out of the plant; high radiation levels are hindering efforts to repair the reactors

  • Cable connected to reactor no. 2, coolant pumps to be restarted

    Tepco, the operator of the stricken reactors, says — and the IAEA confirms — that its engineers have been able to reconnect a power line to reactor no. 2; the 1-km cable connects to the main power grid; restoring power should enable engineers to restart the pumps which send coolant over the reactor and into the pools where radioactive waste is stored; Tepco said the process of reconnecting power could take up to fifteen hours; senior IAEA official Andrew Graham said the situation at Fukushima had not deteriorated, but could yet do so. He described the situation at “reasonably stable”; the head of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, is heading to Tokyo to be briefed by Japanese officials

  • Japan worst-case scenario unlikely to cause catastrophic radiation release: expert

    Two U.S. nuclear experts — both professors in the No. 1-ranked University of Michigan Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences — say that while exposed spent fuel rods at the failing nuclear reactors in Japan pose new threats, the worst-case scenario would still be unlikely to expose the public to catastrophic amounts of radiation; “The worst thing that could happen now is the fuel rods could be exposed to the air and that could be, then, down to our last barrier,” says one of the experts; “We could not have a recriticality, or a nuclear explosion. It’s physically impossible in this kind of system”

  • Past "hyperthermals" offer clues about anticipated climate changes

    Bursts of intense global warming that have lasted tens of thousands of years have taken place more frequently throughout history than previously believed; most of the events raised average global temperatures between 2° and 3° Celsius (3.6 and 5.4° F), an amount comparable to current conservative estimates of how much temperatures are expected to rise in coming decades as a consequence of anthropogenic global warming; most hyperthermals lasted about 40,000 years before temperatures returned to normal

  • Shock absorbers making buildings earthquake-proof

    An upstate New York manufacturer has developed dampers, or shock absorbers, which increase the earthquake resistance of a building by threefold; the patented dampers are based on technology first developed by the military to protect U.S. missile silos against Russian attacks during the cold war