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kristopher

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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
Number of posts: 29,485

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Japanese steel in French nuclear facilities found to have high impurity level

Japanese steel in French nuclear facilities found to have high impurity level
KYODO
SEP 14, 2016

Steel supplied by Kitakyushu manufacturer Japan Casting & Forging Corp. to nuclear facilities in France has been named in an investigation that found it had a high level of impurity, the nuclear watchdog said.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said the standard for carbon content in metals — a gauge of impurity — is below 0.22 percent in France, while the figure is below 0.25 percent in Japan.

But in some products provided by Japan Casting & Forging Corp. for some nuclear facilities, carbon content in steel was over 0.3 percent.

The NRA said it had recently been briefed by French regulators and needed to carry out its own tests to determine the quality of the steel.

The higher the concentration of impurity in steel, the weaker the product....


http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/09/14/national/japanese-steel-french-nuclear-facilities-found-high-impurity-level/#.V9r_uDth2Rt


I'm sure they'll find that the original design specs were really nothing more than a suggestion, merely a bit of whimsical thought that flitted through the daydreams of the original designers...

ionizing radiation generates distinctive mutational signatures

Abstract
Ionizing radiation is a potent carcinogen, inducing cancer through DNA damage. The signatures of mutations arising in human tissues following in vivo exposure to ionizing radiation have not been documented. Here, we searched for signatures of ionizing radiation in 12 radiation-associated second malignancies of different tumour types. Two signatures of somatic mutation characterize ionizing radiation exposure irrespective of tumour type. Compared with 319 radiation-naive tumours, radiation-associated tumours carry a median extra 201 deletions genome-wide, sized 1–100 base pairs often with microhomology at the junction. Unlike deletions of radiation-naive tumours, these show no variation in density across the genome or correlation with sequence context, replication timing or chromatin structure. Furthermore, we observe a significant increase in balanced inversions in radiation-associated tumours. Both small deletions and inversions generate driver mutations. Thus, ionizing radiation generates distinctive mutational signatures that explain its carcinogenic potential.


Mutational signatures of ionizing radiation in second malignancies
Sam Behjati, Gunes GundemPeter J. Campbell
Nature Communications 7, Article number: 12605 (2016)
doi:10.1038/ncomms12605
Open Access http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms12605

Discussion
Overall we identified two genomic imprints of ionizing radiation, an excess of deletions and of an exceedingly rare type of rearrangement, balanced inversions. The validity of our study may be limited by the overall number of tumours we examined and the small number of each tumour type. Yet it would seem unlikely that the enrichment in radiation-associated tumours of deletions and of balanced inversions occurred by chance. This view is supported by our statistical analyses as well as the fact that the signatures were tumour-type independent. Both signatures were present across four different tumour types and could be validated in a cohort of radiation-exposed prostate cancer lesions, despite differences in the biological context of radiation-exposed prostate tumours and radiation-associated second malignancies (Supplementary Note 2). Particularly striking is patient PD11331 whose primary prostate lesion was irradiated after metastases had formed. The primary lesion, but not the metastases, exhibited the genomic features of ionizing radiation.

The relatively low number of mutations that we directly linked to ionizing radiation may seem surprising for such a well-known carcinogen. It is certainly considerably less than seen for cancers associated with tobacco, sunlight or aristolochic acid exposure10. This probably reflects the fact that although the attributable risk of such cancers is high, the absolute risk is relatively low. For example, >90% of angiosarcomas occurring after radiotherapy for primary breast cancer are attributable to radiation, but only one in a thousand women receiving such radiotherapy will develop angiosarcomas37, with a latency of many years. This suggests that although ionizing radiation clearly pushes bystander cells in the radiotherapy field towards cancer, the absolute burden of radiation-induced mutations per cell would not be high and additional driver mutations would be required.

ionizing radiation generates distinctive mutational signatures

Abstract
Ionizing radiation is a potent carcinogen, inducing cancer through DNA damage. The signatures of mutations arising in human tissues following in vivo exposure to ionizing radiation have not been documented. Here, we searched for signatures of ionizing radiation in 12 radiation-associated second malignancies of different tumour types. Two signatures of somatic mutation characterize ionizing radiation exposure irrespective of tumour type. Compared with 319 radiation-naive tumours, radiation-associated tumours carry a median extra 201 deletions genome-wide, sized 1–100 base pairs often with microhomology at the junction. Unlike deletions of radiation-naive tumours, these show no variation in density across the genome or correlation with sequence context, replication timing or chromatin structure. Furthermore, we observe a significant increase in balanced inversions in radiation-associated tumours. Both small deletions and inversions generate driver mutations. Thus, ionizing radiation generates distinctive mutational signatures that explain its carcinogenic potential.


Mutational signatures of ionizing radiation in second malignancies
Sam Behjati, Gunes GundemPeter J. Campbell
Nature Communications 7, Article number: 12605 (2016)
doi:10.1038/ncomms12605
Open Access http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms12605

Discussion
Overall we identified two genomic imprints of ionizing radiation, an excess of deletions and of an exceedingly rare type of rearrangement, balanced inversions. The validity of our study may be limited by the overall number of tumours we examined and the small number of each tumour type. Yet it would seem unlikely that the enrichment in radiation-associated tumours of deletions and of balanced inversions occurred by chance. This view is supported by our statistical analyses as well as the fact that the signatures were tumour-type independent. Both signatures were present across four different tumour types and could be validated in a cohort of radiation-exposed prostate cancer lesions, despite differences in the biological context of radiation-exposed prostate tumours and radiation-associated second malignancies (Supplementary Note 2). Particularly striking is patient PD11331 whose primary prostate lesion was irradiated after metastases had formed. The primary lesion, but not the metastases, exhibited the genomic features of ionizing radiation.

The relatively low number of mutations that we directly linked to ionizing radiation may seem surprising for such a well-known carcinogen. It is certainly considerably less than seen for cancers associated with tobacco, sunlight or aristolochic acid exposure10. This probably reflects the fact that although the attributable risk of such cancers is high, the absolute risk is relatively low. For example, >90% of angiosarcomas occurring after radiotherapy for primary breast cancer are attributable to radiation, but only one in a thousand women receiving such radiotherapy will develop angiosarcomas37, with a latency of many years. This suggests that although ionizing radiation clearly pushes bystander cells in the radiotherapy field towards cancer, the absolute burden of radiation-induced mutations per cell would not be high and additional driver mutations would be required.


XPost to DUEE

Moon’s pull can trigger big earthquakes

NATURE | NEWS
Moon’s pull can trigger big earthquakes
Geologic strain of tides during full and new moons could increase magnitude of tremors.


Alexandra Witze
12 September 2016

Big earthquakes, such as the ones that devastated Chile in 2010 and Japan in 2011, are more likely to occur during full and new moons — the two times each month when tidal stresses are highest.

Earth’s tides, which are caused by a gravitational tug-of-war involving the Moon and the Sun, put extra strain on geological faults. Seismologists have tried for decades to understand whether that stress could trigger quakes. They generally agree that the ocean’s twice-daily high tides can affect tiny, slow-motion tremors in certain places, including California’s San Andreas fault1 and the Cascadia region2 of the North American west coast.

But a new study, published on 12 September in Nature Geoscience3, looks at much larger patterns involving the twice-monthly tides that occur during full and new moons. It finds that the fraction of high magnitude earthquakes goes up globally as tidal stresses rise.

Satoshi Ide, a seismologist at the University of Tokyo, and his colleagues investigated three separate earthquake records covering Japan, California and the entire globe. For the 15 days leading up to each quake, the scientists assigned a number representing the relative tidal stress on that day, with 15 representing the highest. They found that large quakes such as those that hit Chile and Tohoku-Oki occurred near the time of maximum tidal strain — or during new and full moons when the Sun, Moon and Earth align.

For more than 10,000 earthquakes of around magnitude 5.5, the researchers found, an earthquake that began during a time of high tidal stress was more likely to grow to magnitude 8 or above...

http://www.nature.com/news/moon-s-pull-can-trigger-big-earthquakes-1.20551

Study: Sugar Industry Secretly Paid Harvard Researchers to Blame Fat for Health Risks

In 2007, Cristin Kearns was a general manager at Kaiser Permanente, where she ran a large group of dental practices. She was working with medical doctors at Kaiser to figure out ways they could provide better care for patients with diabetes, who are more likely to have gum disease. The work took her to a conference in Seattle focused on the links between the two diseases. As she watched the talks, attended the panel discussions, and read the materials handed out, she was struck by one thing: No one seemed to be talking about sugar. Even a pamphlet intended for diabetic dental patients didn’t suggest cutting back on sugar.

“I had this experience, which I found to be very strange, and I was wondering whether the sugar industry had an influence” on what was included in those patient materials, Kearns said in an interview. So she started digging. “I had a full-time job—research journalism wasn’t part of my job. I just was Googling at night after work.”

Today, as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, Kearns is publishing research based on the documents that her casual Googling led to: a trove of confidential documents, correspondence, and other materials that detail the relationship between the sugar industry and medical researchers in the 1960s and ’70s that UCSF has taken to calling the “Sugar Papers.”

Last year, she and her colleagues revealed that the sugar industry worked with the National Institutes of Health during those years to create a federal program to combat tooth decay in children that did not recommend limiting sugar consumption. On Monday, in a paper published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Kearns details how in the 1960s, the leading sugar industry trade group paid three Harvard researchers nearly $50,000 in today’s dollars to publish a literature review that would link fat and cholesterol—and not sugar—to increased risk of heart disease.

The Sugar Research Foundation, which is now called the Sugar Association, “set the review’s objective, contributed articles for inclusion, and received drafts,” according to ...

https://www.yahoo.com/beauty/sweet-lies-sugar-industry-tricked-us-worrying-fat-233649580.html

Open access study published online: http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2548255
September 12, 2016
Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research
A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents

Two views - Should troubled nuclear reactors be subsidized?

From The Conversation
Today we offer two expert perspectives on subsidizing nuclear power. Here’s the argument against providing economic support.


Compete or suckle: Should troubled nuclear reactors be subsidized?
August 17, 2016 10.54pm EDT

Author
Peter Bradford
Adjunct Professor, Vermont Law School
This article was originally published on The Conversation and is republished here with permission.
https://theconversation.com/compete-or-suckle-should-troubled-nuclear-reactors-be-subsidized-62069

Since the 1950s, U.S. nuclear power has commanded immense taxpayer and customer subsidy based on promises of economic and environmental benefits. Many of these promises are unfulfilled, but new ones take their place. More subsidies follow.

Today the nuclear industry claims that keeping all operating reactors running for many years, no matter how uneconomic they become, is essential in order to reach U.S. climate change targets.

Economics have always challenged U.S. reactors. After more than 100 construction cancellations and cost overruns costing up to US$5 billion apiece, Forbes Magazine in 1985 called nuclear power “the greatest managerial disaster in business history…only the blind, or the biased, can now think that most of the money has been well spent.” U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chair Lewis Strauss' 1954 promise that electric power would be “too cheap to meter” is today used to mock nuclear economics, not commend them.

As late as 1972 the AEC forecast that the United States would have 1,000 power reactors by the year 2000. Today we have 100 operating power reactors, down from a peak of 112 in 1990. Since 2012 U.S. power plant owners have retired five units and announced plans to close nine more. Four new reactors are likely to come on line. Without strenuous government intervention, almost all of the rest will close by midcentury. Because these recent closures have been abrupt and unplanned, the replacement power has come in substantial part from natural gas, causing a dismaying uptick in greenhouse gas emissions.


U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The nuclear industry, led by the forlornly named lobbying group Nuclear Matters, still obtains large subsidies for new reactor designs that cannot possibly compete at today’s prices. But its main function now is to save operating reactors from closure brought on by their own rising costs, by the absence of a U.S. policy on greenhouse gas emissions and by competition from less expensive natural gas, carbon-free renewables and more efficient energy use.

Only billions more dollars in subsidies and the retarding of rapid deployment of cheaper technologies can save these reactors. Only fresh claims of unique social benefit can justify such steps.

When I served on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from 1977 through 1982, the NRC issued more licenses than in any comparable period since. Arguments that the U.S. couldn’t avoid dependence on Middle Eastern oil and keep the lights on without a vast increase in nuclear power were standard fare then and throughout my 20 years chairing the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions. In fact, we attained these goals without the additional reactors, a lesson to remember in the face of claims that all of today’s nuclear plants are needed to ward off climate change.

Nuclear power in competitive electricity markets

During nuclear power’s growth years in the 1960s and 1970s, almost all electric utility rate regulation was based on recovering the money necessary to build and run power plants and the accompanying infrastructure. But in the 1990s many states broke up the electric utility monopoly model.

Now a majority of U.S. power generation is sold in competitive markets. Companies profit by producing the cheapest electricity or providing services that avoid the need for electricity.

To justify their current subsidy demands, nuclear advocates assert three propositions. First, they contend that power markets undervalue nuclear plants because they do not compensate reactors for avoiding carbon emissions, or for other attributes such as diversifying the fuel supply or running more than 90 percent of the time.

Second, they assert that other low-carbon sources cannot fill the gap because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. So power grids will use fossil-fired generators for more hours if nuclear plants close.


Dry casks for storing irradiated nuclear fuel at the Diablo Canyon plant in Avila, California. The plant is scheduled to close within a decade, but taxpayers will pay to keep spent fuel stored on-site until a federal repository is ready to take it. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Finally, nuclear power supporters argue that these intermittent sources receive substantial subsidies while nuclear energy does not, thereby enabling renewables to underbid nuclear even if their costs are higher.

Nuclear power producers want government-mandated long-term contracts or other mechanisms that require customers to buy power from their troubled units at prices far higher than they would pay otherwise.

Providing such open-ended support will negate several major energy trends that currently benefit customers and the environment. First, power markets have been working reliably and effectively. A large variety of cheaper, more efficient technologies for producing and saving energy, as well as managing the grid more cheaply and cleanly, have been developed. Energy storage, which can enhance the round-the-clock capability of some renewables is progressing faster than had been expected, and is now being bid into several power markets – notably the market serving Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.

Long-term subsidies for uneconomic nuclear plants also will crowd out penetration of these markets by energy efficiency and renewables. This is the path New York state has taken by committing at least $7.6 billion in above-market payments to three of its six plants to assure that they operate through 2029.

Nuclear power vs. other carbon-free fuels

While power markets do indeed undervalue low-carbon fuels, all of the other premises underlying the nuclear industry approach are flawed. In California and in Nebraska, utilities plan to replace nuclear plants that are closing early for economic reasons almost entirely with electricity from carbon-free sources. Such transitions are achievable in most systems as long as the shutdowns are planned in advance to be carbon-free.

In California these replacement resources, which include renewables, storage, transmission enhancements and energy efficiency measures, will for the most part be procured through competitive processes. Indeed, any state where a utility threatens to close a plant can run an auction to ascertain whether there are sufficient low-carbon resources available to replace the unit within a particular time frame. Only then will regulators know whether, how much and for how long they should support the nuclear units.

If New York had taken this approach, each of the struggling nuclear units could have bid to provide power in such an auction. They might well have succeeded for the immediate future, but some or all would probably not have won after that.


Local opposition to the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant after its original license expired in 2012. The plant obtained a license extension, but the owner decided to close it in 2014 based on economic factors. (Click for larger image) James Ennis/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Closing the noncompetitive plants would be a clear benefit to the New York economy. This is why a large coalition of big customers, alternative energy providers and environmental groups opposed the long-term subsidy plan.

The industry’s final argument – that renewables are subsidized and nuclear is not – ignores overwhelming history. All carbon-free energy sources together have not received remotely as much government support as has flowed to nuclear power.

Nuclear energy’s essential components – reactors and enriched uranium fuel – were developed at taxpayer expense. Private utilities were paid to build nuclear reactors in the 1950s and early ‘60’s, and received subsidized fuel. According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, total subsidies paid and offered to nuclear plants between 1960 and 2024 generally exceed the value of the power that they produced.

The U.S. government has also pledged to dispose of nuclear power’s most hazardous wastes – a promise that has never been made to any other industry. By 2020 taxpayers will have paid some $21 billion to store those wastes at power plant sites.

Furthermore, under the 1957 Price-Anderson Act, each plant owner’s accident liability is limited to some $300 million per year, even though the Fukushima disaster showed that nuclear accident costs can exceed $100 billion. If private companies that own U.S. nuclear power plants had been responsible for accident liability, they would not have built reactors. The same is almost certainly true of responsibility for spent fuel disposal.

Finally, as part of the transition to competition in the 1990s, state governments were persuaded to make customers pay off some $70 billion in excessive nuclear costs. Today the same nuclear power providers are asking to be rescued from the same market forces for a second time.

Christopher Crane, the president and CEO of Exelon, which owns the nation’s largest nuclear fleet, preaches temperance from a bar stool when he disparages renewable energy subsidies by asserting, “I’ve talked for years about the unintended consequences of policies that incentivize technologies versus outcomes.“ However, he’s right about unintended and unfortunate consequences. We should not rely further on the unfulfilled prophesies that nuclear lobbyists have deployed so expensively for so long. It’s time to take Crane at his word by using our power markets, adjusted to price greenhouse gas emissions, to prioritize our low carbon outcome over his technology.


_______________________________________________________________________________________________


Penn State University nuclear engineering professor Arthur Motta provides a contrasting view:

_______________________________________________________________________________________________


Nuclear power deserves a level playing field

August 17, 2016 10.54pm EDT
Author
Arthur T. Motta
Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, Pennsylvania State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation and is republished here with permission.
https://theconversation.com/nuclear-power-deserves-a-level-playing-field-62149

In one of the courses I teach at Penn State, we discuss the characteristics of an ideal electricity production portfolio for the United States and consider what form of energy policy would best achieve it. The class typically identifies the most important factors as cost, reliability of supply, public safety and environmental impact. Students also cite other characteristics, such as national security, domestic availability of fuels and technologies, and electric grid stability.

Because no real-world energy source fulfills all of these characteristics, we have to make compromises to find an optimal combination of energy sources. Ideally a well-designed national energy policy would give us a framework for making these choices by balancing short-term goals, such as cost, against long-term goals, such as environmental protection.

However, there really is no coherent long-term energy policy in the United States. What exists instead is an ad hoc hodgepodge of subsidies, taxes and regulations differing across regions of the country, that, along with the free market, end up determining what energy sources are used for the production of electricity. In particular, we have no carbon tax to penalize carbon-emitting technologies.

As a result, long-term goals are often neglected.

Under this ad hoc approach we currently reward some sources, such as renewables, for providing carbon-free electricity, but not others, such as hydro and nuclear power. In my view this is wrongheaded and inconsistent. The United States would do better by following the example of New York, which recently decided to support nuclear power plants to keep them from closing because of competition from cheap natural gas.


Natural gas: A mixed blessing

In the past decade U.S. domestic natural gas production has increased by 50 percent. Natural gas, which emits half as much carbon dioxide as coal when burned, is replacing coal for electricity generation. As a result, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation have actually decreased over the last decade, even as electricity consumption has increased.


U.S. Energy Information Administration.
This is very good news for the environment. Also, the low price of natural gas puts money in people’s wallets. However, natural gas is still a carbon-emitting technology and contributes to climate change. Thus, as concerns about climate change have grown, Congress and the states have adopted subsidies and tax credits to expand electricity production from low-carbon and carbon-free renewable fuels in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Such subsidies acknowledge that the monetary cost of energy production – which is now the primary factor in whether an energy source is developed and used – is in fact an imperfect tool for shaping medium- and long-term energy policy.


A long-term energy policy to achieve environmental goals

At a recent Department of Energy summit on improving the economics of U.S. nuclear power plants, speakers noted that, along with cost, factors such as production of carbon-free electricity, reliability, grid stability and diversity of fuel supply should influence decisions about energy supply. But energy sources do not consistently receive credit for helping to attain these goals, and are not consistently penalized if they fail to do so.

The subsidies and tax credits mentioned above are a step in that direction, and have increased development of renewable energy sources. As a result, the percentage of electricity from renewables has significantly increased in recent years, which is great. Solar and wind together currently provide about five percent of U.S. electricity.


Unfortunately, increasing reliance on renewable energy also has a downside. The intermittency of renewable energy and unavailability of energy storage means that the installed capacity of renewable sources has to be considerably higher than the desired output (by a factor of three or more). In other words, we have to build more than we need, and other energy sources are needed to provide backup when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining.


The Shepherds Flat wind farm in Oregon has 338 turbines over 32,100 acres and a maximum generating capacity of 845 megawatts. Such a plant would generate an average of 205 megawatts over a year at a capacity factor of about 25 percent, which is the level that the Department of Energy forecasts for Shepherds Flat. A typical nuclear power plant generates about 1,000 megawatts with capacity factors over 90 percent. U.S. Department of Energy

Moreover, at present renewable sources are not economically competitive without subsidies, but they become very competitive with them. With subsidies, wind power is practically free in some markets. This distorts the market because utilities have to produce less energy in cheaper nuclear power plants so they can use subsidized renewable energy. This causes utilities to operate nuclear power plants in an up and down mode rather than their normal baseload operation, making them even less competitive.


Recognizing the benefits of nuclear power properly

However, subsidizing carbon-free sources is justifiable to provide for the future greater good of the country because they provide climate change and clean air benefits. Perversely, however, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and most states have declined to consider rewarding the same benefits from existing nuclear power plants.

The main argument for not including existing nuclear power plants – as well as electricity from large hydropower dams – in clean air mandates and subsidies is that contributions from these conventional sources would dwarf new renewable generation, which the federal government wishes to encourage.

According to this twisted logic, environmental benefits from new nuclear power plants do receive proper credit under the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. But the plan includes no economic rewards for keeping existing efficient, well-run plants in operation.

This makes no sense.

If these plants are shuttered, their output will be replaced in many cases by natural gas generation, which will increase greenhouse gas emissions, as has occurred after recent nuclear plant closures in Vermont and Wisconsin.

Nuclear power provides other benefits in addition to clean air. Nuclear plants also provide stability to the electrical grid, as their output is constant and reliable. They are available at nearly all times and especially in times of need – for example, during severe winter weather when coal deliveries may be disrupted.

Additionally, nuclear power is a technology-intensive industry in which the United States has traditionally led the world. With each closure of an operating U.S. nuclear power plant, the infrastructure built over the past 50 years – including suppliers, vendors, operators, maintenance and manpower – becomes increasingly imperiled as it serves a dwindling number of plants. If the industry disappears here, it will be very difficult to rebuild as China and Russia becomes world leaders in nuclear technology.


Reactor Unit 3 under construction at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in South Carolina, 2014. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission/Flickr, CC BY

Finally, nuclear power is also one of the rare industries that generates many high-paying jobs for engineers and technicians, as well as blue-collar jobs for plant workers – all of which must be sited in the United States. This is one reason why regulators in New York recently adopted a Clean Energy Standard that will provide significant yearly subsidies through 2029 to keep several existing reactors operating. Other states should consider taking similar steps to recognize the benefits of nuclear power and prevent premature plant closures. This would support their environmental goals.

In sum, there is a case for government intervention to improve the economic competitiveness of nuclear plants and avoid early closures. The nuclear industry does not need handouts, but a coherent U.S. energy policy should provide a level playing field in the electric markets by recognizing the essential contributions that nuclear power plants make toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring reliable electricity and preserving grid stability. Failure to act could foreclose the nuclear power option in this country and make the road to clean air and energy independence in the future that much harder.

Car lobby defeats Tesla's bid to sell vehicles outside an independent dealership

Sorry Tesla, you can’t issue yourself a dealer franchise, court rules
Car lobby defeats Tesla's bid to sell vehicles outside an independent dealership.


DAVID KRAVETS - 9/7/2016, 4:47 PM

A state court has ruled that Tesla cannot issue itself a franchise to sell vehicles directly to consumers in Missouri, a blow to the electric carmaker that wanted to comport with the state's franchise requirement without having to sell cars through an independent dealership.

In a suit brought by the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association, a judge ruled that carmakers cannot issue themselves franchises, which means Tesla will have to stick to selling the vehicles online in Missouri if it wishes to continue its practice of not using a man-in-the-middle car dealership.

The dealers' suit said the state broke the law when it issued a dealer's license to Tesla of Palo Alto, California. That position was supported last week by Cole County Judge Daniel Green. The decision means Tesla can now only showcase its vehicles at its Kansas City and St. Louis locations. Under the ruling, buyers can't purchase them there. They have to go online.

Arizona, Connecticut, Michigan, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia also bar Tesla from direct sales and require carmakers to issue franchises to independent dealers, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Tesla said in a statement that the automaker...
http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/09/sorry-tesla-you-cant-issue-yourself-an-auto-franchise-court-rules/

The Road to a Thriving Second-Life EV Battery Market

The Road to a Thriving Second-Life EV Battery Market
How to overcome the physical and economic challenges for used EV batteries in stationary storage


by Julian Spector
September 07, 2016

As electric vehicles proliferate, so too will used EV batteries. Car companies and researchers are hustling to figure out how to safely adapt and reuse those depleted batteries when that time comes.

The basic pitch is simple enough: cars demand very high performance from their batteries, so once the battery’s capacity declines past a certain point -- 70 percent or 80 percent, depending on who you talk to -- it needs to be swapped out. At that point, though, the battery can still handle a lot of charge and discharge, making it useful for storage in less intensive stationary settings.

The sheer expense of developing and building those batteries in the first place makes a compelling case for capturing some additional value after their initial use. Second-life applications also delay the need to dispose of these resource-intensive products, which nobody has yet figured out how to do economically. If storage vendors can resell used batteries as a cheaper alternative to new storage, they could help more people consume their own rooftop solar generation, or reduce their peak demand, or any number of other uses that would advance the progress of a low-carbon grid.

This is new territory, so there are a lot of questions yet to be resolved. What are the engineering challenges involved in taking batteries from mobile use to stationary use? Will they perform as well in the new capacity? How do you standardize across different degrees of wear and tear?

There is also the matter of setting up markets around used batteries and determining who benefits from that trade. Before that can happen, the physics of the transition ...
http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/the-road-to-a-thriving-second-life-ev-battery-market

Bizarre ant colony discovered in an abandoned Polish nuclear weapons bunker

Bizarre ant colony discovered in an abandoned Polish nuclear weapons bunker
Scientists describe workers trapped for years in "a hostile environment in total darkness."

ANNALEE NEWITZ - 9/2/2016, 12:45 PM


For the past several years, a group of researchers has been observing a seemingly impossible wood ant colony living in an abandoned nuclear weapons bunker in Templewo, Poland, near the German border. Completely isolated from the outside world, these members of the species Formica polyctena have created an ant society unlike anything we've seen before.

The Soviets built the bunker during the Cold War to store nuclear weapons, sinking it below ground and planting trees on top as camouflage. Eventually a massive colony of wood ants took up residence in the soil over the bunker. There was just one problem: the ants built their nest directly over a vertical ventilation pipe. When the metal covering on the pipe finally rusted away, it left a dangerous, open hole. Every year when the nest expands, thousands of worker ants fall down the pipe and cannot climb back out. The survivors have nevertheless carried on for years underground, building a nest from soil and maintaining it in typical wood ant fashion. Except, of course, that this situation is far from normal.

Polish Academy of Sciences zoologist Wojciech Czechowski and his colleagues discovered the nest after a group of other zoologists found that bats were living in the bunker. Though it was technically not legal to go inside, the bat researchers figured out a way to squeeze into the small, confined space and observe the animals inside. Czechowski's team followed suit when they heard that the place was swarming with ants. What they found, over two seasons of observation, was a group of almost a million worker ants whose lives are so strange that they hesitate to call them a "colony" in the observations they just published in The Journal of Hymenoptera. Because conditions in the bunker are so harsh, constantly cold, and mostly barren, the ants seem to live in a state of near-starvation. They produce no queens, no males, and no offspring. The massive group tending the nest is entirely composed of non-reproductive female workers, supplemented every year by a new rain of unfortunate ants falling down the ventilation shaft.

Like most ant species, wood ants are tidy animals who remove waste from their colony. In the case of the bunker ants, most of this waste is composed of dead bodies. The researchers speculate that mortality in the "colony" is likely much higher than under normal circumstances. "Flat parts of the earthen mound and the floor of the adjacent spaces ... were carpeted with bodies of dead ants," write Czechowski and colleagues. This "ant cemetery" was a few centimeters thick in places, and "one cubic decimeter sample contained 8,000 corpses," which led the researchers to suggest that there were likely 2 million dead ants piled around the nest mound. The sheer numbers of dead bodies suggest that this orphaned wood ant nest has been active for many years.

The ant graveyard is also host to a tiny ecosystem...


http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/09/bizarre-ant-colony-discovered-in-an-abandoned-polish-nuclear-weapons-bunker/

Solar - "one of the lowest rates ever for any kind of electricity, anywhere"

Solar Sold in Chile at Lowest Ever, Half Price of Coal
August 31, 2016
By Vanessa Dezem

...

The Spanish developer Solarpack Corp. Tecnologica won contracts to sell power from a 120-MW solar plant for $29.10 a MWh at an energy auction this month.

That’s the lowest price on record for electricity from sunshine, surpassing a deal in Dubai in May. It’s the cheapest to date for any kind of renewable energy, and was almost half the price of coal power sold in the same event. According to Solarpack General Director Inigo Malo de Molina, it’s one of the lowest rates ever for any kind of electricity, anywhere.

“Solar energy technology has evolved and proved it is competitive,” Molina said in a telephone interview from Santiago. “Prices for electricity generation have changed drastically in the last years. Solar energy in Chile is now the cheapest in the market.”

A key part of the low price is the ever-declining price for solar panels. The average price on the spot market declined this week to 44.7 cents a watt for standard polysilicon panels, a record low.

Ideal Location
The location for this particular power plant is also a factor, in northern Chile’s Atacama desert....

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2016/08/solar-sold-in-chile-at-lowest-ever-half-price-of-coal.html

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