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bananas's Journal
bananas's Journal
March 3, 2013

Europe May Work With China on Space Station


Europe May Work With China on Space Station
Rob Coppinger, SPACE.com Contributor
Date: 26 February 2013 Time: 12:00 PM ET

China aims to establish a large manned space station within the next decade, officials have said, and the latest reports suggest that this outpost could host not only Chinese astronauts, but European spaceflyers as well.

A plan is afoot for China and Europe to cooperate on the venture, which might see the European Space Agency (ESA) building technologies, including a rendezvous and docking system, for the station, in exchange for opportunities for its astronauts to visit the facility.

China plans to have the space station running by 2020. Both the station and China's manned spacecraft Shenzhou could use ESA's International Berthing and Docking Mechanism (IBDM), because of a problem with the Russian system the Chinese have been using until now.


"It was originally bouncing off," Bob Chesson, an ESA human spaceflight advisor, told SPACE.com. "Essentially they have to ram this [Shenzhou] thing in and they are very worried that if you assemble a station like that, you basically will have all sorts of structure fracture mechanics problems, that type of thing."


Joint astronaut training, Chinese lessons and Chesson's third working group, the exchange of payload facilities and experiments, all point to preparations for future missions for ESA crew on China's spacecraft. Chesson said that ESA is "seriously looking" at providing experiments for future Tiangong missions.


Via http://nasawatch.com/archives/2013/03/is-esa-going-to.html

March 3, 2013

Japan looks to film business for help processing 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster

Source: Associated Press

The unnerving clicks of dosimeters are constant as people wearing white protective gear quickly visit the radiated no-go zones of decayed farms and empty storefronts. Evacuees huddle on blankets on gymnasium floors, waiting futilely for word of compensation and relocation.

Such scenes fill the flurry of independent films inspired by Japan's March 2011 nuclear catastrophe that tell stories of regular people who became overnight victims — stories the creators feel are being ignored by mainstream media and often silenced by the authorities.

Nearly two years after the quake and tsunami disaster, the films are an attempt by the creative minds of Japan's movie industry not only to confront the horrors of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, but also to empower and serve as a legacy for the victims by telling their stories for international audiences.


What's striking is that many of the works convey a prevailing message: The political, scientific and regulatory establishment isn't telling the whole truth about the nuclear disaster. And much of the public had been in the past ignorant and uncaring about Fukushima.


Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/movies/ci_22691558/japan-looks-film-biz-help-processing-2011-tsunami

March 3, 2013

Hundreds of thousands march against austerity in Portugal

Source: Agence France-Presse

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Lisbon and other Portuguese cities Saturday to protest against the government's austerity measures aimed at rescuing the debt-hit eurozone nation.

The rallies were organised by a non-political movement which claimed 500,000 marched in the country's capital and another 400,000 in the main northern city of Porto. There have been no official estimates of the crowds.

But the mood of the crowd was clearly political, calling for new elections with banners declaring "Portugal to the polls!" and "If you fall asleep in a democracy, you wake up in a dictatorship".

Another banner showed a picture of centre-right Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho with the caption: "Today I am in the street, tomorrow it will be you."


Read more: http://www.france24.com/en/20130302-hundreds-thousands-march-against-austerity-portugal-0

Also see http://www.democraticunderground.com/12526053
March 2, 2013

US May Face Inevitable Nuclear Power Exit

Select articles from the issue will be free to access from a limited time here: http://bos.sagepub.com/


Public release date: 1-Mar-2013
Contact: Katie Baker
[email protected]
SAGE Publications

US may face inevitable nuclear power exit

Los Angeles, CA (March 01, 2013). In a 2012 report, the Obama administration announced that it was "jumpstarting" the nuclear industry. Because of the industry's long history of permitting problems, cost overruns, and construction delays, financial markets have been wary of backing new nuclear construction for decades. The supposed "nuclear renaissance" ballyhooed in the first decade of this century never materialized. And then came Fukushima, a disaster that pushed countries around the world to ask: Should nuclear power be part of the energy future? In the third and final issue in a series focused on nuclear exits, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE, turns its attention to the United States and looks at whether the country's business-as-usual approach may yet lead to a nuclear phase-out for economic reasons.

The Obama administration injected significant funding into two new nuclear reactor projects in Georgia in 2012. But this investment—the first of its kind in three decades—belies an overall dismal US nuclear power landscape. Where Japan and many European countries responded to the Fukushima disaster with public debate and significant policy shifts in the nuclear arena, the US has scarcely broached the subject. According to former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Commissioner Peter Bradford, current market forces challenge the economic viability of existing nuclear power plants, with new reactors representing an extremely unattractive investment prospect.

Allowing existing reactors to simply run out their licensed lifetimes in the current scenario, nuclear power may simply disappear, he writes. "Absent an extremely large injection of government funding or further life extensions, the reactors currently operating are going to end their licensed lifetimes between now and the late 2050s," Bradford concludes. "They will become part of an economics-driven US nuclear phase-out a couple of decades behind the government-led nuclear exit in Germany."

Also in this special issue, Sharon Squassoni, a non-proliferation expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, writes that a US nuclear phase out will have only minor international implications. Governmental attempts to buoy the US commercial nuclear industry for national security reasons run the risk of blurring the distinction between civilian and military nuclear programs, undermining public backing for both, she adds.

The Bulletin canvassed opinion on the economic and environmental implications of a US phase from leading institutions. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) experts Henry D. Jacoby and Sergey Paltsev modeled a number of scenarios, focusing particularly on the effects of greenhouse gas regulations. They also looked at the impacts of a nuclear phase out on greenhouse gas emissions, electricity prices, and the national economy. They conclude that a US exit from nuclear power would impose costs on all three.

Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute chairman and chief scientist, Amory Lovins, says that as the US electricity system ages, most of its power plants and transmission grid must be replaced by 2050. The cost will be roughly the same, whether the rebuilt system is fed by new nuclear power plants and "clean coal" facilities or centralized and distributed renewable energy plants: "The inevitable US nuclear phase-out, whatever its speed, is […] just part of a far broader and deeper evolution from the remarkable electricity system that has served the nation so well to an even better successor now being created," he writes.

The earlier issues in this Nuclear Exit series looked at neighbors France and Germany. Germany is a trailblazer for countries considering an exit from commercial nuclear power, embarking on an ambitious Energiewende, or energy turnaround, that includes a quick nuclear phase-out and an enthusiastic embrace of renewable energy. Just next door, France is taking a more cautious approach, and is currently carrying out an extensive, multi-stakeholder debate on the country's energy future. With three-quarters of France's electricity derived from nuclear power, a rapid or total exit seems unlikely.

The breadth and depth of the data and analysis presented by the authors in all three Nuclear Exit issues make clear that this question has no simple, one-size-fits-all answer. They make something else clear: The question deserves a serious, considered answer in every country with a commercial nuclear power industry.


"The US Nuclear Exit" by John Mecklin published 01 March 2013 in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

"How to close the US nuclear industry: Do nothing "by Peter. A. Bradford published 01 March 2013 in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

"The economics of a US civilian nuclear phase-out" by Amory b. Lovins published 01 March 2013 in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

"The limited national security implications of civilian nuclear decline" by Sharon Squassoni published 01 March 2013 in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Select articles from the issue will be free to access from a limited time here: http://bos.sagepub.com/

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists informs the public about threats to the survival and development of humanity from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences. The Bulletin was established in 1945 by scientists, engineers, and other experts who had created the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project. http://bos.sagepub.com.

SAGE is a leading international publisher of journals, books, and electronic media for academic, educational, and professional markets. Since 1965, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students spanning a wide range of subject areas including business, humanities, social sciences, and science, technology, and medicine. An independent company, SAGE has principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC. www.sagepublications.com

AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.

Copyright ©2013 by AAAS, the science society.

March 2, 2013

Mini Nuclear Reactors Earn Golden Fleece Award For Government Waste


Mini Nuclear Reactors Earn Golden Fleece Award For Government Waste

February 28, 2013 Jeremy Bloom

Are mini nuclear reactors the future of high-end energy development — or a wasteful boondoggle?

While it may or may not be great that profitable companies like Babcock & Wilcox and Toshiba are researching these mini or even micro reactors (don’t worry, they won’t fit in a suitcase, or even in your basement), the group Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) has dinged the program as its recipient of the 2013 Golden Fleece Award, for sucking down potentially half a billion dollars in taxpayer money.

“The nation is two days away from the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration,” notes Ryan Alexander, president of TCS. “But at the same time we are hearing the Department of Energy and the nuclear industry evangelizing about the benefits of small modular reactors. In reality, we cannot afford to pile more market-distorting subsidies to profitable companies on top of the billions of dollars we already gave away.”

Indeed, at a time when that much money could pay for some substantial progress in growing fields like biofuels or solar power, you have to wonder why companies like Babcock & Wilcox need any help from the government at all.


“The nuclear industry has a tradition of rushing forth to proclaim that a new technology, just around the corner, will take care of whatever problem exists,” says Autumn Hanna, senior program director for TCS. “Unfortunately, these technologies have an equally long tradition of expensive failure. If the industry believes in small modular reactors and a reactor in every backyard – great – but don’t expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab.”


The Golden Fleece Awards were originially created by Democratic Senator William Proxmire:

The Golden Fleece Award (1975–1988) was presented to those public officials in the United States who, the judges feel, waste public money. Its name is a tangential reference to the Order of the Golden Fleece and a play on the transitive verb to fleece, as in charging excessively for goods or services. United States Senator William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, began to issue the Golden Fleece Award in 1975 in monthly press releases.[1][2] The Washington Post once referred to the award as "the most successful public relations device in politics today."[3] Robert Byrd, a Democratic Senator from West Virginia, referred to the award as being "as much a part of the Senate as quorum calls and filibusters."[1]


The Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan federal budget watchdog organization, gave Proxmire their lifetime achievement award in 1999,[4] and revived the Golden Fleece Award in 2000. Proxmire served as an honorary chairman of the organization.[2]

March 2, 2013

Brazilian president confirms nuclear sub project as ‘defense deterrent’


Brazilian president confirms nuclear sub project as ‘defense deterrent’

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, March 1, 2013 20:00 EST

Brazil is set to join the select group of countries that have nuclear-powered submarines, President Dilma Rousseff said Friday.


Under the scheme, France will supply Brazil with four conventional submarines and help develop the non-nuclear components of the South American powerhouse’s first nuclear-powered attack submarine.


The 7.8 billion reais ($3.95 billion) ProSub program aims to protect the country’s 8,500-kilometer (5,280-mile) coastline and huge deep-water oil reserves.

The defense ministry said the first of the four conventional Scorpene-class subs will be delivered to the Brazilian Navy in 2017, while the nuclear-powered vessel will be commissioned in 2023.


February 27, 2013

In 5 years, we're going to send two people to Mars.

I watched the press conference - it's going to happen.

They won't land or go into orbit, it's just a free-return fly-by.

Apollo 8 gave us "the most influential environmental photograph ever taken."

I think this Mars mission will have a similar effect.


Earthrise is the name given to a photograph of the Earth that was taken by astronaut William Anders in 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission. Nature photographer Galen Rowell declared it "the most influential environmental photograph ever taken."[1]

February 27, 2013

Regulatory Dissent Slows New Calls for Nuclear Plant Safety

Source: New York Times


The filters, which have been recommended by the staff of the regulatory commission, are supposed to prevent radioactive particles from escaping into the atmosphere. They are required in Japan and much of Europe, but the American utilities believe they are unnecessary and expensive. The industry has held private meetings with commissioners and their staffs, organized a drill like the one this month at Nine Mile Point, and helped line up a series of letters from dozens of members of Congress, many of whom received industry campaign contributions, urging the agency to reject the filtered vents.


The debate over the filters reflects a simmering tension that has been building inside the regulatory agency since the Fukushima accident in Japan, as a tug of war has played out among commissioners and between some commissioners and the regulatory staff that has produced repeated votes rejecting staff safety recommendations.


The appointment books for certain commission members, reviewed by The New York Times, show frequent meetings with the industry, including private, one-on-one sessions at the commission’s headquarters. Nuclear industry opponents occasionally have had their own private meetings, but not nearly as often, the records show.

E-mail correspondence obtained by The Times also demonstrates a teamlike approach the industry and regulators have taken to dealing with safety questions, as they worked behind the scenes with the Nuclear Energy Institute, the leading trade association, to try to prevent a reaction against nuclear power in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident.


Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/27/business/energy-environment/a-divisive-debate-on-need-for-more-nuclear-safeguards.html?pagewanted=all

This is disgusting - ignoring the recommendations of their own staff because of industry lobbying.

That kind of behaviour is what led to the Challenger and Bhopal disasters - ignoring the warnings of your own highly trained staff.

The NRC is a prime example of regulatory capture, and this is a recipe for disaster.

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