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Cost Pressure Intensifies for Southern Co. Nuclear Plant

Source: Associated Press

The delays and cost overruns are piling up for a new plant in Georgia that was supposed to prove nuclear energy can be built affordably.

Instead, the companies building first-of-their-kind reactors at Plant Vogtle expect they will need an extra three years to finish construction. The plant's owners and builders are fighting over who should pay for more than $1 billion in unexpected construction expenses — a figure that could easily grow.

Those eye-popping sums do not include the extra borrowing and inflation costs of the owners. At the end of the day, utility customers will end up paying most of the bill. A sister project in South Carolina owned by SCANA Corp. and Santee Cooper has run into similar delays and cost pressures.


The latest snag was disclosed Thursday, before Southern Co. announces its earnings next week. Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power said the nuclear plant's designer and builder, Westinghouse Electric Co. and Chicago Bridge & Iron Co., expect the first new reactor in Georgia will be finished in mid-2019. The second is supposed to start operating in mid-2020.


Read more: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/cost-pressure-intensifies-southern-nuclear-plant-28612457

Nuclear Waste Dump Troubling Residents Of Armstrong Co. Town

Source: CBS Pittsburgh

What may be the most dangerous nuclear waste dump in the nation sits just 40 miles north of Pittsburgh, in Armstrong County.

As the government plans to excavate that waste, people who live nearby are nervous.

Ameno grew up in Apollo, Pennsylvania, a stone’s throw from the NUMEC nuclear materials plant and the waste it stored in 55 gallons drums.

They left her with this:

“Two brain tumors,” she said. “I still have one, uterine cancer.”

Today, Ameno is a survivor and an activist — who like the residents who recently voiced their concerns at a meeting — continue to ask questions about the nuclear waste NUMEC and its successor buried down the road in shallow trenches at a 144-acre site in Parks Township.


Haley is a nuclear engineer who worked for NUMEC, which produced nuclear fuel for power plants and atomic submarines and disposed of the waste at Parks Township.

“No one knows everything that’s there,” Haley said.

But Haley says government estimates have already proved to be less than 5 percent of what may be there. There are 10 known trenches of nuclear waste and the government excavated just half of one of them.

But Haley says the amount of volatile Uranium-235 unearthed, was more than what the government had estimated for the entire site.

“Oh yes, it’s grossly underestimated,” he said. “Seriously.”


Read more: http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2015/01/30/nuclear-waste-dump-troubling-amstrong-co-residents/

Nuclear safety push to be softened after U.S. objections

Source: Reuters

The United States looks set to succeed in watering down a proposal for tougher legal standards aimed at boosting global nuclear safety, according to senior diplomats.

Diplomatic wrangling will come to a head at a 77-nation meeting in Vienna next month that threatens to expose divisions over required safety standards and the cost of meeting them, four years after the Fukushima disaster in Japan.


Mark Hibbs, proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment think-tank, said those in favor of the amendment argue their opponents are motivated by protecting the nuclear industry and electric utility companies.


Three senior Western diplomats confirmed that a change to the convention itself is very unlikely to get the green light at a diplomatic conference on the CNS in Vienna starting on Feb. 9, after the United States objected to such a step.


Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/30/us-nuclear-safety-idUSKBN0L31KO20150130

FCC Officially Redefines Broadband As 25 Mbps Down, 3 Mbps Up

Source: DSL Reports

After hinting at such a move for some time, the FCC today voted (along partisan lines, of course) to bump the standard definition of broadband from 4 Mbps down, 1 Mbps up, to 25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up. It's a change the broadband industry and friends aren't happy with, because it will only further highlight the fact that a lack of competition has left large portions of the country with pricey and slow broadband service.

Under the current 4 Mbps standard, roughly 6.3 percent of households can't technically get access to "broadband." Under the new 25 Mbps metric, nearly 20% of U.S. households are unable to get broadband, thanks in large part to DSL networks telcos are refusing to upgrade.

The FCC notes that to receive subsidies, deployments will need to be at least 10 Mbps.


As you might expect, Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai (a former Verizon regulatory lawyer) and Michael O'Reilly weren't fans of the new standard. O'Reilly in particular offered up what was probably the strangest argument of the entire day's session.

"Some people believe that we are on a path to interplanetary teleportation. Should we include the estimated bandwidth for that as well?," asked the troubled Commissioner.


Read more: http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/FCC-Officially-Redefines-Broadband-As-25-Mbps-Down-3-Mbps-Up-132453

British Fighters 'Escort' Russian Bombers Near U.K. Airspace

Source: NPR

The British government has summoned Russia's ambassador to the United Kingdom, asking him to explain why a pair of nuclear-capable Russian long-range "Bear" bombers had flown alarmingly close to U.K. airspace.

In a situation reminiscent of the Cold War, British Typhoon fighters were scrambled to intercept the TU-95s on Wednesday. Ultimately, the bombers did not enter U.K. airspace, but a spokesman for the Foreign Office in London said the incident was part of "an increasing pattern of out-of-area operations by Russian aircraft," Sky News says.

According to the BBC:

"The planes were 'escorted' by RAF jets 'throughout the time they were in the UK area of interest', officials added.

"Russia's ambassador has been summoned to 'account for the incident.' "

Reuters quotes an unnamed British government source as saying that:

"The) incident ... was viewed as 'a significant escalation' and marked a change in strategy since Russian aircraft had previously largely confined themselves to flying close to Scotland.

" 'It was very dangerous. Civil aircraft flying to the UK had to be rerouted,' the source was quoted by Reuters as saying. 'The Russians were flying with their transponders turned off so could only be seen on military radar. They haven't flown this far south before.' "

Read more: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/29/382440318/british-fighters-escort-russian-bombers-near-u-k-airspace

Study finds link between depression, brain inflammation

Source: CTV

Canadian scientists say they’ve made a big breakthrough in depression research with a new study that found inflammation deep in the brains of patients suffering from the illness.

While the research is still in its early stages, it provides scientists with a possible alternative cause for the disease, and an explanation for why between 30 and 50 per cent of patients with depression don’t respond to medication.


They found that those with depression had an average 30 per cent more inflammation in their brains.

And the greater the inflammation, the more severe the patient’s symptoms.

The researchers say their findings are significant, and raise the question of whether getting rid of the inflammation would eliminate depression altogether.


Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/study-finds-link-between-depression-brain-inflammation-1.2210121

House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) Committee Starts Off on Partisan Footing


House SS&T Committee Starts Off 114th Congress on Partisan Footing
Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 27-Jan-2015

The House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) Committee held its organizational meeting for the 114th Congress this morning. The typically routine meeting held at the beginning of each new Congress had a strong partisan flavor to it this year, however. The committee's top Democrat, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), issued a sharply worded news release detailing changes Republicans made to committee rules on party-line votes, calling it the "single greatest attack" on the rights of the minority party in the history of the committee.


Johnson, who has served on the committee for 23 years under both Democratic and Republican leadership, clearly disagrees. She listed the following changes that she believes diminishes the Minority's rights:

  • shortened notice requirements for markups and allowing the Majority to waive notice requirements entirely;
  • eliminating review periods for Members to review legislative reports prior to filing;
  • requiring more Members to support a request for a recorded vote;
  • allowing the Majority to hold a hearing without a single Minority member present;
  • providing the committee chair with unilateral subpoena authority;
  • eliminating requirements for consultation with the Minority; and
  • the Committee receiving blanket deposition authority in House Rules "for the first time in the half century history of the committee."

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) contrasted this committee's stance with that of another committee on which she serves, House Transportation and Infrastructure, where the entire organizational meeting, including adoption of rules, took "five minutes" rather than beginning "a new Congress and a new year fighting about the rules."

A webcast of the contentious meeting is on the committee's website.

The rules may seem arcane (read our "What's a Markup" fact sheet to learn what some of them mean), but they give the Majority power to hold hearings, subpoena witnesses and documents, and to more easily pass legislation out of committee and to the floor of the House on a partisan basis. Of all the changes, giving the chairman unilateral authority to issue subpoenas could have the greatest impact. In the last Congress, only the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA) had such power. House SS&T is one of several committees planning to give their chairs such authority in this Congress. Smith said repeatedly that the authority is necessary because of the Obama Administration's "dilatory tactics in responding to letters from this committee" and its "lack of transparency."

How that will play out in the space policy arena remains to be seen, but the sharp differences between the parties on NASA were evident in 2013 when, under the previous rules, the committee approved on party-line votes a new NASA authorization bill that would have prohibited NASA from proceeding with the Asteroid Redirect Mission, dramatically cut funding for NASA overall and especially for Earth Sciences, and established the position of NASA Administrator as an appointed 6-year term. That bill was never voted on by the House and a bipartisan version was crafted the next year after budget caps were raised, promoting greater agreement. That bill did pass the House, but was not considered by the Senate and died at the end of the last Congress, so this Congress will be starting over again. Smith did say today that he hopes a new NASA authorization bill can clear the committee in a bipartisan manner as it did last year.


First U.S. doctors' strike in decades

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune

A handful of doctors providing medical
services to students at UC San Diego — and
their colleagues at nine other University of
California campuses — went on strike

It's the first time in 25 years that fully
licensed doctors are picketing a U.S.
employer, according to the Union of American
Physicians and Dentists, which represents the
physicians at the UC schools.

The work stoppage began at 7:30 a.m. and is
scheduled to last one day. It involves 150
health center doctors who manage the primary
care and mental health needs of students.

UC San Diego said there are 10 such
physicians on its campus. Dr. Amol Doshi, a
staff physician at UC San Diego, said five of
them work full time while the others are part-


Read more: http://m.utsandiego.com/news/2015/jan/26/doctors-uc-student-health-centers-strike/

Why Sitting By The Fire Is The Best!

Why Sitting By The Fire Is The Best!
Published on Dec 28, 2014

Whether we’re out camping, or sitting by a fireplace, humans seem to naturally enjoy sitting by a fire! Why is this?

Read More:

Fire Good. Make Human Inspiration Happen.
“New evidence suggests that fire may have influenced the evolution of the human mind.”

The Evolutionary Reason Why We Love Sitting By A Crackling Fire
“Relaxing in front of a crackling fire (or at least the Netflix version) is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a cold winter evening. And now scientists know why.”

Health and campfire influences on arterial blood pressure: defraying the costs of the social brain through fireside relaxation
“The importance of fire in human evolutionary history is widely acknowledged but the extent not fully explored. Fires involve flickering light, crackling sounds, warmth, and a distinctive smell.”

Evolution by Fire
“ANTHROPOLOGISTS and evolutionary biologists have long sought to understand what makes humans special.”

Journalist Pachter feels 'safe' in Tel Aviv

Source: Buenos Aires Herald

BuenosAiresHerald.com journalist Damián Pachter, who left Argentina on Saturday morning after claiming he feared for his life, confirmed yesterday that he has arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel after flying from Buenos Aires.


“Argentina has become a dark place led by a corrupt political system. I still haven’t figured out everything that has happened to me over the past 48 hours. I never imagined my return to Israel would be like this.”

Considering media reports, the Herald’s parent company Grupo Ámbito expressed concern about the situation and said it was looking forward to speaking to Pachter and assisting him in any way necessary.

Pachter is a staff member of the digital content side of the Buenos Aires Herald, which is under the leadership of the Digital Content Editor of the Ámbito Group — that also includes Ámbito.com.

However, neither the Digital Content Editor of the Ámbito Group, Pablo Jiménez, nor the Editor-in-Chief of the print edition of the Herald, Sebastián Lacunza, were aware of the threats against Pachter.

Herald staff

Read more: http://www.buenosairesherald.com/article/180420/journalist-pachter-feels-%E2%80%98safe%E2%80%99-in-tel-aviv
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