Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"China Wind Power Capacity Could Reach 1,000 GW By 2050"

Reuters / China's wind power generating capacity, already the world's largest, could reach 1,000 gigawatts by 2050, a study prepared by a think tank of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) showed on Wednesday.

China had more than 41 GW of wind power capacity at the end of 2010.

The potential capacity in 2050 would reduce the country's carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 gigatonnes per year, roughly equivalent to the combined carbon dioxide emissions of Germany, France and Italy in 2009, the study from the Energy Research Institute under the NDRC showed.

The capacity would generate about 17 percent of China's electricity output in 2050, compared a 1 percent share now.

The International Energy Agency provided technical support for the study.

"Jellyfish image wins wildlife prize" UK

An image of a jellyfish captured off a small uninhabited Scottish island has scooped the top £5,000 prize in this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards.

The photograph taken by Richard Shucksmith from Shetland was snapped at Sula Sgeir, which means Gannet Rock, a remote island 41 miles north of Lewis that is home to a wide array of marine life.

Greg Armfield, photography and film manager at wildlife charity WWF, described the shot as "fantastic".

He said it was "a truly beautiful shot of a jellyfish that perfectly captures its iridescent colours and magical qualities; all the more remarkable that it exists in UK waters."

The competition, now in its third year, awards a top prize to the overall winner and also £1,000 of prizes from Canon for 10 categories, ranging from animal portraits and behaviour to landscapes, urban wildlife and the British seasons.

"Mexico's newest export to US: Water"


SAN DIEGO — Mexico ships televisions, cars, sugar and medical equipment to the United States. Soon, it may be sending water north.

Western states are looking south of the border for water to fill drinking glasses, flush toilets and sprinkle lawns, as four major U.S. water districts help plan one of two huge desalination plant proposals in Playas de Rosarito, about 15 miles south of San Diego. Combined, they would produce 150 million gallons a day, enough to supply more than 300,000 homes on both sides of the border.

The plants are one strategy by both countries to wean themselves from the drought-prone Colorado River, which flows 1,450 miles from the Rocky Mountains to the Sea of Cortez. Decades of friction over the Colorado, in fact, are said to be a hurdle to current desalination negotiations.

The proposed plants have also sparked concerns that American water interests looking to Mexico are simply trying to dodge U.S. environmental reviews and legal challenges.

Desalination plants can blight coastal landscapes, sucking in and killing fish eggs and larvae. They require massive amounts of electricity and dump millions of gallons of brine back into the ocean that can, if not properly disposed, also be harmful to fish.

But desalination has helped quench demand in Australia, Saudi Arabia and other countries lacking fresh water....

Water agencies that supply much of Southern California, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Tijuana, Mexico, are pursuing the plant that would produce 50 million gallons a day in Rosarito near an existing electricity plant. They commissioned a study last year that found no fatal flaws and ordered another one that will include a cost estimate, with an eye toward starting operations in three to five years.

Potential disagreements between the two countries include how the new water stores will be used.

The U.S. agencies want to consider helping pay for the plant and letting Mexico keep the water for booming areas of Tijuana and Rosarito. In exchange, Mexico would surrender some of its allotment from the Colorado River, sparing the cost of laying pipes from the plant to California.

Mexico would never give up water from the Colorado, which feeds seven western U.S. states and northwest Mexico, said Jose Gutierrez, assistant director for binational affairs at Mexico's National Water Commission. Mexico's rights are enshrined in a 1944 treaty.

"The treaty carries great significance in our country. We have to protect it fiercely," Gutierrez said.

The San Diego County Water Authority is also considering a plant at Southern California's Camp Pendleton that would produce up to 150 million gallons a day. Poseidon wants to build one in Huntington Beach, near Los Angeles, that would churn out 50 million gallons a day. Those ideas face significant challenges....

The San Diego agency wants to get 10 percent of the region's water from desalination by 2020 as a way to lessen its dependence on the Colorado River, which is connected by aqueduct about 200 miles away. Tijuana also wants to rely less on the river, a priority that gained urgency after a 2010 earthquake knocked out its aqueduct for about three weeks.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Spiritual Atheism

This is partially in response to: "Beyond ‘New Atheism’" in the New York Times - by Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.
"Kitcher’s secular humanism reanimates the debate, promising much needed serious reflection on whether the divine can or should be eliminated from our moral lives."

What I see as the problem is the divine as being represented by essentially a War God - the War God of the Old Testament. In these debates, many (men, esp.) do not see that that is part of the problem. The problem which many people are rebelling against.

Christianity was liberalized by people who absorbed ideas from old texts from India and other parts of Asia (during the 1800s, 1900s). Transcendence and nature have been considered more important in Asian spirituality than it has in traditional Christianity. So we have liberal Christianity which rejects the ideas of Original Sin and the idea that life and sex are bad. Some Christians, such as those who follow the Pope, and others who take Genesis Literally are more likely to be more attached to the War God - and God as a powerful Male who rules the world.

Religion cannot improve until it leaves such ideas behind - ideas which are really about establishing and maintaining power. A War God is not compatible with the spiritual side of people. The spiritual side of people (right brain thinking - see A Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor, for instance) is about the loss of boundaries, unity with others, peace, love and understanding. And seeing ourselves as part of an amazing universe - not at odds with life - but an integrated part of life. Some gnostics thought along those lines before the Catholic Church put an end to such diversity of thought and spirituality.

Ideas about hell and even heaven are in effect more about the church maintaining power than anything. It is not until all of the power aspects of religions are dropped and life is affirmed - that religion as spirituality can be understood. So it is not a question of the divine being eliminated from our lives - but how we define divine. If life itself is understood to be divine, then there is nothing to eliminate.

"Free to Die"

Back in 1980, just as America was making its political turn to the right, Milton Friedman lent his voice to the change with the famous TV series “Free to Choose.” In episode after episode, the genial economist identified laissez-faire economics with personal choice and empowerment, an upbeat vision that would be echoed and amplified by Ronald Reagan.

But that was then. Today, “free to choose” has become “free to die.”

I’m referring, as you might guess, to what happened during Monday’s G.O.P. presidential debate. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether “society should just let him die.”

And the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”

The incident highlighted something that I don’t think most political commentators have fully absorbed: at this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions.

Now, there are two things you should know about the Blitzer-Paul exchange. The first is that after the crowd weighed in, Mr. Paul basically tried to evade the question, asserting that warm-hearted doctors and charitable individuals would always make sure that people received the care they needed — or at least they would if they hadn’t been corrupted by the welfare state. Sorry, but that’s a fantasy. People who can’t afford essential medical care often fail to get it, and always have — and sometimes they die as a result.

The second is that very few of those who die from lack of medical care look like Mr. Blitzer’s hypothetical individual who could and should have bought insurance. In reality, most uninsured Americans either have low incomes and cannot afford insurance, or are rejected by insurers because they have chronic conditions.

So would people on the right be willing to let those who are uninsured through no fault of their own die from lack of care? The answer, based on recent history, is a resounding “Yeah!”

...In the past, conservatives accepted the need for a government-provided safety net on humanitarian grounds. Don’t take it from me, take it from Friedrich Hayek, the conservative intellectual hero, who specifically declared in “The Road to Serfdom” his support for “a comprehensive system of social insurance” to protect citizens against “the common hazards of life,” and singled out health in particular.

Given the agreed-upon desirability of protecting citizens against the worst, the question then became one of costs and benefits — and health care was one of those areas where even conservatives used to be willing to accept government intervention in the name of compassion, given the clear evidence that covering the uninsured would not, in fact, cost very much money. As many observers have pointed out, the Obama health care plan was largely based on past Republican plans, and is virtually identical to Mitt Romney’s health reform in Massachusetts.

Now, however, compassion is out of fashion — indeed, lack of compassion has become a matter of principle, at least among the G.O.P.’s base.

And what this means is that modern conservatism is actually a deeply radical movement, one that is hostile to the kind of society we’ve had for the past three generations — that is, a society that, acting through the government, tries to mitigate some of the “common hazards of life” through such programs as Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.

Are voters ready to embrace such a radical rejection of the kind of America we’ve all grown up in? I guess we’ll find out next year.

"New atlas shows extent of climate change"

From the Guardian:

In Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, Greenland has lost around 15% of its ice cover between 10th edition (1999) (left) and 13th edition (2011) (right). Photograph: Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World
If you have never heard of Uunartoq Qeqertaq, it's possibly because it's one of the world's newest islands, appearing in 2006 off the east coast of Greenland, 340 miles north of the Arctic circle when the ice retreated because of global warming. This Thursday the new land – translated from Inuit as Warming Island – was deemed permanent enough by map-makers to be included in a new edition of the most comprehensive atlas in the world.

Uunartoq Qeqertaq joins Southern Sudan and nearly 7,000 other countries and places added or changed since the last edition of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, reflecting political change in Africa, administrative changes in China, burgeoning cities in developing countries, climate change, and large infrastructure projects which have changed the flow of rivers, lakes and coastlines.

The world's biggest physical changes in the past few years are mostly seen nearest the poles where climate change has been most extreme. Greenland appears considerably browner round the edges, having lost around 15%, or 300,000 sq km, of its permanent ice cover. Antarctica is smaller following the break-up of the Larsen B and Wilkins ice shelves.

But the Aral Sea in central Asia, which had previously shrunk to just 25% of its size only 80 years ago, is now larger than it was only five years ago, thanks to Kazakhstan redirecting water into it. Elsewhere in Asia, islands are appearing off the mouths of the Ganges and the Yangtze rivers as the amount of silt brought down from the Himalayas and inland China changes.

Sections of the Rio Grande, Yellow, Colorado and Tigris rivers are now drying out each summer. In Mongolia, the Ongyin Gol has been redirected to allow gold mining, while the Colorado river these days does not reach the sea most years. "We are increasingly concerned that in the near future important geographical features will disappear for ever. Greenland could reach a tipping point in about 30 years," said Jethro Lennox, editor of the atlas.

Friday, September 09, 2011

"Giant crabs make Antarctic leap"


Writing in the journal Proceedings B, scientists report a large, reproductive population of crabs in the Palmer Deep, a basin cut in the continental shelf.

They suggest the crabs were washed in during an upsurge of warmer water.

The crabs are voracious crushers of sea floor animals and will probably change the ecosystem profoundly if and when they spread further, researchers warn.

Related species have been found around islands off the Antarctic Peninsula and on the outer edge of the continental shelf.

But here the crabs (Neolithodes yaldwyni) are living and reproducing in abundance right on the edge of the continent itself.

Judging by the density of the crabs and their tracks, the scientists estimate there may be 1.5 million crabs in the basin.

A female crab retrieved from the area was found to be carrying mature eggs and larvae.

"Our best guess is there was an event, or maybe more than one, where warmer water flushed up across the shelf and carried some of the larvae into the basin," said project leader Craig Smith from the University of Hawaii.

It is believed that this species cannot tolerate water colder than 1.4C.

The seas here get warmer as you descend; and the crabs were only found below 850m.

The researchers calculate that they have probably been there only for 30-40 years; before that, the water would have been too cold even at the bottom of the Palmer Deep.

They cannot as yet survive on the continental shelf, which is at a depth of about 500m; but that could change.

"If you look at the rate at which the seas are warming, (the continental shelf) should be above 1.4C within a couple of decades, so the crabs are likely then to come into shallower waters," Professor Smith told BBC News.

With a legspan of up to a metre, the animals are generally top predators in the seafloor ecosystem.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"30,000 years ago, as few as 1,000 humans in Asia, Europe"

In USA Today:

Though it may seem difficult to believe in a world with almost seven billion people, humans were once thin on the ground, and at times teetered on the brink of extinction.

For most of the history of our species, there weren't many of us, probably in the "tens of thousands, comparable to modern populations of gorillas and chimpanzees," says Richard Durbin, a genome scientist with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England.

Durbin and Heng Li, a colleague at the Broad Institute of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have a paper in this week's edition of the journal Nature in which they present a new method they have developed to look at a single person's DNA sequences and using them as a representative of all their ancestors -- and thus map out the history of the species.

They applied it to seven people: a Chinese man, a Korean man, three Europeans and two Yoruba men from west Africa. What they found was interesting.

Anatomically modern humans originated in southern Africa. It's generally believed that some of them began to move northwards out of Africa between 50,000 to 60,000 years ago.

However the researchers' evidence shows that there was at least some differentiation between African and non-African human populations as early as 100,000 and 120,000 years ago.

In addition, once the European and Asian groups had left the continent, it wasn't as if they never intermingled again. Genetic exchange between the groups continued until around 20,000 years ago, their research found. That doesn't necessary mean one person every year, "but maybe every few hundred another bunch left," says Durbin.

Those populations who left lived through very hard times. The people who became modern Europeans and Asians underwent a severe population bottleneck sometime between 100,000 and 30,000 years ago, getting down to as few as 1,000 people who were reproducing, it appears.

"It also looks like the Africans also decreased at the same time, though not as much," Durbin says.

What's known about that era is that it was one of extreme changes in climate, with ice ages coming and then receding. This was especially a problem in more northern latitudes and perhaps less so in Africa. The latest ice age only finished about 10,000 years ago, after which agriculture began to flourish.

Today's human population represents an enormous shift from those early, few and threatened primates. "The fact that we're pervasive in the world now is sort of an anomaly in the history of great ape populations," says Durbin.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Sizzle Factor for a Restless Climate"

By HEIDI CULLEN (in the New York Times)

ENJOYING the heat wave?

The answer is probably no if you live in Abilene, Tex., where temperatures have been at or above 100 degrees for 40 days this summer. It’s been a little cooler in Savannah, Ga., where the mercury hit 90 or more for 56 days in a row. Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma are coping with their driest nine-month stretch since 1895.

Yes, it has been a very hot summer after one of the most extreme-weather springs on record. It’s time to face the fact that the weather isn’t what it used to be.

Every 10 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recalculates what it calls climate “normals,” 30-year averages of temperature and precipitation for about 7,500 locations across the United States. The latest numbers, released earlier this month, show that the climate of the last 10 years was about 1.5 degrees warmer than the climate of the 1970s, and the warmest since the first decade of the last century. Temperatures were, on average, 0.5 degrees warmer from 1981 to 2010 than they were from 1971 to 2000, and the average annual temperatures for all of the lower 48 states have gone up.

For climate geeks like me, the new normals offer a fascinating and disturbing snapshot of a restless climate. The numbers don’t take sides or point fingers. They acknowledge both powerful natural climate fluctuations as well as the steady drumbeat of warming caused by roughly seven billion people trying to live and prosper on a small planet, emitting heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the process.

Even this seemingly modest shift in climate can mean a big change in weather. Shifting weather patterns influence energy demand, affect crop productivity and lead to weather-related disasters. In the United States, in any given year, routine weather events like a hot day or a heavy downpour can cost the economy as much as $485 billion in crop losses, construction delays and travel disruptions, a recent study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research found. In other words, that extra 1.5 degrees might be more than we can afford.

And while the new normals don’t point to a cause, climate science does. Drawing from methods used in epidemiology, a field of climate research called “detection and attribution” tests how human actions like burning fossil fuels affect climate and increase the odds of extreme weather events.

Heat-trapping pollution at least doubled the likelihood of the infamous European heat wave that killed more than 30,000 people during the summer of 2003, according to a study in the journal Nature in 2004. And if we don’t ease our grip on the climate, summers like that one will likely happen every other year by 2040, the study warned. Human actions have warmed the climate on all seven continents, and as a result all weather is now occurring in an environment that bears humanity’s signature, with warmer air and seas and more moisture than there was just a few decades ago, resulting in more extreme weather.

The snapshots of climate history from NOAA can also provide a glimpse of what’s in store locally in the future. Using climate models, we can project what future Julys might look like. For example, by 2050, assuming we continue to pump heat-trapping pollution into our atmosphere at a rate similar to today’s, New Yorkers can expect the number of July days exceeding 90 degrees to double, and those exceeding 95 degrees to roughly triple. Sweltering days in excess of 100 degrees, rare now, will become a regular feature of the Big Apple’s climate in the 2050s.

The next time NOAA calculates its new temperature normals will be in 2021 — when there will be about another billion people on the planet. Lady Gaga may no longer be hot. But the climate almost surely will be.

Heidi Cullen, a scientist at Climate Central, a journalism and research organization, is the author of “The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes From a Climate-Changed Planet.”

Thursday, July 14, 2011

US Drought Map as of July 12, 2011

D0 ... Abnormally Dry ... used for areas showing dryness but not yet in drought, or for areas recovering from drought.

Drought Intensity Categories
D1 ... Moderate Drought
D2 ... Severe Drought
D3 ... Extreme Drought
D4 ... Exceptional Drought

Drought or Dryness Types
A ... Agricultural
H ... Hydrological

For more maps - see:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Regarding Mackerel & Jellyfish

By George Monbiot:

Last year I began to wonder, this year doubt is seeping away, to be replaced with a rising fear. Could it really have happened? Could the fishing industry have achieved the remarkable feat of destroying the last great stock?

Until 2010, mackerel were the one reliable catch in Cardigan Bay in west Wales. Though I took to the water dozens of times, there wasn't a day in 2008 or 2009 when I failed to take 10 or more. Once every three or four trips I would hit a major shoal, and bring in 100 or 200 fish: enough, across the season, to fill the freezer and supply much of our protein for the year. Those were thrilling moments: pulling up strings of fish amid whirling flocks of shearwaters, gannets pluming into the water beside my kayak, dolphins breaching and blowing. It was, or so it seemed, the most sustainable of all the easy means of harvesting animal protein.

Even those days were nothing by comparison to what the older residents remembered: weeks on end when the sea was so thick with fish that you could fill a bucket with mackerel just by picking them off the sand, as they flung themselves through and beyond the breaking waves while pursuing their prey.

Last year it all changed. From the end of May to the end of October I scoured the bay, on one occasion paddling six or seven miles from land – the furthest I've ever been – to try to find the fish. With the exception of a day on which I caught 20, I brought them back in ones or twos, if at all. There were many days on which I caught nothing at all.

There were as many explanations as there were fishermen: the dolphins had driven them away, the north-westerlies had broken up the shoals, a monstrous fishmeal ship was stationed in the Irish Sea, hoovering up 500 tonnes a day with a fiendish new vacuum device. (Despite a wealth of detail on this story I soon discovered that no such ship existed. But that's fishermen for you).

I spoke to a number of fisheries officials and scientists, and was shocked to discover that not only did they have no explanation, they had no data either.

So I hoped for the best – that the dearth could be explained by a fluctuation of weather or ecology. When the fish failed to arrive at the end of May I told myself they must be on their way. They had, after all, been showing off the south-west of England – it could be only a matter of time. I held off until last weekend...

Far below me I could see the luminous feathers I used as bait tripping over the seabed.

But I could also see something else. Jellyfish. Unimaginable numbers of them. Not the transparent cocktail umbrellas I was used to, but solid, white rubbery creatures the size of footballs. They roiled in the surface or loomed, vast and pale, in the depths. There was scarcely a cubic metre of water without one.

Apart from that – nothing. It wasn't until I reached a buoy three miles from the shore that I felt the urgent tap of a fish, and brought up a single, juvenile mackerel. Otherwise, though I paddled to all the likely spots, I detected nothing but the jellyfish rubbing against the line.

Is this the moment? Have I just witnessed the beginning of the end of vertebrate ecology here? If so, the shift might not be confined to Cardigan Bay. In a perfect conjunction of two of my recent interests, last week a monstrous swarm of jellyfish succeeded where Greenpeace has failed, and shut down both reactors at the Torness nuclear power station in Scotland.

The Israeli branch of Jellyfish Action pulled off a similar feat at the nuclear power station in Hadera this week.

A combination of overfishing and ocean acidification (caused by rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) has created the perfect conditions for this shift from a system dominated by fish to a system dominated by jellyfish....

"Pope blames atheists for global warming"

From Michael Stone, Portland Humanist Examiner (8-29-2009:

The Pope blames atheists for global warming. Pope Benedict is claiming atheists are responsible for the destruction of the environment. The Pope made the claims in a recent speech given at the Vatican. The claim is a puzzling attack on atheism that frankly makes little sense.

Excerpt from the Pope's speech:
“Is it not true that inconsiderate use of creation begins where God is marginalized or also where his existence is denied? If the human creature's relationship with the Creator weakens, matter is reduced to egoistic possession, man becomes the ‘final authority,’ and the objective of existence is reduced to a feverish race to possess the most possible.”

The irony is that any historical evaluation places the blame for global warming and the degradation of the planet firmly in the lap of Christians and the Catholic church. The Holy Bible, a book atheists firmly reject for good reason, claims that God gave man dominion over the earth. Christians, including Catholics, took these words to heart. They used those words as carte blanche, a justification for all manners of planetary abuse.

Christianity, and Catholicism, are historically anti-environmental. In fact, if blame is to be placed for the current global environmental crisis, it is to be placed squarely upon the Judeo-Christian tradition. The fact that Christianity is anti-environmental is no secret. Indeed, many Christians have taken a perverse pride in claiming their dominion. For example, James Watt, who became U.S. Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s, wrote an influential and damning article entitled "Ours Is the Earth". Watt, speaking for countless Christians, made it abundantly clear that for believers the earth is "merely a temporary way station on the road to eternal life...The earth was put here by the Lord for His people to subdue and to use for profitable purposes on their way to the hereafter."

For those of the Judeo-Christian tradition, the earth is, for all intents and purposes, disposable, nothing but a waiting room for eternity. As such the waiting room can be plundered in any fashion. After all, the earth is but a temporary and transient thing of no consequence when compared to the promise of eternity (pie in the sky, yum yum!).

The fact that the Pope would bear false witness should surprise no one. Such is the stuff of most religions. The hypocrisy of the Pope is monstrous. He lives in opulent luxury, surrounded by obscene material wealth, while paying lip service to the poor unwashed masses. Children starve for lack of the most minimal of nutrition, while the Pope parades around in designer shoes. Words fail to describe the obscene perversity of this hypocritical buffoon.

The Pope is not alone is his hypocrisy. It is a hallmark of the successful Christian leader to live in luxury while preaching charity. It is one of the great and ugly ironies of religious life. The Pope is just another religious con man, the pointy hat and funny dress symbolic of criminal decadence and moral corruption.


While I know that there are Christians who are also earth/nature-lovers, the Pope does not do Christians, esp. Catholics, a favor with this. Maybe some people will delusionally believe him - but I think he is asking for whatever disdain he gets.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Fukushima City: "Japan citizen groups alarmed by radioactive soil"

From DesdemonaDespair:

TOKYO, July 4 (AFP) – Soil radiation in a city 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Japan's stricken nuclear plant is above levels that prompted resettlement after the Chernobyl disaster, citizens' groups said Tuesday.

The survey of four locations in Fukushima city, outside the nuclear evacuation zone, showed that all soil samples contained caesium exceeding Japan's legal limit of 10,000 becquerels per kilogram (4,500 per pound), they said.

The highest level was 46,540 becquerels per kilogram, and the three other readings were between 16,290 and 19,220 becquerels per kilogram, they said.

The citizens' groups -- the Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation and five other non-governmental organisations -- have called for the evacuation of pregnant women and children from the town.

The highest reading in the city of 290,000 people far exceeded the level that triggered compulsory resettlement ordered by Soviet authorities following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine, they said.

Kobe University radiation expert professor Tomoya Yamauchi conducted the survey on June 26 following a request from the groups.

"Soil contamination is spreading in the city," Yamauchi said in a statement. "Children are playing with the soil, meaning they are playing with high levels of radioactive substances. Evacuation must be conducted as soon as possible." […]

Meanwhile Japan's Fukushima city denies radiation danger

TOKYO — Japan's Fukushima city said Wednesday its 300,000 people are safe from radiation from the stricken nuclear plant 60 kilometres (40 miles) away, seeking to allay fears voiced by citizen groups.

"We in Fukushima City currently believe we are not in danger," said a city spokesman... "Of course, we acknowledge that many residents are concerned. The city has taken various measures to reduce radiation levels at schools, parks and other areas in addition to regularly monitoring radiation in the environment."

City authorities have removed top soil from school yards, washed down the walls of school buildings and cleared mud from gutters to protect children from radiation exposure, the city spokesman told AFP. School children will soon receive radiation meters to monitor exposure, he said...

Radiation maps show that the areas worst affected by fallout from the the Fukushima disaster lie to the northwest, where Fukushima City is located, due to wind patterns and geographical features of the region.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

During Texas drought - lots of water going to Fracking


Texas is experiencing the driest eight-month period in its recorded history. But in 2010, natural gas companies used 13.5 billion gallons of fresh water for hydraulic fracturing, and that could more than double by 2020. Where's all this water coming from? Oh, it was just lying around, in these aquifers! You guys weren't using it to drink or irrigate or anything, right? Guys?

Crockett County, Tx., near San Angelo (which you probably also haven't heard of, but it's not near much else), has gotten less than two inches of rain since October. But water for fracking could soon make up 25 percent of the county's water usage, according to its groundwater conservation manager. Fracking takes between 50,000 and 4 million gallons for a single well, on average, and could take as many as 13 million gallons. And most of that water is gone for good -- 75 percent of it can't be recovered.

Fracking works with brackish water, the stuff that's not really useful for drinking or irrigation. The equipment is just so precious and delicate, though -- we wouldn't want it getting gummed up! "[G]iven the specific sort of engineering and pressure they're using, it's better to have fewer impurities in the water, so fresh water works better," says the president of the pro-oil Permian Basin Petroleum Association. Thank goodness the same can't be said of people and animals and crops!

Friday, July 01, 2011

“Jellyfish” Ensemble"

Alexander McQueen (British, 1969–2010)
“Jellyfish” Ensemble
Plato’s Atlantis, spring/summer 2010
Dress, leggings, and “Armadillo” boots embroidered with iridescent enamel paillettes
In McQueen’s Words:
“[This collection predicted a future in which] the ice cap would melt . . . the waters would rise and . . . life on earth would have to evolve in order to live beneath the sea once more or perish. Humanity [would] go back to the place from whence it came.”

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art Blog

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Horn of Africa sees 'worst drought in 60 years'"

From the BBC:

More than 10 million people are thought to be affected across the region.

The UN now classifies large areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya as a crisis or an emergency.

Charity Save the Children says drought and war in Somalia has led to unprecedented numbers fleeing across the border into Kenya, with about 1,300 people arriving every day.

Three camps at Dadaab, just inside Kenya, are home to well over 350,000 people, but they were built to hold just 90,000 and are severely overcrowded.

A prolonged failure of rains, which began in late 2010, is now taking its toll.

The UN's Office for the Co-Ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) warns that the situation is continuing to deteriorate, and the number of people in need will continue to increase.

The numbers now affected are huge, Ohca says: 3.2m in Ethiopia, 3.2m in Kenya, 2.6m in Somalia and more than 100,000 in Djibouti.

Every month during 2011, about 15,000 Somalis have fled their country, arriving in Kenya and Ethiopia, according to Ocha.

While conflict has been a fact of life for them for years, it is the drought that has brought them to breaking point. Many have walked for days, are exhausted, in poor health, desperate for food and water.

Nearly one third of all children in the Juba region of Somalia are acutely malnourished, while in parts of Ethiopia the figure is even higher, the UN research says. Parts of Uganda are also suffering from the drought.

"US climate skeptic Soon funded by oil, coal firms"

* Funding came from Koch Foundation, Southern, Exxon, API
* Private science funding gets close look amid budget cuts
* Soon says never motivated by financial reward

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, June 28 (Reuters) - Willie Soon, a U.S. climate change skeptic who has also discounted the health risks of mercury emissions from coal, has received more than $1 million in funding in recent years from large energy companies and an oil industry group, according to Greenpeace.

Soon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has also gotten funding from scientific sources including NASA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But starting early in the last decade, Soon began receiving more funding from the energy companies, Greenpeace reported.

Last year, the foundation of Charles Koch, chairman and CEO of privately held Koch Industries, gave Soon $65,000 to study how variations in the Sun are related to climate change.

Koch is co-owned by David Koch, founder of Americans for Prosperity, a group aligned with the Tea Party movement, which opposes new air pollution regulations.

Beginning in 2002, Soon's funding mostly came from oil companies, including Southern Co (SO.N: Quote), one of the largest coal burners in the United States, and the American Petroleum Institute, according to documents uncovered in a Freedom of Information Act request by Greenpeace and seen by Reuters.

"A campaign of climate change denial has been waged for over twenty years by Big Oil and Big Coal," said Kert Davies, a research director at Greenpeace US.

"Scientists like Dr. Soon who take fossil fuel money and pretend to be independent scientists are pawns."

Soon was criticized by many climate scientists for a 2003 paper he co-wrote, concluding that 20th century warming was not unusual compared to that of centuries past. About 5 percent of the study's funding, or $53,000, came from the API, they said.

Soon, who says global warming is mostly caused by changes in the Sun, not emissions from burning oil, gas and coal, has written some peer-reviewed studies on global climate change.

More recently, he has written non-peer reviewed papers. In 2007 he co-wrote a paper that concluded polar bears are not threatened by human-caused climate change, which was also funded partially by grants from the oil industry.

While corporate funding of science is not new, the focus on the ethics of such aid is growing as state and federal science grants are reduced amid budget cuts.
Soon co-wrote a May 25 opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal called "The Myth of Killer Mercury." In the piece, Soon was identified as a natural scientist from Harvard, but the newspaper did not disclose that he receives most of his funding from the energy industry. The Journal did not return a request for comment.

Soon wrote that the EPA, which is under court order to finalize rules on the pollution from power plants, wants to discipline the energy industry. "To build its case against mercury, the EPA systematically ignored evidence and clinical studies that contradict its regulatory agenda, which is to punish hydrocarbon use," the piece said.

...Soon agreed he had received funding from all of the groups and companies, but denied any group would have influenced his studies....

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Species Migrate Across Newly Ice-free Northwest Passage"

From the Washington Post:

AMSTERDAM — (AP) When a 43-foot (13-meter) gray whale was spotted off the Israeli town of Herzliya last year, scientists came to a startling conclusion: it must have wandered across the normally icebound route above Canada, where warm weather had briefly opened a clear channel three years earlier.

On a microscopic level, scientists also have found plankton in the North Atlantic where it had not existed for at least 800,000 years.

The whale’s odyssey and the surprising appearance of the plankton indicates a migration of species through the Northwest Passage, a worrying sign of how global warming is affecting animals and plants in the oceans as well as on land.

“The implications are enormous. It’s a threshold that has been crossed,” said Philip C. Reid, of the Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science in Plymouth, England.

“It’s an indication of the speed of change that is taking place in our world in the present day because of climate change,” he said in a telephone interview Friday.

Reid said the last time the world witnessed such a major incursion from the Pacific was 2 million years ago, which had “a huge impact on the North Atlantic,” driving some species to extinction as the newcomers dominated the competition for food.

Reid’s study of plankton and the research on the whale, co-authored by Aviad Scheinin of the Israel Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center, are among nearly 300 scientific papers written over the last 13 years that are being synthesized and published this year by Project Clamer, a collaboration of 17 institutes on climate change and the oceans.

Changes in the oceans’ chemistry and temperature could have implications for fisheries, as species migrate northward to cooler waters, said Katja Philippart, of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research who is coordinating the project funded by the European Union.

“We try to put the information on the table for people who have to make decisions. We don’t say whether it’s bad or good. We say there is a high potential for change,” she said.

The Northwest Passage, the route through the frigid archipelago from Alaska across northern Canada, has been ice-free from one end to the other only twice in recorded history, in 1998 and 2007. But the ice pack is retreating farther and more frequently during the summers.

Plankton that had previously been found only in Atlantic sea bed cores from 800,000 years ago appeared in the Labrador Sea in 1999 — and then in massive numbers in the Gulf of St. Lawrence two years later. Now it has established itself as far south as the New York coast, Reid said.

The highly endangered gray whale sighted off the Israeli coast in May 2010 belonged to a species that was hunted to extinction in the Atlantic by the mid-1700s. The same animal — identified by unique markings on its fluke, or tail fin — appeared off the Spanish coast 22 days later, and has not been reported seen since.

Though it was difficult to draw conclusions from one whale, the researchers said its presence in the Mediterranean “coincides with a shrinking of Arctic Sea ice due to climate change and suggests that climate change may allow gray whales to re-colonize the North Atlantic.”

That may be good for the whales, but other aspects of the ice melt could be harmful to the oceans’ biosystems, the scientists warn...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Oceans on brink of catastrophe"

"State of seas 'much worse than we thought', says global panel of scientists"

The world's oceans are faced with an unprecedented loss of species comparable to the great mass extinctions of prehistory, a major report suggests today. The seas are degenerating far faster than anyone has predicted, the report says, because of the cumulative impact of a number of severe individual stresses, ranging from climate warming and sea-water acidification, to widespread chemical pollution and gross overfishing.

The coming together of these factors is now threatening the marine environment with a catastrophe "unprecedented in human history", according to the report, from a panel of leading marine scientists brought together in Oxford earlier this year by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The stark suggestion made by the panel is that the potential extinction of species, from large fish at one end of the scale to tiny corals at the other, is directly comparable to the five great mass extinctions in the geological record, during each of which much of the world's life died out. They range from the Ordovician-Silurian "event" of 450 million years ago, to the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction of 65 million years ago, which is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs. The worst of them, the event at the end of the Permian period, 251 million years ago, is thought to have eliminated 70 per cent of species on land and 96 per cent of all species in the sea.

The panel of 27 scientists, who considered the latest research from all areas of marine science, concluded that a "combination of stressors is creating the conditions associated with every previous major extinction of species in Earth's history". They also concluded:

* The speed and rate of degeneration of the oceans is far faster than anyone has predicted;

* Many of the negative impacts identified are greater than the worst predictions;

* The first steps to globally significant extinction may have already begun.

"The findings are shocking," said Dr Alex Rogers, professor of conservation biology at Oxford University and IPSO's scientific director. "As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the oceans, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised.

"This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime, and worse, in the lifetime of our children and generations beyond that." Reviewing recent research, the panel of experts "found firm evidence" that the effects of climate change, coupled with other human-induced impacts such as overfishing and nutrient run-off from farming, have already caused a dramatic decline in ocean health.

Not only are there severe declines in many fish species, to the point of commercial extinction in some cases, and an "unparalleled" rate of regional extinction of some habitat types, such as mangrove and seagrass meadows, but some whole marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, may be gone within a generation.

The report says: "Increasing hypoxia [low oxygen levels] and anoxia [absence of oxygen, known as ocean dead zones], combined with warming of the ocean and acidification, are the three factors which have been present in every mass extinction event in Earth's history.

"There is strong scientific evidence that these three factors are combining in the ocean again, exacerbated by multiple severe stressors. The scientific panel concluded that a new extinction event was inevitable if the current trajectory of damage continues."

The panel pointed to a number of indicators showing how serious the situation is. It said, for example, that a single mass coral bleaching event in 1998 killed 16 per cent of all the world's coral reefs, and pointed out that overfishing has reduced some commercial fish stocks and populations of "bycatch" (unintentionally caught) species by more than 90 per cent.

It disclosed that new scientific research suggests that pollutants, including flame-retardant chemicals and synthetic musks found in detergents, are being traced in the polar seas, and that these chemicals can be absorbed by tiny plastic particles in the ocean which are in turn ingested by marine creatures such as bottom-feeding fish.

Plastic particles also assist the transport of algae from place to place, increasing the occurrence of toxic algal blooms – which are also caused by the influx of nutrient-rich pollution from agricultural land.

The experts agreed that when these and other threats are added together, the ocean and the ecosystems within it are unable to recover, being constantly bombarded with multiple attacks....

The report's conclusions will be presented at the UN in New York this week, when delegates begin discussions on reforming governance of the oceans.

The five great extinctions

The Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction (the End Cretaceous or K-T extinction) 65.5 Mya (million years ago)

Plankton, which lies at the bottom of the ocean food chain took a hard hit in an event that also saw the demise of the last of the non-avian dinosaurs. The giant mosasaurs and plesiosaurs also vacated the seas. An asteroid or volcano eruptions are thought to be to blame.

The Triassic–Jurassic extinction (End Triassic) – 205 Mya

Having a profound affect on sea and land, this period saw 20 per cent of all marine families disappear. In total, half the species known to be living on Earth at that time went extinct. Gradual climate change, fluctuating sea-levels and volcanic eruptions are among the reasons cited for the disappearing species.

The Permian–Triassic extinction (End Permian) 251 Mya

A period known as the "great dying" was the most severe of the earth's extinction events, when 96 per cent of marine species were lost, as well as almost three-quarters of terrestrial species. The planet took a long time to recover from what has also been called "the mother of all mass extinctions".

The late Devonian extinction 360–375 Mya

Three-quarters of all species on Earth died out in a period that may have spanned several million years. The shallow seas were the worst affected and reefs would not recover for another 100 million years. Changes in sea level and climate change were among the suspected causes.

The Ordovician–Silurian extinction (End Ordovician or O-S) – 440–450 Mya

The third largest extinction in Earth's history had two peak dying times. During the Ordovician, most life was in the sea, so it was sea creatures such as trilobites, brachiopods and graptolites that were drastically reduced. In all, some 85 per cent of sea species were wiped out.

Waves of destruction

Case Study One in the panel's report assesses the "deadly trio" of factors – global warming, ocean acidification and anoxia (absence of oxygen). Most if not all of the five global mass extinctions in prehistory carry the fingerprints of these "carbon perturbations", the report says, and the "deadly trio" are present in the ocean today.

Case Study Two looks at coral reefs, and the fact that these "rainforests of the sea" (so-called for their species richness) are now facing multiple threats. The panel concluded that these threats acting together (pollution, acidification, warming, overfishing) will have a greater impact than if they were occurring on their own, and so estimates of how coral reefs will respond to global warming will have to be revised.

Case Study Three examines pollution, which is an old problem, but may be presenting new threats, as a wide range of novel chemicals is now being found in marine ecosystems, from pharmaceuticals to flame retardants, and some are known to be endocrine disrupters or can damage immune systems. Marine litter, especially, plastics, is a huge concern.

Case Study Four looks at over-fishing: it focuses on the Chinese bahaba, a giant fish which was first described by scientists only in the 1930s, but is now critically endangered: it has gone from discovery to near-disappearance in less than 70 years. A recent study showed that 63 per cent of the assessed fish stocks worldwide are over-exploited or depleted.

The Mini-Ice-Age and Global Warming

There have been articles recently about the lack of sunspot activity and the possible link to a mini-ice age. It has been my idea from what I have read that we probably would be in the midst of an ice age if it were not for rise in CO2 due to industry and cars, etc.

"The reality is that, while the sun may well be about to give us a shove in the direction of cool temperatures, the evidence suggests it won't be anything like enough to drown out the warming effects of our greenhouse gas emissions," he said.

Scientists are in no doubt that the sun has been acting oddly in recent years. Sunspot numbers ebb and flow in cycles lasting around 11 years but over the past three years, observable sunspots have been mostly missing.

These spots have been used by scientists to indicate the sun's magnetic activity is diminishing, and that the sun may even be shrinking. Since 2007, visible sunspot activity has stalled, leading researchers to suggest that the next solar maximum (due in 2013) could be a long while coming. Instead, the sun could go into a prolonged lull lasting several decades.

This has happened before, the most famous example is the Maunder Minimum of 1645-1715 when a period of solar inactivity coincided with a "Little Ice Age" -- rivers that were normally ice-free froze and snow fields remained year-round at lower altitudes, according to NASA.

There is plenty of evidence that such "grand minima" cool the Earth and that the sun's sunspot cycle is closely tied to these phenomena...He cites research conducted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany that modelled what would happen to temperatures if a grand minimum started now and continued until 2100. They found that it would lower temperatures by 0.3 °C at most.

Now, when you take into account current greenhouse gas emissions, which are set to raise global temperatures by 2-4°C by 2100, even the most optimistic scenario would see a rise of 2 °C reduced to 1.7 °C. Not an ice age at all, in other words.

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research has an article Arctic Warming Overtakes 2,000 Years of Natural Cooling with this graph:
New research shows that the Arctic reversed a long-term cooling trend and began warming rapidly in recent decades. The blue line shows estimates of Arctic temperatures over the last 2,000 years, based on proxy records from lake sediments, ice cores and tree rings. The green line shows the long-term cooling trend. The red line shows the recent warming based on actual observations. A 2000-year transient climate simulation with NCAR?s Community Climate System Model shows the same overall temperature decrease as does the proxy temperature reconstruction, which gives scientists confidence that their estimates are accurate....

The new study is the first to quantify a pervasive cooling across the Arctic on a decade-by-decade basis that is related to an approximately 21,000-year cyclical wobble in Earth's tilt relative to the Sun. Over the last 7,000 years, the timing of Earth's closest pass by the Sun has shifted from September to January. This has gradually reduced the intensity of sunlight reaching the Arctic in summertime, when Earth is farther from the Sun.

The research team's temperature analysis shows that summer temperatures in the Arctic, in step with the reduced energy from the Sun, cooled at an average rate of about 0.2 degrees Celsius (about .36 degrees Fahrenheit) per thousand years. The temperatures eventually bottomed out during the "Little Ice Age," a period of widespread cooling that lasted roughly from the 16th to the mid-19th centuries.

Even though the orbital cycle that produced the cooling continued, it was overwhelmed in the 20th century by human-induced warming. The result was summer temperatures in the Arctic by the year 2000 that were about 1.4 degrees C (2.5 degrees F) higher than would have been expected from the continued cyclical cooling alone.

"If it hadn't been for the increase in human-produced greenhouse gases, summer temperatures in the Arctic should have cooled gradually over the last century," says Bette Otto-Bliesner, an NCAR scientist who participated in the study.

If the amount of global warming people are causing was small - a person could argue that the greenhouse effect is being beneficial. But it is not minimal, the CO2 is also causing acidification of the oceans, as well as droughts, and more powerful storms and other problems. At the rate the world is warming, along with related problems, denial about problem solving at this point is quite lame, and in my opinion - obnoxious.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"China evacuates 500,000 as flooding breaks worst drought in 50 years"

From the Guardian.UK:

China has evacuated more than 500,000 people from deadly floods that are devastating areas in the south of the country following the worst drought in 50 years.

At least 105 people have been swept to their deaths or killed in landslides and another 65 are missing after rivers burst their banks. The authorities have issued the highest level of alarm about dykes and dams under dangerous pressure.

Television channels that were only recently broadcasting images of dried-up lake beds are now carrying footage of flooded homes and boats plying their way through inundated streets. China Daily said 550,000 people have been forced to leave their homes.

The dramatic shift is in line with weather trends identified by the Beijing Climate Centre, which says rain is coming in shorter, fiercer bursts, interspersed by protracted periods of drought.

The worst affected province is Zhejiang, where some stretches of the Qiantang river have risen to their highest level since 1955, according to the Flood Control and Drought Relief Office.

In the Zhuji district, which has had 40.5cm of rain since the start of the month, the Puyang river inundated 88 villages and 13,000 hectares of crops.

In neighbouring Jiangxi province, troops have helped 122,400 residents evacuate from vulnerable lowlands, according to the China News Service. Roads have been closed and bridges have collapsed in the floods, which have also affected Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces.

Monitoring stations on 40 rivers have recorded water levels above the safety limit, including Asia's biggest waterway – the Yangtze – which is simultaneously suffering a flood downstream and a drought closer to its source.

Monday, June 13, 2011

" Hot Particles From Japan to Seattle Virtually Undetectable when Inhaled or Swallowed"

Video of Arne Gunderson on

He talks about collecting samples from car air filters in Tokyo and other places in Japan. And the "metallic" taste people get in their mouth when hot particles are abundant (which people got following 3Mile Island, Chernobyl and are now getting in Seattle as well as Japan).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

June Heat Wave in USA

From ThinkProgress:

HEAT WAVE SHATTERS 2,852 U.S. RECORDS, KILLS EIGHT | The fossil-fueled heat wave blazing across the United States east of the Rockies has killed at least eight people, knocked out power from Detroit to Connecticut, and set 1,859 high-temperature and 993 high-minimum-temperature records this week:


As you might expect, Toronto and other Canadian areas had record-breaking heat this past week.

Next week is supposed to be cooler.

Formaldehyde, Styrene - carcinogens


After David Koch Leaves NIH Board, NIH Hands Down Long-Delayed Classification Of Top Koch Pollutant As A Carcinogen

Large manufacturers and chemical producers have lobbied ferociously to stop the National Institutes of Health from classifying formaldehyde as a carcinogen. A wide body of research has linked the chemical to cancer, but industrial polluters have stymied regulators from action.

Last year, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported that billionaire David Koch, whose company Georgia Pacfic (a subsidiary of Koch Industries) is one of the country’s top producers of formaldehyde, was appointed to the NIH cancer board at a time when the NIH delayed action on the chemical. The news was met with protests from environmental groups. Faced with mounting pressure from Greenpeace and the scientific community, Koch left offered an early resignation from the board in October.

Yesterday, the NIH finally handed down a report officially classifying formaldehyde as a carcinogen:

Government scientists listed formaldehyde as a carcinogen, and said it is found in worrisome quantities in plywood, particle board, mortuaries and hair salons. They also said that styrene, which is used in boats, bathtubs and in disposable foam plastic cups and plates, may cause cancer but is generally found in such low levels in consumer products that risks are low. Frequent and intense exposures in manufacturing plants are far more worrisome than the intermittent contact that most consumers have, but government scientists said that consumers should still avoid contact with formaldehyde and styrene along with six other chemicals that were added Friday to the government’s official Report on Carcinogens. Its release was delayed for years because of intense lobbying from the chemical industry, which disputed its findings.

An investigation by ProPublica found that Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) and James Inhofe (R-OK) had used their power to add years of delay to the report. The piece linked Vitter to lobbying from Koch’s Georgia Pacific company, which has plywood plants in Louisiana.

Friday, June 10, 2011

"The Whole Fracking Enchilada"

By Biologist Sandra Steingraber - from

Fracking is linked to every part of the environmental crisis—from radiation exposure to habitat loss—and contravenes every principle of environmental thinking. It’s the tornado on the horizon that is poised to wreck ongoing efforts to create green economies, local agriculture, investments in renewable energy, and the ability to ride your bike along country roads. It’s worth setting down your fork, pen, cellular phone—whatever instrument you’re holding—and looking out the window.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS can be viewed as a tree with two trunks. One trunk represents what we are doing to the planet through atmospheric accumulation of heat-trapping gasses. Follow this trunk along and you find droughts, floods, acidification of oceans, dissolving coral reefs, and species extinctions.

The other trunk represents what we are doing to ourselves and other animals through the chemical adulteration of the planet with inherently toxic synthetic pollutants. Follow this trunk along and you find asthma, infertility, cancer, and male fish in the Potomac River whose testicles have eggs inside them.

At the base of both these trunks is an economic dependency on fossil fuels, primarily coal (plant fossils) and petroleum (animal fossils). When we light them on fire, we threaten the global ecosystem. When we use them as feedstocks for making stuff, we create substances—pesticides, solvents, plastics—that can tinker with our subcellular machinery and the various signaling pathways that make it run.

Natural gas is the vaporous form of petroleum. It’s the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of fossil fuels: when burned, natural gas generates only half the greenhouse gases of coal, but when it escapes into the atmosphere as unburned methane, it’s one of the most powerful greenhouse gases of them all—twenty times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat and with the stamina to persist nine to fifteen years. You can also make petrochemicals from it. Natural gas is the starting point for anhydrous ammonia (synthetic fertilizer) and PVC plastic (those shower curtains).

Until a few years ago, much of the natural gas trapped underground was considered unrecoverable because it is scattered throughout vast sheets of shale, like a fizz of bubbles in a petrified spill of champagne. But that all changed with the rollout of a drilling technique (pioneered by Halliburton) that bores horizontally through the bedrock, blasts it with explosives, and forces into the cracks, under enormous pressure, millions of gallons of water laced with a proprietary mix of poisonous chemicals that further fracture the rock. Up the borehole flows the gas. In 2000, only 1 percent of natural gas was shale gas. Ten years later, almost 20 percent is.

International investors began viewing shale gas as a paradigm-shifting innovation. Energy companies are now looking at shale plays in Poland and Turkey. Fracking is under way in Canada. But nowhere has the technology been as rapidly deployed as in the United States, where a gas rush is under way. Gas extraction now goes on in thirty-two states, with half a million new gas wells drilled in the last ten years alone. We are literally shattering the bedrock of our nation and pumping it full of carcinogens in order to bring methane out of the earth.

And nowhere in the U.S. is fracking proceeding more manically than Appalachia, which is underlain by the formation called the Marcellus Shale, otherwise referred to by the Intelligent Investor Report as “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas” and by the Toronto Globe and Mail as a “prolific monster” with the potential to “rearrange the continent’s energy flow.”

In the sense of “abnormal to the point of inspiring horror,” monster is not an inappropriate term here. With every well drilled—and thirty-two thousand wells per year are planned—a couple million gallons of fresh water are transformed into toxic fracking fluid. Some of that fluid will remain underground. Some will come flying back out of the hole, bringing with it other monsters: benzene, brine, radioactivity, and heavy metals that, for the past 400 million years, had been safely locked up a mile below us, estranged from the surface world of living creatures. No one knows what to do with this lethal flowback—a million or more gallons of it for every wellhead. Too caustic for reuse as is, it sloshes around in open pits and sometimes is hauled away in fleets of trucks to be forced under pressure down a disposal well. And it is sometimes clandestinely dumped.

By 2012, 100 billion gallons per year of fresh water will be turned into toxic fracking fluid. The technology to transform it back to drinkable water does not exist. And, even if it did, where would we put all the noxious, radioactive substances we capture from it?

HERE, THEN, are the environmental precepts violated by hydrofracking: 1) Environmental degradation of the commons should be factored into the price structure of the product (full-cost accounting), whose true carbon footprint—inclusive of all those diesel truck trips, blowouts, and methane leaks—requires calculation (life-cycle analysis). 2) Benefit of the doubt goes to public health, not the things that threaten it, especially in situations where catastrophic harm—aquifer contamination with carcinogens—is unremediable (the Precautionary Principle). 3) There is no away.

This year I’ve attended scientific conferences and community forums on fracking. I’ve heard a PhD geologist worry about the thousands of unmapped, abandoned wells scattered across New York from long-ago drilling operations. (What if pressurized fracking fluid, to be entombed in the shale beneath our aquifers, found an old borehole? Could it come squirting back up to the surface? Could it rise as vapor through hairline cracks?) I’ve heard a hazardous materials specialist describe to a crowd of people living in fracked communities how many parts per million of benzene will raise risks for leukemia and sperm abnormalities linked to birth deformities. I’ve heard a woman who lives by a fracking operation in Pennsylvania—whose pond bubbles with methane and whose kids have nosebleeds at night—ask how she could keep her children safe. She was asking me. And I had no answer. Thirty-seven percent of the land in the township where I live with my own kids is already leased to the frackers. There is no away.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Apple's New Building Plan

I think this looks very cool - with the green space in the middle. The parking going underground and more trees planted on the ground - including an apricot orchard. It will be 4 stories and there will be room for 12,000 people to work.

more photos here

"Changing Jellyfish Season Could Alter Chesapeake Bay Food Chain"

From -

By Alyson Kenward

First came hundreds of reports of jellyfish washing ashore in central Florida over the Memorial Day weekend. Since then, people have been spotting blooms of the gelatinous drifters off the coasts Connecticut, Virginia, and South Carolina, all earlier in the summer than expected.

The early appearance of jellyfish along the East Coast is more than just a nuisance for beachgoers. According to scientists, it’s a sign that coastal waters are warmer than usual for time of year, and recent studies suggest the early jellyfish blooms could upset the marine ecosystem in coastal areas, like Maryland's Chesapeake Bay.

“The key thing with jellies is that they do everything so much faster than everything else, they grow and reproduce and are voracious predators, that other animals like fish can’t keep up,” says ecologist Rob Condon from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama.

For several years, Condon and colleagues from the Sea Lab and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) have been studying jellyfish that live in the York River, a southern tributary of Chesapeake Bay. They’ve discovered that rapidly-growing blooms of jellyfish are feeding on some of the most nutritious parts of the food web, including small crustaceans, and are converting them into products that sustain bacteria that leave little valuable energy supplies for fish and other sea life.

Condon says the jellyfish are making a similar source of energy-rich material that bacteria feast upon, but that strips the nutritional value out of the river’s food web.

“Ultimately, there is less food for the fish, because the jellyfish are eating it all,” he says. And because not too many animals (including us humans) eat jellyfish, it doesn't seem as though the food energy going into the jellies is moving up the food chain. This week, Condon and his colleagues published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, detailing how jellyfish blooms reduce diversity in the marine food chain....

According to Condon, if these warm waters continue to arrive in the earlier and earlier in the springtime, the effects could be felt throughout Chesapeake Bay. "Jellyfish are an important indicator of the health of a marine ecosystem," he says. "If the jellyfish blooms come earlier, there will be big consequences for fish production in the Bay."

I think we are going to have to learn to like eating jellyfish. I think it can be done.

"Japan mulls closure of N-reactors by April"

As seen at the
TOKYO: All 54 of Japan’s nuclear reactors may be shut by next April, adding more than $30 billion a year to the country’s energy costs, if communities object to plant operating plans due to safety concerns, trade ministry officials said on Wednesday....

Compared with the cost of the disaster - $30 billion sounds like nothing. Sounds like a good move to me.

Recently Japan owned up to the idea the the reactors not only melted down - but melted through:
The nuclear fuel in three of the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant has melted through the base of the pressure vessels and is pooling in the outer containment vessels, according to a report by the Japanese government.
From the Telegraph.UK

Other Recent Headlines:

Japan: green tea exports banned due to high radiation levels 03 Jun 2011
Japanese prime minister survives no-confidence vote after offering to resign 02 Jun 2011
Japan 'underestimated' impact tsunami would have on nuclear plants' 01 Jun 2011
Wary Japanese send sales of Geiger counters soaring 26 May 2011

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

"Japanese seniors volunteer for Fukushima 'suicide corps'"

From CNN:

Tokyo (CNN) -- Up a narrow flight of stairs in a modest, non-descript office building, three retirees sit in a cramped room, hunched over their computers and mobile phones. They look like the planning committee for a neighborhood senior breakfast, not the leaders of a 250-member team attempting to defuse one of the worst nuclear meltdowns in history.

But that's exactly what 72-year-old Yasuteru Yamada hopes his seniors group, the Skilled Veterans Corps, will do: help end the crisis at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The group, consisting only of retirees age 60 and up, says it is uniquely poised to work at the radiation-contaminated plant, as the cells of an older person's body divide more slowly than a younger individual. "We have to work instead of them," says Yamada, referring to the estimated 1,000 workers currently at the nuclear plant. "Elders have less sensitivity to radiation. Therefore, we have to work."

Yamada is a former engineer for Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd. and offers decades of experience, he says. A cancer survivor, Yamada says he values his life but wants to make a difference in the years he has left.

Yamada pauses as his mobile phone rings. He pops out his hearing aids to answer. Another call from the news media, he says, as he excuses himself briefly. Reporters from around the globe have called daily since Yamada announced the existence of his group. They, including this reporter, are calling because of what the prime minister's special adviser to the nuclear crisis publicly dubbed them, the "suicide corps." Goshi Hosono, at a news conference last week, told reporters that while the government was grateful for the offer, there is no immediate need for the elderly volunteers.

Masaaki Takahashi, 65, bristles at the name Hosono gave his team. "I want them to stop calling us the 'suicide corps' or kamikazes," he says. "We're doing nothing special. I simply think I have to do something and I can't allow just young people to do this."

Takahashi is currently tasked with logging the names of donors and volunteers. He says there are more than 900 donors and 250 able-bodied seniors who want to don the white radiation suits and enter the grounds of the plant...

The owner of the nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), tells CNN it is thankful for the offer from the seniors group. But it says they currently have enough workers to control the crisis.

But if Hikaru Tagawa is any indication, the plant is having trouble luring employees to the facility. Tagawa is a former temporary worker at Fukushima who lived just a few miles away, an area that is now a mandatory evacuation zone. When CNN met Tagawa, he was living at an evacuation center near Tokyo. "Nothing can make me go back to work there," he says, as his young daughter played nearby. He points out he has two young children and calls the levels of radiation "too dangerous."

30.6 Billion Metric Tons Carbon-dioxide Emissions - 2010


Worldwide carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels reached a record 30.6 billion metric tons in 2010, an international energy group reports. (1 metric ton = 2204.6 lbs)

A reviving world economy was behind the 5% increase from 2008, mainly led by China's and India's growing industries, says the International Energy Agency, based in Paris. Hopes of dampening global warming are dropping with such increases, the agency warned.

"Our latest estimates are another wake-up call," said IEA economist Fatih Birol, in a statement. Emissions dropped slightly in 2009, following the previous record year.

"It is, I guess, remarkable how quickly emissions have rebounded following the recession," says climate scientist Myles Allen of the United Kingdom's Oxford University.

Despite hopes that the global recession could lead to more efficient and lower-emission energy use, he adds, "That seems to have been wishful thinking."

In May, a report from the U.S. National Research Council warned that "the risk of dangerous climate change impacts is growing with every ton of greenhouse gases."

Sea-level rise, heat waves and drought in Southwestern states could follow, the report warned.

Greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide, raise atmospheric temperatures because they are transparent to sunlight but trap heat. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have risen about 23% since 1958, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tornadoes 2011

It's been a hell of a tornado year. The Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Joplin Missouri ones have been the worst ones so far. Yesterday we had 5 tornado warnings here in Indiana. While the storm did result in some damage to homes and trees, and a few people - it was nothing like the damage from the F5s.

Joplin, MO
Joplin, Mo

Warmer Ocean Fueling Tornadoes from Mother Jones/ Deep Blue Home:

The stats on tornadoes so far this year are horrifying. A record-breaking 482 people (and ABC News reports 1,500 are unaccounted for in Joplin, Missouri) have been confirmed killed as of 24 May.

We know that spring's a bad season for tornadoes. We know that La NiƱa years fuel stormy Aprils. But 2011 is redefining even those parameters.

Here's what NOAA has to say about last month alone:

April 2011 set anew record with a total of 875 tornadoes.
The previous April record was set in 1974 with 267 tornadoes.
The average number of tornadoes for the month of April during the past decade was 161.
The previous record number of tornadoes duringany month was 542 tornadoes set in May 2003.
NWS [National Weather Service] records indicate 321 people were killed during the April 25-28 tornado outbreak.
NWS records indicate 361 people were killed during the entire month of April 2011.

Leading up to April's extreme tornadoes were some extreme temperatures, noted Stu Ostro, Senior Meteorologist at the Weather Channel:

The temperature in Laredo reached 111 degrees the day prior to the peak [April] outbreak, the hottest on record at that location for so early in the season. Precipitation extremes have been extreme even by extreme precipitation standards, with April rainfall upwards of 20" in Arkansas and record levels on some rivers in the central US, juxtaposed with an exceptionally large amount of Texas being classified in extreme or exceptional drought.

Now May is racing to catch up to and maybe even pass April. Here's what NOAA finds so far:

The National Weather Service's preliminary estimate is more than 100 tornadoes have occurred during the month of May 2011.
The record number of tornadoes during the month of May was 542 tornadoes set in May 2003.
The average number of tornadoes for the month of May during the past decade is 298.
May is historically the most active month for tornadoes.
As I write, reports are rolling in about a new round of tornadoes—and deaths—in Oklahoma.

Sunday's horrific twister at Joplin, Missouri, was likely a multiple vortex tornado, says Thomas Schwein, deputy director of the National Weather Service’s Central Region, reports the Kansas City Star.

Jeff Masters' WunderBlog describes the Joplin tornado's nine-minute path thus:

A violent high-end EF-4* [Enhanced Fujita Scale] tornado [initial assessment] with winds of 190-198 mph carved a 7-mile long, 3/4 to one mile-wide path of near-total destruction through Joplin beginning at 5:41pm CDT Sunday evening.

*UPDATE: After surveying the Joplin tornado track, the NWS announced that its winds exceeded 200 miles per hour. This makes it the fourth EF-5 tornado this year, according to WonderBlog—and the most costly ever. Initial estimates: $1-3 billion.

So what's fueling this year's record-breaking tornado season? There are the usual suspects, which the Cliff Mass Weather Blog lists as:

Strong Instability
Large Vertical Wind Shear
Low Level Moisture

And then there are sea surface temperatures.

Unusually warm surface waters in the Gulf of Mexico—about 2 degrees Fahrenheit/3.6 degrees Celsius warmer than normal—may be a factor in this season's tornado frequency and strength, according to National Weather Service director Jack Hayes. Add that to an uncommonly southward jet stream track, reports Scientific American, and you've got a recipe for the kinds of disasters we've been seeing so far this year.

Warmer sea surface temperatures are also one of three reasons NOAA is forecasting a 65 percent chance of an above normal season—characterized as 13 or more named storms, 7 or more hurricanes, and 3 or more major hurricanes—in the Atlantic this year.

"Electrons are fantastically round..."

From the

After three months of experiments in a basement laboratory in London, scientists can confirm – with more confidence than ever – that the electron is very, very round.

In the most exquisite measurements yet, researchers declared the particle to be a perfect sphere to within one billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimetre. Were the electron scaled up to the size of the solar system, any deviation from its roundness would be smaller than the width of a human hair, the team said.

Abstruse as the experiment might seem, the work has profound implications for scientists wrestling with the mysteries of the cosmos. Even the slightest elongation of the electron can reveal what unknown particles might exist in nature, and even explain why matter won out over antimatter in the universe we observe.

The findings, published in the journal, Nature, already rule out some kinds of particles that theories suggested could pop into existence at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva.

"It's been hard work. We've been working on this for a long time and we've had a lot of ups and downs," said Jony Hudson, a physicist at Imperial College, London. "We have measured the shape really precisely. The deviations we were looking for are much smaller than the size of the electron. It is very, very round."

The concept of shape might seem obscure when it comes to a subatomic particle, but the rules are the same as for everyday objects. Pick up a pen, for example, and you feel its shape because electrons in the pen push back against the electrons in your hand.

And so it is with the electron itself. The particle is negatively charged, and the more evenly distributed the charge is around the centre of the particle, the more spherical it appears to be.

Scientists pursue ever more accurate measurements of the electron's roundness because any sign of it being mishapen could herald a major discovery. One leading idea known as supersymmetry, which says that every kind of particle we know has a heavy twin, requires the electron to have a slightly distorted shape.

"What's interesting is that the electron is so round it is becoming difficult for theories like supersymmetry to explain it," said Hudson, whose finding already rules out the existence of some supersymmetric particles.

Evidence that the electron is mishapen on a minuscule scale might also explain why the universe we see is made of matter instead of antimatter. At the birth of the cosmos, both were made in equal measure, but some subtle difference between the two caused antimatter to disappear. If the electron is elongated, it will behave differently to its antimatter counterpart, the positron. For example, each would wobble differently in an electric field.

"There must be a difference in the behaviour of matter and antimatter that we've not observed, and amazingly, the shape of the electron might just be enough to explain how the matter-antimatter imbalance built up over billions of years," Hudson said.

His team studied the roundness of electrons by measuring how much, or how little, the particles wobbled in an electric field. The rounder the electron, the less wobble it will display. In the experiment, electrons were anchored to a molecule called ytterbium fluoride and examined with a laser beam. Each measurement took only one thousandth of a second.

Running non-stop for more than three months, Hudson's team took 25 million measurements of electrons and averaged them out. They found no sign of the electron wobbling in the field, meaning it is more spherical than any previous experiment had shown. "To the best of our knowledge, with the experimental precision we have, the electron appears to be round," Hudson said.

In an accompanying article, Aaron Leanhardt at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, said the work provided a window "on the high energy soul of the cosmos".

"This work has important ramifications for the types of particles that can be discovered at high-energy accelerators, and may eventually help to explain the composition of the observable universe," Leanhardt wrote.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ten lessons from Chernobyl and Fukushima



Here are 10 lessons from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 25 years ago and the Fukushima disaster this year.

1. Nuclear power is a highly complex, expensive and dangerous way to boil water to create steam to turn turbines.

2. Accidents happen, and the worst-case scenario often turns out to be worse than imagined or planned for.

3. The nuclear industry and its experts cannot plan for every contingency or prevent every disaster.

4. Governments do not effectively regulate the nuclear industry to assure the safety of the public. Regulators of the nuclear industry often come from the nuclear industry itself and tend to be too close to it to regulate it effectively.

5. Hubris, complacency and high-level radiation are a deadly mix. Hubris on the part of the nuclear industry and its government regulators — along with complacency on the part of the public — has led to the creation of vast amounts of high-level radiation that must be guarded from release to the environment for tens of thousands of years.

6. The corporations that run the nuclear power plants are protected from catastrophic economic failure by government limits on liability. If the corporations that own nuclear power plants had to bear the burden of potential financial losses in the event of a catastrophic accident, they would not build the plants because they know the risks are unacceptable. It is only when government limits the liability, as the Price-Anderson Act does in the United States, that companies go ahead and build nuclear power plants. No other private industry is given such liability protection, which leaves the taxpayers on the hook.

7. Radiation releases from nuclear accidents cannot be contained in space and will not stop at national borders.

8. Radiation releases from nuclear accidents cannot be contained in time and will adversely affect countless future generations.

9. Nuclear energy — as well as nuclear weapons — and human beings cannot coexist without the risk of future catastrophes. The survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have long known that nuclear weapons and human beings cannot coexist. Fukushima, like Chernobyl before it, makes clear that human beings and nuclear power plants also cannot coexist.

10. The accidents at Fukushima and Chernobyl are a bracing reminder to phase out nuclear energy. We need to move as rapidly as possible to a global energy plan based upon conservation and various forms of renewable energy: solar cells, wind, geothermal, and energy that is extracted from the oceans and the tides and the currents.

Poet Maya Angelou once said, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage doesn’t need to be lived again.” We need the courage to abandon nuclear power. No one should have to experience the wrenching pain of another Chernobyl or another Fukushima.

David Krieger is a councilor on the World Future Council and the chair of the executive committee of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility.

Read more:

Fukushima Disaster Continues

Accurate data destroys optimistic TEPCO assessment, hampers cooling plan (

Accurate data shattered the overly optimistic assessment of Tokyo Electric Power Co. concerning the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and raised doubts about the company's game plan for ending the crisis.

Measurements from a recently installed water gauge provided conclusive evidence that the condition of the No. 1 reactor at the plant was much more serious than TEPCO officials have acknowledged until now.

TEPCO officials admitted on May 12 that a "meltdown" had occurred in the No. 1 reactor. Fuel rods had melted, and the molten fuel accumulated and caused small cracks at the bottom of the reactor pressure container, they said.

Until now, TEPCO officials only said that fuel rods were partially damaged and compiled a work schedule in April for restoring a stable cooling system based on that assumption.

Despite being unable to obtain accurate measurements from gauges in the reactors damaged in the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake, TEPCO officials still made those optimistic assumptions.

From immediately after the quake, the measurements from the water gauge at the No. 1 reactor showed very little change, casting doubt on the reliability of the instruments.

After workers entered the No. 1 reactor building and adjusted the water gauge, the data obtained showed water levels so low that the gauge was unable to measure it.

TEPCO officials concluded that water had accumulated in only about 20 percent of the volume of the No. 1 reactor's pressure container.

Other specialists had long warned that the situation at the No. 1 reactor was much more serious than the scenario that TEPCO officials were presenting.

At a news conference April 1, Shunichi Tanaka, a former vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, said all the fuel rods in the No. 1 reactor had melted, raising the possibility of damage to the pressure container.

TEPCO's latest measurements found the temperature of the pressure container was about 100 degrees. If the fuel rods had been exposed because of the low water level, the temperature should have been much higher. The only explanation is that the fuel rods melted, accumulated at the bottom of the pressure container and the melted fuel was cooled by the small volume of water at the bottom.

The No. 1 reactor is not the only one with problems. Small cracks have probably also developed at the bottom of the pressure containers of the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors.

Evidence of that possibility is the highly contaminated water found in the basements of the turbine buildings of the three reactors as well as underground trenches.

The contamination was likely caused by water leaking from the bottoms of the pressure containers of the three reactors.

TEPCO officials now admit that the measurements from the water gauges at the pressure containers in the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors are also unreliable.

While those water gauges will have to be repaired as soon as possible, TEPCO will also have to review its work schedule for cooling the reactors.

That will likely mean rethinking the plan to submerge the containment vessel of the No. 1 reactor in water to cool the pressure container within.

About 10,000 tons of water have already been pumped into the No. 1 reactor's pressure container, but about 3,000 tons of that water are unaccounted for. That likely means the water has leaked out of the containment vessel.

Moreover, if TEPCO continues to pump in water to the reactors to cool them, water contaminated with radiation will continue to leak out from the cracks at the bottoms of the pressure containers.

TEPCO officials have also not denied the possibility that melted fuel has leaked out of the pressure container. That would mean the volume of contaminated water will likely increase, making work in the reactor buildings much more difficult.

Setbacks at Japan nuclear plant(BBC)

A reactor at Japan's crippled nuclear plant has been more badly damaged than originally thought, operator Tepco has said.

Water is leaking from the pressure vessel surrounding reactor 1 - probably because of damage caused by exposed fuel rods melting, a spokesman said.

Contaminated water had also entered the sea from a pit near reactor 3 but this had now been stopped, he said...

He said there was likely to be a large leak in the pressure vessel, possibly caused by the fallen fuel.

"As for a meltdown, it is certain that it has crumbled and the fuel is located at the bottom (of the vessel)," he added.

The water is said to be leaking into the containment vessel and from there into the reactor building.

Experts said the announcement from Tepco did not mean that the situation at the plant had worsened because it was likely that the fuel had dropped to the bottom of the core soon after the 11 March earthquake.

Japan nuclear: Tepco halts Fukushima cooling plan(BBC)

Japanese engineers have abandoned their latest attempt to stabilise a stricken reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The plant's operator, Tepco, had intended to cool reactor 1 by filling the containment chamber with water.

But Tepco said melting fuel rods had created a hole in the chamber, allowing 3,000 tonnes of contaminated water to leak into the basement of the reactor building.

The power plant was badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March.

Cooling systems to the reactors were knocked out, fuel rods overheated, and attempts to release pressure in the chambers led to explosions in the buildings housing the reactors.

The government and Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power Company) said it would take until next January to achieve a cold shut-down at the plant.

Government spokesman Goshi Hosono said the latest setback would not affect the deadline...

Last week the government agreed a huge compensation package for those affected by the disaster.

Analysts say the final bill for compensation could top $100bn (£61bn).

More info can be found @ Radiation Safety Philippines