Archive | Nuclear

Scientist: World's Helium Being Squandered

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 (UPI) — The world is running out of helium, a resource that cannot be renewed, and supplies could run out in 25 to 30 years, a U.S. researcher says.

Nobel-prize winning physicist Robert Richardson warns that the inert gas is being sold off far to cheaply — so cheaply there is no incentive to recycle it — and world supplies of the gas, a vital component of medical MRI scanners, spacecraft and rockets, could be gone in just decades, Britain’s The Telegraph reported Monday.

Around 80 per cent of the world’s reserves are in the U.S. Southwest at the the U.S. National Helium Reserve, located in Amarillo, Texas, but a recently passed law has ruled the reserve must be sold off by 2015 regardless of market price, Britain’s Independent said.

“As a result of that act, helium is far too cheap and is not treated as a precious resource,” Richardson says. “It’s being squandered.”

Helium is created by the radioactive decay of terrestrial rock and most of the world’s reserves have been collected as a byproduct from the extraction of natural gas.

Liquid helium is critical for cooling infrared detectors and nuclear reactors. The space industry uses it in sensitive satellite equipment and spacecraft, and NASA uses helium in huge quantities to purge the potentially explosive fuel from its rockets.

Despite the critical role that the gas has in modern technology, it is being depleted as an unprecedented rate and reserves could dwindle to virtually nothing within a generation, Richardson says.

“The Earth is 4.7 billion years old and it has taken that long to accumulate our helium reserves, which we will dissipate in about 100 years,” he says. “One generation does not have the right to determine availability for ever.”

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Effects of Russian Fires Weighed

MOSCOW, Aug. 13 (UPI) — As heat-driven fires continue to sweep across Russia, the country has begun to tally the health and environmental costs of the disaster, officials say.

A multitude of public health and environmental consequences face the country, including the risk of radioactive particles being released by fires in the contaminated zone near the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, an article in the journal Nature said Thursday.

More than 1,100 square miles of forest, vegetation and peat land have burned since the fires began in June. Russia’s ministry of health and social development says the death toll from the fires has risen to 53, with 806 people needing medical attention.

As the fires have burned closer to urban areas, they destroyed gardens and vegetable patches, Johann Goldammer, director of the Global Fire Monitoring Center, said.

“Many poor people will lose their harvest, which they need to survive the winter,” he says.

Long-term health effects are another concern, he said, as carbon monoxide pollution has risen to 10 times above the maximum permitted levels.

The fires also reached the Bryansk region east of Chernobyl, site of the 1986 nuclear power plant accident, raising fears that radioactive particles could be released into the atmosphere.

One British researcher discounts that possibility.

Most of the radioactive particles are in the soil rather than in the flammable leaf litter and trees, Jim Smith of the University of Portsmouth says.

Previous fires in the Chernobyl exclusion zone have resulted in an increase in radiation of less than 1 percent, he says.

“Only a small amount of radiation gets re-suspended, so I’m not concerned about damage from inhalation,” Smith says.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Military Satellite Set for Saturday Launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Aug. 13 (UPI) — An Atlas rocket was rolled to a launch pad at Florida’s Cape Canaveral in preparation for the launch of a new military communications satellite, officials said.

The launch, scheduled for Saturday, will put into orbit the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency spacecraft, intended to handle the most critical military communications even in the event of a nuclear war, Florida Today reported.

The 13,500-pound satellite is the first in a $6.5 billion program intended to replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging Milstar satellites.

Forecasters at Cape Canaveral say conditions for Saturday’s launch window appear good, with an 80 percent chance of weather acceptable for launching.

If the launch of the 19-story-tall rocket, with its three strap-on solid boosters, is scrubbed for any reason, officials say, the next attempt would be Monday.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Military, Nuclear, Other0 Comments

Effects of Russian Fires Weighed

MOSCOW, Aug. 13 (UPI) — As heat-driven fires continue to sweep across Russia, the country has begun to tally the health and environmental costs of the disaster, officials say.

A multitude of public health and environmental consequences face the country, including the risk of radioactive particles being released by fires in the contaminated zone near the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, an article in the journal Nature said Thursday.

More than 1,100 square miles of of forest, vegetation and peat land have burned since the fires began in June. Russia’s ministry of health and social development says the death toll from the fires has risen to 53, with 806 people needing medical attention.

As the fires have burned closer to urban areas, they destroyed gardens and vegetable patches, Johann Goldammer, director of the Global Fire Monitoring Center, said.

“Many poor people will lose their harvest, which they need to survive the winter,” he says.

Long-term health effects are another concern, he said, as carbon monoxide pollution has risen to 10 times above the maximum permitted levels.

The fires also reached the Bryansk region east of Chernobyl, site of the 1986 nuclear power plant accident, raising fears that radioactive particles could be released into the atmosphere.

One British researcher discounts that possibility.

Most of the radioactive particles are in the soil rather than in the flammable leaf litter and trees, Jim Smith of the University of Portsmouth says.

Previous fires in the Chernobyl exclusion zone have resulted in an increase in radiation of less than 1 percent, he says.

“Only a small amount of radiation gets re-suspended, so I’m not concerned about damage from inhalation,” Smith says.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Report: Waste Plan Must Address 'mistrust'

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 (UPI) — The U.S. effort to create a nuclear waste program is so focused on technological issues it is failing to address public mistrust of the efforts, experts say.

Researchers from Washington State University and others around the country say that for the effort to fix the country’s stalled nuclear waste program to succeed, a special White House panel on high-level radioactive waste needs to focus more on the social and political acceptability of its solutions, a university release said Thursday.

“While scientific and technical analyses are essential, they will not and arguably should not carry the day unless they address, substantively and procedurally, the issues that concern the public,” a report prepared by the researchers says.

The failure of 10 presidential administrations to develop a successful waste-disposal program has left some 60,000 tons of high-level waste accumulated in the United States, the researchers say.

President Obama has appointed a 15-member panel to review the storage, processing and disposal of nuclear materials.

Report author Eugene Rosa, a Washington State University professor of sociology, says the panel is dominated by science and technology experts and politicians.

But a successful nuclear waste program, he says, “will ultimately require public acceptability. Current efforts by the administration, such as the composition of its blue ribbon panel, indicate that this important element may be overlooked.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Report: U.S. Needs Nuclear 'forensics'

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) — The United States is losing the nuclear forensics skills that could help identify the source of a nuclear weapon used in a terrorist attack, a report says.

The highly specialized detective work, called nuclear attribution, studies clues from fallout and radioactive debris to discover the identity of the attacker and the source or manufacturer of the weapon, a National Research Council study published last week said.

Arguing that nuclear terrorism is a serious, long-term threat to the United States, federal officials have sought to improve such analytic skills in recent years.

The NRC report, requested by the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration, found U.S. forensic abilities “fragile, under resourced and, in some respects, deteriorating.”

“Without strong leadership, careful planning and additional funds, these capabilities will decline,” the report warned.

Most of those capabilities are in the laboratories that maintain the nation’s nuclear arsenal that had their heyday during the cold war but are now struggling to attract personnel, get funding for projects and establish new identities, the report said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Survey Says Biodiversity Down at Chernobyl

PRIPYAT, Russia, July 30 (UPI) — Researchers say a wildlife census in the exclusion zone surrounding the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia shows animal populations are declining.

Professor Timothy Mousseau from the University of South Carolina and Dr. Anders Moller from the University of Paris-Sud, France, spent three years counting and studying animals in the area, the BBC reported Friday.

From 2006 to 2009, they counted and examined wildlife including insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

In a report in the journal Ecological Indicators, they say they found evidence that radiation contamination has a “significant impact” on biodiversity.

“The truth is that these radiation contamination effects were so large as to be overwhelming,” Mousseau said.

The research compared the population of species in the exclusion zone with similar types of habitats in areas that were not contaminated.

Birds provided the best “quantitative measure” of these impacts, the researchers said, noting barn swallows were observed with tumors on their feet, necks and around their eyes.

“We think they may be more susceptible, after their long migrations, to additional environmental stress,” Mousseau said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Amphibians, Biodiversity, Birds, Mammals, Nuclear, Other, Radiation, Reptiles0 Comments

Scientists Send Power Through Steel Plate

LONDON, July 21 (UPI) — Scientists in Britain have demonstrated a device that can send power wirelessly through inches of steel or armor, authorities say.

Researchers at BAE Systems in the United Kingdom say the technology could be used to send power and communications signals through submarine hulls or armored doors, BBC News reported Wednesday.

Using very high frequency acoustics to convert a signal into sound waves, the system could save millions of dollars being spent adapting submarine hulls for communications equipment, the BBC said.

Currently, 300 holes have to be drilled in a submarine hull for sensors and the communications technology they require, BAE technology executive Dr. John Bagshaw said.

“In each of these holes, they fit special valves called penetrators,” he said, each costing anywhere from $30,000 to $1.1 million.

“The total cost of all of its penetrators is in order of $120 million,” he said.

In one demonstration to submarine commanders, Bagshaw sent power to a DVD player through a block of steel and played the movie “Das Boot.”

As well as military applications, the technology could be used in the nuclear and oil industry, Bagshaw said.

“If you want sensors on the inside of a reactor vessel, you obviously don’t want to be drilling holes in that vessel,” he said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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'Green' Energy Production Makes Advances

NEW YORK, July 15 (UPI) — The United States and Europe added more power capacity from renewable sources like wind and solar than from conventional sources in 2009, a report says.

This year or next, experts predict, the world as a whole will add more capacity to the electricity supply from renewable sources than from traditional sources such as coal, gas or nuclear plants, a report by the U.N. Environment Program said Thursday.

China surpassed the United States in 2009 as the country with the greatest investment in clean energy, the report said, with China’s wind farm development enjoying the greatest investments.

Countries that encourage renewable energy have roughly doubled, the report noted, from 55 in 2005 to more than 100 today, half of them in the developing world.

In 2009 renewable sources represented 25 percent of global electrical power capacity, generating 1,230 gigawatts of the total of 4,800 gigawatts from all sources including coal, gas, nuclear, the report said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Nuclear, Other, Solar0 Comments

UNESCO to Consider Heritage Site Nominees

UNITED NATIONS, July 7 (UPI) — First-time submissions by Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Tajikistan will be among the candidates for UNESCO’s World Heritage List, the U.N. agency said.

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area in Kiribati, the nuclear testing site at the Marshall Islands’ Bikini Atoll and Pamir Mountains in the Tajik National Park are three of the dozens of sites up for consideration when the World Heritage Committee meets later in July in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said Tuesday in a release issued from New York.

Thirty-five nations will offer 41 properties for inscription at this year’s session, the agency said. UNESCO officials said the World Heritage List recognizes 890 properties in 148 countries as having “outstanding universal value.”

The committee will also review the conservation status of 31 sites considered to be in danger. Sites could be removed from the Heritage List because of problems such as pollution, urban development, poor management, mass tourism, wars and natural disasters, UNESCO said.

Last year UNESCO said it delisted Germany’s Dresden Elbe Valley because a four-lane bridge was built in the heart of the cultural landscape. The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman also was removed because the country failed to fulfill its conservation obligations.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Conservation, Natural Disasters, Nuclear, Other0 Comments

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