Rare Birth Defects Still Spiking in Washington State http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/rare-birth-defects-still-spiking-washington-state-n86916 BY JONEL ALECCIA 22 April 14, Seven cases of a rare fatal birth defect were reported in a remote region of Washington state in 2013, making it the fourth consecutive year that rates have more than tripled the national average, health officials said Tuesday.
There’s still no clear reason for the spike in anencephaly, a severe defect in which babies are born missing parts of the brain or skull, according to Washington state health officials. NBC News investigated the issue in February.
But it brings to 30 the number of cases reported since 2010 in the area that includes Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties in central Washington state. The anencephaly rate jumped to 8.7 cases per 10,000 births in the region, far exceeding the national rate of 2.1 cases per 10,000 births.
“We’re really concerned about the fact that the anencephaly rates are still so high,” said Mandy Stahre, an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based in Washington state. “We were sort of hoping that this may have been a statistical anomaly or would go away.”
State and federal officials plan to convene an advisory committee of national experts to review options for investigation and prevention, Stahre said. Next month, they’ll hold “listening sessions” in the community to hear public concerns about the rise in birth defects in the region. “The community members, they live here,” Stahre said. “They may be seeing things that we don’t.”
But that hardly seems like enough, said one mother whose baby was born with spina bifida last year and was considered part of a cluster of cases of neural tube defects in the region.
“It’s good that they want to know everybody’s thoughts, but what are they doing about it?” said Andrea Jackman, 30, who lived in an orchard in Yakima, Wash., while she was pregnant but now lives in Ellensburg. Her daughter, Olivia, is 7 months old.
“Why are they going to put the time and money into chatting with people who don’t know? Do the research.”
Stahre said one of the goals of the advisory committee will be to decide what focus future investigations should take.
“Do we go back and look even further back? Or do we just focus on current conditions and looking foward,” Stahre said.
The new count follows a report last summer that found more than two dozen cases of babies born with anencephaly and other neural tube defects in the region between 2010 and 2013.Researchers found no geographic, seasonal or other type of pattern to the cases, Stahre said.
Medical records indicate low rates of folic acid vitamin supplementation in the region, which has been linked to anencephaly. Other studies have shown ties between the defect and exposure to molds and pesticides. Critics have said state and federal officials need to do detailed interviews and a thorough investigation of the central Washington cluster.
Many local residents are convinced that leaking tanks of nuclear waste from the region’s nearby Hanford nuclear plant must be to blame, but Dr. Edith Cheng, a University Washington Medicine expert on birth defects, said there has not been a good evaluation of the plant’s impact on anencephaly or other problems.
Experts emphasize the need for all women of childbearing age to take folic acid supplements.
Why Ukraine’s nuclear power plant crisis has far-reaching ramifications, Adelaide Advertiser, Jim Green , 22 April 14 IT seems likely that Ukraine’s 15 nuclear power reactors will continue operating throughout the unfolding political crisis, and that there will be no attacks on Ukraine’s nuclear plants despite reported threats. Nonetheless the crisis has wideranging nuclear dimensions and ramifications.
Perhaps the most important is that the nuclear security threats draw attention to a question that may, sooner or later, seal the fate of nuclear power: what happens when nuclear-powered nations go to war? Continue operating power reactors and hope that they will not be attacked?
It’s a huge dilemma. There’s no dispute that most nation-states have the military wherewithal to destroy reactors, resulting in widespread radioactive fallout. But for countries such as Ukraine, with a heavy reliance on nuclear power for electricity supply, shutting down reactors would also be highly problematic.
There is a history of nation-states attacking ostensibly peaceful nuclear facilities, such as the destruction of research reactors in Iraq by Israel and the US.
Ukraine’s 15 power reactors are spread across four sites. Nuclear power supplied 44 per cent of Ukraine’s electricity last year – that heavy dependence presumably explains the decision to continue operating reactors despite security concerns.
Protesters seized the headquarters of Ukraine’s energy ministry on January 25, but left hours later. Eduard Stavitskiy, Ukraine’s then energy minister, reportedly said all the country’s nuclear power facilities were put on high alert after the seizure.
In late January, Ukraine’s Security Service reported “anonymous threats to blow up hydropower and nuclear power plants, damage to which may have unforeseen and extremely serious consequences for the population of Ukraine and neighbouring states.” On March 2, Ukraine’s parliament called for international assistance to protect its nuclear power plants……..http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/why-ukraines-nuclear-power-plant-crisis-has-farreaching-ramifications/story-fni6unxq-1226891431319
7 Interesting Nuclear Energy Graphs http://cleantechnica.com/2014/04/22/7-interesting-nuclear-energy-graphs/One of our readers recently passed along a couple of very interesting charts about nuclear energy as well as the nuclear energy report from which they came. The report, World Nuclear Report 2013, is well worth a more careful look, but for those who just love some interesting charts, here are the two that our ever-alert reader shared as well as a few more I pulled out: (more at original site)
As nuclear power dies, solar rises By Denis Hayes and Scott Denman April 22, 2014 (CNN) “………Ironically, Warren Buffett, arguably the world’s greatest capitalist, has emerged as the poster child for this dramatic shift. In June 2013, Buffett’s MidAmerican utility threw in the towel after a failed three-year legislative battle to require Iowa electric customers to foot the bill for the design and construction of a prototype small modular reactor. Mainstream groups like AARP vigorously opposed that fiscally imprudent investment. Earlier, MidAmerican canceled another proposed reactor in Idaho on the grounds it was not worth the money.
What’s significant about this about-face on nuclear by the highly regarded “Oracle of Omaha” is that Buffett instead decided to install656 large wind turbines at a cost of $1.9 billion in Iowa, and has gone “all-in” with multibillion dollar bets on utility-scale wind and solar power and other renewable energy facilities throughout the West. Not just Wall Street wizards are shifting investment outlooks and strategies. Regulators and industry officials alike exude confidence that this is the era for solar, wind and other green energy technologies. In August 2013, John Wellinghoff, then chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, observed that “solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything … It could double every two years.”
In his annual State of the Union address in January, President Obama highlighted this auspicious trend by praising solar’s rapid growth, announcing that, “every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar. …”
While nuclear has flat-lined in the marketplace, statistics demonstrating solar’s growth actually underestimate the total contribution to our country’s electrical supply from solar. This is because nonutility and small-scale — residential and commercial rooftop — photovoltaic systems don’t show up as electric generation in the industry’s statistics. The utilities that compile generation statistics view rooftop solar electricity, used on site, not as power generation but as a reduction in demand! If it’s not sold by a utility, it’s not “real” power.
In fact, one of the authors built a six-story office building in Seattlethat produced more electricity on its roof last year than it used. If this can be done in Seattle, the cloudiest major city in the contiguous 48 states, it can be done anywhere.In 2013, America, and the world, crossed the threshold to a sustainable, ultimately nonnuclear, carbon-free energy future. While much remains to be done and there is a long way to go, this Earth Day is especially meaningful and inspiring for those of us who have spent our careers pursuing this essential goal. We can see the clear outline of a sustainable energy future that our children, our economy and our planet can live with. http://edition.cnn.com/2014/04/22/opinion/hayes-denman-solar-power/
Taiwan anti-nuclear activist starts hunger strike The West Australian, Taipei (AFP) 22 April 14 - Former Taiwanese opposition leader and anti-nuclear activist Lin Yi-hsiung Tuesday launched an indefinite hunger strike in protest at a nearly completed nuclear facility, while some of his supporters clashed with police.”It’s very meaningful to be doing something good for Taiwan — I feel very calm,” Lin told a crowd of reporters and supporters before he began the hunger strike.
He added he had been forced into the situation because the authorities had ignored public opinion on nuclear power. He said the majority of people in Taiwan were against a fourth nuclear power plant.
Lin, who led the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from 1998-2000, has devoted himself to battling the island’s nuclear power policy in the past two decades.
“If anything unfortunate should happen to me, I want my family and friends to know that (those in power) murdered me,” the 72-year-old said before entering a church in Taipei to begin his indefinite fasting.
Outside parliament, dozens of protesters briefly clashed with the police as they attempted to surround the building in a show of support for Lin. They unfurled a large yellow banner reading “Salute chairman Lin Yi-hsiung, stop building fourth nuclear (plant)”, and held placards calling for the project to be terminated.
“If Lin Yi-hsiung loses his life, it is the evil government who have caused it,” said the group’s leader Tsai Ting-kuei………
Uranium kills in Namibia http://www.news24.com/Columnists/AndreasSpath/Uranium-kills-in-Namibia-20140422 2014-04-22 Andreas Wilson-Späth
That uranium is a radioactive and toxic substance with potentially lethal impacts on the people who dig it out of the ground is generally glossed over by those among us who argue for nuclear power as a clean, green, safe and sustainable source of electricity.
Along with other intractable problems faced by the atomic energy industry – like its propensity to lay to waste entire landscapes if and when things go wrong and the fact that we still don’t have a long-term solution for storing its noxious waste products – this is not in dispute. It’s merely a matter of unintended side-effects. Collateral damage.
For uranium miners in Namibia, however, their occupation in proximity to the metal has much more first-hand and personal consequences. A report soon to be released by Earthlife Namibia and the Labour Resource and Research Institute argues that long-time workers at the Rössing uranium mine are routinely exposed to unhealthy working conditions, radiation and dust.
Rössing, which is located in central Namibia and employs over 1500 people, is majority owned (69%) by British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto. The next biggest shareholders of the mine are the government of Iran (10%) and our own Industrial Development Corporation (10%).
Rio Tinto officials have consistently denied that they’re to blame for any harm, insisting that their operations at Rössing and elsewhere, including their copper, gold, coal, bauxite, iron ore and diamond mines around the world, are well monitored and run ethically, for the benefit of local communities, respecting human rights and protecting the environment.
But a closer look at the multinational’s global operations reveals that Rio Tinto isn’t quite as squeaky clean as they would like us to believe:
• At the end of last year, radioactive and acidic slurry spilled from a uranium processing tank at Rössing. Two weeks later the damaged rubber lining of a similar tank at the company’s Ranger mine in Australia’s Northern Territory leaked more than a million litres of the stuff.
• In 2013, 33 miners perished when a tunnel collapsed at Rio Tinto’s Grasberg gold and copper mine in Indonesia – the largest portion of the total of 41 deaths at their global operations during that year which international trade union IndustriAll claims the company should have done more to prevent.
• Locals have blamed the Grasberg mine for pollution affecting the environment and population.
• In Madagascar, activists have accused Rio Tinto of “land grabbing and environmental devastation”.
• A lawsuit has been filed against Rio Tinto’s Bingham Canyon mine in the US state of Utah for five-year breaches in air pollution regulations. The organisations that brought the case claim, that on some days the dust from the mine has a similar “effect on people who are consistently outdoors” as “smoking a pack of cigarettes a day”
• In Mongolia, indigenous nomadic herders have raised concerns that an expansion of Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine in the Gobi desert would threaten the integrity of the local ecosystem along with their access to fresh water.
Of course Rio Tinto also made over $1 billion in profits last year. I guess in the minds of the company’s executives that justifies the occasional mishap.
- Andreas is a freelance writer with a PhD in geochemistry. Follow him on Twitter:@Andreas_Spath
Protesters urge state to clean up old uranium mines Argus Leader 21 Apr 14 Nora Hertel, Associated Press PIERRE – A South Dakota group says old uranium mines across the state and U.S. are contaminating water and the air with radioactive chemicals. Defenders of the Black Hills is helping to lead an effort to educate people and clean up old uranium mines across the country with an Earth Day event today.
The event is part of a “Clean Up The Mines” project launched on Earth Day. Charmaine White Face, founder and coordinator for Defenders of the Black Hills, said the river, among others, contains runoff from abandoned uranium mines in South Dakota and Wyoming. Most of the 10,000 abandoned uranium mines are in the western U.S., including more than 250 in South Dakota.
White Face, a former science teacher, said the issue came to her attention more than 10 years ago, but she didn’t understand the extent of it.
“We’ve been hollering about this to the state and anybody that would listen,” White Face said. “The state could do quite a bit if they would.”
She said some of the mines in question are on private land and some on federal land, including a large percentage around Mount Rushmore.
“All those 2 million visitors (a year) to Mount Rushmore, they’re breathing in radioactive dust and they don’t even know it,” White Face said.
Mike Cepak, an engineering manager with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the state doesn’t have an abandoned mine program. He said the U.S. Forest Service has reclaimed some mines in the western part of the state, but the process is expensive. It involves rearranging drainage so water doesn’t pass through the mine, filling it in and returning vegetation to the area.
“It’s mainly a funding problem,” Cepak said……….
On the potential health risks of uranium exposure, but White Face attributes it to cases of cancer and brain tumors in the Northern Plains.
She’s concerned that people don’t realize the number of old mines in the state and their potential effects. White Face has given speeches on the East Coast to drum up support for federal legislation that her group is collaborating on.
Defenders of the Black Hills is working with a member of Congress to draft legislation mandating mine reclamation. White Face said they’re on the fourth draft. She hopes it will be complete in a few weeks and sent to Washington, D.C., to be reviewed then presented as a bill for consideration. http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2014/04/22/protesters-urge-state-clean-old-uranium-mines/7995325/
I think that it’s a terrific idea to weaken the radiation standards for people going to Mars. The beauty of this is that the middle-aged white men who plan this know that they themselves will be quite safe from any court action. When the poor sucker Mars -dwellers get their cancer – it’ll be just too hard to mount a legal case from Mars. And they can’t come back anyway, so we can all forget about them
Radiation exposure standards might be relaxed for Mars trip Asbury Park Press, 23 April 14, WASHINGTON — One of many factors complicating a trip to Mars is the space radiation that would bombard astronauts during the approximately two years they would spend getting to the planet, exploring it and returning home……….
NASA is aiming for a landing in the early 2030s. Even with two decades to prepare, such a journey to a planet millions of miles away requires hundreds of steps every day.
One such step involves calculating an acceptable level of radiation for astronauts, a question NASA took to the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academies.
“We’re pushing not only the technology that helps protect the (astronaut) but also looking at the requirements we have,” Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration told the Humans to Mars Summit. “Are they really realistic requirements? Or has today’s medical environment allowed us to do things differently?”
The institute’s answer, issued by a committee earlier this month, is that current medical standards for radiation exposure should remain in effect, though exceptions could be granted “in rare circumstances.” If an exception were permitted, NASA would be ethically bound to provide astronauts with health care beyond the end of their missions, the committee said…….http://www.app.com/article/20140422/NJNEWS17/304220086/Radiation-exposure-standards-might-relaxed-Mars-trip
NUCLEAR: In what critics dub a “sweetheart deal,” documents show the Obama administration waived millions of dollars in loan fees for two new nuclear reactors.(Greenwire)
SOLAR: Minnesota lawmakers are expected to vote today on legislation that would prevent homeowners associations from banning solar panels, and a convent in Green Bay begins work on what will be one of the state’s largest solar arrays. (Midwest Energy News, Green Bay Press-Gazette)
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CLIMATE: How Keystone XL stacks up to EPA carbon rules in terms of impact on emissions.(New York Times)……….
TRANSPORTATION: Some star athletes are shunning luxury SUVs for more fuel-efficient rides. (New York Times)
TECHNOLOGY: Ohio State students win a $100,000 prize for developing a battery that runs on potassium and air. (Columbus Business First)
MEDIA: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy talks about the Obama administrations climate efforts on the Daily Show. (Comedy Central)
COMMENTARY: How wind turbines compare to other bird killers, how Wisconsin would benefit from a carbon tax, and why Michigan should “follow the military’s lead to advance a 21st century energy sector.” (Bloomberg, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Detroit News) http://www.midwestenergynews.com/2014/04/22/dd-critics-decry-sweetheart-loan-deal-for-new-nuclear-plants/
Spent-fuel waste arrives at Rokkasho http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/04/22/national/spent-fuel-waste-arrives-at-rokkasho/#.U1hkhFVdWik KYODO AOMORI – A vessel carrying highly radioactive waste arrived Tuesday in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, from Britain, where spent nuclear fuel from Japanese power plants is being reprocessed.
The shipment, made up of 132 stainless steel containers of high-level radioactive waste mixed with glass, is the fourth of its kind to arrive in Japan from the U.K. country. Japan has received 264 of the steel containers since the shipments from Britain began in March 2010.
Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., which handles nuclear fuel reprocessing work in Japan, will store the latest batch of nuclear waste at a facility in the village of Rokkasho temporarily.
The latest shipment includes 28 containers each from Chubu Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co., as well as 20 containers from Chugoku Electric Power Co
92% Sure: Non-ionizing Cell Phone Radiation Cancer Potential Found in 76 of 80 Studies Peer Reviewed Scientists find cell phone radiation exposure creates cellular imbalances known to cause cancer in 92% of peer reviewed studies on ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species). RF Safe suggest precautionary measures to reduce excessive RF exposure even at athermic levels. San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) April 22, 2014
According to RF Safe, Scientists confirm non-ionizing cell phone radiation and ionizing UV radiation from the sun both produce a common bio-effect in living cells, the overproduction of chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen known as ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) which are proven to damage DNA – a precursor for cancer and many other health effects.
“Unexpectedly, a strong non-thermal character of biological effects” has been documented, the group of scientists wrote.
In the peer reviewed editorial “Low intensity radio-frequency radiation: a new oxidant for living cells” in the scientific journal “Oxidants and Antioxidants in Medical Science” on March 29th 2014 a group Scientists reported that of 80 studies, they had assessed, 92,5 % (= 76 studies) confirmed that mechanisms of inflicting cellular damage happened at below thermal levels.http://www.ejmanager.com/mnstemps/65/65-1394615302.pdf?t=1398177912
Low intensity radio-frequency radiation (RFR) emitted by wireless phone devices “could lead to mutagenic effects through expressive oxidative damage of DNA”, because “the substantial overproduction of ROS in living cells under low intensity RFR exposure could cause a broad spectrum of health disorders and diseases, including cancer in humans”………. http://www.prweb.com/releases/cell-phone-radiation/cancer-studies-ros-dna/prweb11784604.htm
Due to higher earthquake risk in the region, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is requiring three Pennsylvania nuclear reactors to conduct in-depth reassessments of their ability to withstand larger earth tremors.
FirstEnergy’s Beaver Valley Units 1 and 2, in Shippingport, Beaver County, and Exelon’s Three Mile Island Unit 1, south of Harrisburg in Dauphin County, are among nine commercial nuclear reactors in the eastern U.S. and two dozen nationwide that must conduct the re-evaluations and issue reports to the NRC by the end of the year.
“Based on the latest seismic data, the risk of earth movement is higher in the region, and more testing and analysis is warranted,” said Neil Sheehan, an NRC spokesman……..
Mark Petersen, USGS project chief of the 2008 National Seismic Hazard Maps in Golden, Co., said new ground motion records and additional geological studies of the New Madrid fault show higher recurrence rates than previously thought.
“Because of what happened with the New Madrid in 1811-1812,” he said, “we’re more worried about big earthquakes in those areas in the future.” http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2014/04/22/Nuclear-reactor-owners-asked-to-reassess-quake-resistance/stories/201404220095#ixzz2zkRw3KQj
UV-radiation data to help ecological research, Eureka Alert 22April 14 Many research projects study the effects of temperature and precipitation on the global distribution of plant and animal species. However, an important component of climate research, the UV-B radiation, is often neglected. The landscape ecologists from UFZ in collaboration with their colleagues from the Universities in Olomouc (Czechia), Halle and Lüneburg have processed UV-B data from the U.S. NASA space agency in such a way that they can be used to study the influence of UV-B radiation on organisms. Continue reading
Indian Point nuclear licenses to cost more lohud.com Michael Risinit April 22, 2014 The Nuclear Regulatory Commission collects most of the money in its budget from the nation’s nuclear plants, including Indian Point. our first driver’s license at 16 will cost you $80. A resident hunting license? $22. A license to operate a nuclear reactor? Millions.
While most of your tax dollars go toward the agencies and departments involved with healthcare, defense and the national debt, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gets most of its money from the industry it oversees. By law, the NRC must recover about 90 percent of its budget from license charges, spokesman Neil Sheehan said.
This year the fee is going up by $938,000. That means Entergy, the owner of Indian Point nuclear power plant, and the country’s other nuclear power companies must pony up $5,328,000 for each running reactor. That money will go back into the U.S. Treasury’s general fund………http://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/indian-point/2014/04/22/nuclear-plant-licenses-costly-indian-point-owner/8004159/
Nuclear waste heads into the virtual realm Physics World, Apr 16, 2014 A new computer-based tool designed to help find the best sites for nuclear-waste repositories and to win public confidence in them has been developed by researchers in Germany. The €3m VIRTUS virtual underground laboratory will allow scientists to explore the behaviour of highly radioactive materials inside specific rock formations, with the aim of making it cheaper to develop and build repositories. Critics, however, argue that the new software will do little to improve safety and might disrupt real laboratory studies of nuclear waste.
Many scientists believe that the best way to dispose of spent nuclear fuel and other long-lived radioactive materials is to bury them hundreds of metres underground, with Sweden and Finland having both selected sites for national waste repositories next to existing nuclear power stations. France also plans to open its own facility in 2025, and, like Sweden, has built a major underground lab to test the geology and technologies to be used at the site.
However, there are severe technical and societal problems associated with repositories, not least that the waste they contain will remain harmful for hundreds of thousands of years. The development of a national repository in Germany, for example, has been mired in controversy. A formal site-selection process has still to be set up, even though exploratory work at the Gorleben salt mine in the north of the country began as far back as the 1970s. The nearby Asse mine, meanwhile, was set up in the 1960s as a research facility but was decommissioned in 1997 after a brine leak threatened to flood the complex and cause it to collapse.
Developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation (IFF) in Magdeburg, together with Germany’s nuclear-safety organization (GRS), the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources and the waste-repository company DBE Technology, VIRTUS will attempt to partially address this issue. The software enables detailed models of specific rock formations or mine structures to be created and then fed into a simulation to calculate how a repository would evolve physically and chemically over time. The results of these calculations can then be visualized graphically, and it is planned that members of the public will in future be able to see those graphics inside a 360° projection system…….http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2014/apr/16/nuclear-waste-heads-into-the-virtual-realm
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