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Posts Tagged "nuclear"

Guest Blog

Channeling Ada Lovelace: Chien-Shiung Wu, Courageous Hero of Physics

Linocut of Chien-Shiung Wu

Today marks the 5th Ada Lovelace Day, an annual celebration of women who have made important contributions to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The event is named for Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, who is often credited as the first computer programmer. Since its inception in 2009, Ada Lovelace Day [...]

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Guest Blog

Nature’s Nuclear Reactors: The 2-Billion-Year-Old Natural Fission Reactors in Gabon, Western Africa

Two billion years ago— eons before humans developed the first commercial nuclear power plants in the 1950s— seventeen natural nuclear fission reactors operated in what is today known as Gabon in Western Africa [Figures 1 and 2]. The energy produced by these natural nuclear reactors was modest. The average power output of the Gabon reactors [...]

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Guest Blog

Poor risk communication in Japan is making the risk much worse

The radiation crisis in Japan worsens for two reasons: one that we’ve heard about, one that we haven’t but which may in the end do far more harm. The Japanese government, and the company in charge of the crippled nuclear complex, are struggling with their risk and crisis communications, and their missteps are fueling mistrust [...]

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Guest Blog

Deja vu: What does the Gulf oil spill tell us about the Japanese nuclear crisis?

For the second time in under a year, a large-scale energy disaster is unfolding before our eyes. Two different industries. Two different crises. Can we apply any lessons from the Gulf oil spill, and what can we expect for the nuclear industry moving forward? It was just over a year ago that the Macondo well [...]

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Guest Blog

Beware the fear of nuclear….FEAR!

It is frightening to watch what’s going on with Japan’s nuclear plant at Fukushima. It is also worrying to watch the fear racing around the world as a result of those events, fear that in some cases is far in excess of what’s going on, or even the worst case scenarios of what might happen. [...]

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Observations

“All of the Above” Energy Means More Fracking, Renewables, Nukes and Clean Coal

ernest-moniz

There is no technical issue with fracking, the controversial technique of fracturing shale rock with high-pressure, chemically treated water to release natural gas. But there is clearly a political one, judging by the multiple interruptions to a talk at Columbia University by new Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz. The affable former M.I.T. professor and [...]

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Observations

Pandora’s Promise: The Triumph of Hope over Fear in Nuclear Power?

pandoras-promise-poster

A believer in solar power rarely has a good word to say about nuclear, though the sun generates light in a nuclear way via fusion. Of course, the zealotry works in the other direction as well. Almost any energy source boasts a cadre of ardent adherents: burning coal (it alleviates poverty!). Fracking for natural gas (we’re [...]

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Observations

Meet the New Secretary of Energy Nominee: Ernie Moniz

ernest-moniz

Ernest J. Moniz, a nuclear physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who serves on Scientific American’s board of advisors, will be President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Nobel laureate Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy. While Moniz has yet to win a Nobel, he served on the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear [...]

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Observations

Is Nuclear Power Doomed to Dwindle?

crystal-river-nuclear-reactor

The nuclear reactor near Crystal River north of Tampa Bay will never fission again. Duke Energy has decided to shutter the troubled nuclear power plant, which has been shut down since 2009 thanks to a crack in the dome that shields the reactor. Attempts to repair the initial crack had caused other cracks to form [...]

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Observations

What Will It Take to Solve Climate Change?

australia-weather-map-with-new-high-temp-color

Australia had to add a new color to its weather maps this week. Meteorologists used royal purple to denote an off-the-charts high temperature of 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), part of an unprecedented heat wave and ongoing wildfires occurring down under this month. On the other side of the globe, 2012 proved the hottest [...]

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Observations

How to Rid the World of the “Element from Hell”

plutonium-238

The vast majority of the radioactive plutonium on the planet is man-made—roughly 500 metric tons, or enough to make 100,000 nuclear weapons by the calculations of the International Panel on Fissile Materials. Much of it is the legacy of the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and Russia in the latter decades of the 20th [...]

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Observations

Nuclear Fission Confirmed as Source of More than Half of Earth’s Heat

lava

Nuclear fission powers the movement of Earth’s continents and crust, a consortium of physicists and other scientists is now reporting, confirming long-standing thinking on this topic. Using neutrino detectors in Japan and Italy—the Kamioka Liquid-Scintillator Antineutrino Detector (KamLAND) and the Borexino Detector—the scientists arrived at their conclusion by measuring the flow of the antithesis of [...]

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Observations

Fukushima Absorbed: How Plutonium Poisons the Body

plutonium poisoning uptake in body cells

Plutonium has a half-life of about 24,000 years. And scientists have known for decades that even in small doses, it is highly toxic, leading to radiation illness, cancer and often to death. After the March nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, people the world over worried that plutonium poisoning might [...]

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Observations

Are Babies Dying in the Pacific Northwest Due to Fukushima? A Look at the Numbers

A recent article on the Al Jazeera English web site cites a disturbing statistic: infant mortality in certain U.S. Northwest cities spiked by 35 percent in the weeks following the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The author writes that "physician Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano published an essay shedding light [...]

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Observations

Where Will Our Energy Come from in 2030?

It may seem slightly ridiculous to consider the prospects for a future solar-hydrogen economy at an institute for theoretical physics in Waterloo, Canada. After all, Canada is the capital of unconventional oil, also known as oil sands, also known as tar sands, which supply more than a million barrels of oil per day to the [...]

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Plugged In

DOE FY13 Budget Unveiled – National Security (Nuclear) on Top

ObamaSmall

Today, President Obama unveiled his $3.8 trillion 2013 budget proposal for the federal government. According to Mark Z. Barabak at the LA Times, this budget “is, at its hear, a political document, laying out [the President’s] priorities and, not incidentally, reflecting the strategy he plans to pursue in his reelection bid.” In the energy sphere, [...]

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Plugged In

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Radioxenon Testing

I confess, I don’t normally keep an eye out for the latest publications in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, but one recent paper on radioxenon measurements is of particular interest. This paper, as it turns out, is by one of the leading researchers in radioxenon testing, who happens to be a former professor and advisor [...]

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Plugged In

Maybe … a Half of a Cheer for Shale Gas? Maybe?

I had a whole post prepared about how the Geographic Information Services people helped in the response to the April tornados that devastated Raleigh, which seemed like a good way to introduce the infrastructure-plus-connectivity-plus-how-do-they-DO-that? applied science take I hope to bring to this blog, but then I came back from vacation and opened the newspapers [...]

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Voices

Channeling Ada Lovelace: Chien-Shiung Wu, Courageous Hero of Physics

Linocut of Chien-Shiung Wu

Today marks the 5th Ada Lovelace Day, an annual celebration of women who have made important contributions to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The event is named for Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, who is often credited as the first computer programmer. Since its inception in 2009, Ada Lovelace Day [...]

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