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- Thu Jul 20, 2017 - Swimming robot probes Fukushima reactor to find melted fuel
An underwater robot entered a badly damaged reactor at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant Wednesday, capturing images of the harsh impact of its meltdown, including key structures that were torn and knocked out of place.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the robot, nicknamed \'the Little Sunfish,\' successfully completed the day's work inside the primary containment vessel of the Unit 3 reactor at Fukushima, which was destroyed by a massive March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
TEPCO spokesman Takahiro Kimoto praised the work, saying the robot captured views of the underwater damage that had not been previously seen. However, the images contained no obvious sign of the melted nuclear fuel that researchers hope to locate, he said.
The robot was left inside the reactor near a structure called the pedestal, and is expected to go deeper inside for a fuller investigation Friday in hopes of finding the melted fuel.
\'The damage to the structures was caused by the melte
- Thu Jul 20, 2017 - Trump's Honeymoon With China Comes to an End
The brief honeymoon between the world's two largest economies appears to be over.
Three months ago, President Donald Trump had warm words for his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping after the two leaders bonded at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Within weeks, the Trump administration was touting early wins in talks with China, including more access for U.S. beef and financial services as well as help in trying to rein in North Korea.
Now, the two sides can barely agree how to describe their disagreements.
High-level economic talks in Washington broke up Wednesday with the two superpowers unable to produce a joint statement. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross scolded China over its trade imbalance with the U.S. in his opening remarks, and then both sides canceled a planned closing news conference.
Both sides later made separate statements following the talks. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Ross said China \'acknowledged our shared objective to reduce the trade deficit whi
- Thu Jul 20, 2017 - Indian Poultry Farms Are Breeding Drug-Resistant Superbugs
Indian poultry farms aren't just rearing chickens --- they're also breeding germs capable of thwarting all but the most potent antibiotics, researchers found.
Random tests on 18 poultry farms raising about 50,000 birds each in India's northwestern state of Punjab found that two-thirds of fowl harbored bacteria that produce special enzymes, known as extended-spectrum beta-lactamase, or ESBL, that destroy most penicillin- and cephalosporin-based antibiotics. Of tested birds destined for meat consumption, 87 percent had the super germs, a study published Thursday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives showed. That compared with 42 percent of egg-laying hens.
Farms supplying India's biggest poultry-meat companies routinely use medicines classified by the World Health Organization as \'critically important\' as a way of staving off disease, an investigation by Bloomberg News showed last year. The latest research, the largest of its kind in India to date, highlights the consequ
- Thu Jul 20, 2017 - WORLD'S PLASTIC WASTE COULD BURY MANHATTAN 2 MILES DEEP
Industry has made more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic since 1950 and there's enough left over to bury Manhattan under more than two miles of trash, according to a new cradle-to-grave global study.
Plastics don't break down like other man-made materials, so three-quarters of the stuff ends up as waste in landfills, littered on land and floating in oceans, lakes and rivers, according to the research reported in Wednesday's journal Science Advances .
\'At the current rate, we are really heading toward a plastic planet,\' said study lead author Roland Geyer, an industrial ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. \'It is something we need to pay attention to.\'
The plastics boom started after World War II, and now plastics are everywhere. They are used in packaging like plastic bottles and consumer goods like cellphones and refrigerators. They are in pipes and other construction material. They are in cars and clothing, usually as polyester.
Study co-author Jenna J
- Wed Jul 19, 2017 - Money runs short for nuclear energy's survival
Anywhere you look in the world, the future of the nuclear industry looks grim as costs escalate and politicians plump for renewables, putting nuclear energy's survival in doubt.
The single most important fact in the industry's demise is that its main rivals in the business of generating electricity -- gas, wind and solar -- are getting ever cheaper as nuclear costs only rise.
The political tide is turning against nuclear power in previously leading countries. Newly elected governments in South Korea and France, the two democratic countries most enthusiastic about the atom, are looking to reduce the role of nuclear in their energy mix.
South Korea's new president Moon Jae-in has vowed to scrap all existing plans for new nuclear power plants and cancel lifetime extensions for aged reactors, heralding a major overhaul for the country's energy policy.
\'We will abolish our nuclear-centred energy policy and move towards a nuclear-free era,\' Mr Moon said
- Wed Jul 19, 2017 - Diet drinks are associated with weight gain, new research suggests
Over the past decade, Americans have soured on artificial sweeteners.
Once heralded as sweet substitutes for sugar without as many belt-busting calories, people once couldn't get enough sucralose and aspartame. But recently, people have started looking at the molecules with increasing suspicion, amid studies that linked them to increased belly fat --- and bogus but widespread rumors that they led to things much worse.
But their draw remained because of the simplest of math equations: Fewer calories means fewer pounds.
Both the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association gave their stamp of approval to artificial sweeteners with statements listed on their websites in 2014, and Americans ate it up.
But an international group of researchers has tried to figure out whether low-calorie sweeteners really live up to their promise over time. Meghan Azad, a researcher at the University of Manitoba, and others reviewed dozens of studies about the long-term health
- Wed Jul 19, 2017 - China says it won't take any more foreign garbage
China notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Tuesday that it would stop accepting shipments of rubbish such as waste plastic and paper as part of a campaign against \'foreign garbage\'.
The import ban, which will enter into force by the end of 2017, will also cover slag from steelmaking, and many kinds of waste wool, ash, cotton and yarn.
\'We found that large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials. This polluted China's environment seriously,\' China's WTO filing said.
\'To protect China's environmental interests and people's health, we urgently adjust the imported solid wastes list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluted.\'
China is a major importer of waste. Last year it imported 7.3 million tonnes of waste plastics, valued at $3.7 billion, accounting for 56 percent of world imports.
Apart from Hong Kong, the biggest sources of that plastic waste were Japan and the Unite
- Wed Jul 19, 2017 - Court tosses petition to force U.S. to ban pesticide
A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday denied a petition by environmental groups to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban the agricultural pesticide chlorpyrifos, ending one of three parallel attempts to bring about the ban, court filings show.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in San Francisco, rejected a claim by the groups, including Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council, that the EPA had taken too long to act on the matter.
\'Although EPA dragged its heels for nearly a decade, it has now done what we ordered it to do,\' the judges wrote.
The court had previously ordered the agency to issue a final decision on a decade-old petition to ban the pesticide, which is considered to be a neurotoxin by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. On March 29, the EPA formally denied the petition. The groups argued the denial was inadequate because it did not
- Tue Jul 18, 2017 - Solar Plants Aim to Keep Lights on at Night
Solar plants that supply electricity at competitive prices after the sun goes down are about to become a reality in the Middle East, according to one of the region's biggest developers of power plants.
ACWA Power International Chief Executive Officer Paddy Padmanathan confirmed his company is the low bidder on a $1 billion project that will feed electricity to the grid for the Dubai Water + Electricity Authority between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. More such plants are likely to follow because Chinese companies will start driving down the cost of equipment, he said.
The 200-megawatt Dubai contract, which runs for 25 years, will harness a two-decade old technology called concentrated-solar, or solar thermal. Unlike photovoltaics, which generate a charge directly from the sun's power, thermal plants use mirrors to concentrate heat on water, turning it to steam to drive a turbine. The heat can be stored in molten salt to be used later. The technology to date has slipped behind PV on cost but
- Tue Jul 18, 2017 - Resurrecting Ancient Wines That Can Survive Climate Change
The Spanish region of Catalonia is proud of its traditions. The official language, Catalan, has thrived for centuries, despite the establishment of Spanish as the rest of the country's official language in the 1700s. Castells, or adults and children climbing on each other's shoulders to form human towers, continues to be a popular activity at festivals. And in Vilafranca del Penedès, an hour outside of Barcelona, the local winery Bodegas Torres is researching and rediscovering wine varieties long thought to be extinct.
It just so happens that many of these revived regional varieties thrive in hotter, drier climates. So Bodegas Torres is regrowing these ancestral vines to assuage the wine industry's looming climate-change crisis.
Growers in Mediterranean-climate regions in Western Europe, California, and Australia report that increasing temperatures are leading to early harvests. For the time being, these early harvests result in higher-quality wines. But as temperatures climb hig