New York Times: Plans by the Bush administration to develop clean coal technology, where carbon dioxide from coal-burning power plants is pumped back into the ground appear to be stalling despite support from President Bush, the three main presidential candidates, many other members of Congress, industry and environmentalists.
In January, the government canceled its support for what was supposed to be a showcase project, a plant at a carefully chosen site in Illinois where there was coal, access to the power grid, and soil underfoot that backers said could hold the carbon dioxide for eons.
Perhaps worse, in the last few months, utility projects in Florida, West Virginia, Ohio, Minnesota and Washington State that would have made it easier to capture carbon dioxide have all been canceled or thrown into regulatory limbo.
“It’s a total mess,” said Daniel M. Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.
The Boston Globe: Emergency crews worked yesterday to secure 15 sources of radiation buried in the rubble of China’s catastrophic earthquake, the government said.
One senior official said China faces “a daunting challenge” to prevent environmental contamination from other sources.
There has been no leak of radioactive substances into the environment, Wu Xiaoqing, China’s vice minister for environmental protection, told reporters in Beijing.
He said 50 sources of radiation were buried by debris from the massive earthquake in central China, 35 of which had been secured. The rest lay buried or located but unreachable under collapsed buildings. He gave no specifics about the radiation sources.
The number of unsecured sources was far higher than the two the government reported earlier this week. Foreign observers said the radioactive sources probably came from materials used in hospitals, factories, or in research, not for weapons.
Reuters: Environment ministers from the G8 rich nations on Monday urged their leaders to set a global target to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a small but vital step in the fight against climate change.
But they stopped short of suggesting specific interim targets ahead of 2050, a key demand of developing countries in tough U.N.-led talks to forge a new treaty on global warming by the end of next year.
About 190 nations have agreed to negotiate by the end of 2009 a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which binds 37 advanced nations to cut emissions by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12
Science: Steel is the workhorse of our infrastructure. Stronger, tougher steels are always needed to reduce weight and improve safety in transportation, enhance architectural flexibility in construction, and improve performance in heavy machinery. For structural steels to be both strong and tough (resistant to fracture), they must not be used at temperatures below the ductile-brittle transition temperature, TB, at which the steel loses its toughness and fractures in a brittle mode. This transition results from a competition between plastic deformation and brittle fracture at the tips of cracks or flaws in the steel. It can be controlled by techniques such as grain refinement that inhibit brittle fracture, or by techniques such as controlled delamination that facilitate plastic deformation. In last week’s Science magazine, Yuuji Kimura, Tadanobu Inoue, Fuxing Yin, and Kaneaki Tsuzaki show how these approaches can be combined to achieve low TB and high toughness in an ultrahigh-strength low-alloy steel.
Inverse Temperature Dependence of Toughness in an Ultrafine Grain-Structure Steel Science 320 1057 – 1060
NPR: With rising fuel prices taking a bigger bite out of the profits of the nation’s manufacturers, Tom Casten, the owner of Recycled Energy, says many of them could save a lot of money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by capturing that waste heat and recycling it to produce power.
Associated Press: Iran’s disputed nuclear program has sent a wave of interest in atomic energy across the Middle East, a think tank said Tuesday, warning that it risked setting the scene for a regional nuclear arms race.
At least 13 Middle Eastern countries either announced new plans to explore atomic energy or revived pre-existing nuclear programs between February 2006 and January 2007, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, or IISS, said in a report.
While the flurry of interest in nuclear power is still tentative, the report said countries such as Saudi Arabia, Algeria or Egypt could soon feel the need to match Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
”If Tehran’s nuclear program is unchecked, there is reason for concern that it could in time prompt a regional cascade of proliferation among Iran’s neighbors,” it said.
Science: Two of Australia’s science agencies are shedding jobs and trimming programs to comply with a new national budget that’s both praised and criticized by research leaders. The spending plan announced by the Labor government last week–its first since coming to power in 2007–provides more money for education initiatives, including a $10.5 billion trust fund for higher education infrastructure, but less for two key players, the nation’s premier science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). The cuts are troubling, some say, because the government expects to reap a $20.7 billion surplus over Australia’s next annual budget cycle, which starts 1 July.
Nature News: France’s CNRS, the largest fundamental science agency in Europe, is to be reorganized into six quasi-autonomous national institutes by the end of the year. In essence, the move amounts to a dismantling of the CNRS, commentators say, replacing it with a UK-style system, which is organized by major discipline.
The Daily Breeze: Boeing Co. plans to lay off about 750 employees, mostly in El Segundo and Seal Beach, California amid a downturn in the company’s satellite manufacturing business and the recent loss of a major $3.5 billion contract to rival Lockheed.
The aerospace giant officially announced the layoffs last week, when employees started to receive termination notices.
The restructuring will leave Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems, Boeing’s satellite division with about 6,450 employees, compared with its present count of 7,200.
New York Times: Italy announced last Thursday that within five years it planned to resume building nuclear energy plants, two decades after a public referendum resoundingly banned nuclear power and deactivated all its reactors.
“By the end of this legislature, we will put down the foundation stone for the construction in our country of a group of new-generation nuclear plants,” said Claudio Scajola, minister of economic development. “An action plan to go back to nuclear power cannot be delayed anymore.”
The change is a striking sign of the times, reflecting growing concern in many European countries over the skyrocketing price of oil and energy security, and the warming effects of carbon emissions from fossil fuels. All have combined to make this once-scorned form of energy far more palatable.
“Italy has had the most dramatic, the most public turnaround, but the sentiments against nuclear are reversing very quickly all across Europe — Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Germany and more,” said Ian Hore-Lacey, spokesman for the World Nuclear Association, an industry group based in London.
The rehabilitation of nuclear power was underscored in January when John Hutton, the British business secretary, grouped it with “other low-carbon sources of energy” like biofuels. It was barely mentioned in the government action plan on energy three years earlier.