The availability of cheap natural gas and greater energy efficiency has reduced demand for nuclear energy in recent years
Nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources
Industry experts say that women who work in nuclear power can be powerful advocates for nuclear
San Francisco, August 26, 2017: Kristin Zaitz is confident that her nuclear power plant is safe.
Zaitz, an engineering manager, was at Diablo Canyon Power Plant during both her pregnancies and has scuba dived to inspect the plant, which hugs the California coast. Zaitz wears a pendant with a tiny bit of uranium inside, an item that tends to invite questions.
“We all have our perceptions of nuclear,” Zaitz said.
In a few years, Diablo Canyon will close, part of a trend nationwide. The availability of cheap natural gas and greater energy efficiency has reduced demand for nuclear energy in recent years. Add to that ongoing concerns about public safety, such as those raised by memories of disasters at nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan, Chernobyl in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union) and Three Mile Island in the United States.
Nuclear is ‘cleaner’ than fossil fuels
Supporters of nuclear energy say that when a reactor-based generating station closes, not enough wind and solar power is available to make up the difference. They lament that energy companies tend to turn instead to fossil fuels — coal and natural gas — which produce environmentally harmful emissions.
Zaitz and her co-worker Heather Matteson, a reactor operator, started Mothers for Nuclear, their effort to get the word out that nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources.
“I went into the plant very skeptical of nuclear and being scared of it,” said Matteson. “It took me six to seven years to really feel like this is something good for the environment. I don’t want people to take six to seven years to make that decision. We don’t have that long.”
Matteson, too, wears the uranium necklace as a conversation starter. “Nuclear is fun,” she said. Is there any radiation emitted by the pendant? “There’s slightly more than from a banana,” she conceded.
Industry experts say that women who work in nuclear power can be powerful advocates for nuclear. They can help change attitudes of other women who tend to be more skeptical than men about nuclear energy’s benefits.
At the recent U.S. Women in Nuclear conference in San Francisco, women working in the industry talked about how more should be done to make nuclear power’s case to the public, and how they may be the best suited to do it.
“As mothers, I think we also have an important role to play in letting the public know that we support nuclear for the future, for our children,” said Matteson. “And we don’t know other mothers supporting nuclear power in a vocal way. We thought there was a gap to fill.”
Young women say they look at careers in this industry because they are socially minded.
‘Do something good for the world’
“I went into this wanting to do something good for the world,” Lenka Kollar, business strategy director at NuScale, a firm in Oregon that designs and markets small modular reactors. “Wanting to bring power to people. There are still more than a billion people in the world who don’t have electricity.”
Critics of nuclear energy say it doesn’t matter who is promoting it.
“Using mothers’ voices to argue for a technology that is fundamentally dangerous and that has been demonstrated by disasters like Fukushima to be not safe for the communities that surround the power plants or even cities that are hundreds of miles away is disingenuous,” said Kendra Klein, a staff scientist with Friends of the Earth, an environmental group.
While the future of nuclear power in the United States may be uncertain, the women here say they have a positive story to tell. (VOA)
August 04, 2017: Finding underground methane gas leaks is now as easy as finding a McDonalds, thanks to a combination of Google Street View cars, mobile methane detectors, some major computing power and a lot of ingenuity.
When a city’s underground gas lines leak, they waste fuel and release invisible plumes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. To find and measure leaks, Colorado State University biologist Joe von Fischer decided to create “methane maps,” to make it easier for utilities to identify the biggest leaks, and repair them.
“That’s where you get the greatest bang for the buck,” he pointed out, “the greatest pollution reductions per repair.”
Knowing that Google Maps start with Google Street View cars recording everything they drive by, along with their GPS locations, von Fischer’s team thought they would just add methane detectors to a Street View car. It turned out, it was not that simple.
The world’s best methane detectors are accurate in an area the size of a teacup, but methane leaks can be wider than a street. Also, no one had ever measured the size of a methane leak from a moving car.
“If you’ve ever seen a plume of smoke, it’s sort of a lumpy, irregular object,” von Fischer said. “Methane plumes as they come out of the ground are the same, they’re lumpy squirrelly objects.”
The team had to develop a way to capture data about those plumes, one that would be accurate in the real world. They set up a test site in an abandoned airfield near campus and brought in what looked like a large scuba tank filled with methane and some air hoses. Then they released carefully measured methane through the hose as von Fischer drove a specially equipped SUV past it, again and again.
They compared readings from the methane detectors in the SUV to readings from the tank.
“We spend a lot of time driving through the plumes to sort of calibrate the way that those cars see methane plumes that form as methane’s being emitted from the ground,” von Fischer explained.
With that understanding, the methane detectors hit the road.
But the results created pages of data, “more than 30 million points,” said CSU computer scientist Johnson Kathkikiaran. He knew that all those data points alone would never help people find the biggest leaks on any map. So he and his advisor, Sanmi Peracara, turned the data into pictures using tools from Google.
Their visual summaries made it easy for utility experts to analyze the methane maps, but von Fischer wanted anyone to be able to identify the worst leaks. His teammates at the Environmental Defense Fund met that challenge by incorporating the data into their online maps. Yellow dots indicate a small methane leak. Orange is a medium-sized one. Red means a big leak – as much pollution as one car driving 14,000 kilometers in a single day.
Von Fischer says that if a city focuses on these biggest leaks, repairing just 8 percent of them can reduce methane pollution by a third.
“That becomes a win-win type scenario,” he said, “because we’re not asking polluters to fix everything, but we’re looking for a reduction in overall emissions, and I think we can achieve that in a more cost effective way.”
After analyzing a methane map for the state of New Jersey, for example, the utility PSE&G has prioritized fixing its leakiest pipes there first, to speed the reduction of their overall pollution.
“To me that was a real victory, to be able to help the utility find which parts were leakiest, and to make a cost effective reduction in their overall emissions,” von Fischer said.
Von Fischer envisions, even more, innovation ahead for mapping many kinds of pollution… to clean the air and save energy. (VOA)
Harsh Vardhan, India’s Union Minister, stated that environmental protection, which is a part of the country’s culture, has been fading away
The Environment minister blames the modern lifestyle behind this problem
He also stressed that the issue of global warming is taken seriously and attempts are underway in all organizations
July 08, 2017: During a plantation drive at a District Park in Paschim Vihar that marked the beginning of ‘Van Mahotsav’ celebrations, the Union Minister Harsh Vardhan stated that Environmental protection is a significant part of the Indian culture.
Blaming the present and modern day lifestyle habits, he notes that we are forgetting our culture and letting the environment concerns eliminate from it.
Stressing the importance of scientific research, the Environment Minister urged science to solve the basic problems such as water and sanitation. He suggests the scientists to “start from the grassroots level”
He also claimed that India could have set up a big example for the whole world had it stuck and continued with environmental protection in accordance with its culture. He reminded us that water, forests, air, and land are a matter of serious concern.
Dr. Vardhan also expanded that the issue of climate change and global warming is a burning issue and that all organizations of the government are making sincere efforts to take effective actions.
In times of potential danger to humanity, the minister said that ‘environmental soldiers’ are necessary for the country.
ISRO is working in the field of carbon emissions. The International Solar Alliance (ISA), with the cooperation of France, is a Prime Minister’s initiative to address climate change.
On this special occasion, the efforts of Anil Madhav Dave, a former environmental minister were also acknowledged.
– prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394