Leaky Fukushima nuclear plant raises seafood poisoning concerns

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 20, 2013   View Article

The 300 tons of radioactive water leaked to date from a storage tank at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan is raising new concerns about the safety of seafood from the region, according to scientists.

Highly contaminated water from the newly reported leak is seeping into the ground, officials with Tokyo Electric Power Company told reporters Tuesday. They do not believe the water has reached the ocean, given the distance of the tank from the harbor. Still, it is likely only a matter of time before it does, said William Burness, an oceanographer at Florida State University, who studies environmental radioactivity.

The concern is that the radioactive water leaking from the storage tanks will eventually end up in the ocean and contaminate the marine environment, in particular fish that people eat, Burnett told NBC News.

Fracking and energy exploration connected to earthquakes, say studies

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 11, 2013   View Article

The rivers of water pumped into and out of the ground during the production of natural gas, oil and geothermal energy are causing the Earth to shake more frequently in areas where these industrial activities are soaring, according to a series of studies published today.

While the gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) causes some small quakes, it’s the disposal of wastewater following that process — and many others relating to energy production — that lead to the largest tremors.

“Fortunately, there have been no deaths and damage has been limited to date, but it is obviously of concern to people as we think about the future of the energy economy,” William Ellsworth, a seismologist with the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., told NBC News.

Move over corn, a new source of ethanol is in town

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 1, 2013   View Article

Commercial quantities of the alternative fuel ethanol are being produced from wood waste and other vegetative matter, a chemical company announced Wednesday. The milestone holds potential to curb the controversial practice of using corn kernels to brew the fuel that is commonly mixed with gasoline.

Several companies have been racing in recent years to develop the technology required to produce ethanol from cellulose — the woody parts of plants — and many are close to firing up commercial facilities. INEOS Bio is at the finish line.

Silver lining? Greenhouse gas could be vast, untapped source of energy

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 23, 2013   View Article

The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emitted from power plants and other industrial activities around the world is a vast source of untapped energy, according to new research that describes a proof-of-concept technique to harvest it.

Akin to harvesting energy from the wind, this combination of chemistry and mechanics would generate electricity from the carbon dioxide (CO2) already flowing out of plants. While it wouldn’t destroy the CO2, it would pull far more energy from existing waste gas. It could arguably even enable plants to resist scaling up and becoming more wasteful, just to keep up with demand.

Catastrophic power outages on the rise, but new tech helps keep lights on

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 2, 2013   View Article

Last year, nearly a tenth of the world’s population — 620 million people — lost power at once. The cause? Two simultaneous failures on India’s enormous electric grid.

While these catastrophes are a symptom of infrastructure investment lagging behind rapid urbanization and modernization, technology can help: A new computer algorithm could lower the chances of such massive blackouts from recurring.

Experts call Obama climate plan an ‘important first step’

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 25, 2013   View Article

With his jacket off on a sweltering afternoon, President Barack Obama Tuesday unveiled a strategy to slow the effects of climate change so that future generations will have a cleaner and more stable environment, including curbs on pollution from new and existing power plants.

“As a President, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say, we need to act,” he said to applause at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he unveiled the climate action plan. “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that is beyond fixing.”

Natural gas found in drinking water near fracked wells

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 24, 2013   View Article

Elevated levels of methane and other stray gases have been found in drinking water near natural gas wells in Pennsylvania’s gas-rich Marcellus shale region, according to new research. In the case of methane, concentrations were six times higher in some drinking water found within one kilometer of drilling operations.

“The bottom line is strong evidence for gas leaking into drinking water in some cases,” Robert Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University in Durham, N.C., told NBC News. “We think the likeliest explanation is leaky wells,” he added.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach