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The year 2012 has opened with news that Fukushima's radioactive cloud may already have killed some 14,000 Americans, according to a major study just published in the International Journal of Health Services.
Some 100 million tons of tsunami trash—much of it radiated by Fukushima fallout—has begun contaminating the beaches of our Pacific coast.
Germany and Japan, the world's third and fourth largest economies, along with numerous others countries, have definitively turned away from the "Peaceful Atom."
But it hasn't yet been buried. That's up to us. And 2012 is the year to do it.
We are already very close. The mythical "Nuclear Renaissance" has been gutted by Fukushima, low gas prices and the escalating Solartopian revolution in green energy. Solar panels, wind turbines, sustainable bio-fuels, geo-thermal, ocean thermal, increased efficiency and much more have simply priced atomic energy out of the market.
There is virtually no private money to build new reactors—except where there are huge government subsidies and guarantees. In 2012 we must make those all go away.
Likewise, there are increasingly powerful grassroots movements focused on shutting reactors that still operate. Germany has shut seven, and the rest will be gone by 2022, if not earlier. In Japan, just 11 of more than 50 reactors now operate. Because local governments can prevent reactors from re-opening once they go down for refueling, Japan could emerge from 2012 without a single nuke on line.
The biggest U.S. battle is at Vermont Yankee. March 21 is D-Day for forcing a nuclear corporation to honor a solemn contract it signed with a sovereign state, agreeing to shut down if the state doesn't approve continued operations. The legislature wants the reactor shut, which Entergy now refuses to do.
But with some 430 reactors still operating worldwide, and with several score ostensibly on order, here are some of 2012's keys to finally ridding the planet of this radioactive curse:
• The switch to green power has become definitive and is clearly unstoppable. Last year renewables generated more U.S. electricity than nukes. Far more private capital is now being invested in renewables than in nuclear or fossil fuels. General Electric says its photovoltaic solar cells will generate electricity cheaper than coal within five years. Well-funded opponents are making it more difficult to spread green technologies, but they can be beaten.
• The breakdowns in the solar business are far fewer and further between than in the fossil/nuke world. The lead in this technology has shifted to Asia. The much hyped Solyndra failure came not from technological issues, but because the Chinese are underselling its American competitors—and its own costs—by 30-40 percent. Returning at least some of the business to the U.S. is essential to our economic survival.
• A dollar invested in increased efficiency—powered by accelerating breakthroughs such as LED lighting—has long since produced more jobs and saved more energy than one invested in nuclear power.
• It takes at very least and optimistic five years to bring a nuclear plant on line assuming all permits are in order, but large-scale wind and solar facilities regularly come on line in half that or less.
• The decisions by Japan and Germany to abandon nuclear power have come from countries long at the core of the industry. Japan manufactures many key reactor components, and maintains ownership stakes in General Electric and Westinghouse, which have designed and/or built most of the world's commercial reactors. Germany's corporate giant Siemens, an industry mainstay, has abandoned the technology to focus on renewables. As other major countries and corporations follow suit, the nuke industry will waste away.
• Those who "support nuclear power" cannot guarantee the reactors they want built will be properly regulated or monitored. The world at large may not hear about the next Fukushimas until long after the radioactive fallout spreads around the planet. Given the dismal state of regulation even in "advanced" countries like Japan and the U.S., will those who support the "Renaissance" be there to monitor the Korean nukes sold to the United Arab Emirates et. al.?
• The U.S. Department of Energy still has some $10 billion in designated loan guarantees for new reactors. Two reactors are technically under construction in South Carolina, and two more at Georgia's Vogtle. Despite $8.33 billion in loan guarantees, Georgia's rates are already soaring. Attempts to get Congress to kick in more money have been blocked by the grassroots No Nukes movement.
• Local resistance to reactor projects has raged wherever reactors operate or are proposed, and has been extremely effective. Richard Nixon promised 1,000 U.S. reactors by the year 2000, but the operable number was 104. Those nearly 900 reactors that went missing were mostly stopped by local grassroots movements. Every proposed or operating reactor not killed financially can be ultimately stopped by local opposition movements geared toward a long, hard struggle against "impossible" odds that ultimately prove beatable.
• As it has been from the start, nuclear power is a ward of the state. Nowhere on Earth are the builders held fully responsible for their mess. The Japanese government has just coughed up a tip-of-the-iceberg $13 billion bailout for Fukushima's owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company. Hundreds of billions are yet to come. Either the company goes bankrupt, or the government takes it over beforehand. Either way, the public pays financially, and with its health and that of its children. So it will be everywhere nukes are built, including the U.S., where the 1957 Price-Anderson Act still limits owner liability in the wake of a catastrophe.
• Cost estimates for new reactors have already soared 200-300 percent and more over original prices just a few years ago, and will continue go ever higher. By contrast, renewable technology prices continue their rapid, steep decline.
• France's nuclear industry has all but given up on the U.S. market. A reactor under construction in Finland is years behind schedule and billions of Euros over budget, as is another at Flamanville, in France itself. French public opinion has turned strongly toward renewables.
• U.S. war hawks now want an attack on Iran for allegedly using commercial technology to build a Bomb. But it's instructive to remember that the west once tried to sell 36 reactors to the Shah, who was overthrown by religious fundamentalists in 1979, leading to the current crisis. Does the "Renaissance" blueprint mean pushing reactors everywhere, then launching preemptive wars following the inevitable regime changes?
• After more than 50 years, the radioactive waste problem has been nowhere solved. Nevada's Yucca Mountain is not revivable, and there are no usable high-level storage sites anywhere else on the planet.
• Nuclear power makes global warming worse. Greenhouse gases pour out of the mining, milling, enrichment and waste management process. Massive quantities of direct heat threaten our rivers, lakes and oceans. Thus more and more reactors must shut during hot summer months, when they are supposedly fighting global warming.
• The calculations on how much climate changing heat and steam have spewed into the atmosphere during the explosions at Chernobyl and Fukushima remain to be done. Likewise the heat impacts of the liquid emissions into the ocean at Fukushima remain unknown.
• By wasting huge amounts of social capital, nuclear construction slows the conversion to renewables, which are at the real core of defeating global warming.
• Fukushima is not over. Three melted cores remain problematic, and the entire complex is vulnerable to aftershocks which could bring spent fuel pools crashing to the ground and cause other disasters impossible to foresee.
• Nuclear power is killing people in ever-greater numbers. The industry continues to mount its usual personal assaults on those who prove that. But the killing power of radiation has been known since "mountain sickness"—lung cancer—began surfacing among Czech uranium miners in the 1500s. The continuum is unbroken through the introduction of x-rays, the work of the Curies, radium watch dial painting, definitive links to childhood leukemia, and more. The Hiroshima-based "science" used to establish a "safe" dose of radiation has been thoroughly debunked. The medical consensus that there is no such thing is quite firm.
• The nuclear industry never accepted the burden of proving this technology to be safe before being deployed amidst a civilian population. For a half-century reactor backers have done a superb job of simply refusing to maintain or study reliable epidemiological data bases around commercial reactors (as well as weapons production facilities). But as early as 1970 the chief medical officer of the Atomic Energy Commission, Dr. John Gofman, branded commercial atomic power as a form of "premeditated mass murder."
• The largest study so far of the health impacts of Chernobyl, conducted by three Russian scientists, indicates upwards of a million casualties over the past quarter-century. That first study of the U.S. health impacts from Fukushima, indicates that many thousands more deaths are likely to be suffered in the US above what's already apparent.
Does all this add up to the end of nuke power?
Worldwide, the industry is crumbling. The collapse of its private investment base, and the shutdowns in Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Mexico, Israel and elsewhere are rapidly shrinking the technology's credible reach.
In the U.S., we can cut off all subsidies for new reactors, and shut down the old ones in Vermont, New York, Ohio and wherever else they sit. Fierce no nukes campaigns are raging in the UK, India and even China, as massive demonstrations there are starting to erupt. None of these fights will be easy, but all are winnable, especially as the full impacts of Fukushima become known, and as the Solartopian green power revolution renders the nuclear option increasingly uneconomic.
The movement to shut the old reactors is hitting critical mass. The Vermont Yankee case will go to the U.S. Supreme Court, which must decide if corporations are above even the contracts they sign with the public. Some two dozen Fukushima clones now operate in the U.S. They are old, rickety, cracked and dangerous. Other designs, like Ohio's Davis-Besse, with a cracked containment and an infamous hole eaten through its head, aren't faring much better. Nebraska's Cooper has been flooded. Indian Point, New York is also under attack from the state. Once the first of these are forced shut, the dam will break and the American fleet of 104 licensed reactors will rapidly shrink, along with others around the world.
Far more money is being invested in renewables worldwide than in nukes or even fossil fuels. Green energy will soon constitute the world's largest industry, financially and in terms of employment. The conversion to a post-fossil/nuclear Solartopian economy based entirely on renewables and efficiency will mark the most important industrial transition in human history.
Fukushima has taught us that as long as reactors operate, the apocalyptic clock is ticking.
With that in mind, and with the flow of green money turning into a financial tsunami, we can make 2012 the year nuke power finally dies.
It will require a serious push from the grassroots.
But we are ready to win a green-powered earth.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tom Duszynski
The coronavirus is certainly scary, but despite the constant reporting on total cases and a climbing death toll, the reality is that the vast majority of people who come down with COVID-19 survive it. Just as the number of cases grows, so does another number: those who have recovered.
In mid-March, the number of patients in the U.S. who had officially recovered from the virus was close to zero. That number is now in the tens of thousands and is climbing every day. But recovering from COVID-19 is more complicated than simply feeling better. Recovery involves biology, epidemiology and a little bit of bureaucracy too.
How does your body fight off COVID-19?<p>Once a person is exposed the coronavirus, the body starts producing <a href="https://www.mblintl.com/products/what-are-antibodies-mbli/" target="_blank">proteins called antibodies to fight the infection</a>. As these <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/27/serological-tests-reveal-immune-coronavirus/" target="_blank">antibodies start to successfully contain the virus</a> and keep it from replicating in the body, symptoms usually begin to lessen and you start to feel better. Eventually, if all goes well, your immune system will completely destroy all of the virus in your system. A person who was infected with and survived a virus with no long-term health effects or disabilities has "recovered."</p><p>On average, a person who is infected with SARS-CoV-2 will feel ill for about seven days from the onset of symptoms. Even after symptoms disappear, there still may be small amounts of the virus in a patient's system, and they should stay <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html" target="_blank">isolated for an additional three days</a> to ensure they have truly <a href="https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-recovery-what-to-know" target="_blank">recovered and are no longer infectious</a>.</p>
What about immunity?<p>In general, once you have recovered from a viral infection, your body will keep cells called lymphocytes in your system. These cells "remember" viruses they've previously seen and can react quickly to fight them off again. If you are exposed to a virus you have already had, your antibodies will likely stop the virus before it starts causing symptoms. <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.5114%2Fceji.2018.77390" target="_blank">You become immune</a>. This is the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK27158/" target="_blank">principle behind many vaccines</a>.</p><p>Unfortunately, immunity isn't perfect. For many viruses, like mumps, immunity can wane over time, leaving you <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160421145747.htm" target="_blank">susceptible to the virus in the future</a>. This is why you need to get revaccinated – those "booster shots" – occasionally: to prompt your immune system to make more antibodies and memory cells.</p><p>Since this coronavirus is so new, scientists still don't know whether people who recover from COVID-19 are <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/faq.html" target="_blank">immune to future infections of the virus</a>. Doctors are finding antibodies in ill and recovered patients, and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinical-guidance-management-patients.html" target="_blank">that indicates the development of immunity</a>. But the question remains how long that immunity will last. Other coronaviruses like <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/jmv.25685" target="_blank">SARS and MERS produce an immune response</a> that will protect a person at least for a short time. I would suspect the same is true of SARS-CoV-2, but the research simply hasn't been done yet to say so definitively.</p>
Why have so few people officially recovered in the US?<p>This is a dangerous virus, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is being extremely careful when deciding what it means to recover from COVID-19. Both medical and testing criteria must be met before a person is <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/disposition-in-home-patients.html" target="_blank">officially declared recovered</a>.</p><p>Medically, a person must be fever-free without fever-reducing medications for three consecutive days. They must show an improvement in their other symptoms, including reduced coughing and shortness of breath. And it must be at least seven full days <a href="https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-recovery-what-to-know" target="_blank">since the symptoms began</a>.</p><p>In addition to those requirements, the CDC guidelines say that a person must test negative for the coronavirus twice, with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/care-for-someone.html" target="_blank">tests taken at least 24 hours apart</a>.</p><p>Only then, if both the symptom and testing conditions are met, is a person officially considered recovered by the CDC.</p><p>This second testing requirement is likely why there were so few official recovered cases in the U.S. until late March. Initially, there was a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/health/coronavirus-test-shortages-face-masks-swabs.html" target="_blank">massive shortage of testing in the U.S.</a> So while many people were certainly recovering over the last few weeks, this could not be officially confirmed. As the country enters the height of the pandemic in the coming weeks, focus is still on <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/clinical-criteria.html" target="_blank">testing those who are infected</a>, not those who have likely recovered.</p><p>Many more people are being tested now that states and private companies have begun <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/testing-in-us.html" target="_blank">producing and distributing tests</a>. As <a href="https://www.dispatch.com/news/20200406/coronavirus-in-ohio-from-its-rocky-start-testing-for-covid-19-slowly-ramping-up" target="_blank">the number of available tests increases</a> and the pandemic eventually slows in the country, more testing will be available for those who have appeared to recover. As people who have already recovered are tested, the appearance of any new infections will help researchers learn <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/24/we-need-smart-coronavirus-testing-not-just-more-testing/" target="_blank">how long immunity can be expected to last</a>.</p>
Once a person has recovered, what can they do?<p>Knowing whether or not people are immune to COVID-19 after they recover is going to determine what individuals, communities and society at large can do going forward. If scientists can show that recovered patients are immune to the coronavirus, then a person who has recovered could in theory <a href="https://www.vox.com/2020/3/30/21186822/immunity-to-covid-19-test-coronavirus-rt-pcr-antibody" target="_blank">help support the health care system</a> by caring for those who are infected.</p><p>Once communities pass the peak of the epidemic, the number of new infections will decline, while the number of <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/china-says-passed-peak-coronavirus-epidemic-covid-19-1491863" target="_blank">recovered people will increase</a>. As these trends continue, the risk of transmission will fall. Once the risk of transmission has fallen enough, community-level isolation and social distancing orders will begin to relax and businesses will start to reopen. Based on what other countries have gone through, it will be <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00154-w" target="_blank">months until the risk of transmission is low</a> in the U.S.</p><p>But before any of this can happen, the U.S. and the world need to make it through the peak of this pandemic. Social distancing works to slow the spread of infectious diseases and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/what-you-can-do.html" target="_blank">is working for COVID-19</a>. Many people will <a href="https://www.yalemedicine.org/stories/2019-novel-coronavirus/" target="_blank">need medical help to recover</a>, and social distancing will slow this virus down and give people the best chance to do so.</p>
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
The future for the world's oceans often looks grim. Fisheries are set to collapse by 2048, according to one study, and 8 million tons of plastic pollute the ocean every year, causing considerable damage to delicate marine ecosystems. Yet a new study in Nature offers an alternative, and more optimistic view on the ocean's future: it asserts that the entire marine environment could be substantially rebuilt by 2050, if humanity is able to step up to the challenge.
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By Zulfikar Abbany
Bread has been a source of basic nutrition for centuries, the holy trinity being wheat, maize and rice. It has also been the reason for a lot of innovation in science and technology, from millstones to microbiological investigations into a family of single-cell fungi called Saccharomyces.
Chemical leavening<p>If you like a little heft in your loaf, you will need a leavening agent.</p><p>For those short on time, you can use baking soda. That's a chemical compound of sodium bicarbonate mixed with potassium bitartrate, or cream of tartar.</p><p>Soda breads have their traditions in parts of eastern and central Europe, and in Ireland and Scotland, with Melrose loaves and "farls."</p><p>They can taste a bit bland, though, and are often considered only as an emergency solution on Sundays. No disrespect intended: They taste just fine fresh from the oven.</p><p>Whether it's chemical or more "natural," leavening relies largely on the production of carbon dioxide.</p><p>When you mix an acid, such as vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt or apple cider, with an alkaline compound like baking soda, you get CO2. That CO2 creates bubbles, which in turn capture steam in the oven and allow a bread to rise.</p><p><span></span>But it's better with yeast. Tastes better, too. It just takes more time. </p>
What is yeast?<p>There are yeasts all around us — on grains, in the air, in biofuels. It even lives inside us, but that's not always a good thing.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1090575/pdf/1471-2334-5-22.pdf" target="_blank">Candida yeast</a> can cause infections of the skin, feet, mouth, penis or vagina if it builds up too much in the body.</p><p>One of the most common yeasts, however, is <em>Saccharomyces cerevisiae</em>. That's <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/an-early-beer-archaeologists-tap-ground-at-worlds-oldest-brewery/a-45480731" target="_blank">"brewer's"</a> or "baker's" yeast.</p><p>You can get fresh baker's yeast, often in 42-gram (1.48-ounce) cubes, or as dried yeast (quick action or active, which requires rehydration) in a sachet of 7 grams.</p><p>There's little difference: One is compressed and the other is dehydrated and granulated. But they do the same thing, essentially. </p><p>Some commercial yeast producers add molasses and other nutrients. But natural yeast has plenty of useful nutrients in it anyway, including B group vitamins, so who knows whether it's good or necessary to add them. </p>
How does yeast work?<p>When you mix flour, yeast and water, you set off a veritable chain reaction. Enzymes in the wheat convert starch into sugar. And the yeast creates enzymes of its own to convert those sugars into a form it can absorb.</p><p>The yeast "feeds" on the sugars to create carbon dioxide and alcohol. The yeast burps and farts, releasing gases into the mix, and that creates bubbles to trap CO2. </p><p>It's a vital fermentation process that breaks down the gluten in the flour and helps make your bread more digestible.</p><p>The yeast cells split and reproduce, generating lactic and carbonic acid, raising the temperature and ultimately adding flavor to the mix.</p><p>The longer you leave the yeast to do its thing, the better for your bread. Time is more important than the amount of yeast. </p><p>In fact, that's an enduring question — how much yeast? I'll use 20 grams fresh yeast for 500 grams of flour. Others say that's enough yeast for 1 kilo. If you are converting a dry-yeast recipe to fresh yeast, some bakers advise tripling the weight. So, if a sachet of dried yeast is 7 grams, your fresh yeast is 21 grams.</p><p><span></span>But that also depends on the flours you are using, temperatures in the bowl and the room, and a host of other things. You'll just have to experiment and see. No number of books (and I've read a stack on bread) will help as much as trial and error.</p>
Wild yeast: Sourdough<p>So, good bread needs time. If you have a lot of time, why not move it up a notch and grow wild yeast — a sourdough starter — in your own home?</p><p>A sourdough starter is not to be mistaken (as it often is) for the leaven, or "mother," "sponge," or <em>levain</em>. That's more a second stage, a descendant of the starter. You take a scoop from your starter and add it to another flour and water mixture when you prepare the dough for a new loaf. </p><p>The sourdough process utilizes yeasts naturally present in flour and … yet more time. A longer fermentation process allows a richer lactic acid bacteria <em>lactobacilli</em> or LAB to evolve, and that can be healthy for your gut microbiome.</p><p>It's simple enough to start a sourdough starter. All you need is flour, warm water and time.</p><p>Some suggest equal measures of whole-grain flour and water at 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), some say room temperature — just don't let the water exceed 40 C or the yeasts will die. Some suggest two parts flour to three parts water. But it's up to you whether you want a drier or wetter starter. You will know only through experimentation. </p><p>Some say you should filter tap water to remove chemicals like fluoride and avoid using water that's boiled and then cooled. Others say that really doesn't matter.</p><p>The main thing is, keep it clean and give it time. Days, weeks, months and years.</p>
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