300+ Groups Urge Climate Scientist Dr. Hansen to Rethink Support of Nuclear Power
A total of 311 U.S. and international environmental and clean energy groups said yesterday that, while they respect the climate change work of Dr. James Hansen and three of his academic colleagues, they take strong exception to the notion that nuclear power is the solution to global warming.
The joint letter from more than 300 groups—including 237 from 46 U.S. states and the District of Columbia and 74 from 44 other nations around the globe, including those on the ground dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster—is being issued in response to a Nov. 3, 2013 statement from Dr. James Hansen and three of his academic colleagues, Ken Caldeira, Kerry Emanuel and Tom Wigley. In that statement Hansen and the others voiced their advocacy for nuclear power, an industry plagued by financial, technical and safety issues for more than 50 years.
In yesterday's statement organized by the Civil Society Institute (CSI) and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), 311 organizations are urging Dr. Hansen and his colleagues to publicly debate the question of climate change and nuclear power.
The statement reads in part:
Instead of embracing nuclear power, we request that you join us in supporting an electric grid dominated by energy efficiency, renewable, distributed power and storage technologies. We ask you to join us in supporting the phase-out of nuclear power as Germany and other countries are pursuing. It is simply not feasible for nuclear power to be a part of a sustainable, safe and affordable future for humankind. We would be pleased to meet with you directly to further discuss these issues, to bring the relevant research on renewable energy and grid integration to a dialog with you. Again, we thank you for your service and contribution to our country's understanding about climate change.
The full text of yesterday's statement is available online.
"We can admire the important work of Dr. Hansen on climate change, which is his area of expertise, while disagreeing with his advocacy of nuclear power," said CSI Senior Energy Analyst Grant Smith. "In the face of a clear need for swift action on climate change, there is nothing about nuclear power that resembles a solution that can be put into place quickly, much less in a safe and affordable fashion.
"Indeed, Dr. Hansen and his colleagues tout so-called 'advanced' nuclear technology, which is nothing more than regurgitated attempts by the industry to bring tried-and-failed alternative designs such as expensive and dangerous breeder reactors to commercialization. We have clean, affordable, safe, reliable and proven solutions available to us. These safe and clean sources can be brought to scale creating an electric grid that relies much more heavily on increased energy efficiency, variable wind and solar photovoltaic (PV), distributed power, demand response and storage technologies. This energy path can reduce greenhouse gas emissions much more quickly, cost-effectively and safely than any nuclear option. The markets are responding and there is clear evidence that they are catalyzing an unprecedented technological revolution in the power sector."
"What we are saying is that Dr. Hansen has things exactly half right: We need to take action now to mitigate climate change," said NIRS President Michael Mariotte. "Where we are taking issue is with the other half: the mistaken idea that nuclear power is some kind of panacea for all that ails our climate. In fact, nuclear power is the slowest, most expensive, and most dangerous climate 'solution' available. Our sincere hope is that Dr. Hansen will heed the input of literally hundreds of knowledgeable energy and environmental groups around the world. The joint letter puts it best with these words: 'It is simply not feasible for nuclear power to be a part of a sustainable, safe and affordable future for humankind.'"
The Jan. 8 statement from the more than 300 signers reads in part:
Nuclear power is not a financially viable option. Since its inception it has required taxpayer subsidies and publicly financed indemnity against accidents. New construction requires billions in public subsidies to attract private capital and, once under construction, severe cost overruns are all but inevitable. As for operational safety, the history of nuclear power plants in the U.S. is fraught with near misses, as documented by the Union of Concerned Scientists, and creates another financial and safety quagmire—high-level nuclear waste. Internationally, we've experienced two catastrophic accidents for a technology deemed to be virtually 'fail safe'.
As for 'advanced' nuclear designs endorsed in your letter, they have been tried and failed or are mere blueprints without realistic hope, in the near term, if ever, to be commercialized. The promise and potential impact you lend breeder reactor technology in your letter is misplaced. Globally, $100 billion over sixty years have been squandered to bring the technology to commercialization without success. The liquid sodium-based cooling system is highly dangerous as proven in Japan and the U.S. And the technology has proven to be highly unreliable.
Equally detrimental in cost and environmental impact is reprocessing of nuclear waste. In France, the poster child for nuclear energy, reprocessing results in a marginal increase in energetic use of uranium while largely increasing the volume of all levels of radioactive waste. Indeed, the process generates large volumes of radioactive liquid waste annually that is dumped into the English Channel and has increased electric costs to consumers significantly. Not to mention the well-recognized proliferation risks of adopting a plutonium-based energy system.
As to the issue of what represents the best path forward to deal with climate change, the Jan. 8 statement notes:
We disagree with your assessment of renewable power and energy efficiency. They can and are being brought to scale globally. Moreover, they can be deployed much more quickly than nuclear power. For instance, in the U.S. from 2002 to 2012 over 50,000 megawatts of wind were deployed. Not one megawatt of power from new nuclear reactors was deployed, despite subsidies estimated to be worth more than the value of the power new reactors would have produced. Similarly, it took 40 years globally to deploy 50,000 megawatts of solar PV and, recently, only two and a half years to deploy an equal amount. By some estimates, another 100,000 MW will be built by the end of 2015. Already, renewables and distributed power have overtaken nuclear power in terms of megawatt hour generation worldwide.
The fact of the matter is, many Wall Street analysts predict that solar PV and wind will have reached grid parity by the end of the decade. Wind in certain parts of the Midwest is already cheaper than natural gas on the wholesale level. Energy efficiency continues to outperform all technologies on a cost basis. While the cost of these technologies continues to decline and enjoy further technological advancement, the cost of nuclear power continues to increase and construction timeframes remain excessive. And we emphasize again that no technological breakthrough to reduce its costs or enhance its operation will occur in the foreseeable future.
Visit EcoWatch’s NUCLEAR page for more related news on this topic.
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By Jake Johnson
In a move that environmentalists warned could further imperil hundreds of endangered species and a protected habitat for the sake of profit, President Donald Trump on Friday signed a proclamation rolling back an Obama-era order and opening nearly 5,000 square miles off the coast of New England to commercial fishing.
Why You Should Wash Fresh Produce<p>Global pandemic or not, properly washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a good habit to practice to minimize the ingestion of potentially harmful residues and germs.</p><p>Fresh produce is handled by numerous people before you purchase it from the grocery store or the farmers market. It's best to assume that not every hand that has touched fresh produce has been clean.</p><p>With all of the people constantly bustling through these environments, it's also safe to assume that much of the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fresh-vs-frozen-fruit-and-vegetables" target="_blank">fresh produce</a> you purchase has been coughed on, sneezed on, and breathed on as well.</p><p>Adequately washing fresh fruits and vegetables before you eat them can significantly reduce residues that may be left on them during their journey to your kitchen.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a proven way to remove germs and unwanted residues from their surfaces before eating them.</p>
Best Produce Cleaning Methods<p>While rinsing fresh produce with water has long been the traditional method of preparing fruits and veggies before consumption, the current pandemic has many people wondering whether that's enough to really clean them.</p><p>Some people have advocated the use of soap, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/white-vinegar" target="_blank">vinegar</a>, lemon juice, or even commercial cleaners like bleach as an added measure.</p><p>However, health and food safety experts, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), strongly urge consumers not to take this advice and stick with plain water.</p><p>Using such substances may pose further health dangers, and they're unnecessary to remove the most harmful residues from produce. <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/chlorine-poisoning" target="_blank">Ingesting commercial cleaning chemicals</a> like bleach can be lethal and should never be used to clean food.</p><p>Furthermore, substances like lemon juice, vinegar, and produce washes have not been shown to be any more effective at cleaning produce than plain water — and may even leave additional deposits on food.</p><p>While some research has suggested that using neutral electrolyzed water or a baking soda bath can be even more effective at removing certain substances, the consensus continues to be that cool tap water is sufficient in most cases.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>The best way to wash fresh produce before eating it is with cool water. Using other substances is largely unnecessary. Plus they're often not as effective as water and gentle friction. Commercial cleaners should never be used on food.</p>
How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables With Water<p>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables in cool water before eating them is a good practice when it comes to health hygiene and food safety.</p><p>Note that fresh produce should not be washed until right before you're ready to eat it. Washing fruits and vegetables before storing them may create an environment in which bacterial growth is more likely.</p><p>Before you begin washing fresh produce, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-should-you-wash-your-hands" target="_blank">wash your hands well</a> with soap and water. Be sure that any utensils, sinks, and surfaces you're using to prepare your produce are also thoroughly cleaned first.</p><p>Begin by cutting away any bruised or visibly rotten areas of fresh produce. If you're handling a fruit or vegetable that'll be peeled, such as an orange, wash it before peeling it to prevent any surface bacteria from entering the flesh.</p><p>The general methods to wash produce are as follows:</p><ul><li><strong>Firm produce.</strong> Fruits with firmer skins like apples, lemons, and pears, as well as <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/root-vegetables" target="_blank">root vegetables</a> like potatoes, carrots, and turnips, can benefit from being brushed with a clean, soft bristle to better remove residues from their pores.</li><li><strong>Leafy greens.</strong> Spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, leeks, and cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and bok choy should have their outermost layer removed, then be submerged in a bowl of cool water, swished, drained, and rinsed with fresh water.</li><li><strong>Delicate produce.</strong> Berries, mushrooms, and other types of produce that are more likely to fall apart can be cleaned with a steady stream of water and gentle friction using your fingers to remove grit.</li></ul><p>Once you have thoroughly rinsed your produce, dry it using a clean paper or cloth towel. More fragile produce can be laid out on the towel and gently patted or rolled around to dry them without damaging them.</p><p>Before consuming your fruits and veggies, follow the simple steps above to minimize the amount of germs and substances that may be on them.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Most fresh fruits and veggies can gently be scrubbed under cold running water (using a clean soft brush for those with firmer skins) and then dried. It can help to soak, drain, and rinse produce that has more dirt-trapping layers.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Practicing good food hygiene is an important health habit. Washing fresh produce helps minimize surface germs and residues that could make you sick.</p><p>Recent fears during the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/coronavirus" target="_blank">COVID-19 pandemic</a> have caused many people to wonder whether more aggressive washing methods, such as using soap or commercial cleaners on fresh produce, are better.</p><p>Health professionals agree that this isn't recommended or necessary — and could even be dangerous. Most fruits and vegetables can be sufficiently cleaned with cool water and light friction right before eating them.</p><p>Produce that has more layers and surface area can be more thoroughly washed by swishing it in a bowl of cool water to remove dirt particles.</p><p>Fresh fruits and vegetables offer a number of healthy nutrients and should continue to be eaten, as long as safe cleaning methods are practiced.</p>
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From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.
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