We all knew it was coming.
Radioactive tuna has been caught off the coast of California. The fingerprint of cesium 137 is unmistakably from the exploded reactors at Fukushima.
But Fukushima's hot hands are also on a very welcome debate still stalemating China's plans to build more than 30 new reactors. Fierce No Nukes opposition continues to escalate in India. Reactor cancellations have spread throughout Europe.
And now we have a chance to stop new reactor construction in the U.S. Reliable reports now confirm that the $8.33 billion loan guarantee for Georgia's Vogtle double-reactor project has still not been finalized. After just five months construction is $1 billion over budget and falling ever further behind schedule. There is no firm price tag. Substandard concrete and rebar steel that doesn't meet official specifications are just the beginning of the nightmare.
You can help Georgia ratepayers and American taxpayers out of this misery by signing our petition.
You can also prepare for life without sushi. National Public Radio has assured us all that the radioactive tuna are perfectly safe to eat. This is the same network whose Scott Simon glibly told us that there were no injuries at Three Mile Island, "not even a sprained ankle."
But as long-time radiation expert Robert Alavarez warns, "it's not harmless." Fukushima released far more cesium-137 than the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many decades ago lesser fallout from nuclear testing forced the confiscation of more than 4 million pounds of fish.
But as the really bad news from Fukushima continues to escalate, we must begin to adjust to far worse than giving up raw fish.
Massive quantities of Japanese trash have begun to wash up on the west coast of North America, from Alaska to California and beyond. The tragic residue of the earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and cost trillions has crossed the Pacific. The waves of debris include at least one "ghost ship," many motor vehicles, thousands of barrels full of unknown substances and much more.
Much of it is radioactive. Government officials, the nuclear industry and corporate media will lowball the readings and scoff at the health implications. But American beaches are now contaminated, the fish you once ate is unsafe and the situation could get much worse.
Still hovering 100 feet in the air is the spent fuel pool at Fukushima #4. Stacked with thousands of tons of the most lethal substances ever created, the fuel rods could come crashing to the ground with the next big earthquake. Strewn at random, with no cooling water, exposed to the air, the radiation releases would far exceed Chernobyl, the nuclear bomb tests and any other polluting fallout humankind has yet created. That it would go global is a given.
Repeated calls for help from international teams of experts underline the core reality that nobody really knows what to do, except to pray for seismic stability... an impossible dream in Japan, but at this point the only port of last resort.
Thankfully, the doubts instilled by Fukushima and the growing power of the global No Nukes movement have had their impact. Reports from China indicate deep divisions about further reactor construction.
Massive demonstrations and hunger strikes continue in opposition to India's Koodankulam project. Cancellations have spread throughout Europe.
In the meantime we Americans can finally kill the prospect of federal loan guarantees for building new reactors here.
As Mary Olson of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service has pointed out, money for new nukes—which can't get private financing—was set aside early in the George W. Bush administration. But in large part as a result of the power of the grassroots No Nukes movement, not a single guarantee has yet been finalized.
Vogtle is the first project officially designated. But problems with design, planning and execution continue to escalate. So have the rate hikes imposed on Georgia consumers. With no firm price tag or completion date, and with the entire industry in chaos, the Office of Management and Budget has been unable to set reasonable terms that the reactor builders can meet.
It all adds up to an industry in accelerating collapse. Reactor construction at South Carolina's V.C. Summer is also over budget, behind schedule and at the core of massive rate hike fights in both Carolinas.
Reactors proposed for Florida's Levy County have soared over a minimum of $9.5 billion to as high as $12 billion each, and still climbing—far in excess of original estimates. Shutdowns continue at nearby Crystal River, California's San Onofre, the flooded Calhoun in Nebraska and many others. Public pressure to forever close Vermont Yankee, New York's Indian Point, Ohio's Davis-Besse, South Texas and more continues to escalate.
Whether these shut-down movements succeed before a Fukushima happens here, or that spent fuel pool collapses, or Vogtle again escalates in price, remains to be seen.
What's certain is that you can help stop the Vogtle loan guarantee and kill the chance of any new reactors being built here—paving the path at last for a totally green-powered Solartopian Earth.
So next time you start to reach for some sushi, grab a pen or keyboard instead. Sign the petitions, call your representative, run a bake sale—do whatever is needed to kill this loan guarantee and lessen the odds on being harmed by a Fukushima here at home.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- Trump Orders Hospitals to Stop Sending COVID-19 Data to CDC ... ›
- Two White House Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Admin to Disband Coronavirus Task Force - EcoWatch ›
- Pence Offers 'Prayers' as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf Coast While ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
- Covering the 2020 Elections as a Climate Story - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Delays 2020 Earth Overshoot Day by Three Weeks ... ›
By Elliot Douglas
The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.
- German Business Leaders Call for Climate Action With COVID-19 ... ›
- Climate Activists Protest Germany's New Datteln 4 Coal Power Plant ... ›
By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.