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Wednesday, Jul 30th

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Solar power: breakthrough could herald big drop in costs

Solar power breakthroughScientists at the University of Michigan have discovered a new effect from an old property of light, which they say could lead to an "optical battery" that converts sunlight to electricity at a fraction of the cost of today's photovoltaic cells.

Light has electric and magnetic qualities. Scientists had long thought, however, that the effects of light's magnetic field were so weak as to be irrelevant.

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"They Are Afraid Their House Could Blow Up": Meet the Families Whose Lives Have Been Ruined by Gas Drilling

Fracking dangerCassie Spencer said she nearly "had a cow" when she returned home one day and saw her yard sprinkled with little red flags, like land mine markers in a war zone. Her 5-year-old daughter was playing in the midst of them. The family property had become a methane field.

The cause: two Chesapeake gas wells 3,000 feet away that she never saw and doesn't profit from had somehow been sending methane onto her property and into her water, and onto her neighbors' properties on Paradise Road in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania. Testing by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) traced the methane to Chesapeake wells but the company has denied responsibility.

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Transocean gives safety bonuses despite Gulf deaths

Transocean gives safety bonuses despite deaths Transocean Ltd. gave its top executives bonuses for achieving the “best year in safety performance in our company’s history” — despite the explosion of its oil rig that killed 11 people and spilled 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The company said in a regulatory filing that its most senior managers were given two thirds of their total possible safety bonus.

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Only two U.S. nuclear sites are in compliance with federal fire regulations

Only two U.S. nuclear sites are in compliance with federal fire regulations

On an ironically clear and placid day in August 2007, a three story tall cooling tower at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant collapsed, goring a massive hole in the center of the structure and spewing asbestos, rotting wood, plastic panels, and thousands of gallons of water onto the bank of the Connecticut river.

It later emerged that several employees had expressed concerns about the tower, and that, in the days before the collapse, others heard odd noises from within the structure.

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Chernobyl scientist says nuclear disaster produced 'invisible enemy'

Chernobyl disaster

Speaking at the University of South Carolina at a time of increasing debate about nuclear power, the Russian scientist likened an atomic energy disaster to that of a war, with one major distinction. In war, the enemy is known immediately, she said. But with a nuclear accident, “We have an invisible enemy that can kill you many years later,’’ she said, referring to the long-term health effects of radiation exposure.

In the case of the sickened dog, it had survived more than a year after the Chernobyl explosion and radiation leak sent area residents fleeing. But the animal had begun to succumb by the time Manzurova arrived in late 1987 to study the area. Many people who worked with her at Chernobyl died years later.

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Gaps in US radiation monitoring system revealed

 Gaps in US radiation monitoring system revealed

Parts of America's radiation alert network have been out of order during Japan's nuclear crisis, raising concerns among some lawmakers about whether the system could safeguard the country in a future disaster.

Federal officials say the system of sensors has helped them to validate the impact of nuclear fallout from the overheated Fukushima reactor, and in turn alert local governments and the public. They say no dangerous levels of radiation have reached U.S. shores.

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Bungling, cover-ups define Japanese nuclear industry

Behind Japan's escalating nuclear crisis sits a scandal-ridden energy industry in a comfy relationship with government regulators often willing to overlook safety lapses.

Leaks of radioactive steam and workers contaminated with radiation are just part of the disturbing catalog of accidents that have occurred over the years and been belatedly reported to the public, if at all.

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