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Friday, Oct 24th

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Former workers, whistleblowers shed light on nuclear site safety setbacks

hanfordOn the banks of the Columbia River, miles of open land sit undeveloped behind barbed wire fences. A handful of mysterious structures dot the landscape, remnants from the early days of the Cold War. Passing by the old Hanford nuclear production complex can feel like a journey into the past.

Known simply as Hanford, workers here produced plutonium for the world’s first atomic bomb and for many of the nation’s current nuclear warheads. The site was first developed in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project and ceased plutonium production nearly 50 years later, leaving behind 53 million gallons of highly radioactive waste. Spanning 586 square miles, it is now ground zero for the largest cleanup project in America.

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Natural gas's green image could be hot air, say scientists

natural gasNatural gas may not be of much use as a “bridge” fuel en route to achieving significant cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions unless its use is accompanied by rigorous policies aimed at curbing emissions – policies that some analysts say should be designed to harness gas as an ally of renewable-energy sources, rather that as a competitor.

That is the implication of a new study analyzing the effect of globally abundant natural gas on competing energy sources and on greenhouse-gas emissions. The global abundance would result from the use of techniques such as hydraulic fracturing to tap so-called “unconventional” sources of natural gas worldwide.

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Fracking drives growth in sand mining, raises new health-risk questions

FrackingDemand is exploding for the massive amounts of sand used in fracking, creating a windfall for mines from Texas to Wisconsin but leading to worries about the health impacts of breathing silica dust.

Drillers are expected to use nearly 95 billion pounds of “frac sand” this year. That’s up 30 percent from last year, according to energy specialists at PacWest Consulting Partners, who expect the market to keep growing as drillers increasingly accept that using more sand increases the oil and gas production from each well.

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Cuomo administration edited and delayed key fracking study

CuomoNew York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration edited and delayed a fracking study commissioned by the state, according to a review by Capital New York.

The New York news outlet reported Monday that the Cuomo administration had altered a report on the natural gas extraction technique commonly referred to as fracking. The report was commissioned in 2011 and was “going to result in a number of politically inconvenient conclusions” for the governor. A comparison of the original draft of the report, which was put together by the U.S. Geological Survey, and the final version, showed that some of the original descriptions and mentions of fracking-related health and environmental risks were “played down or removed.”

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Half of All Summers Will Soon Be Boiling Hot for Hundreds of Millions of People

Hotter summers comingLast year was an absolute scorcher in China. In the eastern part of the country, more than a half-billion people sweltered through 31 days with daily maximum temperatures of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or more, a historical record. The heat wave killed dozens of people.

Nightmare-inducing crowds swamped public pools and beaches. NASA reported that Shanghai broke its all-time temperature record three times in as many weeks. The blistering heat was accompanied by a drought that afflicted the country's food bowl, the Yangtze River basin, that cost China around $9.6 billion.

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Not a drop (of tap water) to drink in San Lucas, California

No drinking water in CA townPosted in the front office of the San Lucas elementary school are the usual notices — a newspaper clipping about a local boy playing college football, an autism flier, a calendar. The warning about nitrate contamination in the drinking water is to the right of the cafeteria menu (Fridays are always pizza) and directly below the note about the sale of school “spirit paws.”

For three years, residents of this unincorporated farming community of about 80 homes in California’s agriculturally rich Salinas Valley have not been able to drink the water. It may seem remarkable that a community in California, one of the wealthiest states in one of the wealthiest countries, does not have safe drinking water. But for the residents of San Lucas, water problems are nothing new.

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India lashed by big cyclone; typhoon hits Japan

Cyclone hits IndiaHeavy rains and gusts ripped through a large swath of India's eastern seaboard, uprooting trees and snapping power cables as a powerful cyclone swept through the Bay of Bengal and slammed into the southern city of Visakhapatnam, one of two storms pounding Asia on Sunday.

In Japan, at least 35 people have been reported injured as Typhoon Vongfong, packing winds of up to 180 kilometers (110 miles) per hour, unleashed rains and gusts on Okinawa and was aiming at the next island of Kyushu, where authorities told 150,000 people to evacuate.

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