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AmeriScan: July 27, 2005

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Electrical Problem Shuts Down Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant

BRATTLEBORO, Vermont, July 27, 2005 (ENS) - The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is still shut down today, after a serious electrical problem caused the main generator to automatically trip offline on Monday afternoon.

Rob Williams, spokesman at Entergy's 32 year old boiling water reactor, told local media the incident is still under investigation.

No radiation was released during the incident and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission classified it as a non-emergency.

When the main generator shut off, the power supply reduction caused the two emergency diesel generators to automatically start.

The normal water level in the reactor vessel is about 14 feet above the top of the reactor core, explains Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"The collapsing of bubbles when the reactor automatically shut down – similar to the effect of lifting a boiling pan of water off a stove – along with the increased pressure resulting from the closure of the turbine inlet valves, drove the water level down about seven feet to the level where the main steam isolation valves automatically closed to prevent further loss of cooling water," he explained.

The Reactor Core Isolation Cooling and High Pressure Coolant Injection systems automatically started, adding enough water to the reactor vessel to raise the level back to normal.

The main steam isolation valves were opened and the normal feedwater system was used to keep the reactor vessel water level at the normal level. The emergency diesel generators were then manually turned off.

The plant's generator and reactor remain at high temperatures, called a hot shutdown. If the plant remains inactive for an long period, plant operators could be forced to go to a cold shut down, which would make returning to power more costly.

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Senate Unanimous in Safeguarding Wilderness

WASHINGTON, DC, July 27, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Senate Tuesday unanimously passed wilderness legislation that will permanently protect thousands of acres of roadless wildlands in California, Washington, Puerto Rico, and New Mexico and a Wild and Scenic River in Washington.

Conservationists were delighted with the decisions. “Today’s unanimous vote in the Senate is yet another sign of the growing national support for protecting our country’s remaining wild places,” said William Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society.

The Senate vote sets the stage for the bills to be considered when the House of Representatives returns after the August recess.

“Our Senators have done a great job moving these important measures through the process," Meadows said. "We hope that the House of Representatives will follow the Senate’s lead and act quickly to protect these special places.”

The Senate passed the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act (S.128 and H.R. 233), introduced by California Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Representative Mike Thompson, a California Democrat, sponsored the companion legislation in the House.

The bill would designate as wilderness more than 300,000 acres of spectacular scenery and important fish and wildlife habitat, including the King Range, the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in the lower 48 states.

In addition, 21 miles of the Black Butte River in Mendocino County will be designated as a Wild and Scenic River.

This popular legislation, which is also backed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has broad, local bipartisan support and would guarantee outstanding opportunities for recreation, such as riding horses, hunting, fishing, hiking, and whitewater rafting for future generations.

The House Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health held a hearing on the measure on July 14.

The Ojito Wilderness Act (S.156 and H.R.362), introduced by New Mexico Senators Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat, and Pete Domenici, a Republican. The companion bill in the House is sponsored by New Mexico Representatives Tom Udall, a Democrat, and Heather Wilson, a Republican.

The Ojito Wilderness Act would permanently protect more than 11,000 acres of picturesque public land northwest of Albuquerque. The area is inhabited by mule deer, antelope, and elk, and shelters Navajo and Pueblo cultural sites.

The Wild Sky Wilderness Act (S.152 and H.R.851), was introduced by Washington Democratic Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. The bill would designate as wilderness 106,000 acres in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The bill is sponsored in the House by Washington Democratic Representatives Rick Larsen and Jay Inslee.

A little more than an hour from downtown Seattle and Everett, Wild Sky is a rugged landscape with thousand-foot cliffs, high alpine peaks, cascading waterfalls, lush old-growth forests, and crystal clear rivers. The bill is backed by dozens of local businesses, citizens groups and elected officials from the Sky Valley.

The Caribbean National Forest Act (S.272 and H.R.539), introduced by New York Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, would designate 10,000 acres of forest in Puerto Rico as the “El Toro Wilderness,” the first tropical forest wilderness in the United States. The companion bill was introduced in the House by Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuno, a Republican. The new wilderness area is inhabited by the endangered Puerto Rican parrot, one of the most threatened species in the world.

Senator Cantwell won conservationist applause Tuesday for successfully shepherding a bill through the Senate to protect the upper White Salmon River. The Upper White Salmon Wild and Scenic Rivers Act adds 20 miles of the upper White Salmon River and Cascade Creek to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.

“We commend Senator Cantwell for her strong commitment to protecting Washington’s natural heritage,” said Quinn McKew, associate director of wild rivers for American Rivers. “Protecting the Upper White Salmon is a win for local communities and the people of Washington. We congratulate our partners at Friends of the White Salmon River for years of hard work that have paid off today."

“White Salmon supporters and outdoor recreationists will have something to celebrate in just a few days,” said Senator Cantwell. “Preserving this popular recreational destination will be a boon for the local economy and a service for future generations to enjoy.”

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Energy Department Gives $2.5 Million to Native American Tribes

WASHINGTON, DC, July 27, 2005 (ENS) - In an effort to increase the use of renewable energy on tribal lands, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has made a total of $2.5 million available in assistance to 18 Native American tribes.

“Renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies play a significant role in encouraging tribal self-sufficiency, creating jobs and improving environmental quality,” said Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman.

The grants support projects such as the Arizona Hualapai Tribe’s construction of a utility scale wind farm, which will power the tribe’s 9,000 acre tourism facility known as Grand Canyon West.

Another tribe, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, will use its funds to generate electricity for community buildings and a grocery store through geothermal ground source heat pumps connected to Fire Lake on their reservation.

This Central Oklahoma tribe - the ninth largest in the nation - also plans to build a greenhouse to conserve previously wasted heat. The heat will then facilitate the growth of vegetables for sale in the reservation’s grocery store.

Tribes submitted proposals for the funds, which the DOE granted on the basis of competitive selection criteria, especially project feasibility.

Recipient tribes range in size from as small as 50 members to as large as the 100,000 member Navajo tribe.

The DOE has kept on file the submissions of tribes not funded this year, in hopes that these projects can perhaps receive funding in the future. “DOE is committed to helping Native American tribes develop their energy resources,” Bodman said.

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New York City Opens Cooling Centers to the Public

NEW YORK, New York, July 27, 2005 (ENS) - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Bruno Tuesday announced the opening of cooling centers throughout all five boroughs to give New Yorkers relief from the extreme summer heat. Cooling centers are facilities that are air-conditioned and open to the public such as senior and community centers.

New Yorkers can call 311 or log on to www.nyc.gov to find the nearest cooling center or public pool.

New York had its hottest day of the year Tuesday as the thermometer soared to 96 degrees.

Electricity use hit another high as people tried to cool their homes and offices with air conditioners. Consolidated Edison said three of the top 10 electric peak loads of all time have been reached this summer.

Mayor Bloomberg said, "During a scorching hot and humid day, New Yorkers should limit their outdoor activity as much as possible and try to stay cool and drink plenty of liquids."

"In addition, New Yorkers should check on their elderly neighbors, relatives, and friends and see if they can help with shopping, errands, or other tasks. I urge all New Yorkers to conserve energy and take advantage of these cooling centers located throughout the five boroughs as well as our free outdoor pools and beaches."

The mayor urged New Yorkers planning to spend time outdoors to be mindful of the heat. If possible, stay out of the sun, the mayor warned. When in the sun, wear sunscreen and a hat, dress in lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing , and drink fluids - particularly water. Cool down with repeated cool baths or showers.

Never leave children, seniors, or pets in a parked car during periods of intense summer heat, city officials warn.

Recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, weakness, headache, weak pulse, dizziness, exhaustion, fainting, nausea or vomiting, and cold, clammy skin. Body temperature will seem normal.

Symptoms of heat stroke include flushed, hot, dry skin, weak or rapid pulse, shallow breathing, lack of sweating, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and unconsciousness. Body temperature will be elevated, and victim should receive immediate medical attention.

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Gulf Power Builds Nation's First Mercury Research Center

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama, July 27, 2005 (ENS) - Gulf Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, is beginning to work towards solving some of the technical problems of reducing mercury emissions from its coal fired power plants.

The power company is construction the $5 million Mercury Research Center (MRC) at Gulf Power's Plant Crist generation station, near Pensacola, Florida.

The focus will be on research on mercury control and mercury monitoring systems, technologies to control other pollutants, and balance of plant technology impacts.

Southern Research Institute, an independent contract research organization has been awarded the contract to operate the Mercury Research Center. Southern Research also operates the Greenhouse Gas Technology Verification Center based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

"The production of affordable energy in an environmentally sound manner is a national priority," said Scott Hinton, Ph.D., Southern Research's technical program manager.

"The MRC will be a high profile research laboratory, supporting national efforts to reduce pollution from fossil energy production," Hinton said. "This is an exciting opportunity for Southern Research and will provide a high profile platform for us to help contribute to resolving many pressing environmental issues."

The center's backbone will be a flue gas "slip stream," routed from one of the Plant Crist boilers to a series of scaled-down critical plant systems, environmental systems, and other equipment, Hinton explained.

In all, five environmental technologies will be in place, including an industry standard selective catalytic reduction unit, rotary air pre-heater, baghouse, electrostatic precipitator, and wet limestone scrubber.

The Mercury Research Center is slated to be in full operation by November, and research projects are set to begin in early 2006.

"We are establishing something here that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world, and we believe we will make great strides in discovering new methods of reducing emissions," said Jim Vick, manager of Environmental Affairs for Gulf Power.

Existing and pending regulations, increased public awareness, and strategic business factors have motivated electric utilities to look for technologies to reduce mercury emissions, Vick said.

The facility will be available to a wide range of interested users. "We're already fielding requests from organizations that want us to conduct new technology demonstrations and research projects at the MRC," said Hinton. "If this pace continues, the facility could be booked solid more quickly than we anticipated."

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Hilton Vancouver, Washington Set to Be First LEED Hotel

VANCOUVER, Washington, July 27, 2005 (ENS) - The new 226 room Hilton Vancouver, Washington is currently registered with the U.S. Green Building Council and is scheduled to receive a LEED rating after completion, which would make it the first LEED certified major hotel in the country.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System® is a voluntary, consensus based national standard for developing high performance, sustainable buildings. Members of the U.S. Green Building Council representing all segments of the building industry developed LEED and continue to contribute to its evolution.

Located 10 minutes from downtown Portland, Oregon, and 12 miles from Portland International Airport, the Hilton Vancouver, Washington plans to set a standard for environmentally sustainable operation while maintaining optimal comfort for guests.

The Portland architecture firm of Fletcher Farr Ayote, which designed the hotel, has integrated energy saving and waste reducing strategies into the hotel's design and construction.

Alternative fueling stations are available for electric cars. Minimal parking spaces will be provided, encouraging employees to find alternative methods of transportation to work.

The hotel will run on 30 percent less energy than local codes require. Carbon dioxide sensors will recognize when people have left rooms and hallways that are not in use and turn off the heating and cooling system. Administrative offices are equipped with sensors that turn off the lights when the offices are not in use.

The property's landscaping uses local native plants that need little water during the area's long, dry summer season. Storm water runoff from the building is funneled to underground dry wells, which provide a natural filtering mechanism for the pollutants that have accumulated on the roof or around the building.

To fight the urban heat island effect, a white reflective roof on top of the hotel helps it dissipate heat and reflect it back into space.

All guest rooms will have operable windows to allow fresh air into the building and control indoor pollutants. Many of the building materials, including steel and particle board, were purchased from local vendors within 500 miles of the hotel to reduce greenhouse gases from transportation and shipping.

Interior paint, carpet and carpet glue are made of low-emissions materials, meaning that they emit few of the hazardous chemicals that traditional paints and carpets do.

Green construction practices were followed in building the hotel. Seventy-five percent of the construction waste from the hotel was recycled. The building was constructed with recycled steel and recyclable brick.

The hotel's restaurant, Gray's At The Park, is a Northwest bistro featuring regional dishes and Washington wines. The menu will be baseed on produce available at the Vancouver Farmers Market across the street.

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Barnacle Study Could Influence Siting of Marine Reserves

CORVALLIS, Oregon, July 27, 2005 (ENS) - A study of barnacles on the central Oregon Coast has revealed hot spots of ocean productivity where marine life has high reproductive potential - information that could be a key to the successful siting of marine reserves.

Research by Oregon State University scientists published in the current issue of the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" shows that near Cape Perpetua, an ocean area of high primary productivity, barnacle populations produced five times as many offspring as those living near Cape Foulweather, a region of lower productivity.

In controlled experiments, the scientists found an even larger effect of nearshore ocean conditions. Cape Perpetua barnacles produced more than 120 times as many offspring as those in the Cape Foulweather area.

The study highlights the importance of including information on ecological processes when designing reserves and other types of marine protected areas, the scientists said.

It is one of the first studies to link reproductive variation with key ecological processes on a scale relevant to management and conservation.

"This study demonstrates that not all ocean places are equivalent, and that some populations are more likely than others to contribute to future generations," said Heather Leslie, a marine ecologist at OSU. "This could serve as a model for how to link information on biodiversity patterns with underlying ecological processes."

Variability in ocean currents and bottom topography, as well as biological interactions, all can contribute to differences in the productivity of marine ecosystems. Biodiversity protection and enhancement of nearby fisheries are among the goals of marine reserves, the researchers said, and an important aspect of siting effective reserves would be understanding how the productivity of key populations vary.

"Not all ocean areas are the same, and the likelihood of fulfilling the objectives of reserves and other area-based management efforts would increase if we understand the ecological processes responsible for biodiversity patterns," Leslie said.

Integrating this information is particularly important, Leslie said, given the forecasts of changes in ocean currents and other biological and physical processes due to climate change.

Barnacles, Leslie said, have a life history similar to many other marine species and could serve as a useful model of how variation in ocean productivity affects higher trophic levels, all the way up the food chain to major fisheries.

"Scientists have traditionally assumed that ocean conditions were fairly uniform on the scale of tens or hundreds of miles," Leslie said. "We know now that isn't the case. There are very significant differences in the productivity of marine populations in areas even a few miles apart."

This research is part of the work being done through PISCO, the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Study of Coastal Oceans. PISCO focuses on understanding the nearshore ecosystems of the West Coast of the United States through interdisciplinary research, student training and outreach programs. The research was supported by grants from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

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