AmeriScan: July 12, 2006

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Nuclear Power Industry Planning Seven New Reactors

HOUSTON, Texas, July 12, 2006 (ENS) - NRG Energy, Inc. has plans to build two new nuclear plants at the site of its South Texas Project nuclear facility. The facility is located on the Gulf Coast near Wadsworth, Texas, about 90 miles southwest of Houston. The two plants will have a combined capacity of 2,700 megawatts and will use Advanced Boiling Water Reactor technology developed by General Electric Corporation.

On June 19, 2006, NRG filed a letter of intent with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to construct the two plants. Construction is expected to cost $5.2 billion and is expected within the next 10 years.

"Nuclear power is an important part of the continued development of our baseload fleet in Texas," said Steven Winn, NRG's executive vice president and president, Texas Region. "We recognize the need for new, low-cost generation and we recognize the importance of reducing the emissions profile of power generators within the growing ERCOT [Electric Reliability Council of Texas] market."

NRG is the first company to announce that it will build a new nuclear plant, although several utilities are considering nuclear generating stations in other states.

In April, the Florida Power & Light Company notified the NRC of its intent to submit a license application in 2009 for a new nuclear power plant in Florida. The utility has not picked a site or technology and does not expect to decide whether or not to build the plant for several years.

In March, Duke Power announced that it selected a site in Cherokee County, South Carolina for a new nuclear plant. The utility is considering two other sites located in North and South Carolina.

In February, Santee Cooper and the South Carolina Electric & Gas Company selected the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station near Jenkinsville, South Carolina, as a potential site for a new nuclear plant.

Plans are also underway to submit licenses for two other potential new nuclear plants in North Carolina and Georgia.

While no utilities are building a new nuclear plant yet, the Tennessee Valley Authority has been upgrading its Browns Ferry Unit 1 nuclear plant, which was shuttered in 1985. The utility received a new operating license for the Alabama plant in May and plans to restart the reactor in May 2007.

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California Governor Petitions for Roadless Area Protection

SACRAMENTO, California, July 12, 2006 (ENS) - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today filed a petition with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture beginning the process to permanently protect 21 percent of California’s 18 national forests. The petition would keep 4.4 million acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas off limits to any further development.

"Preserving and protecting California’s environment for future generations is a top priority for my administration," said the governor. "It is critical that we safeguard these areas. They are home to plants and animals at risk of extinction, provide incredible recreation and are the source of drinking water for millions of Californians."

Joining the governor at the state Capitol for the press conference were local and environmental leaders including Carl Zichella, regional staff director for the Sierra Club; Sam Davidson, Trout Unlimited; Dan Jacobson, legislative director for Environment California; and Mary Wells, executive director of California Wilderness Coalition and chair of the California Wild Heritage Campaign.

In conjunction with the governor’s petition, the California Resources Agency is appealing the four Southern California forest plans.

State officials say these plans permit some road building in Inventoried Roadless Areas and are inconsistent with ongoing agreements between the state and federal government over how these lands should be managed. In its appeals, the administration is requesting that the U.S. Forest Service revise these plans to make them consistent with the management requirements in the governor’s roadless petition.

In May 2005, the Bush administration repealed the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protected these areas. In its place, the federal government established a new rule under which states could petition the federal government for state-specific rules.

The petition will be submitted to the Federal Advisory Committee appointed by the Bush administration, and the administration may enact, modify, or reject the petition entirely. All states have until November 13, 2006 to submit a petition.

If approved by the federal government, the California governor’s petition will permanently protect forest lands by preventing the building of all new roads, except for those needed for public health or safety purposes such as forest fire prevention. Exceptions will also be made to fulfill obligations for existing leases or rights, with the understanding that land will be returned to its natural state after the need for the road has been fulfilled.

"This Roadless Plan is fitting for a state that is the birthplace of the conservation movement," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "It will honor our environmental heritage, preserve our resources, protect our forests and leave the people of California an unmatched natural inheritance."

For over 10 years, hundreds of thousands of Californians have worked with Environment California to seek protection for our wild forests, including over 187,000 people who submitted comments to the Forest Service supporting protection, said Jacobson.

Roadless areas are a source of clean drinking water for millions of Californians. In the Pacific Southwest Forest Service Region, which includes California, drinking water is worth $944.3 million annually. In addition, Jacobson points out, California’s national forests are inhabited by 66 at-risk species that could be harmed by the destruction of roadless areas.

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Increased Risk of Hantavirus Forecast for U.S. Southwest

WASHINGTON, DC, July 10, 2006 (ENS) - SANTA FE, New Mexico, July 12, 2006 (ENS) - The Four Corners region of the United States, where the four states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet, will be at greater risk for hantavirus outbreak this year than in 2005, say scientists at the University of New Mexico, Johns Hopkins University, and other institutions.

Based on an analysis of satellite imagery, their study is among the first to forecast the location and extent of an infectious disease outbreak.

"The conditions in the Four Corners region tell us that there is a greater risk for hantavirus this year compared to last year," said Gregory Glass of John Hopkins University, the study's lead author. "Through this research, we've found that satellite imagery can be used to identify the location and extent of infectious diseases spread by animals."

They warn that parts of southern Colorado and northcentral New Mexico - previously at low-risk for hantavirus compared to the Four Corners region - are at increased risk in 2006.

The forecast is based on research funded by the joint National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health Ecology of Infectious Disease Program.

It is published in today's edition of the journal "Occasional Papers," Museum of Texas Tech University.

"The causes of hantavirus outbreaks are complex," said Sam Scheiner, National Science Foundation program director for Ecology of Infectious Disease Program. "This study demonstrates that ecological research can lead to a better understanding of the complex factors in hantavirus outbreaks, and in predictions that result in saving human lives."

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a rare but deadly respiratory disease caused by exposure to a variety of hantaviruses. People contract the virus through contact with rodents and rodent droppings. In 2005, the Four Corners region recorded four cases of hantavirus.

The researchers forecast the hantavirus risk in 2006 as "moderate," similar in severity to the six and eight cases recorded in region in 1998 and 1999 respectively.

To forecast the risk of hantavirus, Glass and other scientists examined satellite images of the Four Corners region taken in 2005. The images provided information on vegetation growth, soil moisture and other ecological conditions, which Glass and his colleagues previously determined were where mice and hantavirus thrived.

They then calculated the level of risk for the region and for specific areas within the region in 2006. The researchers verified the accuracy of their forecast model by comparing their forecasts with actual hantavirus outbreaks going back to 1993, when the disease was first identified in the United States.

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New Rangeland Rules Will Lead to Overgrazing, Groups Warn

WASHINGTON, DC, July 12, 2006 (ENS) - The Bush administration today "gutted sound livestock-grazing practices that have governed more than 150 million acres of public lands for more than a decade," according to environmental groups critical of new rules issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

But the BLM says the new final grazing regulations that take effect in 30 days will "improve" the agency’s management of public lands grazing.

The final regulations were developed with extensive public input and supported by a detailed environmental analysis, recognize the economic and social benefits of public lands grazing, as well as its role in preserving open space and wildlife habitat in the rapidly growing West, the BLM said.

BLM Director Kathleen Clarke said, "These new regulations are aimed at promoting more effective and efficient management of public lands grazing, which is a vital part of the history, economy, and social identity of Western rural communities."

The new rule

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the National Wildlife Federation, and the nonprofit public interest law firm Earthjustice issued a joint statement saying that the new rules will "hasten the overgrazing of rangelands and lead to unsustainable grazing practices while eliminating the public’s right to participate in decisions involving federal lands affected by grazing."

"The Bush administration is scuttling protections for our public lands," said Bobby McEnaney, a grazing expert at NRDC. "The new rules read like a wish-list written by the cattle industry."

"These new rules mow down the grazing reforms enacted in the 1990s," said Sara Tucker, legislative associate at Earthjustice.

"Almost nothing in these rules benefits public lands, wildlife, or the millions of Americans who use these lands for recreation," said Tom Lustig, senior counsel for the National Wildlife Federation. "BLM’s new rules fence the public out of the process and let grazing trample recreation and wildlife."

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Hospitals Embrace Energy Efficiency

WASHINGTON, DC, July 12, 2006 (ENS) - To improve energy efficiency in hospitals by 10 percent, the American Society for Healthcare Engineering of the American Hospital Association announced Tuesday that it is joining the Energy Star Challenge.

American Society for Healthcare Engineering is launching a two-year campaign, E2C, to educate its members about the environmental and economic benefits of pursuing energy efficiency improvements in healthcare facilities.

"It is encouraging to see that those who care for our health, are also concerned with the health of our environment," said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen Johnson.

Energy Star is a government-backed program helping businesses and consumers protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. More than 8,000 organizations partner with the EPA in the Energy Star program.

In 2005 alone, Americans using Energy Star appliances and building technologies, saved about $12 billion and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 23 million vehicles, Johnson estimates.

The American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) has agreed to identify hospitals with successful energy programs; develop case studies of their energy management methods; produce an energy efficiency section on ashe.org; develop a chapter focused energy program; and recognize members for energy efficiency improvements of 10 percent or more.

ASHE estimates that in the first year of the campaign, members will save more than $65 million on energy costs while helping to protect the environment by preventing nearly three million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

ASHE will recognize members based on their self-reporting of energy efficiency improvements using EPA's national energy performance rating system that rates a building's energy efficiency, on a scale of 1 to 100, relative to similar buildings across the country.

Buildings with lower ratings are typically good candidates for improvement, as the low rating reflects an important operational issue or out-dated technology. The rating system is available for hospitals, medical office buildings, schools, and hotels, among other types of buildings.

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Self-Cooling Soda Bottles Just Around the Corner

DENVER, Colorado, July 12, 2006 (ENS) - Researchers are developing a thin-film technology that adheres both solar cells and heat pumps onto surfaces, turning walls, windows, and even soda bottles into climate control systems.

Today, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) researcher Steven Van Dessel and his colleagues announced their most recent progress, including a computer model to help them simulate the climate within their test structure atop the RPI Student Union at the Solar 2006 Conference in Denver.

For four years, the researchers have been working on their prototype Active Building Envelope (ABE) system. Comprised of solar panels, solid-state, thermoelectric heat pumps and a storage device to provide energy on rainy days, the ABE system accomplishes the jobs of both cooling and heating, yet operates silently with no moving parts.

The National Science Foundation is supporting the team to determine if a microscale version of the technology will function effectively.

According to Van Dessel, thin-film advances could potentially lead to functional thermal coatings composed of transparent ABE systems. Such systems might improve the efficiency of temperature-control systems.

"The ease of application would make it possible to seamlessly attach the system to various building surfaces," Van Dessel said, "possibly rendering conventional air conditioning and heating equipment obsolete."

Van Dessel hopes a thin-film version of the ABE system will see uses in a range of industries, from aerospace - in advanced thermal control systems in future space missions - to the automotive industry, where it could be applied to windshields and sun roofs, giving them the ability to heat or cool a car's interior.

"It also may be possible to one day use the ABE system to create packaging materials for thermal control," he added, "which could lead to things like self-cooling soda bottles."

Active Building Envelope systems are a new technology for space heating and cooling, which integrate photovoltaic (PV) and thermoelectric (TE) technologies.

In the ABE systems, a photovoltaic system is used to transform solar energy into the electrical energy; this electrical energy is then used to power a thermoelectric system.

Depending on the direction of electrical current applied to the thermoelectric system, ABE systems can operate in a heating or cooling mode, and can compensate for thermal losses or gains that occur through the envelope.

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All Star Baseball Fans Recycled Instead of Littering

PITTSBURGH, Pennsyvania, July 12, 2006 (ENS) - Baseball fans at the All Star game Tuesday did more than watching top athletes play ball - they helped the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Pittsburgh encouraged fans to "recycle on the go" by depositing their cans and bottles in bins in the tailgate area and at other key locations in the stadium area.

"Public venues and events present a great, and largely untapped, opportunity to help the environment through recycling," said EPA Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine.

"It is our hope that events like today's All Star Game in Pittsburgh will encourage more Americans to think about 'recycling on the go' and encourage more organizations to start recycling programs in public venues," Bodine said.

Pittsburgh is adopting EPA's Recycle on the Go philosophy as part of a comprehensive plan to increase recycling participation in the city. More than 40,000 fans attended the game and other All Star-related activities.

Revenue generated from the collected recyclable material will benefit Pittsburgh youth programs.

According to municipal authorities, Pittsburgh collects about 20,000 tons of recyclable material in an average year, which is below the national average reported by similar cities. Mayor Bob O'Conner is challenging the city to double the city's collection to 40,000 tons - to "make Pittsburgh one of the cleanest, safest cities in America."

EPA's Recycle on the Go initiative works with partners like the city of Pittsburgh to encourage people to recycle wherever they go by making recycling easy and convenient. The federal agency is working toward a 35 percent national recycling rate by 2008. Recycling saves energy, conserves resources, reduces the need for new landfills and incinerators, and stimulates the development of green technologies.

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