AmeriScan: March 31, 2005

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First Nuclear MOX Fuel Factory Gets the Green Light

WASHINGTON, DC, March 31, 2005 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has authorized Duke, Cogema, Stone & Webster (DCS) to construct a facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to manufacture mixed plutonium and uranium oxide (MOX) fuel for use in commercial nuclear power plants. The MOX fuel fabrication facility will be the first to be built in the United States, although several exist in Europe.

The Savannah River Site is a Department of Energy national laboratory and is close to several major cities, including Augusta and Savannah, Georgia; Columbia, Greenville, and Charleston, South Carolina. The site was constructed during the early 1950s to produce the basic materials used in the fabrication of nuclear weapons.

Staff from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) performed environmental and safety reviews to ensure that the MOX facility’s design will have minimal environmental impacts and will protect the public health and safety. Although in accordance with NRC procedures the staff has issued the construction authorization, the adjudicatory process on certain issues remains open.

The facility, which will be owned by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, is part of a bilateral effort between the United States and the Russian Federation to make supplies of surplus weapons-grade plutonium into forms that are more resistant to proliferation.

Converting the plutonium into MOX fuel will enable it to be used in commercial reactors to generate electricity. The NRC must authorize reactors to generate power with MOX fuel, but to date no nuclear operating company has applied to use the fuel.

A public version of the NRC’s final safety evaluation report for the construction of the MOX fuel fabrication facility is available on the agency’s at: http://www.nrc.gov/site-help/new- content.html.

This report addresses regulatory requirements for approval of construction and reflects the NRC staff’s conclusion that DCS’ design bases for the facility "provide reasonable assurance of protection against natural phenomena and the consequences of potential accidents."

The NRC’s environmental impact statement on the construction and operation of the proposed facility is available at http://www.nrc.gov/materials/fuel-cycle-fac/mox/licensing.html.

DCS, which is a contractor for DOE, must still apply for a nuclear materials license before it can take possession of special nuclear material and begin fabricating the MOX fuel. In reviewing that license application, the NRC will conduct additional safety reviews.

Although the NRC staff has issued the construction authorization, parties in the adjudicatory hearing before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board still have an opportunity to submit contentions challenging the staff’s safety review.

On March 3, NRC granted a license amendment to Duke Energy Corp., allowing it to test four MOX fuel assemblies at its Catawba nuclear plant near Rock Hill, South Carolina. Those test assemblies were manufactured in France using surplus U.S. weapons grade plutonium.

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Health, Faith, Labor, Eco Groups Join Against Global Warming

TRENTON, New Jersey, March 31, 2005 (ENS) - More than 100 organizations across the Northeast have partnered in a call for reductions in global warming pollution from power plants. Public health, faith, labor and action groups joined environmental organizations in signing on to a set of principles that support a 25 percent reduction in power plant carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.

In a letter to their respective governors Wednesday, the groups called for strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the region’s power plants.

“Global warming is a serious problem that requires quick, aggressive action,” said Emily Rusch, Energy Advocate for the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG). “Reducing carbon pollution from power plants is a key strategy in any plan to curb the harmful effects of human induced climate change.”

Northeast states, including all of New England, New York, New Jersey and Delaware, are engaged in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to create a precedent setting cap-and-trade program to address carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

“New Jersey, as a densely populated coastal state, will feel the brunt of global warming more than any other state in the union. That is why we have to act,” said Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Chapter director.

The coalition issued seven principles that provide a blueprint for a program that relies on a mandatory cap for carbon dioxide emissions from power plants as the primary way to reduce emissions. The principles do not rely on nuclear power as an emission reduction strategy and ensures that the dirtiest power companies, not ratepayers, bear the majority of the costs of shifting to cleaner solutions.

"As a coastal and Garden state on the front lines of global warming, New Jersey should be aggressively advocating these seven principles instead of putting up unnecessary road blocks for clean renewable energy like offshore wind. In addition to tackling global warming head on, this is the best way to address a plethora of environmental and economic problems from acid rain, smog, air toxics, and mercury to our over-reliance on foreign oil specifically and fossil fuels more generally," said David Pringle, campaign director for the New Jersey Environmental Federation.

Groups lending their support these principles included the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, the New Jersey Environmental Federation, the New Jersey Audubon Society, Green Faith, Delaware Riverkeeper, and Grandmothers, Mothers, and More for Energy Safety.

“The Northeast has the opportunity to provide leadership to the rest of the country and the world by supporting an effective program to reduce global warming pollution,” said Rusch. “Following these principles will lead to success.”

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Higher Standards Set for Energy Star Clothes Washers

WASHINGTON, DC, March 31, 2005 (ENS) - Tougher criteria for clothes washers carrying the Energy Star label were announced Wednesday by the U.S. Energy Department. The new standards will for the first time, include water savings requirements.

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said, “These new Energy Star clothes washer requirements will not only help American families keep more of their hard-earned money, but also will significantly bolster America’s conservation efforts and ultimately our energy independence.”

The Department of Energy projects that the new criteria could result in savings of over $52.8 million annually for American families. The new washers will save over 185.7 million kWh (kilowatt hours) of energy per year, enough to light every household in Washington, DC, for eight months. Approximately 8.9 billion gallons of water will be saved each year.

The new criteria affect the Modified Energy Factor, or MEF, a composite measure of washer efficiency. The higher the MEF, the more efficient the clothes washer. The current MEF will be increased from 1.42 to 1.72.

The new criteria also sets the water factor at 8.0. Water factor describes the amount of water used, with a lower water factor indicating less water used per cycle and higher water efficiency.

The new criteria will go into effect on January 1, 2007, when tougher minimum efficiency standards for all clothes washers take effect. Under these guidelines, Energy Star qualified models will be 36 percent more efficient than the washers meeting the minimum requirements.

In 1997, less than one percent of clothes washers qualified for the Energy Star label. Today, Energy Star clothes washers account for over 30 percent of all units sold in the United States, and more efficient models are becoming available each year.

To learn more about Energy Star, visit www.energystar.gov or call 1-888-STAR-YES.

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Tyler Prize Honors Founding Fathers of Climate Change Research

LOS ANGELES, California, March 31, 2005 (ENS) - Two U.S. scientists whose work has been fundamental to the current understanding of climate change science have won the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, one of the world’s most prestigious awards in this field.

Charles David Keeling, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, was recognized for his measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations that generated the data supporting the greenhouse effect theory of climate change.

His record of the gradual buildup in atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1958, measured high on the mountain Mauna Loa in Hawaii, has come to be known as the Keeling curve.

Keeling developed the first instrument and the techniques to measure atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations accurately, setting a standard for such measurements around the world.

He showed that carbon dioxide concentrations in the northern hemisphere change from month to month, with a maximum in May and a minimum in late October. His measurements show that the yearly average of carbon dioxide concentration has increased from 315 parts per million in 1958 to 377 ppm in 2004.

“Dr. Keeling is one of that handful of scientists whose work has brought about a change in our perception of the environment of planet Earth,” wrote Stephen Schwartz, senior scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory and one of several peers who nominated Keeling.

Lonnie Thompson, professor of geology at Ohio State University, won the award for his examination of the ancient trapped gases encased in glaciers in the world’s tropical regions, at typical altitudes of six kilometers above sea level.

It was Thompson who pioneered the study of tropical glaciers at typical altitudes of 20,000 feet, open only to extremely difficult mountaineering expeditions. Thompson has spent more than two decades drilling on mountaintop ice caps in several countries in South America, Asia and Africa.

Before Thompson, the trapped gases in glacial ice were sampled only in the polar regions, giving few clues to atmospheric changes in the most populated areas of the tropics.

The Tyler Prize committee said his study of samples of ancient atmospheres provides a history of global climate and a demonstration that climate change does exist.

Thompson’s work has been supported through the years by U.S. scientific agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Tyler Prize executive committee calls the two honoeers the “founding fathers of climate change research.”

Each scientist wins a $200,000 cash prize and a gold medal to be awarded April 8 during a banquet and ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles in Beverly Hills with the Tyler Prize executive committee and the international environmental community in attendance.

The day before, Thursday, April 7, at 2 pm, the recipients will give public lectures at the Davidson Conference Center at the University of Southern California, which administers the prize.

American philanthropists John and Alice Tyler established the Tyler Prize in 1973. In a profile of the couple on the committee’s website, Alice Tyler explained her hopes for the work of the prize honorees.

“I have faith that the ever-growing research by brilliant world scientists will continue to alert us to the delicate balance that sustains life,” she said.

The prize committee considers candidates from around the world. In 2004, the prizes for environmental achievement went to the Barefoot College in Rajasthan, India, and the Red Latinoamericana de Botanica, a consortium of training centers spanning six nations.

Both groups were recognized for efforts to train and empower local people to become environmental stewards.

Mire information about Keeling and the Scripps Institution is available at http://sio.ucsd.edu/

More information about Thompson is available at http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/lonnityler.htm

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2005 National Wetlands Award Winners Named

WASHINGTON, DC, March 31, 2005 (ENS) - Seven wetlands educators, scientists, and conservationists were selected as recipients of the 2005 National Wetlands Awards for exemplary contributions in conserving or restoring the Nation’s wetlands. They will be honored at a Capitol Hill presentation on May 18th in Room B339 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC.

This year's awardees are: Barbara Bedford of New York, Neil Bien of South Dakota, Barth Crouch of Kansas, Tom Foti of Arkansas, Catherine MacDonald of Oregon, Martin Main of Florida, and Hazel Sinclair of Louisiana.

Program co-sponsors - the Environmental Law Institute, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Federal Highway Administration, and NOAA Fisheries - believe that recognizing these individuals for their efforts will help ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy high quality wetlands, biological diversity and clean water.

The National Wetlands Awards Program celebrates individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary dedication, innovation or excellence in wetlands conservation. Awardees hail from all regions of the country, and their work accomplishes wetland protection at the regional, state and local levels.

"The National Wetlands Awards show that the spirit of stewardship is alive and well," said Bruce Knight, Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. "Efforts like this on scores of watersheds around the country will help achieve the President’s objective of restoring, improving, and protecting three million acres of wetlands over the next 5 years."

"This year's awardees, who are at the forefront of efforts to protect America's valuable aquatic resources, provide a sense of confidence that we have the leadership, talent, and commitment to realize the challenging goal that we have established of moving beyond 'no net loss' to achieving an overall increase in the Nation's wetlands," said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin Grumbles. 2005 National Wetlands Awards Winners Education & Outreach
Martin Main, Florida

Dr. Main of the University of Florida has developed and implemented the Florida Master Naturalist Program, a successful, statewide environmental education program designed to teach adult audiences about Florida’s wetlands and prepare them to teach others. Dr. Main's network of instructors includes about 150 environmental educators from 90 organizations in 47 Florida counties.

Science Research
Barbara Bedford, New York

A faculty member in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University, Dr. Bedford’s scientific research and ideas have been cutting edge for 30 years. She leads a major research program on wetland conservation and management and teaches courses in landscape impact analysis and wetland ecology and management.

Conservation & Restoration
Catherine Macdonald, Oregon

Working with The Nature Conservancy in Oregon, Macdonald has mobilized the group's financial resources and those of partnership organizations to acquire tens of thousands of Oregon wetlands. She has fostered relationships among agencies, non-profit organizations, Indian tribes, and private citizens to build broad-based support for wetlands conservation and restoration projects.

Landowner Stewardship
Neil Bien, South Dakota

A South Dakota rancher and conservationist for more than two decades, Bien exemplifies the values of enduring stewardship and land ethic on the 2,300 acre Bien Ranch. The Bien Ranch has restored 15 wetlands and prairie areas and contains 1,150 acres in the U.S. Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Reserve Program, wildlife food plots, rotational grazing, wetland preservation, and permanent easements.

State, Tribal, & Local Program Development
Tom Foti, Arkansas

Foti conducted the first inventory of natural areas in Arkansas, resulting in the Natural Area Plan, his publication on the Natural Divisions of Arkansas, and the creation of the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, where he currently works. He has helped save the Cache River from channelization, coauthored the hydrogeomorphic classification of Arkansas wetlands and the regional guidebooks for HGM assessment, and refined Arkansas’ ecoregions and National Vegetation Classes to better reflect wetlands diversity in the state.

Wetland Community Leader
Barth Crouch, Kansas

As secretary/treasurer and co-founder of the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams and board member and vice-chairman for Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Crouch has been involved in promoting wetlands in Kansas. He recently led a successful effort to get a new federal program practice approved that will have long-term benefits for playa lakes and other non-floodplain wetlands.

Hazel Sinclair, Louisiana
Sinclair began her community activism when surrounding property owners in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, increasingly filled in wetlands for residential development. In 1999, she launched a campaign to ensure the sustainable development of a planned 191 acre residential subdivision in a high-quality wetland. Her activism and galvanization of the community ultimately led her to win lawsuits that overturned the state and federal decisions that would have allowed the wetlands to be filled.

"When wetlands disappear, essential habitats for hundreds of species of wildlife and plants also disappear," said Steve Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "For people, wetland losses mean declines in water quality and increased flood risk."

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Power Lines Over the Mississippi River Will Soon Be History

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, March 31, 2005 (ENS) - Entergy Corporation has announced plans to remove the 3,020 foot long power lines that are suspended above the Mississippi River, linking Algiers and Chalmette.

The plan to remove the overhead power lines, which are owned by Entergy Louisiana, Inc., and the 442 foot tall towers from which they are suspended, follows the company's completion of the 2003-04 project that buried new power lines 100 feet under the Mississippi River bed, an engineering feat that required the deepest horizontal drilling across the Mississippi in history.

The under-river project provided greater overhead clearance for river traffic while continuing to provide electricity to business and residential customers on both sides of the river.

The announcement of the plan to remove the overhead lines, a year after the completion of the under-river power line project, came after Entergy said it now has had an adequate amount of time to determine the reliability of the under-river power lines.

''The main priority for Entergy is to continue to serve our customers in a safe and reliable manner that does not interrupt their lives or business,'' said J. Wayne Leonard, Entergy CEO.

''The timing of our plan to remove the overhead lines follows a prudent course of action that ensures the reliability of the under-river power lines. While the historic under-river project was costly, we feel confident about the long-term reliability of those underground power lines,'' Leonard said.

With that reliability now assured, Leonard said, Entergy's decision to remove the over the river lines and towers will allow New Orleans to try and attract to its port the world's newest class of cruise ships - the largest and tallest vessels afloat - without any potential navigational issues.

Removal of the lines and the 183 ton towers will be broken into two phases - removal of the six conductors and shield wires, which weigh more than 30 tons, and then removal of the two towers.

Entergy will solicit bids from contractors to remove the lines and towers. Each bidder will be required to propose a specific methodology and timetable for the removal.

Entergy says it will work collaboratively with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Crescent City River Pilots in the line removal.

Barring any unforeseen events, the company expects the lines to be removed by the end of 2005 and the towers to be removed by the end of 2006.

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Cameron Diaz Showcases Conservation on New MTV Series

LOS ANGELES, California, March 31, 2005 (ENS) - Actor, producer and conservationist Cameron Diaz goes on a worldwide adventure with friends, visiting some of Earth’s most beautiful and environmentally threatened wild places in MTV’s new reality series "Trippin’," which debuted Monday night.

Diaz is a supporter of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and among the places she and her posse visit on "Trippin’" are the Patagonia Coast and Olivillo rain forest of Chile, and Yellowstone National Park.

All are places identified by NRDC as BioGems - unique wildlands in the Americas that are threatened by industrialization. MTV’s web pages for the show link to NRDC and other organizations that involve people in protecting such places.

The MTV series originated with visits Diaz took with her friend, and now "Trippin’" co-producer, Elizabeth Rogers. They envisioned a program that would make far away wild places accessible and fun, and show people ways to preserve them.

"These trips have been the adventure of a lifetime," said Diaz, "and the groups we’ve been able to share them with have been as amazing and diverse as the locations themselves. It’s truly been an inspiration to all of us involved with the show to learn and experience for ourselves the incredible impact we have on our planet and how we can continue to preserve and enjoy its beauty and its bounty."

"‘Trippin’’ is about having fun and protecting the planet at the same time," said Ari Hershowitz, director of NRDC’s Latin American BioGems campaign, and a guide for Diaz and her friends on the show. "‘Trippin’’ differs from typical nature or reality shows because it encourages viewers to get involved in saving these endangered locations."

More than half-a-million BioGem defenders helped NRDC stop construction of a major highway through the Olivillo rain forest, with its 3,500-year-old trees, and now are helping NRDC’s efforts to establish permanent protections there.

BioGem defenders also are helping safeguard the pristine coastal waters of Patagonia, a sanctuary for Earth’s largest animal, the blue whale, once hunted nearly to extinction. The gradual recovery of this majestic species is now threatened by the Canadian company Noranda, which plans to build a massive aluminum smelter near the Golfo Corcovado, spewing millions of tons of waste into waterways.

These places are featured in "Trippin’" episodes, and are expected to benefit from the response of MTV viewers.

Another episode of "Trippin’" follows Cameron and friends to Yellowstone National Park, where NRDC BioGem defenders are fighting efforts by the Bush administration to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list, clearing the way for oil and gas drilling, logging and other industrial projects in national forests bordering Yellowstone.

"Cameron’s love for these places is contagious, and she brings a level of thoughtful commitment to environmentalism that is unusual to see anywhere," Hershowitz said. "She has a knack for connecting with the people and places we’re working to protect."

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