AmeriScan: May 15, 2007

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Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant Unit 1 Gets Green Light

ATLANTA, Georgia, May 15, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Region II office in Atlanta notified Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA, officials today that the agency is authorizing the restart of Unit 1 at the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in Alabama.

"TVA has completed an extensive refurbishment of Unit 1 and the NRC staff has closely monitored their progress throughout the project," said Region II Deputy Regional Administrator for Operations Victor McCree.

In 1975, Browns Ferry Unit 1 caught fire when a candle used by a worker to check for air leaks ignited insulation near the control room. Safety systems failed, but a nuclear disaster was avoided.

Still, it was the worst nuclear accident in the U.S. until the near meltdown at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in 1979.

All three units of the Browns Ferry plant were shut down in 1985 to address performance and management issues, but the reactors retained operating licenses issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC.

TVA, a federal government agency, agreed at the time that it would complete corrective actions and not restart any of the units without NRC concurrence.

After TVA completed all the work involved with those corrective actions with NRC inspection and approval, Unit 2 was restarted in 1991 and Unit 3 was restarted in 1995.

NRC inspectors have reviewed the activities on Unit 1 during the past several years and recently completed a comprehensive operational readiness inspection prior to determining that TVA had met NRC standards and could restart the final unit.

"We believe we have established the appropriate operating safety standards to resume power production from Unit 1, and maintain safe and reliable operation from all three Browns Ferry units," said TVA Nuclear Operations Senior Vice President Ashok Bhatnagar.

Unit 1 is capable of generating more than 1,155 megawatts of electricity, enough power to supply 650,000 homes.

Critics point to the reactor's troubled past and the unsolved issue of radioactive waste disposal. They say another nuclear reactor is not needed in the region and energy efficiency, not nuclear power, is the answer to global warming.

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EPA Awards $71 Million to Convert Brownfields

WASHINGTON, DC, May 15, 2007 (ENS) - Communities in 38 states will receive brownfields grants to help revitalize former industrial and commercial sites. Two territories and five tribal nations also will share the $70.7 million offered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

One cross-border group of counties will receive a brownfields grant. The Ark-Tex Council of Governments, ATCOG, was selected to receive a $200,000 petroleum brownfields assessment grant.

The ATCOG covers nine counties in northeast Texas and one in southwest Arkansas with a total population 311,562.

The cities in the region developed around the railroads that supported the timber and agriculture industries. With the decline in these industries, the region was left with abandoned and contaminated parcels.

Today, there are more than 130 legal and illegal closed landfills in the area, in addition to many abandoned manufacturing and industrial facilities and gas stations. There are 556 reports of leaking underground storage tanks in the region.

The 10 counties have an average unemployment rate of 18.3 percent and a per capita income that is only 72 percent of the national level.

Assessment of the region's brownfields will help make it possible for ATCOG to clean up the properties, and provide a catalyst for redevelopment in the downtown area of the city of Texarkana.

"By transforming thousands of blighted sites into engines of economic rebirth, EPA's Brownfields program is proving to be one of the greatest environmental success stories of the past decade," said EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.

This year, 202 applicants were selected to receive 294 assessment, revolving loan fund, and cleanup grants. The $70.7 million will provide:

In addition to industrial and commercial redevelopment, brownfields cleanups have included the conversion of industrial waterfronts to riverfront parks, landfills to golf courses, rail corridors to recreational trails, and gas stations to housing.

For a state-by-state breakdown of 2007 brownsfield grants, click here.

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2007 National City Water Taste Test

WASHINGTON, DC, May 15, 2007 (ENS) - The nation's mayors want to know which city in the United States has the best tasting water, and they have launched the 2007 National City Water Taste Test Competition to find out.

The American public enjoys the highest quality drinking water in the world, thanks in large part to local government, said Tom Cochran, chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, USCM, which is sponsoring the competition.

"Local government invests over $43 billion dollars a year for pure drinking water and treating wastewater," said Cochran. "As a result you can travel anywhere in the country and be certain that the water supply is safe to consume,"

To enter the contest, mayors can ship samples of chilled water anytime from now until June 1 to the office of the Us.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, DC. Rounds I and II of the blind taste test will take place on June 6, at the USCM Office. The Round II Finalists will be announced on June 7 on the Conference of Mayors’ website, www.usmayors.org.

Cities that are selected in Round II will compete in the Final Round, which will take place during the 75th Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Los Angeles. Mayors attending the Annual Meeting, scheduled from June 22-26, will cast ballots to select the "Best Tasting City Water in America."

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Indianapolis Mayor Wants to Green His Industrial City

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, May 15, 2007 (ENS) - Mayor Bart Peterson today stood atop a "green" roof at the Indianapolis Museum of Art to announce Indy GreenPrint, his plan to make Indianapolis more sustainable and position the city to be a leader in climate protection, energy efficiency and energy conservation.

Green roof projects, which involve growing plants, flowers and other vegetation on top of roofs, can reduce stormwater runoff and maintenance costs.

Indianapolis is collaborating with other cities across the nation on environmental cleanup, Mayor Peterson said.

"As of April 5, 2007 442 mayors representing over 61 million Americans - including myself - have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which covers urban areas housing 61 million Americans.

Indianapolis has been a manufacturing center for decades and manufacturing is the region’s largest industry today. Indianapolis factories make aircraft engines and automobile engine blocks, medicine and chemicals.

The state environmental agency and the Indiana State Department of Health issued a report in 2002 on hazardous air pollution that identified the southwest side of the city where factories are concentrated as an area of concern.

Today, Mayor Peterson said programs to improve water and air quality, the efficient use of resources, renewable energy leadership, accessible and reliable public transportation, and green building practices are all key ways to make Indianapolis and community more sustainable.

"I also challenge you, and all residents of central Indiana to make 'going green' a priority in your own life," the mayor said. "Through small actions—like using compact fluorescent bulbs, turning off electronic devices when not in use, carpooling to work, recycling or purchasing fuel efficient vehicles — you can make a big difference to our community, and even our planet."

Mayor Peterson made a commitment to make Indianapolis greener and more sustainable in his 2007 State of the City Address in February.

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New Jersey Protects Ancient Native Site, Wildlife Habitat

TRENTON, New Jersey, May 15, 2007 (ENS) - The state of New Jersey has purchased two Sussex County properties totaling almost 900 acres to form a green corridor that safeguards wildlife habitat and an important Native American archeological site.

For a total purchase price of $5.1 million, the state acquired 534 acres in Vernon Township and 350 acres in Stillwater Township, according to Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, Commissioner Lisa Jackson.

The purchases expand the DEP Green Acres program, which was established in 1961 to protect environmentally sensitive open space, water resources and other important natural and historical open spaces.

Land acquired becomes part of the statewide system of parks and forests, wildlife management areas and natural areas.

"We succeeded in preserving an important piece of our state's history - a rare Native American archeological site in Vernon Valley," Jackson said. "We're also linking two significant tracts of open space in the northwestern part of the state, creating a green corridor that will protect wildlife habitat."

The DEP Green Acres program purchased the Vernon parcel from Maple Grange Realty for $2.5 million and acquired the Stillwater tract from a private owner for $2.6 million.

The Vernon parcel is located in the Highlands and links the Black Creek archeological site to Wawayanda State Park.

Both properties provide habitat for endangered wildlife and connect to larger preserved lands.

Listed in the New Jersey Register of Historic Places, the Black Creek site is considered one of the most important archeological and cultural sites in the tri-state area. The site contains evidence that Native Americans inhabited the area more than 10,000 years ago.

In addition, the property's creek and wetlands provide habitat for the state endangered bog turtle, the state threatened wood turtle and a water bird known as the American bittern.

The Stillwater property will link the 2,472 acre Swartswood State Park with the 1,518 acre Trout Brook Wildlife Management area. The expanded greenway provides habitat for the state endangered bobcat and the black bear.

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Nanotech Regulation Proposed to Protect Human Health

WASHINGTON, DC, May 15, 2007 (ENS) - The Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC, said today that the Bush administration has not done enough to protect citizens from the potentially dangerous effects of nano-scale chemistry.

Nanomaterials, engineered on the molecular and atomic scale, are already being used in more than 500 consumer products such as bandanges, baby wipes, sunscreen, toothpaste, and lipstick.

Nanoparticles, which can be a thousand times smaller than a red blood cell, can pass easily into the bloodstream when inhaled, swallowed or applied to the skin. "Once inside the body, these materials appear to access most or all tissues and organs, including the brain," the NRDC said.

Several studies have associated nano-sized air pollutants with asthma attacks, heart disease, strokes and respiratory disease. Yet nanomaterials in consumer products remain essentially unregulated in the United States.

Despite their unknown effects on human health, Lux Research, a consulting firm with expertise in science-driven innovation, projects that $2.6 trillion worth of manufactured goods will incorporate nanotechnologies by 2014.

"Precautionary regulation must play catch up to ensure worker and public safety. Without requirements for product labeling, consumers are left ignorant and vulnerable to exposure to an untested and possibly unsafe new generation of chemicals," said Jennifer Sass, nanotechnology expert with NRDC and author of the organization's new report on regulating the industry.

"People deserve unbiased information to protect their families," she said.

The NRDC report proposes an immediate, three-part framework for regulating nanomaterials, based on established precautionary approaches to managing toxic chemicals that are agreed upon by environmental and worker protection groups.