ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE
Ryan Offman 16, Apr 9 mins
9 mins
The Ritz Herald
This spent nuclear fuel canister weighs roughly 48,000 pounds. © Andrea Starr / Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Massive, unused spent fuel canisters offer meaningful research opportunities

When nuclear engineer Brady Hanson stood before a group of scientists seven years ago, he knew that exploring the behavior of spent nuclear fuel in prolonged storage required a rigorous approach. And he said as much.

“There’s no simple solution here,” he told his fellow researchers, who had convened to settle on a plan to exhaustively probe safety concerns tied to the extended storage and transportation of spent nuclear fuel, with a special focus on fuel cladding: the metal tubing that encases fuel pellets. “We’ll need to explore every way the fuel could degrade under realistic conditions.”

Now, on the tail end of a decade’s worth of thorough scientific investigation that demonstrates dry fuel storage is indeed safe and secure, he feels differently. “I was wrong! The scientific method showed us what reality is–that long-term storage is safe.”

Intensively focusing on the potential for failure in nuclear fuel cladding revealed that, even under extreme but realistic conditions, each degradation mechanism was less problematic than anticipated, and each point of concern was successfully settled.

Stress from traveling by ship, train, and truck proved to be negligible, for example, and the fuel temperatures were much cooler than expected. The Office of Nuclear Energy’s Spent Fuel and Waste Science and Technology program now looks toward adding to the extensive body of research by applying the same thorough, integrated approach to the canisters that house spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s commercial nuclear reactor plants.

On Wednesday, April 14, Hanson and a team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory received a boon for ongoing investigations: three completely empty, unused spent fuel canisters, each weighing over 48,000 pounds….

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Beaver Valley Unit 1 Nuclear Power Station Begins Refueling Outage
The Ritz Herald

Energy Harbor Corp. announced today its Unit 1 at the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, was taken offline at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, April 11, for scheduled refueling and preventative maintenance.

While the unit is offline, about a third of the unit’s 157 fuel assemblies will be…

Historic Climate Bill Passes Washington State Senate
The Ritz Herald

The Climate Commitment Act (CCA), SB5126, is one step closer to becoming the first climate legislation in the country to pave the way to net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050. The Washington State Senate passed the historic and carefully crafted cap-and-invest legislation today, which now heads to…

Scant Evidence That ‘Wood Overuse’ at Cahokia Caused Local Flooding, Subsequent Collapse
The Ritz Herald

Whatever ultimately caused inhabitants to abandon Cahokia, it was not because they cut down too many trees, according to new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

Archaeologists from Arts & Sciences excavated around earthen mounds and analyzed sediment cores to test a persistent theory about the collapse of Cahokia,…

NYSDEC to Deploy New Technology to Study Harmful Algal Blooms at Lake Agawam
The Ritz Herald

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in partnership with the village of Southampton, announced a new research project to evaluate the potential efficacy of ultrasonic technology to mitigate harmful algal blooms (HABs) on Lake Agawam, village of Southampton. This research is part of the HABs Action…

3 mins
Aerial view of the Amazon Basin. © Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility
The Ritz Herald
Carbon-based chemical emissions from biological sources create many small particles above the Amazon rainforest

The aerosol particles that serve as seeds for cloud formation are major drivers of global climate change. One of the world’s largest reservoirs of aerosol particles is at high altitudes above tropical regions. However, the sources and chemical processes behind the formation of these particles are unclear. A collaborative team of researchers addressed this problem by integrating insights from laboratory measurements, chemical transport modeling, and field measurements. They found that carbon-based compounds from biological sources drive the formation of new particles. These sources play key roles in producing the large number of small particles in the atmosphere above the Amazon rainforest.

The Impact

This study untangles the long-standing mystery of the source of large numbers of particles at high altitudes above the Amazon rainforest. Natural environments like the Amazon are a baseline for understanding how human activity contributes to climate change. This new finding will help researchers better quantify the effect of aerosol particles from human activity. This is one of the greatest uncertainties in climate change predictions.

Summary

Researchers systematically investigated new-particle formation mechanisms by integrating insights from laboratory measurements, chemical transport modeling, and field measurements to elucidate the sources of the numerous small particles in the Amazon free troposphere. To account…

5 mins
African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis). © WCS Gabon
The Ritz Herald
Study compared different methodologies using dung, DNA analysis, and camera traps

A team of scientists led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and working closely with experts from the Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux du Gabon (ANPN) compared methodologies to count African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis), which were recently acknowledged by IUCN as a separate, Critically Endangered species from African savannah elephants. The study is part of a larger initiative in partnership with Vulcan Inc. to provide the first nationwide census in Gabon for more than 30 years. The results of the census are expected later this year.

Contrary to savannah elephants (Loxodonta africana) which can be counted directly, usually through aerial survey, accurately censusing elusive forest elephants is more challenging and refinements of methods were needed. Publishing a new survey method to counting forest elephants in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation, the team compared traditional methodologies to count elephant dung piles along line transects, with spatial capture-recapture (SCR) techniques using both camera traps and DNA dung analysis. SCR estimates populations by measuring how many times and in what location individual animals are recounted.

Said the study’s lead author, Alice Laguardia of WCS’s Gabon Program: “The more accurately we can count forest elephants,…

COVID-19 Pandemic Highlights the Urgent Global Need to Control Air Pollution
The Ritz Herald

A new commentary published online in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society provides an exhaustive examination of published research that discusses whether air pollution may be linked to worse COVID-19 outcomes.  The studies that the authors…

Rising Sea Levels Played a Role for About One-Third of People Who Plan to Move in the Next Year
The Ritz Herald

Many Americans are factoring climate change into their decisions about where to live, according to a new survey featured in a report from Redfin, the technology-powered real estate brokerage. About half of respondents who plan to move in the next year said extreme temperatures and/or…

Why Commercialization of Carbon Capture and Sequestration Has Failed and How It Can Work
The Ritz Herald

There are 12 essential attributes that explain why commercial carbon capture and sequestration projects succeed or fail in the U.S., University of California San Diego researchers say in a recent study published in Environmental Research Letters.

Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) has become increasingly…

Quark Expeditions Takes Ownership of Ultramarine: Forever Changing Polar Exploration
The Ritz Herald

Quark Expeditions, the Leader in Polar Adventures, took ownership today of the highly-anticipated polar vessel, Ultramarine. The official handover of the technologically advanced ship took place in Split, Croatia, attended by Malcolm Ellis, Senior Vice-President of Operations for Quark Expeditions, and members of the Brodosplit shipyard team.

“Today, we took…

4 mins
The Ritz Herald
© Annie Spratt
Africa is at the frontline of the climate crisis, severely affected by droughts, floods, and cyclones, and counts ten of the twelve countries most at risk of drought
By / Environmental Reporter

Boosting efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change in Africa was the focus of a leaders’ Dialogue on April 6, 2021, that addressed the effects of the dual crises of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, with calls for a massive scaling up of climate adaptation in the region.

Heads of States and Governments, international organizations, bilateral partners, and development agencies participating in the event discussed a common roadmap on implementing a bold new adaptation initiative for Africa – the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP). The initiative aims to galvanize climate-resilient actions on the continent by advancing a three-pronged approach to address climate change, COVID-19, and the continent’s emerging economic challenges.

Africa is at the frontline of the climate crisis, severely affected by droughts, floods, and cyclones, and counts ten of the twelve countries most at risk of drought. The AAAP initiative was launched during the Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS) held in January in response to African leaders’ urgent call for a new and expanded effort to accelerate momentum on Africa’s adaptation efforts.

Speaking at April’s 6th event, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, encouraged all international partners to come forward with pledges to support the African Adaptation Acceleration Program. “As the continent that has contributed least to the climate crisis, yet faces its most devastating impacts, Africa deserves the strongest possible support and solidarity,” he said.

Mr. Guterres urged scaled-up support to regional adaptation and resilience initiatives such as the Great Green Wall Initiative and repeated his call made…

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Major U.S. Airlines Commit to Net-Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050
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Expected Effects of Climate Change on Hailstorms Vary Markedly by Region
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7 mins
© John G. Mabanglo
The Ritz Herald
New United Eco-Skies Alliance Program includes global corporate leaders who, with United, will pay towards more sustainable aviation fuel, all companies invited to participate

United Airlines continues to lead the industry towards a more sustainable future with the launch of the first-of-its-kind Eco-Skies Alliance SM program. Working with the airline, more than a dozen leading global corporations will collectively contribute towards the purchase of approximately 3.4 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) this year. With its nearly 80% emissions reductions on a lifecycle basis compared to conventional jet fuel, this is enough SAF to eliminate approximately 31,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, or enough to fly passengers over 220 million miles.

As inaugural participants, the following companies are taking a lead within their respective industries, reducing their aviation-related impact on the environment at the source, and creating demand for more SAF production.

  • Autodesk
  • Boston Consulting Group
  • CEVA Logistics
  • Deloitte
  • DHL Global Forwarding
  • DSV Panalpina
  • HP Inc.
  • Nike
  • Palantir
  • Siemens
  • Takeda Pharmaceuticals

“While we’ve partnered with companies for years to help them offset their flight emissions, we applaud those participating in the Eco-Skies Alliance for recognizing the need to go beyond carbon offsets and support SAF-powered flying, which will lead to more affordable supply and ultimately, lower emissions,” said United CEO Scott Kirby. “This is just the beginning. Our goal is to add more…

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Microplastics in Land, Sea, Air a Sign of ‘Legacy Pollution’

Ducrot / RH
Vast watery parcels of plastic – made of soda bottle flotsam and shopping bag jetsam – appear in our oceans as large floating islands. On roadways, plastic is often tossed,
Probing Wet Fire Smoke in Clouds: Can Water Intensify the Earth’s Warming?
The Ritz Herald

A first-of-its-kind instrument that samples smoke from megafires and scans humidity will help researchers better understand the scale and long-term impact of fires—specifically how far and high the smoke will travel; when and where it will rain;  and whether the wet smoke will warm the climate by absorbing sunlight.

“Smoke…

Floating Solar Farms Could Help Reduce Impacts of Climate Change on Lakes and Reservoirs
The Ritz Herald

A new study suggests that floating solar farms could help protect lakes and reservoirs from some of the harms of climate change.

However, given the complex nature of water bodies and different solar technologies designs, there could also be detrimental ecosystem impacts of deploying floating solar arrays.

Conventional solar farms are…

Elevated CO2 Emissions Increase Plant Carbon Uptake but Decrease Soil Carbon Storage
The Ritz Herald

Elevated carbon dioxide emissions from human activities increase carbon uptake by plants but may decrease storage in soil.

An international team led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists synthesized 108 elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) experiments in various ecosystems to find out how much carbon is absorbed by plants and…