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Tuesday, Sep 02nd

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U.S. nuclear regulator a policeman or salesman?

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission exists to police, not promote, the domestic nuclear industry -- but diplomatic cables show that it is sometimes used as a sales tool to help push American technology to foreign governments.

The cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and provided to Reuters by a third party, shed light on the way in which U.S. embassies have pulled in the NRC when lobbying for the purchase of equipment made by Westinghouse and other domestic manufacturers.

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U.S. is increasing nuclear power through uprating

The U.S. nuclear industry is turning up the power on old reactors, spurring quiet debate over the safety of pushing aging equipment beyond its original specifications.

The little-publicized practice, known as uprating, has expanded the country's nuclear capacity without the financial risks, public anxiety and political obstacles that have halted the construction of new plants for the last 15 years.

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Solar power: breakthrough could herald big drop in costs

Solar power breakthroughScientists at the University of Michigan have discovered a new effect from an old property of light, which they say could lead to an "optical battery" that converts sunlight to electricity at a fraction of the cost of today's photovoltaic cells.

Light has electric and magnetic qualities. Scientists had long thought, however, that the effects of light's magnetic field were so weak as to be irrelevant.

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"They Are Afraid Their House Could Blow Up": Meet the Families Whose Lives Have Been Ruined by Gas Drilling

Fracking dangerCassie Spencer said she nearly "had a cow" when she returned home one day and saw her yard sprinkled with little red flags, like land mine markers in a war zone. Her 5-year-old daughter was playing in the midst of them. The family property had become a methane field.

The cause: two Chesapeake gas wells 3,000 feet away that she never saw and doesn't profit from had somehow been sending methane onto her property and into her water, and onto her neighbors' properties on Paradise Road in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania. Testing by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) traced the methane to Chesapeake wells but the company has denied responsibility.

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Transocean gives safety bonuses despite Gulf deaths

Transocean gives safety bonuses despite deaths Transocean Ltd. gave its top executives bonuses for achieving the “best year in safety performance in our company’s history” — despite the explosion of its oil rig that killed 11 people and spilled 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The company said in a regulatory filing that its most senior managers were given two thirds of their total possible safety bonus.

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Only two U.S. nuclear sites are in compliance with federal fire regulations

Only two U.S. nuclear sites are in compliance with federal fire regulations

On an ironically clear and placid day in August 2007, a three story tall cooling tower at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant collapsed, goring a massive hole in the center of the structure and spewing asbestos, rotting wood, plastic panels, and thousands of gallons of water onto the bank of the Connecticut river.

It later emerged that several employees had expressed concerns about the tower, and that, in the days before the collapse, others heard odd noises from within the structure.

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Chernobyl scientist says nuclear disaster produced 'invisible enemy'

Chernobyl disaster

Speaking at the University of South Carolina at a time of increasing debate about nuclear power, the Russian scientist likened an atomic energy disaster to that of a war, with one major distinction. In war, the enemy is known immediately, she said. But with a nuclear accident, “We have an invisible enemy that can kill you many years later,’’ she said, referring to the long-term health effects of radiation exposure.

In the case of the sickened dog, it had survived more than a year after the Chernobyl explosion and radiation leak sent area residents fleeing. But the animal had begun to succumb by the time Manzurova arrived in late 1987 to study the area. Many people who worked with her at Chernobyl died years later.

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