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Renewable power trumps fossil fuels for first time

Renewable energyRenewable energy is surpassing fossil fuels for the first time in new power-plant investments, shaking off setbacks from the financial crisis and an impasse at the United Nations global warming talks.

Electricity from the wind, sun, waves and biomass drew $187 billion last year compared with $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal, according to calculations by Bloomberg New Energy Finance using the latest data. Accelerating installations of solar- and wind-power plants led to lower equipment prices, making clean energy more competitive with coal.

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Inside the twisted remains of Fukushima nuclear plant

FukushumaYesterday, reporters travelled for the first time to the centre of Japan's radiation catastrophe, the still-dangerous power plant devastated by March's earthquake and tsunami. This is what they saw.

About three dozen journalists sat on two buses. We wore protective suits, double gloves, double layers of clear plastic booties over shoes, hair covers, respirator masks, and carried radiation detectors. As we drove to the Fukushima plant, we passed through a police checkpoint, and saw three towns – Naraha, Tomioka, Okuma – empty of all inhabitants. Among the abandoned homes was a flower shop with plants, withered and dead, still on display.

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Iraq Criticizes ExxonMobil on Kurdistan Oil Pursuits

ExxonA deputy prime minister overseeing the oil industry has issued a sharp rebuke to the largest American oil company operating in Iraq, ExxonMobil, over the company’s reported efforts to expand its oil holdings into the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the country’s north.

The statement from the official, Hussein al-Shahristani, said the central government had cautioned Exxon against pursuing oil deals in Kurdistan, which the government says will remain illegal until long-awaited rules can be worked out to split revenues among Iraq’s fractious regions.

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Turning wood into oil in to simple steps

Turning woo into oilEfficiency and simplicity have long eluded renewable-fuel researchers, but a Maine scientist has developed a two-step process he says can make oil from the cellulose in wood fiber.

This process, far less complex than competing methods, creates an oil that can be refined into gasoline, jet fuel or diesel and removes nearly all oxygen -- the enemy of fuel efficiency.

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Japan Courts the Money in Reactors

Even as Japan plans to phase out nuclear power as too risky for domestic use, the government is supporting a new push by Japanese industry to sell nuclear power technology to other countries.

It may seem a stretch for Japan to acclaim its nuclear technology overseas while struggling at home to contain the nuclear meltdowns that displaced more than 100,000 people. But Japan argues that its latest technology includes safeguards not present at the decades-old reactors at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, which continues to leak radiation.

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4 generator failures hit US nuclear plants

4 generator failures at US nuclear plantsFour generators that power emergency systems at nuclear plants have failed when needed since April, an unusual cluster that has attracted the attention of federal inspectors and could prompt the industry to re-examine its maintenance plans.

None of these failures has threatened the public. But the diesel generators serve the crucial function of supplying electricity to cooling systems that prevent a nuclear plant's hot, radioactive fuel from overheating, melting and potentially releasing radiation into the environment.

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Reactors could fail during an earthquake, maker says

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy said 35 reactors it built for utilities from New York to Washington may not shut down properly during an earthquake. The likelihood of failure is "low," the company said in an advisory to customers on additional actions to take.

GE Hitachi, which made First Energy Corp.'s Perry, Ohio, plant on Lake Erie, about 120 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, and Exelon Corp.'s Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey, is recommending testing to determine what level of friction would prevent control rods from fully inserting into the reactor core during an earthquake, according to filings with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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