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Week's Top Enviro Stories: Zombie Nuclear Plant Lives!

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Inside the reactor vessel area at the partly built Bellefonte nuclear plant in Hollywood, Alabama.
Inside the reactor vessel area at the partly built Bellefonte nuclear plant in Hollywood, Alabama.
Courtesy of the U.S. NRC

Zombie Nuclear Plant Lives!
One thing you can say about nuclear power: the people who believe it is the silver bullet for America's energy problems never give up.  Consider the case of Bellefonte 1, a nuclear plant in Alabama.  It was closed 23 years ago.  It's spun in spider webs and parts of it have been sold off for scrap.  But now the owner of the plant, Tennessee Valley Authority, is considering spending $5 billion to bring the beast back to life.  TVA execs think that if coal plants get shut down and natural gas gets expensive, the agency could use the old plant to generate cheap electrons for a few decades.  "Why nuclear?" says Thomas Kilgore, the authority’s president and chief executive.  “Once you get the unit built, you’ve got inflation locked out.”  In other words, if TVA has a nuke and nobody else does, Kilgore thinks he can make big money and look like a genius.  But at least one industry analyst disagrees: “Based on cost, I absolutely think you can say it’s crazy.” [NYT]

All Our Chickens are Rhode Island Reds
2011 is shaping up to be the year that the media figures out that hamburgers don't grow on trees.  In recent months, there has been a steady stream of new reporting about the evolving global food crisis –higher prices, impacts of droughts and floods on food supply, declining productivity.  One aspect that has been overlooked: how the so-called "Green Revolution" in agriculture has greatly reduced the diversity of our food crops and animals and greatly increased their vulnerability to disease and climate change.  The solution?  Locally cultivated foods of the past. [National Geographic]

March to Stop Mountaintop Removal
The fight against Big Coal got cranked up a notch as activists staged a 50-mile long march to Blair Mountain, the site of a historic labor battle in the 1921.  Back then, Coal was King and 10,000 miners marched for the right to organize unions in West Virginia mines.  Last week, the marchers numbered in the hundreds and the goal was to preserve Blair Mountain as a historical site and to call attention to the devastating practice of mountaintop-removal coal mining.  Among the marchers was Robert Kennedy Jr, who called Blair mountain "the Gettysburg of the union movement."  Kennedy, who just released the anti-mountaintop-removal mining documentary The Last Mountain, said West Virginia politicians are too beholden to Big Coal.  "Everything this industry does is illegal, it's a criminal enterprise," he said. "If you came to the Hudson River and you tried to fill 25 feet of a Hudson River tributary, we would put you in jail, I guarantee it. If you tried to blow up a mountain in the Berkshires, the Adirondacks, or a mountain in Colorado, California or Utah, you would go to jail." [Charleston Gazette]

Geoengineering Goes Primetime
For most environmentalists and clean energy activists, the word "geoengineering" is a lot like the word "pedophile": it gives them a certain thrill to say, if only because the evil it suggests is so pure.  Well, not any more.  Geoengineering – the large-scale, intentional manipulation of the earth's climate to reduce risks of global warming – took a big leap forward this week when the Guardian reported that the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called for a study on geoengineering to be included in its next report.  Among the ideas to be studied: whitening clouds to reflect sunlight, spraying sulfate particles in the stratosphere, building machines to suck carbon dioxide out of the air.  Outrage from environmental groups has already begun – prepare for lots of knee-jerk stories about the hubris of scientists and the foolishness of trying to intervene in a system we barely understand. [Guardian]

Big Solar Trumps Big Steel
One of the pillars of backward thinking in America is the idea that you can have jobs or you can have clean air and water, but you can't have both.  That myth has been busted a thousand times, but still it lives on.  Well, here's more myth-busting evidence: with roughly 93,500 direct and indirect jobs, the American solar industry now employs about 9,200 more workers than the U.S. steel industry, according to 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Germany, it's a similar story: There are now more than 100,000 workers employed in the German solar photovoltaics industry alone. [Climate Progress]

Rupert Murdoch's 102 Year-old Mom Blows Hole in Fox News Propaganda Machine
The fight to put a price on carbon pollution in Australia is getting increasingly heated, thanks in part to a full court press from Prime Minister Julia Gillard.  Climate activists have recruited a number of high profile supporters recently, including actress Cate Blanchett.  Now Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, Rupert's 102 year-old mother, has added her name to a public letter arguing that a price on carbon is needed now to ''build a better, cleaner and more sustainable future, for the sake of our children and grandchildren'' and asking ''all Australians to demand leadership on this so together we can take the first steps towards a low-carbon future.''  Now, if only she would spank her son and take away his media toys, that low-carbon future might actually have a chance. [Sydney Morning Herald]

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