The Week That Was
May 31. 2003

1. New on Web: EUROPEAN ENVIRONMENT MINISTERS (NOT GEORGE BUSH) KEPT THE U.S. FROM JOINING KYOTO IN NOV. 2000 (and saved us a bundle of money). Cheers for the French!









2. EPA agrees to review soot, ozone standards in response to ALA law suit

WASHINGTON (May 19, 2003 7:00 p.m. EDT) - The Environmental Protection Agency agreed Monday to review its standards for minimizing soot and smog, part of a proposed settlement of a lawsuit brought by health and environmental groups.

The settlement, which requires approval from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, would compel EPA to review standards on soot by December 2005 and on ozone, a precursor to smog, by December 2006, and possibly tighten them.

The air quality standards were set in 1997 and the Clean Air Act requires the agency to re-examine them every five years in light of the latest science.

The American Lung Association and other parties to the March suit said recent medical research shows sooty fine particles and smog are especially dangerous to young children and the elderly, aggravating respiratory ailments such as asthma and chronic bronchitis.

They said they are especially concerned that the daily average limit for short-term exposure to soot is too lenient.
SEPP Comment:

Forrest Mims, a recognized expert on ozone measurements, reports from Texas:

"Are you aware that EPA allows ozone analyzers to have a calibration error of up to +/-20%?
I find this totally unacceptable, and have attempted to no avail to persuade EPA to tighten this error limit.

You might also want to know that EPA samples "ground level" ozone at 10-20 feet over the ground. When meteorological services have measured temperature and humidity at 1.5 meters for more than a century, EPA comes along and measures ozone where people do not even breathe the air. The obvious purpose … air nearer the ground tends to have less ozone because of reactions with plants that might be nearby."

It looks to us as if EPA is fiddling the ozone measurements in a number of ways to make pollution look worse than it is. We suspect that this "shifting of the goal posts" is motivated less by science than by bureaucratic zeal for increased regulation. EPA also has the strange predilection of supporting outfits like the ALA that then turn around and sue EPA to enforce tighter standards.


3. EU forecasts doubled CO2 emissions by 2030: So what's the point to Kyoto?

The EU Commission has published its report "World Energy, Technology and Climate Policy Outlook," which projects energy use for 2030 as doubling, with petroleum as the most important energy source and CO2 emission twice that of 1990.

The main reason: rising energy use in developing nations
Source: Press release of May 12


4. Protesting the Protesters: CORE against Greenpeace

Last week, Greenpeace sponsored a 5K "Run for Your Life" race in New Jersey to promote chemical security legislation sponsored by Sen. Jon Corzine. However the activist group known for creative protests had little to say when met by a group of counter protesters. According to the Star-Ledger, about 50 people from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) dressed in African garb and grim-reaper costumes carried cardboard coffins to protest Greenpeace policies they say harm developing countries. CORE demonstrators cited the Greenpeace stance against genetically engineered food and its call for the worldwide ban of DDT. "Sometimes I get the feeling that Greenpeace cares more about bugs than they do about human beings," said one protester.


5. Nuclear terrorism fears in NY: Evacuation plans are adequate
NYT op-ed May 20, 2003 by Herschel Specter

The thinking goes like this: if terrorists attacked the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County, just north of New York, hundreds of thousands of people within a 10-mile radius would need to be evacuated. A state report on emergency planning at Indian Point, prepared by James Lee Witt, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, concluded that current emergency plans were inadequate and warned that they could not protect the public from a large release of radioactive material. Opponents of Indian Point immediately latched on to the report as further reason to close the plant.

As an independent consultant who has reviewed emergency planning for Entergy, which owns Indian Point, I believe that the Witt report is strong on process, but weak on science. The report is correct that communications is essential to disaster management and that public education about emergency planning has been poor. However, its conclusion that a terrorist attack on Indian Point renders its emergency plan unworkable has no scientific basis.

Perhaps we need to review what terrorists can and cannot do. Let's make the very unlikely assumption that terrorists overcome all the security forces and cause every safety system to fail, leading to plant damage. First, we should understand that there is a finite amount of radioactive material at these plants. No terrorist can increase this inventory.

Second, not all of this material would escape into the environment. Natural forces cause radioactive material to stick to various surfaces, to fall quickly to the ground, or to form soluble salts that remain largely in place. Terrorists can do nothing to eliminate these natural forces. Other natural forces come into play once the remaining radioactive material is carried from the damaged plant by air currents. The resultant plume is narrow, covering but a small percentage of the surrounding area.

No one outside the plume is at radiological risk. It hardly matters if large numbers of people outside this narrow area do not seek shelter, fail to evacuate or even get stuck in traffic: they are not at risk. Emergency workers would not have to choose between their families and their duty; the vast majority would be outside the affected area.

Other natural forces beyond the reach of terrorists would cause a radioactive plume to weaken as it moves away from the plant. Typically, in less than two miles, the plume is too weak to cause early fatalities. A few miles further, and the plume is too weak to cause early injuries.

At worst, only about 10 percent of the 10-mile zone need be promptly evacuated. More realistically, this prompt-evacuation area would be more like 4 percent or 5 percent. Beyond this area, people would be well served by staying inside until the very weak plume had passed. People in New York City, some 35 miles south, would never have to evacuate promptly from any terrorist attack at Indian Point.

The second line of defense against terrorists, after natural forces, is a good communications system. (Once informed of the plume location, people can take protective actions to significantly reduce their exposure.) The last line of defense is the special assistance rendered by the emergency team. Many alleged deficiencies in the emergency plan relate to this third line of defense, but natural forces and good communications make them far less significant.

Much of the fear about Indian Point is based on a fundamental misconception. Not everyone in the plant's 10-mile zone must evacuate simultaneously. The Witt report correctly notes that a balanced strategy of recommending that some people stay inside while asking others to evacuate provides the best protection for the public. Small-area evacuations mean that resource issues also are small. The number of buses needed to transport school children, the distribution of potassium iodide pills and so forth - would be drastically smaller than in a 10-mile evacuation.

Recently attention has turned to possible terrorist attacks on the Indian Point spent-fuel pools, where old irradiated fuel is stored awaiting eventual shipment off site. It has been shown that a direct crash of a large commercial jet would not cause these reinforced concrete pools to fail. In addition, it only takes a small water spray to protect the spent fuel rods.

The resources available to fight terrorism are finite. They must not be squandered on non-threatening issues driven by fear or opportunism. There is an abundance of other potential terrorist targets containing hazardous materials that pose a far greater risk and whose defenses are far less robust.

We now face a serious choice. Should we continue this technically unsupportable resistance to Indian Point at the expense of addressing other terrorist risks, like a chlorine-based water-treatment facility in Westchester County? Or should Entergy and the counties surrounding the plant work together to fix the minor shortcomings in the Indian Point emergency plan? Let's hope those concerned allow knowledge to win over fear.

Herschel Specter, chairman of a Department of Energy committee on emergency planning in 1984, was the federal regulator in charge of reviewing the licensing of Indian Point in the early 1970's.


6. Swiss voters followed government advice and opted not to scrap nuclear power.

All eyes were on the nuclear vote, on a giant referendum day when the electorate were presented with nine national ballots and a raft of local and cantonal government decisions to form the biggest vote in over 130 years.

The Swiss government had urged the electorate to vote against initiatives to phase out the country's five nuclear plants, arguing it was premature to scrap a cheap energy source that provides 40 percent of Swiss needs.

The electricity industry body on Sunday applauded the victory, saying it created a more secure environment for energy companies to plan their future strategies.

Anti-nuclear campaigners, who had wanted atomic power production phased out within the next 20 years in favour of other energy sources, were disappointed.


7. Nuclear issue threatens to derail EU energy plans

BRUSSELS, May 20 (Reuters) - Plans to open the European Union's entire gas and electricity markets by 2007 could be derailed by an argument over nuclear power plants, EU diplomats said on Tuesday.

EU officials are scrambling to bridge a gap between the European Parliament, which wants the bill to prevent power firms to finance acquisitions with public funds set aside to dismantle nuclear plants, and national governments, which do not.

The nuclear issue is the only major point standing in the way of passing the law that will complete the liberalisation of the EU's energy markets and break the hold of state-owned monopolies over gas and power sales to industry and households.

Parliament gives the legislation its second reading next month and if no compromise is reached by then the bill will be subject to lengthy negotiations with governments, which could jeopardize the law's planned start date of July 2004.

Germany is leading opposition to parliament's nuclear clause, with France also reluctant, diplomats said. They do not want the issue linked to the broader liberalisation effort.

But Claude Turmes, a Green EU deputy from Luxembourg who is heading parliament's work on the bill, said the decommissioning clause was vital to stop nuclear power firms using billions of euros of funds as an unfair advantage over competitors.

He said companies like E.ON, RWE and EDF were using funds for acquisition sprees in countries like Britain, Italy and Spain, where the market is already more open than in France and Germany.

At a meeting with EU government representatives last Friday, which was meant to work out a final deal on the bill, Germany said it would block it if it included the clause, Turmes said.

Parliament's energy committee will vote on the bill on Thursday ahead of a final ballot by the whole assembly in June.

EU laws passed in 1996 and 1998 ensured that in each country, at least 30 percent of the electricity market and 20 percent of the gas market is already open to competition, figures that rise to 35 percent and 28 percent this year.

The new bill would ensure that all firms in the EU, even the smallest, could shop around for the best deal from energy suppliers from July 2004. By 2007, household customers would be in the same position.

8. Late News from the UN Climate bureau

Don't forget UN World Environment Day is June 5. Not quite sure what we are supposed to do. Don't step on an endangered bug? Keep trees from emitting terpenes and polluting the atmosphere by increasing ozone? Or talk cows into not emitting methane? Whatever. Just celebrate!

And get ready for UN World Day against Desertification and Drought on June 15, which will be celebrated in Hamburg, Germany. How inappropriate; they could have chosen Ouagadougou!


And finally, a News Flash from Britain:

Reuters today reported that a teacher had been arrested in the UK for possession of compasses, protractor and ruler. It is claimed that he is a member of the "al Gebra" movement bearing weapons of math instruction.



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