|The Week That Was
Oct. 16, 2004
1. New on the Web: PROF. JOHN CAMERON REVIEWS THE AVAILABLE
STUDIES ON HEALTH EFFECTS OF LOW-LEVEL NUCLEAR RADIATION. MODEST EXPOSURES
SHOW A HORMESIS EFFECT THAT INCREASES LONGEVITY.
2. EPA TO ALLOW ACTIVIST PARTICIPATION IN RISK REFORMS:
3. PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE COURTROOM:
4. STUDY REVEALS COMPLIANCE SHORTFALLS BY EU MEMBERS:
5. IS AIDS CONCERN OVERBLOWN?
6. KERRY YET TO TAKE A POSITION ON GIANT WIND-POWER PROJECT
7. MORE ON FLOATING NUCLEAR PLANTS
8. MUCH ADO ABOUT CO2
2. EPA to Allow Activist Participation in Risk Reforms:
Chemical Policy Alert reports that EPA has agreed to include representatives
from environmental groups in a series of meetings that will discuss how
the Agency may alter the ground rules for how science is used in establishing
risk criteria for chemicals. The risk standards to be discussed have a
significant impact on setting the criteria for state and federal regulators
use in setting cleanup levels and other environmental standards. EPA is
seeking to build scientific consensus around possible risk reforms, such
as ways to base chemical risk estimates on multiple studies instead of
a single study. Agency officials have been working with professional societies
representing toxicologists, environmental chemists and risk assessors.
Groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council met with EPA officials
last month to protest their exclusion from the meetings.
3. Protecting the Environment in the Courtroom:
In Maine, blueberry farmers are being sued to stop the aerial spraying
of pesticides. Salmon farms are being sued for clean water violations.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is being sued for not protecting the
Canadian lynx and the gray wolf, and the EPA is being sued over its proposed
mercury standards. Environmental groups operating in the state have initiated
all these suits.
The Portland Press Herald recently looked at how lawsuits are becoming
a favored tool of activists. Environmentalists say the suits are necessary
to force the hand of regulators at a time when enforcement of environmental
laws has become extremely politicized. However, many critics argue that
runaway lawsuits are interfering with environmental protection efforts
and pushing broader agendas at the expense of science. According to one
expert from the Maine Department of Marine Resources, "the sheer
number of environmental lawsuits is slowing down research, harming communications
and collaborations between agencies, and leading to a kind of paranoia
among some government workers who worry if they don't take action in certain
cases - even if they consider it a waste of time and money - they will
4. Study Reveals Compliance Shortfalls by EU members:
According to the EU's fifth annual survey on the enforcement of its environmental
laws, many of its member companies are falling behind in implementing
and enforcing regulations. Environment Watch: Europe reports that as of
December 2003, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain have the worst
compliance records. Throughout the EU, the study documented 88 cases where
environmental laws were not implemented on time, 118 cases where the national
laws implementing EU laws were not fully compliant with the EU laws, and
95 cases where secondary regulations and requirements were inadequate
or incorrect. Most of the compliance problems were in the area of environmental
impact assessments, natural resource preservation, and waste and water
5. Is AIDS Concern Overblown?
"The proportion of Americans who consider HIV/AIDS to be the "most
urgent health problem facing this nation today" has decreased from
38% in 1997 to 17% in 2002." So laments former Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) HIV/AIDS director Dr. Harold Jaffe in the
August 27 issue of Science. While lauding the U.S. overseas effort, he
insists "We must ask ourselves why we, collectively, don't care more
about the domestic epidemic."
To a great extent Dr. Jaffe, now with the Department of Public Health
at Oxford University in England, literally illustrates why AIDS should
be eliciting less concern and funding. In the article's sole graph, he
shows new diagnoses peaked a full decade ago and are now barely half the
rate as then. Deaths peaked slightly later and have declined about 75
About 16,000 Americans died from AIDS in 2002, approximately half the
number that die annually from flu. Meanwhile, over half a million die
from cancer yearly, with the deaths from incurable pancreatic cancer alone
about twice that as for AIDS. According to the CDC, 435,000 Americans
die each year from tobacco-related disease and another 400,000 from poor
diet and lack of exercise. (Though arguably those last two figures are
What Dr. Jaffe views with alarm actually reflects a decrease in national
hysteria. It's obscene that almost a fifth of Americans still consider
AIDS our prime health problem when heart disease, which kills 700,000
Americans annually, gets a worry rating of merely eight percent.
Although AIDS cases and deaths are declining and the disease remains completely
preventable, it nonetheless gets almost $180,000 in research funds per
death from the National Institutes of Health. Compare that to its closest
rivals: Parkinson's disease, prostate cancer, and diabetes. All of these
receive about $14,000 per death. Alzheimer's gets about $11,000. Yet Dr.
Jaffe bemoans that the CDC HIV/AIDS budget has not kept up with inflation
over the last few years. So a minimum 13-to-1 spending ratio over any
other disease somehow isn't enough.
Further, it's possible we've already reached the point where HIV infection
has become a controllable disease, especially for those with recent diagnoses.
That's hardly the case with Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.
And that only includes medical research funding. Each year under the "Ryan
White CARE" legislation, which Congress unanimously re-authorized
in 2000, approximately $2 billion in taxpayer funds are doled out to AIDS
patients for medicine, housing, meals, cash payments, dental care, and
a vast panoply of goods and services. Victims of no other disease have
any such entitlement.
6. Kerry yet to take a position on giant wind-power project
By Hal Bernton, September 30, 2004, Seattle Times
NANTUCKET, Mass. From his family's island vacation home here that
fronts the sea, John Kerry relishes the chance to hook into his windsurfing
gear and sail as far as 35 miles across Nantucket Sound to Cape Cod.
On the campaign trail, when Kerry talks about U.S. energy independence,
he cites the wind as part of a massive, new effort to develop U.S. renewable-energy
"I believe we can and should produce 20 percent of
our electricity from renewable sources by 2020," Kerry said in a
June 2003 speech on energy delivered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "Twenty
by 2020 now that's a clear vision for America."
But Kerry's vision is not yet clear on whether he supports the largest
wind-power project ever proposed in the United States. The project would
erect 130 turbine-topped towers in the middle of blustery Nantucket Sound,
a site touted by the developer as the best wind-power site in New England.
So far, Kerry has balked at endorsing the project, saying he is waiting
to review an Army Corps of Engineers draft report expected to be released
later this fall.
Meanwhile, in Helmshagen, North Germany, a Danish-built wind turbine
collapsed. No deaths or injuries reported but concerns about safety (Ostseezeitung/Greifswalder
Zeitung 3.9.04). The 80-turbine wind park Horns Rev (Vestas) off the Danish
coast must be completely rebuilt because of difficulties from salt air
and wave action (FAZ 20.9.04)
7. More on Floating Nuclear Plants
Russia floating nuclear plant -- on your mark, ready, set, ... set,
... set ...
Russian company Rosenergoatom may get financing from China to construct
a floating nuclear plant to built at Severodvinsk shipyard. China could
finance from half to all of the US$145 million construction. The company
is bullish on the prospects for floating plants, because they could claim
a large share of the fast-growing global desalination market. Their mobility
would allow them to provide fresh water and electricity to coastal areas
in Asia and Africa. Associated Press cites a company insider, who asked
to remain anonymous, as saying that Chinese officials have offered a loan
for the project. China may build the barges used for the plants. If the
first plant turns out to be safely operated, China may be interested in
joining in more such deals. There have been many "green lights"
announced for Russia's floating nuclear plant project recently, but construction
has not yet begun.
[Ref: Associated Press, "Russia, China may cooperate in building
floating nuclear power plants", The Russia Journal, July 23, 2003
Indonesia to try FNP?
Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry offered Indonesia an experimental 48-megawatt
floating nuclear plant. The plant would be capable of moving to different
parts of the archipelago when more electricity is temporarily needed.
Such a plant, complete by the year 2015, is expected to cost some $200-300-million
to build. Construction would be done in Indonesia, under supervision of
Russian specialists. Russian and Indonesian representatives have reportedly
held provisional talks and intergovernmental documents are being drafted
for signing. [Source:Ria OREANDA Economic News (Russia), "Russia's
Atomic Energy Ministry Sells Indonesia Experimental Floating Nuclear Plant",
April 24, 2003]
Russia offers India floating nuclear power plants
In March this issue was discussed in India by Vladimir Asmolov, Russian
Nuclear Agency representative, ITAR-TASS reported. 2004-04-10
Russia has offered to supply floating nuclear plants to India as a way
of bypassing international restrictions on nuclear technology transfers.
The NSG restrictions will not be broken as Russia plans to build a floating
nuclear power plant and trawl it to India's shores. The plant will be
operated by Russian personnel and India will only buy electricity. One
70-MW floating unit can generate enough electricity and thermal energy
to support a town of 50,000 people or provide enough fresh water for one
million people. Mounted on a barge it can be towed to any point along
India's coastline and operate for four years without reloading nuclear
fuel. However, the cost of electricity produced by the $150-million floating
plant will be twice as high as for onland reactors. Russia is planning
to construct a full-fledged floating nuclear plant by the year 2008 to
supply power to the country's remote northern areas.
Russia is now constructing two nuclear reactors at Koodankulam in Tamil
Nadu under an accord signed before the NSG clamped down its restrictions
in 1992. Being a member of the NSG, Russia cannot have any new nuclear
deals with India, but floating reactors are different.
8. Much ado about CO2
In recent decades CO2 increased on average by 1.5 parts per million (ppm)
a year because of the amount of oil, coal and gas burnt, but has now jumped
to more than 2 ppm in 2002 and 2003.
Since there was no sign of a dramatic increase in the amount of fossil
fuels being burnt in 2002 and 2003, the rise could be a weakening of the
Earth's carbon sinks or a temporary increase of natural emissions
Recordings from a volcano-top observatory, NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory
on Hawaii, showed carbon dioxide levels had risen to an average of about
376 parts per million (ppm) for 2003. The level of the major greenhouse
gas, carbon dioxide, in the Earth's atmosphere has hit a record high,
US government scientists have reported.
Of course, you dummies. With continued annual increases, every year is
bound to set a new record.
Global Warming hysteria sweeps Europe - once again
In Spiegel Online/ Science
"MYSTERIOUS CO2-VALUES: Researchers see Indications for a Heat Spiral"
Even scientists who can be relied on to support the global warming scare
are embarrassed. Prof. Mojib Latif (at Kiel University): "Two years
is not enough to establish a trend."
Sir David King, Tony Blair's intrepid chief scientific adviser, will
draw attention to the unprecedented rise in a speech on climate change
at a Greenpeace event
tomorrow night. [The Daily Telegraph, 11 October 2004]
Yes, that's what all the excitement is about. Measured CO2 increases
in 2002 and 2003 exceeded the average yearly increase. Not by much, mind
you; the 1998 increase was much higher. And what about all those years
when the increase was below average? Does that also portend a crisis?
Perhaps a little ice age?
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