WBEZ | nuclear http://www.wbez.org/tags/nuclear Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Iran nuclear talks extended http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-11-24/iran-nuclear-talks-extended-111151 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP59866658391.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran has been extended for seven months. We&#39;ll take a look at what the extension could mean with Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, and Joseph Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-iran-nuclear-talks-extended/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-iran-nuclear-talks-extended.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-iran-nuclear-talks-extended" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Iran nuclear talks extended" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-11-24/iran-nuclear-talks-extended-111151 The U.S. and Nuclear Weapons http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-11-07/us-and-nuclear-weapons-111078 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP307803699825.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Investigative journalist Eric Schlosser spent six years examining the state of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. His joins us to talk about his book &#39;Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety,&#39; which documents his findings.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-the-u-s-and-nuclear-weapons/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-the-u-s-and-nuclear-weapons.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-the-u-s-and-nuclear-weapons" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: The U.S. and Nuclear Weapons" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 11:25:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-11-07/us-and-nuclear-weapons-111078 Reduced nuclear output at some Illinois plants http://www.wbez.org/news/reduced-nuclear-output-some-illinois-plants-107789 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Nuclear.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Exelon, one of the largest utility providers in the country, will be reducing the amount of energy it provides from some of its Illinois nuclear power plants. That concerns David Kolata, executive director of The Citizen Utility Board. He worries the company is reducing supply, in order to increase the price of electricity. He says that kind of market manipulation, &ldquo;opens up a whole hornet nest of issues.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;What we don&rsquo;t want to happen from a consumers&rsquo; point of view is the worst of all possible worlds, where you get markets when they lead to higher prices, and no markets when they lead to lower prices,&rdquo; said Kolata.</p><p>Exelon says sometimes electricity prices drop so low, it actually cost the company money to produce energy. Those are the times it would take energy off-line. Exelon says they are working with <a href="http://www.pjm.com/about-pjm.aspx" target="_blank">PJM</a>, the company that oversees energy markets, to get advanced notice of when it looks like the price of energy will drop. The company says that is well within guidelines against market manipulation.</p><p>The reason for the very low energy prices is also under debate. Exelon blames wind subsidies, which they say makes it impossible for other forms of energy to compete.</p><p>Kolata says that claim is overblown. He says the low price of natural gas, a result of fracking, might have more to do with the price drop. He also says that the demand for electricity has dropped, which he attributes both to the recession and more energy efficient products.</p><p>Nuclear energy currently&nbsp; makes up about half of the energy used in Illinois. Kolata says as we move towards more renewable energy resources and smart grid technology, that the market will reward forms of energy that can quickly respond to demand. Nuclear, which generally runs 24/7 and needs notice to ramp up and down, could struggle. Exelon says as long as patterns are predictable, they will remain competitive.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/shannon_h" target="_blank">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Thu, 20 Jun 2013 15:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/reduced-nuclear-output-some-illinois-plants-107789 Huge magnetic ring coming to Chicago’s suburbs via the long road http://www.wbez.org/news/huge-magnetic-ring-coming-chicago%E2%80%99s-suburbs-long-road-107145 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Magic%20Ring%202_130513_LW.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="The muon ring at Brookhaven National Laboratories. The 50-foot ring will be removed from its casings and separated from many attachments, but cannot be dismantled for transport to Fermilab. (Brookhaven National Laboratory)" /></div><p>Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory in west suburban Batavia has a very unusual shipment coming this summer: an electromagnetic ring so wide its journey will shut down whole highways.</p><p>The ring, which looks like a huge hula-hoop, currently resides at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, where it&rsquo;s been used to conduct high-level experiments on tiny subatomic particles called muons.</p><p>&ldquo;We use them to probe the basic underlying structure of particle physics,&rdquo; said Chris Polly, a Fermilab physicist. &ldquo;What are the particles out there, how do they interact at the most fundamental level?&rdquo; But after being created by high-energy interactions between particles, they only exist for about two millionths of a second.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now, there&rsquo;s muons passing through you,&rdquo; Polly said. Those muons sometimes come to earth in &ldquo;showers&rdquo; produced by high-energy particle collisions in the earth&rsquo;s atmosphere; countless invisible muons shower down over wide areas. &ldquo;We sometimes build experiments that are a mile underground just because we&rsquo;re trying to get away from the muons.&rdquo;</p><p>Despite being common, muons are elusive and difficult to study. Because the miniscule particles exist so briefly before decaying into electrons and neutrinos, they have to be carefully suspended in a magnetic field for observation. That&rsquo;s where the magic muon ring comes in: the latest in muon experiments requires a very strong magnetic field, and the way to create that field is through a ring that&rsquo;s fifty feet in diameter, or about four highway lanes wide.</p><p>The muon ring&rsquo;s massive metal casings can be removed, but the ring itself has to stay in one piece and can&rsquo;t be tilted more than a few degrees. That means its journey to the western suburbs of Chicago this summer will begin with a barge trip down around the tip of Florida, through the Gulf of Mexico and up the Mississippi River to get to Chicago&rsquo;s waterways. The ring will then get off the boat at Lemont Port to be<a href="http://www.fnal.gov/pub/presspass/press_releases/2013/images/Muon-g-2-201305/Muon5-map-hires.jpg" target="_blank"> transported to the Batavia lab</a> using high-tech remote control carts. Between the carts, the ring and the entourage of police officers and scientists, the process is expected to shut down stretches of I-88 and I-355 overnight in July. <a href="http://www.fnal.gov/pub/presspass/press_releases/2013/images/Muon-g-2-201305/g-2_MoveMap_US-hires.jpg" target="_blank">The entire trip</a> is about 3,200 miles.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Magic%20Ring_130513_LW.jpg" style="height: 191px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="A model of the special cart that will transport the muon ring. The ring is taking a 3,200-mile trip from Long Island to Chicago’s Fermilab in summer of 2013. (Fermilab)" />Polly&rsquo;s excited about the ring&rsquo;s arrival because the previous Muon g-2 (pronounced &ldquo;g-minus-two&rdquo;) experiment at the Brookhaven Lab found inconsistencies not predicted by physicists. These anomalous observations could suggest the existence of a previously unknown particle; in other words, the Standard Model of physics could be proven to be incomplete.</div><p>The results of the Brookhaven experiment are suggestive but uncertain, mainly because a definitive answer would require 20 to 25 times more data than Brookhaven&rsquo;s researchers were able to gather with the technology available to them. Fermilab&rsquo;s advanced accelerator technology, some of which is left over from the now-defunct Tevatron, will allow the the lab to produce the necessary amount of muons for the experiment.</p><p>Fermilab broke ground last week on a new experimental lab to accompany the ring, and the ring won&rsquo;t be ready to experiment with until 2016. At that point, Polly says the experiment is expected to take three to four years to complete. But he says it&rsquo;s worth the wait.</p><p>&ldquo;It could be a harbinger of new physics,&rdquo; said Polly. &ldquo;There could be new particles in the universe.&rdquo;</p><p>The shipping cost for the magnetic donut is 2.5 million dollars, but Fermilab says that&rsquo;s just a tenth of what it would cost to build a new one.</p><p>You can watch a demonstration of the ring&rsquo;s mode of transportation and follow its actual movement this summer on the <a href="http://muon-g-2.fnal.gov/" target="_blank">Muon g-2 website</a>.</p><p><em>Lewis Wallace is a Pritzker Journalism Fellow at WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/lewispants" target="_blank">@lewispants</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 13 May 2013 16:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/huge-magnetic-ring-coming-chicago%E2%80%99s-suburbs-long-road-107145 Does Illinois have a nuclear future? http://www.wbez.org/news/does-illinois-have-nuclear-future-106113 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F83427532&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>President Barack Obama was in town Friday visiting Argonne National Laboratory in the Western suburbs. The president talked about his &ldquo;all of the above&rdquo; energy policy, which includes alternative fuels and better batteries, but one area didn&#39;t get quite as much air time from the president: nuclear power.&nbsp;</p><p>Illinois continues to be the largest producer of nuclear power in the country.</p><p>And scientists at Argonne, and nearby Fermilab, want to keep it that way &ndash; by making nuclear part of our sustainable energy future.</p><p>But the future of nuclear here and across the country is shaky. After a long hiatus, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is licensing <a href="http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors/col/new-reactor-map.html" target="_blank">new reactors</a> again, but most of those are in the Southeast, and none are in Illinois.</p><p><strong>Reduce, reuse, recycle...</strong></p><p>The first rule of Argonne National Laboratories: Don&rsquo;t touch anything. When nuclear engineer Roger Blomquist took me on a tour, he was sure to show me the Geiger counter the employees use to check their hands and feet on the way in and out of the lab where Argonne builds specialized parts for research reactors.&nbsp;</p><p>I learned the second rule of Argonne pretty fast, too: Don&rsquo;t say <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-04/illinois-swims-in-atomic-waste-with-dump-unbuilt-bgov-barometer.html" target="_blank">nuclear waste</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;The idea that it is waste is somebody&rsquo;s interpretation,&rdquo; Blomquist said. At Argonne,&nbsp;the radioactive stuff most of us know as nuclear waste is called spent nuclear fuel.</p><p>Part of the reason for the linguistic shift, says Blomquist, is that we could be recycling the materials in nuclear waste.</p><p>&ldquo;With enough recycling you can use 100 percent of the energy that&rsquo;s in the uranium ore you dig out of the ground,&rdquo; he said. Today&rsquo;s technology uses up just one percent of the power we could be getting out of uranium through nuclear fission. The rest comes back out of the reactors, mixed with a slush of more volatile, radioactive elements.</p><p>But recycling nuclear fuel is well within reach. Blomquist is working on the development of <a href="http://www.ne.anl.gov/research/ardt/afr/index.html" target="_blank">fast reactors</a>, a type of nuclear reactor that can run on reprocessed fuel and that he says would be smaller, more contained and safer than the reactors we currently use.&nbsp;</p><p>Just down the road at Fermilab, Argonne&rsquo;s sister laboratory, researcher and associate lab director Stuart Henderson agreed that the technology in use these days is way behind the times.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of what we do with spent nuclear fuel is sort of what Homer Simpson would do,&rdquo; Henderson said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not very sophisticated.&rdquo;</p><p>Reprocessing or <a href="http://www.ne.anl.gov/pdfs/12_Pyroprocessing_bro_5_12_v14[6].pdf" target="_blank">pyroprocessing</a> nuclear waste would allow us to take the pellets of radioactive fuel out of reactors, separate out the elements with the longest half-lives, and reuse them as fuel for reactors. The only thing left over would be the most radioactive parts of the waste, which decay in just a few hundred years.</p><p>Right now spent fuel has to be stored in pools or casks for hundreds of thousands of years.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7145_DSC_1405-scr.JPG" style="height: 208px; width: 310px; float: right;" title="(WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>Henderson&rsquo;s working on another type of nuclear reactor that would deal with both waste and safety issues, a reactor powered by a particle accelerator.</p><p>Right now, what happens in a nuclear reactor is a <a href="http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Nuclear_chain_reaction.html" target="_blank">controlled chain reaction</a>: in short, particles crash into one another and cause other particles to crash into one another, generating an enormous amount of heat.</p><p>But once it starts, nuclear fission in a reactor can be hard to slow down.</p><p>In the new model, called a sub-critical reactor, there would be no chain reaction. A particle accelerator would shoot particles into the reactor to keep the reaction going.</p><p>So if you want to stop it, you just hit a switch and turn off the accelerator.</p><p>&ldquo;That means that the reactor is never capable of having a Chernobyl-type explosion,&rdquo; Henderson said. He&rsquo;s in touch with Belgian scientists who are building one of these reactors, called a sub-critical reactor; his job is to help build the high-powered accelerator that&rsquo;s capable of doing the job.</p><p><strong>If you build it</strong></p><p>So, what&rsquo;s the hangup? Where are these reactors of the future?</p><p>Both Blomquist and Henderson say having the technology is simply not enough to usher in a nuclear renaissance. We&rsquo;d need to start building these reactors of the future now if we wanted to be getting power from them in less than 15 years, and in the U.S., that&rsquo;s just not happening.</p><p>They both say the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a part of that equation &ndash; it&rsquo;s expensive and complex to license a reactor design, so much so that companies don&rsquo;t see an incentive to get involved with the grandiose designs of the future, no matter how much safer they might be. Here in Illinois, Exelon is looking to make its current reactors more efficient, but there are <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2012/03/29/exelons-nuclear-guy-no-new-nukes/?feed=rss_home" target="_blank">no plans for new reactors</a> in the state.</p><p>&ldquo;Nobody&rsquo;s gonna build any new ones, anytime soon,&rdquo; said Mark Cooper, a researcher at the University of Vermont who studies the <a href="http://www.vermontlaw.edu/Documents/NuclearSafetyandNuclearEconomics(0).pdf" target="_blank">safety and economics of nuclear power</a>.</p><p>Cooper says other options available like solar, wind, natural gas and coal remain far more economically viable than nuclear, and he suggests we should be investing more in other high tech energy innovations.</p><p>Plus, he says even the most advanced nuclear reactors still come with risks &ndash; and someone has to pay for insurance on those, too.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;As you operate them, you learn that you haven&rsquo;t done enough,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Mother nature throws you a curve, human beings don&rsquo;t behave properly, equipment breaks down.&rdquo;</p><p>Just two years after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan, those possibilities loom large, especially for people with nuclear power in their own backyards.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7148_DSC_1438-scr.JPG" style="height: 228px; width: 340px; float: left;" title="Ronda Bally puts on music at the Stumble Inn in Godley, down the road from the Braidwood plant. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /><strong>Living with nuclear power</strong></p><p>Braidwood, Ill. is only 50 miles from the high tech labs, but in a lot of ways, it&rsquo;s a different world. The fear of nuclear power is real here.</p><p>Exelon operates a nuclear plant at the edge of the small town, and in the 1990s the water was contaminated with radioactive tritium from the Braidwood plant. <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2006-01-26/news/0601260133_1_exelon-nuclear-exelon-corp-nuclear-plant" target="_blank">According to the Chicago Tribune</a>, Exelon didn&rsquo;t admit the mistake until years later.</p><p>The people in Braidwood have developed a sort of gallows humor about living near a reactor.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re gonna be the first one to go if you live by one,&rdquo; said resident Mike Franklin put it. In other words, you won&rsquo;t live to suffer through the devastating effects of radiation &ndash; and that&rsquo;s a good thing. Franklin, like a lot of people I talked to, grew up in Braidwood, and said he generally doesn&rsquo;t think much about the plant.</p><p>In a grocery store parking lot at Braidwood&rsquo;s main intersection, just up the road from the reactor, I caught an older man named Charles Crick unloading his grocery cart. He worked at the Braidwood plant.</p><p>&ldquo;I started in a nuke in 1971, and I worked in &lsquo;em until I retired,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Do I glow in the dark? No.&rdquo;</p><p>The Stumble Inn is a bar just a mile down the road the other way, in the 600-person town of Godley. The morning crowd at the Stumble Inn was small but enthusiastic - and none of them like living near the plant.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not for nuclear power,&rdquo; said Arthur Wallace, who goes by Slick here. Slick&rsquo;s son-in-law worked at the Braidwood reactor, and died of leukemia at age 44; some research suggests <a href="http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/nrsb/miscellaneous/Sauer_morning_present.pdf" target="_blank">links between leukemia and radiation</a>. His daughter worked in security at the plant.</p><p>&ldquo;They sent her home every once in awhile with her badge gettin&rsquo; too much rads. Too much radiation,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;She quit after 11 years.&rdquo;</p><p>The bartender, Ronda Bally, was a school bus driver for a long time, and recalled getting trainings from Exelon on how to pick up children and the elderly during a nuclear emergency.</p><p>&ldquo;My life is half over,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;My kids and my grandkids still have a lot of years left ahead of them, and if something as basic as a water supply could cause them serious health issues or even possible death, I have a problem with that.&rdquo;</p><p>A lot of people here say they&rsquo;d support safer nuclear power in a heartbeat. But Bally, like Slick, isn&rsquo;t sure she wants a nuclear future at all.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m kinda more interested in the whole wind farm thing that they&rsquo;re doing now&rdquo;, she said. &ldquo;Nuclear anything is very scary.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The nuclear future</strong></p><p>&ldquo;Nuclear power is the worst investment in the current environment,&rdquo; said Mark Cooper. &ldquo;You have gone through a series of these pursuits of a technological holy grail. And they have failed.&rdquo;</p><p>His point: scientists have known about safer nuclear for decades &ndash; and companies just aren&rsquo;t willing to spend the money to make it happen.</p><p>But Roger Blomquist at Argonne thinks it&rsquo;s only a matter of time before climate change eclipses the barriers to nuclear innovation.</p><p>&ldquo;Then getting rid of burning fossil fuels will become a national emergency,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And when that happens, that&rsquo;s when this technology will be blindingly obvious to most people.&rdquo;</p><p>At that point, he says, maybe living in the nuclear future won&rsquo;t seem so bad.</p><p>Follow <a href="http://twitter.com/lewispants" target="_blank">Lewis Wallace on Twitter.</a></p></p> Thu, 14 Mar 2013 23:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/does-illinois-have-nuclear-future-106113 America's Misguided Policy Concerning Iran http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/americas-misguided-policy-concerning-iran-105643 <p><p><strong>John Mearsheimer</strong> is the E. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor and co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago. He has written extensively about security issues and international politics, including the books <em>Why Leaders Lie: The Truth about Lying in International Politics,&nbsp;The Tragedy of Great Power Politics,</em>&nbsp;and <em>The Isreal Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy</em> (with Stephen M. Walt). He has written numerous articles for academic journals and op-ed pieces for <em>The New York Times</em> and the <em>Los Angeles Times</em> dealing with topics like Bosnia, nuclear proliferation, American policy toward India, the failure of Arab-Israeli peace efforts, and the folly of invading Iraq.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F80128334" width="719px"></iframe></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ASCD-webstory_3.jpg" title="" /></div><p>Recorded live Sunday, January 27, 2013 at the&nbsp;Stevenson Historic Home.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Sun, 27 Jan 2013 16:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/americas-misguided-policy-concerning-iran-105643 CP-1: The Past, Present, & Future of Nuclear Energy and the 70th Anniversary of the First Nuclear Chain Reaction http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/cp-1-past-present-future-nuclear-energy-and-70th-anniversary-first-nuclear <p><p>On December 2, 1942, 49 scientists, led by Enrico Fermi, made history when Chicago Pile 1 (CP-1), under the west stands of the original Alonzo Stagg Field stadium at the University of Chicago, went critical and produced the world&rsquo;s first self-sustaining, controlled nuclear chain reaction.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F78655018" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>This talk commemorates the 70th anniversary of the world&rsquo;s first self-sustaining, controlled nuclear chain reaction with Dr. <strong>Mark Peters</strong>, Deputy Laboratory Director for Programs Argonne National Laboratory, and Dr. <strong>Robert Rosner</strong>, Director, Energy Policy Institute Chicago at the University of Chicago. The two speakers will discuss nuclear energy from the history of CP-1 to what the future holds.</p><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/C2ST-webstory_8.jpg" title="" /></div></div><div>Recorded Friday, January 25 at&nbsp;Hughes Auditorium, Northwestern University Chicago Campus.</div></p> Fri, 25 Jan 2013 11:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/cp-1-past-present-future-nuclear-energy-and-70th-anniversary-first-nuclear Clever Apes: Chicago's nuclear legacy http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2012-03-15/clever-apes-chicagos-nuclear-legacy-97337 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-15/Artists rendering of chicago Pile 1 courtesy of Argonne.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Artist's rendering of the first nuclear reactor. (Argonne National Laboratory)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-15/cp1-hirez.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 338px;" title="Artist's rendering of the first nuclear reactor. (Argonne National Laboratory)"></p><p>As we mark the one-year anniversary this week of the natural and nuclear disasters in Japan, it seems like a good time to reflect on Chicago’s deep and complicated nuclear history. Chicago is the cradle of nuclear energy, but it’s also the place where some of the first doubts about the wisdom of nuclear technology emerged.</p><p>During World War II, the so-called “Metallurgical Laboratory” at the University of Chicago became the center of the United States’ efforts to develop a working nuclear reactor. The project was led by physicist Enrico Fermi, an Italian Nobel Prize winner with an ever-present slide rule. In 1942, beneath the stands of a defunct football stadium, he began building a structure so crude that it was literally called a “pile.” Chicago Pile 1 was a stack of graphite and uranium, with control rods inserted at key points. On December 2, Fermi ordered the rods lifted, creating the first manmade self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.</p><p>This history has been well-told in many places, including <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-12-02/december-2-1942-enrico-fermi-and-atomic-chicago-94361">John Schmidt’s anniversary post here on WBEZ.org</a>. You can also hear an arresting description of the breakthrough moment in <a href="http://www-news.uchicago.edu/fermi/resources.html">this old audio documentary</a> (and we excerpt it in our conversation with Steve Edwards on The Afternoon Shift, which you can stream or download via the buttons above).</p><p>Meanwhile, Fermi and the technology quickly moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where work began in earnest on building a bomb. It became clear that Fermi felt conflicted about it, aware of the terrible power of his own research. Manhattan Project scientists in Chicago and elsewhere were growing alarmed at the dangers of nuclear war. In June of 1945, they drafted the Franck Report, one of the first notes of caution in the nuclear age. They urged the federal government not to use the bomb in battle, and argued that nuclear weapons and energy technology should be controlled by the international community, rather than one nation alone.</p><p>Out of this movement of scientists emerged the <a href="http://www.thebulletin.org/">Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists</a>, which has published continuously since 1945. Their mission was to “warn the public” about the dangers of nuclear weapons (they have since added many other causes). They were a crucial voice, especially in the early days, in the debates over nuclear technology, and played a big role in making sure nuclear weapons and energy fell not under military control, but under a civilian agency. They also helped to spur the <a href="http://www.pugwash.org/">Pugwash Conferences</a>, which brought together scientists from the U.S., the Soviet Union and elsewhere for dialogs about the arms race. The conferences helped lay the groundwork for future international treaties, and in 1995 the conference organizers won the Nobel Peace Prize.</p><p>So Chicago is both the home of the first nuclear reactor, and home of the first glimmers of nuclear conscience. Even now the region has active antinuclear movements, and yet depends on nuclear power for half its electricity. From Enrico Fermi’s mixed feelings to today, Chicago’s atomic history has always been ambivalent.</p><p>You can subscribe to our <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-clever-apes/id379051174" target="_blank" title="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast">podcast</a>, follow us on&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/cleverapes" target="_blank" title="http://twitter.com/#!/cleverapes">Twitter</a>, and find us on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412" target="_blank" title="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>.</p></p> Thu, 15 Mar 2012 21:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2012-03-15/clever-apes-chicagos-nuclear-legacy-97337 Worldview 2.23.12 http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-02-23 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/episode/images/2012-february/2012-02-23/ap460725037.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Nick Angotti, executive director and co-founder of the<a href="http://peaceonearthfilmfestival.org/" target="_blank"> Peace on Earth Film Festival,</a> tells <em>Worldview</em> about the origins of the festival.&nbsp; The festival open today in Chicago.&nbsp; Also, documentary filmmaker Adam Horowitz discusses his festival entry <a href="http://www.nuclearsavage.com/" target="_blank">“Nuclear Savage: The Islands of Secret Project 4.1," </a>a film about U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands. &nbsp;The islands were the site of U.S. human radiation experiments conducted during the Cold War.&nbsp; And, <em>WBEZ’s</em> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy" target="_blank">Alison Cuddy</a> talks with<a href="http://www.luisurrea.com/" target="_blank"> Luis Alberto Urrea</a> about his new novel T<em>he Queen of America</em>, a follow-up to his earlier book <em>The Hummingbird’s Daughter</em>.&nbsp; Both are inspired by the story of his real-life aunt Teresa or Teresita, a Mexican saint and revolutionary.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 23 Feb 2012 15:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-02-23 Gas drilling could take air out of offshore wind http://www.wbez.org/content/gas-drilling-could-take-air-out-offshore-wind <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-08/Wind_Farm_D36.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>I understand the power of Lake Erie wind as soon we’re out past the breakwaters of Cleveland Harbor. The waves make our 74-foot tugboat bob like a rubber toy in my preschooler’s bath tub.</p><p>Before long, I’m sweating and looking for a place to heave.</p><p>Right next to me, Bill Mason seems to be enjoying the ride. In fact, he wants to show me a spot where the wind is even stronger. “Where we’re headed is to an anemometer,” Mason says, mispronouncing the instrument’s name. “It’s been measuring the wind speeds since, I think, 2007. So I know we have good wind.”</p><p>Mason doesn’t know all the particulars about wind energy. But, as the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, he knows a lot about Northeast Ohio. Since taking office in 1999, Mason has seen about a 100,000 manufacturing jobs disappear from the area.</p><p>Installing a handful of wind turbines offshore could spark a revival, Mason says, changing Cleveland’s image from a deindustrialized ghost town to “a green city on the blue lake.”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-09/RS4522_Wind_Farm_A28-scr.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 184px; margin-left: 0px; margin-right: 18px; float: left;" title="Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason says putting turbines in Lake Erie could revive the city. (Front and Center/Bridget Caswell)">Mason has been promoting the wind-farm idea for seven years. In 2009, he helped form a quasi-public group, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, to turn the idea into reality. Representing Cleveland and four counties along the lake, LEEDCo has held dozens of community meetings. It has secured an option for nine square miles of the lake. It has studied possible impacts on wildlife. And it has begun work on designs and permits.</p><p>Mason tells me Cleveland could help build offshore wind farms throughout the Great Lakes. He points to the city’s proximity to rail lines, deep-water port facilities and manufacturers. He says companies in the area could retool to make parts and supplies ranging from transmission cables to ice-resistant blade coating. The wind-farm supporters commissioned a study that says their project could lead to 15,000 new Ohio jobs within two decades.</p><p>The supply chain could include Lincoln Electric, which makes welding equipment in Euclid, a suburb northeast of Cleveland. Lincoln Electric is already getting a taste of wind-energy generation since installing a 443-foot-tall turbine this year to help power the company’s main plant.</p><p>Driving up the lakeshore, I can see the three rotor blades spinning from miles away. On a windy day, the tips go 160 miles an hour, the company tells me. But I can’t hear any sound from the turbine until I’m within a stone’s throw. Looking straight up at the blades, I notice a subtle swoosh as each one passes.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-09/RS4525_Wind_Farm_D36-scr.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 183px; float: right; margin-left: 15px; margin-right: 4px;" title="Lincoln Electric’s Seth Mason says his company’s new turbine provides a case study for the offshore project. (Front and Center/Bridget Caswell)">The turbine has given a lot of local people—from regulators to engineers to truck drivers—their first contact with a wind project. Lincoln Electric energy manager Seth Mason (no relation to the prosecutor) says this experience could help with the offshore installation, which would be just a few miles away.</p><p>“You basically have the same wind regime [and] you’re basically going to have the same amount of migratory birds at this longitude,” Mason says. “So I think it provides a case study for the next machine.”</p><p>It’s not just local boosters who think a Lake Erie wind farm could revive Northeast Ohio. Christopher Hart, the U.S. Department of Energy’s offshore wind chief, sees it that way too. “If a place like Cleveland is able to establish the demonstration project and then is able to leverage that demonstration project into a larger position in the industry, this could really, really have an impact on the local economy.”</p><p>Hart tells me Cleveland has the best shot at installing the first Great Lakes wind farm. But he points to a huge barrier: “Given the current technology, given the current regulatory structure, offshore wind doesn’t make economic sense.”</p><p>DOE calculations suggest it’s more than twice as expensive to generate electricity from offshore wind as from coal, natural gas or nuclear fission. The New York Power Authority pointed to costs this fall when it pulled the plug on some proposed Great Lakes turbines.</p><p> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 0pt 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted rgb(170, 33, 29); margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; }ul { margin-left: 15px; }li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 0pt 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><a href="/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-06/FC-logo-sm_0.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 38px;" title=""></a><ul><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/plant-entrepreneurs-turn-waste-jobs-93782"><span style="color: rgb(255, 0, 0);">ViDEO:</span></a> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/plant-entrepreneurs-turn-waste-jobs-93782">Plant turns waste into jobs</a></strong></li><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/imadeajob"><strong><span style="color: rgb(255, 0, 0);">INTERACT: </span>Made a Job? Tell us about it.</strong></a></li><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/can-milwaukee-become-silicon-valley-water-93835"><strong>The Silicon Valley of water</strong>:<strong> Milwaukee?</strong></a></li></ul></div><div class="inlineContent">&nbsp;</div></div><p>That frustrates Chris Wisseman, who leads a consortium called Freshwater Wind that LEEDCo chose last year to develop Cleveland’s offshore wind farm. “All we’re talking about here is a new technology that looks like it’s got the ability to be very cost-effective inside of a decade,” he says.</p><p>The construction will run about $130 million, Wisseman tells me. The financing will be tricky because few utilities are eager to buy electricity that is so expensive. The only purchaser on board so far is municipally owned Cleveland Public Power, which has agreed to buy a quarter of the wind-farm output.</p><p>So LEEDCo is pushing for Ohio to <em>compel</em> utilities to buy the electricity and pass along the cost to customers—a process known as rate recovery. If the plan covered just northern Ohio, Wisseman says, business and residential customers would each pay an extra $0.40 a month.</p><p>The area’s big utility, Akron-based First Energy, says it won’t take a stand on that rate recovery until it sees a proposal. The Ohio Association of Manufacturers tells me it will probably go along with the plan if it doesn’t hit electricity-intensive companies hard.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-08/Kasich.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 268px; margin-top: 5px; margin-left: 0px; margin-right: 18px; float: left;" title="Ohio Gov. John Kasich isn’t saying whether he’ll support rate recovery for the offshore wind project. (AP/File)">But rate recovery won’t get far without support from Gov. John Kasich. He appoints the members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which regulates the state’s electricity rates. And his Republican Party controls both houses of the state legislature.</p><p>At an energy forum Kasich’s office organized this fall, the governor didn’t leave any doubt that his energy focus would be an Appalachian rock layer called Utica Shale. In Ohio, that shale holds a lot of natural gas. To free up the fuel, companies such as Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. want to drill thousands of horizontal wells and inject pressurized fluids—a process known as fracking.</p><p>An industry-funded study says the fracking could create more than 200,000 jobs in Ohio over the next four years. The potential boom is keeping Kasich’s staff busy. “We have had 129 separate meetings—5 regional meetings, 78 with business associations, 46 meetings with oil-and-gas division experts—all across Ohio,” the governor said at the forum.</p><p>At the same time, contaminated groundwater in nearby Pennsylvania is giving fracking a bad name. Kasich promises environmental safeguards for Ohio.</p><p>The governor says he’ll also promote renewable energy efforts. So, when I catch up with him, I ask whether those will include Cleveland’s offshore wind project.</p><p>“There is a place for renewables,” Kasich replies. “But we have to be very clear: They’re very expensive. That doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities in the state. It doesn’t mean that over time they [won’t] become less expensive. But specific projects have to be looked at very, very carefully.”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-09/RS4524_Wind_Farm_C26-scr.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 184px; margin-left: 15px; margin-right: 2px; margin-top: 5px; float: right;" title="A tugboat captain who knows about Lake Erie wind recalls cleaning a seasick crewmate with a hose. (Front and Center/Bridget Caswell)">I press Kasich, asking whether he will support the rate recovery proposed for the offshore project. He declines to answer.</p><p>Another Ohio Republican is talking about that rate recovery. State Sen. Kris Jordan, who represents suburbs north of Columbus, tells me it’s a bad idea. “I just don’t believe—when we have more affordable, more ready energy sources—that government should be subsidizing" an offshore wind farm.</p><p>Back on the Lake Erie tugboat, the vessel’s captain notices my pale color. He says he once had to clean off a seasick crewmate with a hose.</p><p>Bill Mason, the prosecutor behind the proposed wind farm, agrees I’ve seen enough of the lake. On the way back to port, he shakes his head at the thought of a natural-gas boom tripping up his project.</p><p>“We don’t know how much energy is going to be produced from this fracking,” Mason says. “We don’t know the environmental damage that possibly could happen from it. And we don’t know what it’s going to cost, if there is damage, for that recovery. If we take that step down that road, won’t it be nice to know that we have other alternatives such as the wind industry out here on the Great Lakes?”</p><p>And wouldn’t it be nice, Mason adds, if the center of that industry were Cleveland?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><h2>Great Lakes wind projects struggle for footing</h2><p>Offshore wind-energy advocates face tall hurdles in the Great Lakes, but some projects are advancing. WBEZ’s Maham Khan brings us these snapshots.</p><script type="text/javascript" src="http://public.tableausoftware.com/javascripts/api/viz_v1.js"></script><div class="tableauPlaceholder" style="width: 554px; height: 769px;"><noscript><a href="#"><img alt="Offshore wind " src="http:&#47;&#47;public.tableausoftware.com&#47;static&#47;images&#47;Gr&#47;GreatLakesoffshorewindfarmproposalsandstudies&#47;Offshorewind&#47;1_rss.png" style="height: 100%; width: 100%; border: none" /></a></noscript><object class="tableauViz" style="display: none;" width="554" height="769"><param name="host_url" value="http%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableausoftware.com%2F"><param name="name" value="GreatLakesoffshorewindfarmproposalsandstudies/Offshorewind"><param name="tabs" value="no"><param name="toolbar" value="yes"><param name="static_image" value="http://public.tableausoftware.com/static/images/Gr/GreatLakesoffshorewindfarmproposalsandstudies/Offshorewind/1.png"><param name="animate_transition" value="yes"><param name="display_static_image" value="yes"><param name="display_spinner" value="yes"><param name="display_overlay" value="yes"></object></div><div style="width: 554px; height: 22px; padding: 0px 10px 0px 0px; color: black; font: 8pt verdana,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;"><div style="float: right; padding-right: 8px;">&nbsp;</div></div></p> Wed, 09 Nov 2011 11:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/gas-drilling-could-take-air-out-offshore-wind