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April 24, 2018

Landscape guide, solar hotel, Poconos park, Dollywood fest

NEW YORK (AP) — EXPLORING CULTURAL LANDSCAPES

An ancient pueblo inhabited for centuries by indigenous people. A city park inspired by the Midwestern prairie. A Hudson River estate designed as a three-dimensional work of art.

What do these places — the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, Columbus Park in Chicago and Olana in New York — have in common? They’re all cultural landscapes — places that are important because of their history or association with individuals, communities or events. And they’re included — along with 1,700 other sites — in an online database called What’s Out There, created by the Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington D.C.

The database at http://www.tclf.org offers photos and information about designed landscapes (as opposed to natural or unaltered landscapes) in order to promote awareness and preservation efforts. The foundation has also published nine guidebooks about cultural landscape legacies in places ranging from Denver to Miami. This year the organization will sponsor a number of events including weekend tours in Austin, Texas; Newport, Rhode Island; Denver and Toronto, along with a photo exhibit on the work of landscape architect Dan Kiley that will be shown Jan. 24-Feb. 28 at the University of Colorado in Denver and at New York’s Center for Architecture March 26-June 20.

The organization’s website has been optimized for iPhones and other digital devices with a “What’s Nearby” button that provides an illustrated list of all the landscapes in the database within a 25-mile radius.

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SOLAR-POWERED HOTEL

A hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is running on sunshine.

Guest rooms at the Hotel Santa Fe The Hacienda and Spa are now 100 percent solar-powered, according to the hotel and Stay.Solar, a new company that’s looking to bring solar power to the hotel industry.

But you won’t see solar panels in the hotel roof — even though New Mexico has plenty of sunny days. The energy is produced at large-scale solar installations elsewhere and is delivered to the hotel by smart-grid technology.

“It’s kind of like depositing money in a bank in New York and pulling it out of an ATM machine somewhere else,” explained Stay.Solar president Don Hicks.

Guests won’t notice anything different — other than a sign on the hotel registration desk and in each room explaining the solar sourcing.

Hotel Santa Fe is the first hotel to convert to all-solar power with Stay.Solar. “To be the first out of the gate with this company, we are very excited about that,” said hotel spokesman Steve Lewis. “It felt like a really good fit.”

The 163-room Hotel Santa Fe The Hacienda and Spa is majority-owned by the Picuris Pueblo, an indigenous community north of Santa Fe.

Stay.Solar is looking to expand the program to other high-end boutique hotels around the country. But the energy does cost more to produce than energy from conventional sources like coal: “It’s a premium product,” said Hicks. Customers sign up as part of a commitment to green business practices, not to save money. As long-term demand for solar energy grows, the cost of producing it is expected to drop.

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NEW POCONOS WATER PARK

Kalahari Resorts is planning to open a water park in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains in June. It’s the company’s first location in the Eastern U.S. The first Kalahari Resort opened in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, in 2000, and the second opened in 2005 in Sandusky, Ohio.

The new Kalahari will be Pennsylvania’s largest indoor water park at 100,000 square feet. It will include a family entertainment center with bowling, laser tag, black-light mini-golf and arcade games. The resort will have 457 guest rooms along with convention center space, restaurants, a spa, golf course.

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DOLLYWOOD CHRISTIAN MUSIC FESTIVAL

Dollywood is launching a new event later this year: Rock the Smokies, a Christian music festival scheduled for Sept. 5.

The event at the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, theme park will feature Third Day and For King & Country among others. Festival tickets will include admission to the park and rides. Tickets are expected to go on sale in February.

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Landscape guide, solar hotel, Poconos park, Dollywood fest

Ukraine's recent nuclear reactor scare harkens back to ghosts of historic nuclear accidents

One of the reactors in Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine suffered an accident that triggered an automatic shutdown this week. Reports suggest that damage occurred to a transformer in one of the 1000-megawatt reactors at the Zaporizhye plant, which provides over one-fifth of the country’s electricity.

Ukraine’s energy minister said that it was a “technical fault” and assured the public that there was “no threat” to the reactor’s safety, according to BBC News

With the country already suffering fuel shortage, Ukraine this winter will probably be forced to import electricity from Russia.

Accidents at nuclear rectors makes folks understandably nervous, and is also a reminder that despite all the climate change benefits we get from nuclear energy – like cutting greenhouse gas emissions – there are a lot of risks associated with it, too.

Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima all grabbed the world’s attention over the past 30 years when the crises unfolded at those plants. But what happened after they left the headlines?

The worst-ever U.S. nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, near Middletown, Pennsylvania, was a partial meltdown that occurred on March 28, 1979

The facility was only 3 months old when a cooling problem caused one of the reactors to overheat and release radioactive gases and iodine into the environment, but it wasn’t enough to cause any confirmed health effects to local residents.

The reactor was shut down permanently, was decontaminated and put into what is known as “post-defueled monitored storage,” with plans for dismantling only after its neighbouring reactor on site is shut down sometime in 2034.

In April 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster occurred at Ukraine’s Chernobyl power plant. technicians lost control of nuclear fission reactions in the reactor core and heat rose quickly until pressure built up and explored the core, releasing radioactive steam into the atmosphere. After the initial explosion occurred, fire broke out that sent large clouds of radioactive particles high into the air, which was then swept over a large part of Western Europe. 

Thirty-one people – technicians and firefighters mostly – died from the accident itself, and untold thousands may have contracted cancer. Exact numbers are still being debated

If you want to see the devastation that this nuclear accident wrought in its immediate surroundings check out newly-released video footage obtained via a remote-controlled drone. This is the first time that the nearby ghost town Pripyat has been filmed from the air.

The power plant itself is entombed within an aging concrete structure that was hastily built back during the old Soviet era.

Currently, an internationally-funded project is underway to build a massive 32,000 ton metal arch that will contain the entire building. Hopes are that it will be ready by 2017, before the existing shelter collapses and releases more radioactive-laden dust into the atmosphere like a dirt bomb. It is expected that the arch should last anywhere from 100 to 300 years.

Finally, the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami showed us that there can be natural forces that have to be considered with nuclear power. The Fukushima Daiichi power plant, located 220 km northeast of Tokyo on Japan’s east coast, had three of its six reactors melt down when it got hit by tsunami waves triggered by a 9.0 earthquake. This knocked out its generators which caused its reactors to overheat, explode and release radioactivity into the environment – contaminating food, water and air.  

Over 300,000 people were evacuated from the surrounding villages. Nearly 16,000 residents are still unable to return to their homes because clean up efforts are being hindered by unsafe levels of radiation in the soil and water.

All this radiation from the disaster has definitely not been isolated to just Japan. Researchers monitoring the Pacific Ocean, in which much of the radiation spilled into, have detected radioactive isotopes this past November just 160 km off the coast of California.

So this story will continue to unfold for many years to come.

See the original article here – 

Ukraine's recent nuclear reactor scare harkens back to ghosts of historic nuclear accidents

Fukushima study: Think about unthinkable disasters

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. science advisory report says Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident offers a key lesson to the nation’s nuclear industry: Focus more on the highly unlikely but worst case scenarios.

That means thinking about earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, solar storms, multiple failures and situations that seem freakishly unusual, according to Thursday’s National Academy of Sciences report. Those kinds of things triggered the world’s three major nuclear accidents.

“We need to do a soul searching when it comes to the assumptions” of how to deal with worst case events, said University of Southern California engineering professor Najmedin Meshkati, the panel’s technical adviser. Engineers should “think about something that could happen once every, perhaps 1,000 years” but that’s not really part of their training or nature, he said.

“You have to totally change your mode of thinking because complacency and hubris is the worst enemy to nuclear safety,” Meshkati said in an interview.

The report said the 2011 Japanese accident, caused by an earthquake and tsunami, should not have been a surprise. The report says another Japanese nuclear power plant also hit by the tsunami was closer to the quake’s fault. But the Onagawa plant wasn’t damaged because quakes and flooding were considered when it was built.

Onagawa had crucial backup electricity available for when the main power went down, as opposed to Fukushima which had emergency generators in a basement that flooded. Onagawa’s operators had “a different mindset” than the executives who ran Fukushima, Meshkati said.

The other two nuclear accidents — at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island and Ukraine’s Chernobyl— were caused by multiple system failures.

Lee Clarke, a Rutgers University risk expert and author of the book “Worst Cases,” criticized the academy’s report as too weak. He said the tone of the report made it seem like the accident was unpredictable and caught reasonable people by surprise “and it shouldn’t have.” But the report itself said the “the Fukushima accident was not a technical surprise.”

David Lochbaum of the activist group Union of Concerned Scientists said the problem is that federal law financially protects the U.S. nuclear industry from accidents gives utilities little incentive to spend money on low-probability, high-consequence problems.

But Nuclear Energy Institute senior vice president Anthony Pietrangelo said the American nuclear industry has already taken several steps to shore up backup power and deal with natural disasters.

“We cannot let such an accident happen here,” he said in a statement.

Another issue the report raised was about how far radiation may go in a worst case accident.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission orders plants to have emergency plans for a zone of 10 miles around a nuclear plant. But the academy study said Fukushima showed that “may prove inadequate” if a similar accident happened in the U.S. People nearly 19 miles away in Japan needed protection from radiation. But the committee would not say what would be a good emergency zone.

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Online:

National Academy Report: http://bit.ly/1pMeTAX

Source:

Fukushima study: Think about unthinkable disasters