Sunday, June 11, 2006

China Syndromes

I saw a couple of strong stories on the environment in the Sunday papers. In "Aging Nuclear Plants Pushed to the Limit," Mike Hughlett and Robert Manor of the Chicago Tribune look at the implications of the nuclear industry's drive "to run reactors harder, longer and faster than ever before." What impressed me most are the specific examples Hughlett and Manor give from aging nuclear power plants such as vibrations causing gaping cracks and steel fragments ending up stuck in steam pipes. With the federal government looking to nuclear power as a possible fix for the energy crisis, this is indeed an important story.

Equally important is "Pollution From Chinese Coal Casts a Global Shadow" by Keith Bradsher and David Barboza of The New York Times. Bradsher and Barboza describe how Chinese coal-burning power plants are exporting "a dangerous brew of soot, toxic chemicals and climate-changing gases." Chinese coal pollution has traveled as far as California, Oregon and Washington, they report. Unless a change is made, in 25 years global-warming gases from China's coal use will exceed those of the rest of the industrialized world combined, Bradsher and Barboza warn, causing a potential environmental catastrophe. This story has a wealth of detail and analysis and is clearly written considering the complexity of the subject.


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