The head of the Environmental Protection Agency's office in Dallas has resigned over comments he made in 2010 that became the focus of political condemnation last week.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said Monday that she accepted a letter of resignation from Al Armendariz. "I respect the difficult decision he made and his wish to avoid distracting from the important work of the agency," Jackson said in a written statement.
In the letter dated Sunday, Armendariz said he regrets his comments, adding that they did not reflect on his work or the work of the EPA.
The controversy erupted last week when a video surfaced showing Armendariz saying in 2010 that his methods for dealing with non-compliant oil and gas companies were "like when the Romans conquered the villages in the Mediterranean. They'd go into little villages in Turkish towns and they'd find the first five guys they saw and crucify them."
Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis pioneered the business of sending millionaire tourists to space. Now they want to mine asteroids for what they say will be tens of billions of dollars worth of resources annually for use on Earth and beyond.
Seattle-area's Planetary Resources, backed by big-money investors including filmmaker James Cameron and Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, said Tuesday it plans to develop and launch a series of robotic systems and unmanned spacecraft, starting with its Arkyd-100 Earth-orbiting space telescopes that it hopes to launch by the end of 2013 to identify candidate near-Earth asteroids.
The company hopes to dispatch swarms of Arkyd-300 prospecting spacecraft, which would orbit candidate asteroids and finish the process of determining what they hold, within 10 years.
The Bellevue, Washington, company would then unveil a new system of spacecraft for the payoff: mining precious metal, such as platinum, for use on Earth; and extracting water, whose elements the company says can be used for fuel and life-support systems in space.
In short, Planetary Resources hopes it will be in a crucial and lucrative position of not only boosting terrestrial industry, but also setting up a network of fuel depots that humanity will need to better explore the solar system and beyond.
"The Earth is feeling a resource pinch, and ultimately we will have the ability to turn that which is scarce into abundant," Diamandis, who co-founded Planetary Resources with Anderson in 2009 but generally kept mum about the project until this month, said at a press event in Seattle on Tuesday.FULL STORY
The Senate narrowly rejected a Republican-sponsored measure Thursday that would have bypassed the Obama administration's current objections to the Keystone XL pipeline and allowed construction on the controversial project to move forward immediately.
Fifty-six senators voted in favor of the amendment - four short of the 60 required for approval. Eleven Democrats joined a unanimous Republican caucus in backing the plan.
The proposed 1,700-mile long pipeline expansion, intended to carry crude oil from Canada's oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast, has become a political lightning rod. Supporters, including the oil industry, say it's a vital job creator that will lessen the country's dependence on oil imported from volatile regions.
Opponents say the pipeline may leak, and that it will lock the United States into a particularly dirty form of crude that might ultimately end up being exported anyway.FULL STORY
Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved licenses to build two new nuclear reactors Thursday, the first authorized in over 30 years. CNN looked into safety at U.S. plants. There are 23 nuclear reactors in the United States that use the General Electric-designed Mark 1 containment housing, which is similar to the design at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant. Readers talked about the safety of U.S. plants.
Some readers thought the concerns were overblown. This was the most-liked comment:
Jack Baker: "We have been using nuclear power for over 50 years, and there have been very few serious incidents, and only a couple of incidents with injuries or radiation release. And considering that the quantity of waste by-product is significantly less than any other type of power generation, including natural gas, how can people be so adamant against nuclear power?"
There were many who responded in turn to Jack Baker's coment.
MK54: "I believe that rendering a portion of the Earth uninhabitable for centuries, maybe more is a tremendous and unacceptable disaster, because of the persistence, even if no person is directly killed. The scale of a disaster is not always just in people killed. Earth is a beautiful and hospitable place, but it is up to us to keep it that way."
pwrphoto: "Many people would say that it's because of ignorance but I think it is mostly due to the subjective nature of how we, humans, perceive risk. Risk has two components: likelihood and impact. Your comment focuses on both risk and likelihood but most people only look at the impact. That is, they don't care if having a nuclear accident is very unlikely. They just care that if there is an accident the consequences are extreme. It is for the same reason that airplane accidents attract more attention than each individual road accident."
PatriotEagle: "Also, unlike Japan we don't get tsunamis. And France is completely energy because they run the whole country on nuclear energy and there's not been one nuclear problem to my knowledge in France."
One reader replied to the "Why?" and wondered why other kinds of energy aren't being explored. FULL POST
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved licenses to build two new nuclear reactors Thursday, the first authorized in over 30 years.
The reactors are being built in Georgia by a consortium of utilities led by Southern Co. They will be sited at the Vogtle nuclear power plant complex, about 170 miles east of Atlanta. The plant already houses two older reactors.
"Today marks an advancement in our nation's energy policy," Southern Company chief executive Thomas Fanning said at a press conference after the approval. "The project is on track, and our targets related to cost and schedule are achievable."
The five-member NRC voted in favor of the licenses four to one, with Chairman Gregory Jaczko dissenting.FULL STORY
U.S. carbon emissions plunged during the 2007-2009 recession, and conservation efforts, a weak recovery and more use of natural gas will help keep those levels down for another 15 years, the Energy Department reported Monday.
Coal-fired power plants will remain the largest source of U.S. electricity throughout that period at nearly 40% of total output, the department projects in its annual report on the future of energy. But the Energy Information Administration's 2012 report finds that emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for a warming climate are likely to remain below their 2005 levels until 2027.
"These projections reflect increased energy efficiency throughout the economy, updated assessments of energy technologies and domestic energy resources, the influence of evolving consumer preferences and projected slow economic growth," the agency's acting administrator, Howard Gruenspecht, said in a statement accompanying the report.
Overall, the share of fossil fuels as an energy source is expected to drop from 83% to 77% in 2035, the report states.FULL STORY
Gravel quarried inside Japan's Fukushima nuclear evacuation zone has turned up in construction projects in the city of Nihonmatsu, including an elementary school and a condominium, according to Japanese media reports.
The Mainichi Daily News, citing government investigators, reports Thursday that the radioactive gravel has been shipped to more than 200 companies and may be in everything from bridges to homes for evacuees from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The disaster left more than 15,000 people dead and damaged the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant, causing radiation leaks when three nuclear reactors suffered meltdowns.
The government established a 20-kilometer (12-mile) evacuation zone around the damaged plant on April 22. The suspect construction material came from a quarry in Namie, within the evacuation zone, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported. But it was originally shipped to 19 companies between the time of the quake and the establishment of the zone, according to a Mainichi report.
The Obama administration will likely announce its opposition to the controversial Keystone pipeline project as early as today, according to a Democratic source briefed on the matter.
The pipeline would run from northern Alberta in Canada down to Texas's Gulf Coast. Republicans and some unions want to push approval through for the project in favor of the job creation prospects. The administration points to environmental reviews still underway and opponents express concerns about the nation's oil dependency being further embraced in regards to not rushing a decision.FULL STORY
Two ships trying to break through ice to resupply ice-bound Nome, Alaska, are nearly there after a 10-day journey but have paused to identify the safest path into harbor, a U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman said Friday.
The U.S. Coast Guard's only operating Arctic icebreaker, the Cutter Healy, and the Russian fuel tanker Renda were in the Bering Sea about eight nautical miles from Nome on Friday morning, Coast Guard Lt. Veronica Colbath told “CNN Newsroom.”
The Healy will have broken through nearly 300 miles of ice for the Renda, which is transporting 1.3 million gallons of fuel for Nome on a journey that began last week from southern Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. The ships’ leaders and an ice expert are discussing “the best way to proceed” to Nome on northwestern Alaska’s coast, Colbath said.
“We have (had) … ice and weather challenges on this 300-mile journey, so we will not be rushing into the harbor of Nome until we have identified the best course of action to navigate in,” Colbath said.
A nuclear scientist was killed in a blast in Tehran on Wednesday morning, an Iranian news agency reported. It's the latest in a string of attacks that Iran has blamed on Israel.
A motorcyclist placed a magnetic bomb under Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan's Peugeot 405, the state-run IRNA news agency said. The blast also wounded two others, IRNA said.
State television channel Press TV reported later Wednesday that Roshan's driver, named as Reza Qashqaei, had died in a hospital from his injuries.
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani condemned the attack and said it would not undermine Iran's resolve. "This is not the first time that arrogant powers adopt such futile measures," he said, according to Press TV.FULL STORY
Nuclear rivals India and Pakistan exchanged lists of their nuclear sites Sunday in accordance with a 1988 agreement that prohibits the neighboring countries from attacking the locations, officials in Islamabad said.
Pakistan's foreign ministry confirmed that it turned in its list to the Indian High Commission, and received the same from New Delhi. There was no immediate comment from Indian officials.
Both countries recently returned to talks on conventional and nuclear weapons, Indian officials have said.
No major developments were expected from the high-level talks, which were held in Islamabad last week. The discussions were aimed at building confidence between the two nuclear powers, according to a December statement from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.FULL STORY
Russian authorities seized radioactive material from the luggage of a passenger on a flight from Moscow to Tehran on Friday.
The luggage, belonging to an Iranian citizen, contained 18 metal objects packed in individual steel cases, Russia's Federal Customs Service said in a statement. The agency said the material, the radioactive isotope sodium-22, can be obtained in a nuclear reactor.
Initial tests showed that radiation levels of the objects were 20 times above normal, the customs service said.
The Russian atomic agency Rosatom, however, said sodium-22 is exclusively used for medical and scientific research and does not have a high radiation level. Rosatom contradicted the custom agency's claim that the material can only come from a nuclear reactor.FULL STORY
Pacific Gas & Electric Company said Tuesday that it is liable for the San Bruno, California, pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes in September 2010, and will compensate the victims.
Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage on the efforts of the deficit "super committee" to reach a deal on reducing the national debt.
Today's programming highlights...
9:00 am ET - Solyndra loan hearing - Energy Secretary Steven Chu will testify on his department's loan guarantee to troubled solar company Solyndra.
Australian power companies say skyrocketing solar panel use is overloading their power lines, according to news reports.
In the wake of new limits set by Australia’s energy industry on solar panel installation, one power company said it may raise power rates to ease system strains created by the reverse flow of electricity, according to the Australian.
The issue stems from the increase in homes and businesses using photovoltaic cells, which feed electricity back into networks. The upsurge is creating “consequences for appliances and equipment in customers' homes," energy provider Ausgrid said in a letter to the New South Wales pricing and regulatory body, the Australian reported.
Ausgrid, one of the largest power providers Down Under, warned of the “significant likelihood" that costs would need to go up due to the solar craze, which has taken off in parts of Australia.
Officials in Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city, are investigating soil samples after a radioactive substance was found in sediment atop an apartment building about 155 miles (250 kilometers) from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, according to news reports.
The discovery has raised concerns that leaked radiation from three Fukushima reactors that suffered meltdowns after the March earthquake and tsunami may be more widespread than thought, The Japan Times reported Wednesday.
The findings come after a travel alert issued by the U.S. government last week, warning Americans in Japan to avoid areas near the stricken reactors.
The alert recommends that U.S. citizens stay away from areas within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the nuclear facility. The State Department also admonished Americans to stay away from territory northwest of the plant in a zone that Japan calls the "Deliberate Evacuation Area." The zone includes Iitate-mura, the Yamagiya district of Kawamata-machi, Katsurao-mura, Namie-machi and parts of Minamisoma.
The radioactive isotope strontium-90 was detected on a rooftop by a private agency responding to a resident's request, The Japan Times reported.
Strontium-90 has been found in Japan at concentrations up to 20 becquerels before the nuclear crisis, The Japan Times said. The latest discovery found the strontium-90 level at 195 becquerels, according to the paper.
Since strontium-90, which has a half-life of 29 years, is widely dispersed in the environment and the food chain in trace amounts, external exposure is minimal, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. With internal exposure at high concentrations, strontium-90 can accumulate in the bones and is “one of the more hazardous constituents of nuclear wastes,” according to the EPA.
Meanwhile Wednesday, Tokyo Electric Power Co., the embattled utility whose territory includes the nuclear crisis zone, held a disaster drill at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power, according to news reports.
After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami off Japan damaged the Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactor, the Japanese government was presented with a scenario which would have required the evacuation of half of Tokyo and the entire width of the main island of Honshu, former Prime Minister Naota Kan says in an interview with Kyodo News.
The evacuation zone would have covered all areas within 200 to 250 kilometers (125 to 155 miles) of the nuclear reactor, meaning about 30 million people in Tokyo and its surrounding areas would have needed to be moved, according to the Kyodo report in The Japan Times.
Kan said he feared such an evacuation would have resulted in chaos, according to the report.
"I wasn't sure whether Japan could continue to function as a state," he is quoted as saying.
Kan also said Japan was not prepared for the disaster resulting from the 9.0-magnitude quake.
"We had never foreseen a situation in which a quake, tsunami and a nuclear plant accident would all happen at the same time," he is quoted as saying.
Kan resigned in August after widespread criticism of how his government handled the aftermath of the quake. His approval rating plummeted.
As of early September, more than 75,000 residents who live within 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) of the crippled nuclear plant were still unable to return to their homes because of high radiation levels.
Toshio Nishizawa, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima plant, has said he hopes to achieve the second phase of a cold shutdown of the plant before a January deadline.
South Koreans found themselves sweltering in the heat, stuck in elevators and even without cell phone service Thursday as power outages affected hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
The South Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy said high demand for air conditioning during a heat wave, together with reduced supplies as power plants were shut down for maintenance, likely led to the blackouts, the country's Yonhap news agency reported.
The country's sole electric service provider, Korea Electric Power Corp., said it was forced to cut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to prevent the electrical grid from falling below reserve levels that could lead to a nationwide blackout that could take days or weeks to recover from, according to the Yonhap report.
The power company instituted rolling blackouts that lasted about four hours, ending at about 8 p.m. local time.
The power cuts led to 100 reports of people trapped in elevators and shut down banks and schools, The Korea Herald reported. No injuries were reported.
Temperatures went as high as 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) in Seoul on Thursday, about 10 degrees higher than average.
"There were many power plants that began their annual maintenance as the hot season passed. Demand was unusually high today while they were preparing for the cold season," a ministry official told Yonhap.
Temperatures in the 80s are expected to continue through Saturday.
An oven exploded Monday at a nuclear site in France, killing one person and injuring four others, a spokeswoman for French energy company EDF said.
There was no radioactive leak or waste released, she said. The Ministry of the Interior and the French nuclear safety agency also said there had been no radioactive leak, CNN affiliate BFM-TV reported.
The explosion took place in Marcoule, in southeastern France, the EDF spokeswoman said, declining to give her name in line with company policy.
Weapons-grade plutonium is produced at the plant, the think tank Global Security said. EDF did not immediately confirm that.Read CNN's full coverage of the explosion at a French nuclear site
[Updated at 8:02 a.m ET] San Diego Gas and Electric Company says it has restored power to all 1.4 million customers in its service area affected by a massive power outage that began Thursday afternoon.
[Updated at 6:56 a.m. ET] By early Friday morning, power had been restored to 710,000 consumers in San Diego County, the utility said. Power was back on late Thursday for consumers in Arizona and California's Orange and Imperial counties.
Millions, though, were still without power.
[Posted at 5:42 a.m. ET] The California ISO, the state's power grid operator, says nearly 5 million people in San Diego, Orange and Imperial counties may have been affected by the power outage.
The number is an estimate of the average number of people living in households in the region that were without power at the height of the blackout.
The total includes San Diego Gas & Electric's estimated 1.4 million customers, or 3.5 million people, who were without power at the height of the outage.
About 20,000 consumers, or 60,000 people, in Orange County and another 150,000 consumers, or 450,000 people, in Imperial County were without power.
The total does not include those in Arizona or Mexico who were without power.