Nuclear Power’s Place in an Uncertain Energy and Changing Climate World

by Joe Mirabella

iStock_000055421440MediumFor millennium no one knew how the sun worked. Then in 1905 Albert Einstein discovered that energy and mass were interchangeable with his famous formula, energy equals mass times the speed of light squared (E=MC2). In other words, a little mass can give a whole lot of energy. In the 1930’s it was discovered that if you bombard Uranium 235 with neutrons you create a chain reaction which can unleash that energy. This led to the development of the atomic bomb in WWII.

In 1955 the navy developed the first nuclear powered submarine. That technology was developed to generate electricity that is now operating approximately 430 nuclear power plants in the world, around 100 in the U.S. generating around 20% of our electricity. However, starting in the 60’s and 70’s, concern developed regarding the safety of these nuclear plants and the long term disposal of highly radioactive nuclear waste. The nuclear accidents at 3 Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima and the failure establish a long term nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada has rightfully fed into these legitimate concerns.

However alarms over the environmental effects of global warming resulting from massive CO2 emissions have led some environmentalist to reevaluate the relative dangers of nuclear power. Nuclear power plants emit no CO2 or any air pollution. Estimates vary but air pollution from burning fossil fuels for electricity kills around 1.5 million people a year worldwide from stokes, heart disease, COPD, cancers, asthma and other diseases (WHO). Coal is a particularly destructive source of energy not just from air pollution but from mining and disposal of millions of tons of toxic coal ash.

The Chernobyl accident accounts for all documented deaths from all nuclear accidents at around 78. Long term increased cancers from low level radiation spread from Chernobyl and Fukushima (none from 3 Mile Island) are difficult to measure and estimates vary widely from zero to thousands spread over decades but nowhere near that from burning fossil fuels.

All nuclear power plants are not the same. The Chernobyl reactor was a terrible, dangerous design that no longer exists and the Fukushima plant had major serious design flaws that could not handle the tsunami that struck it. Modern existing designs are far safer and more efficient and there are many advanced experimental designs that would eclipse even those. Fusion nuclear reactors promise unlimited clean energy from seawater with no nuclear waste and no possibility of a nuclear accident.

Long term storage of nuclear waste does not yet exist but existing intermediate term storage in concrete and steel silos could provide indefinite safe storage. Radioactive decay continuously reduces the dangers that these wastes pose. Existing and advanced nuclear reactor designs could use nuclear waste as fuel to greatly reduce or eliminate radioactive waste.

In conclusion: Nuclear energy has its risks that need to be evaluated seriously but its 60 year record is far less environmentally dangerous and destructive than burning fossil fuels. Existing nuclear power plants should be kept in operation and modernized whenever possible. New nuclear power plants may not be financially viable, at least in the short run, because of the current abundance of cheap natural gas unless there is a carbon tax or carbon credits. Later in this century fusion power may provide mankind with unlimited clean and safe energy but until then energy conservation, improved efficiency and renewable energies like solar are always the best way to go.

This is an overview of a presentation given by the Ewing Green Team’s Joe Mirabella.  For more information and to arrange for a presentation contact  him at ewinggreenteam@gmail.com.  Look for the slide show with presentation highlights coming soon.

Delaware RiverKeeper Publishes New Fracking Impact Study

IMG_0535A brand new Fracking Impact Study (August 2015) should be required reading for all of the residents who live  in and around the Delaware River in the shadow of the shale gas  boom.  The report  was commissioned and published by the  Delaware RiverKeeper Network, an advocacy group aimed at preserving the health of the Delaware River.   The Fracking Impact Study quantifies the potential harm to the environment and residents along the Delaware River Basin if the current moratorium imposed by the Delaware River Basin Commission were to be lifted.  This ban has kept gas companies out of the Delaware River Basin to date but without a permanent ban, the basin could be opened.

The RiverKeeper Network commissioned a comprehensive study by CNA Analysis and Solutions, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research firm, of what could happen to the region if the Delaware River Basin is opened up to  fracking.

The Delaware River, the 400 mile long free flowing river that forms the western border for our community,  is perpetually at risk from natural gas extraction companies because it sits on top of the Marcellus Shale,  the second largest gas field in the country.

The Potential Environmental Impact from Fracking in the Delaware River Basin  comprehensively details  the potential environmental impacts broken into categories of land, water, and air.

  • Land use required by the extraction process would cause a reduction in core forest areas, significant  in a densely populated area that cannot afford more habitat destruction and  loss of carbon storage.
  • Local watersheds would also be degraded due to the amount of water used in the extraction process.
  • Wastewater discharges of some key contaminants posed significant risks and increased erosion rates would contaminate the river headwaters.
  • Billions of cubic feet of methane gas would be added to the atmosphere annually and nitrous oxide creating smog would dangerously decrease air quality in a region that now has clean, high air quality.

This report adds needed weight to the growing body of scientific studies on the potential detrimental impacts of fracking.   Read the report and then add your voices to those opposing hydraulic fracturing along our western boundary and tell the Delaware River Basin Commission to make the fracking ban permanent.

Sourwood – August Tree of the Month

Oxydendrum arboreum. leaves and flowers, 7/15
Oxydendrum arboreum. leaves and flowers, 7/15

by Ann Farnham, LLA

The tree favored this month by the Ewing Environmental Commission is Sourwood, Oxydendrum arboretum, one of America’s most beautiful native trees. It is at home in the eastern and southeastern United States in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9. Ewing is located in USDA Zone 6b.

This specimen is located at a residence in the Mountain View neighborhood of Ewing. Sorrel Tree and Lily of the Valley Tree are two other names by which it is known.

Sourwood, a pyramidal, medium-sized deciduous tree (usually 25 to 30’ in height) with slightly drooping branches has glossy green leaves which turn brilliant scarlet in the fall.

Its bell-shaped, fragrant flowers appear in June through July in this area and are white pendulous clusters which persist for several weeks. Honeybees favor the flowers, from which they make a fine flavored honey.

Sourwood is unusual in that it gives us summer flowering as well as extraordinary fall color.

This fine tree prefers an acid, moist and well-drained soil. It will thrive in full sun or partial shade, although the fall color is best when the tree is located in full sun.

 Sourwood attracts few insects or diseases, none of which is serious.

The Ewing Environmental Commission welcomes suggestions for the Tree of the Month from all Ewing residents. Email suggestions or questions to lafarnham@verizon.net.

To calculate the value that trees add to your property, go to treebenefits.com/calculator/

Eat Locally and Support Regional Environmental Progress at the Farm to Table Event

HAL_0199Join the Ewing Green Team in supporting a greener Mercer County at the fourth of Terhune Orchards’ annual Farm to Table Fun(d)raisers. This year’s celebration, held at Terhune Orchards on Thursday, July 23, from 5-9 p.m., will benefit the Green Teams and sustainability organizations of Mercer County.

The event will feature fresh ingredients from local farms prepared by the well-known chefs from the Terra Momo Restaurant Group and the Bent Spoon, celebrating the local food movement and promoting awareness about county-wide sustainability efforts, while raising money to fund them under the auspices of the Mercer County Sustainability Coalition.

HAL_0235The Mercer County Sustainability Coalition is an alliance of Green Teams and sustainability organizations in the County. Formed in 2013 from the nascent irregular meetings of the various green teams and organizations around Mercer County, the Coalition works to promote a regional and collaborative approach to sustainability initiatives. Environmental issues know no regional boundaries. From our air and water quality, to transportation, to trash and recycling, these issues are common to all of the municipalities within a region. It simply makes sense to promote sustainability regionally and to tackle issues together. By uniting together coalition members can become greater than the sum of their individual parts.

HAL_0310Guests will enjoy cocktails followed by a five-course meal made from New Jersey sourced ingredients and paired with Terhune Orchards own award-winning wines. Live music will be performed throughout the meal. Diners will be treated to an overview of each course by the chef that prepared it, as well as an explanation of its wine pairing by Gary Mount of Terhune Orchards’ and diners will be sent home with local produce grown right on the farm.

Terhune Orchards is at 330 Cold Soil Road. Cocktails will be served starting at 5 p.m. and dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. Dress is country casual and the event will proceed rain or shine.  Tickets are $100 per person or $150 per couple and can be purchased using the Pay Pal link below or on our Farm to Table Event page. (Our thanks to Sustainable Lawrence for its support in providing the Pay Pal option for payment for this event.)

Date: Thursday, July 23, 2015
Time: 5 PM Cocktails | 6:30 PM Dinner
Location
: Terhune Orchards,  330 Cold Soil Road, Lawrence
Cost: $100 Individual | $150 Couple
Buy Your Tickets with Pay Pal! 

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A partnership of Mercer County communities working together to build a sustainable future and supporting efforts towards certification through the Sustainable Jersey program.

EGT Produces New Ewing Recycling Map

recyclingmap
Chick on map for full sized PDF – 2 pages

Want to do your bit to help out the environment?  Recycling is something that everyone can do.  However, sometimes you just don’t know what can be recycled and where.  The EGT has tried to answer those questions with a new recycling map that focuses on Ewing Township.   Find out where the all the clothing donation bins are in town, where you can recycle plastic bags, drop off wire hangers and much more.  The Ewing Public Works Department is also a great resource for recycling and the map also highlights items that are accepted there.  Check out it out!

More detailed information in support of the map can be found at ewingrecycles.org, a new Ewing-centric website filled with detailed information about what you can recycle in Ewing and where.  Ewing Recycles also focuses on the REUSE aspect of the 3Rs, highlighting in particular the many donation options that are available instead of throwing items in the trash.  If there is something that you are looking for that is not in our list of recyclables, please email us at ewinggreenteam@gmail.com and we will research it and post to the website.

Enjoy!

Environmental Insights Program on Invasive Species June 24th

barberryThe latest entry in the Environmental Insights Series is set for next Wednesday, June 24th at 7 pm  – Invasive Species in the Landscape: Together, We Can Nip Them in the Bud, a presentation and discussion led by Susan Brookman, Executive Director of the New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team. (Click to see event flyer)

butterfly_bushWhat is an invasive species? Do I have them in my home landscape? And why is it so important that they be eradicated? These are questions that will be answered during this informative presentation.   Susan Brookman, Executive Director of the Strike Team says that invasive species cost an estimated $140 billion in annual loses in the US.  They cause great damage to the local ecosystem, crowding out natives and are considered the second greatest threat to biodiversity worldwide.  Despite the damage they cause, they are still readily available at nurseries in New Jersey.

According to Brookman, detecting invasive species early is the key to successful control.  “If we can catch an invasive species soon after it arrives, we have a chance to nip it in the bud and keep it from establishing a viable population in New Jersey.  It’s easy to see the damage done by widespread invasive species like Dutch elm disease, the European gypsy moth and Japanese knotweed.  It makes a lot of sense to spend a little effort figuring out which non-native species have the potential to wreak havoc, and then spend a little more effort to eradicate them.  The alternative – letting them spread and then dealing with their impacts – costs so much, both to our pocketbooks and to our state’s agricultural and natural heritage.

And, if you have a smartphone and spend time outdoors, the Strike Team would like your help.  Thanks to a grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, it has developed a NewJersey Invasives app to enable people with smartphones learn about, identify and report invasive species.  With the app, a user who sees something they suspect may be an invasive species can scroll through photos to identify what they see, read information about it, then take a picture and submit a report – it’s that simple!  Members of the Strike Team’s Technical Advisory Committee (experts in the fields of botany, entomology, aquatic biology and the like) verify each sighting and add the information to the on-line database the Strike Team uses to track the spread of problem species.

About the Strike Team

striketeamThe New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team, http://njisst.org/, works to stop the spread of new invasive species – plants, animals, pathogens and other organisms that are not native to New Jersey whose presence is likely to damage the health of our environment, economy or our citizens.  It works with counterparts across the mid-Atlantic to catalog non-native species and assess their threat levels.  It creates an annual list of target species and then encourages conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts to be on the lookout for them.  When invasive species are detected, the Strike Team offers guidance to property owners to help them eradicate the problem species.

Date: Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Time: 7 pm
Location: Ewing Senior and Community Center (Community Room), 999 Lower Ferry Road, Ewing, NJ
Details:  All are welcome

Direct Install – Energy Savings for Small Businesses

Did you know that the State of New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program has a program called Direct Install that allows business owners tap into state funds allocated for improving the environment, while at the same time offering quick investment paybacks?  The program offers grants of up to 70% of the costs for energy saving building upgrades for small and medium size businesses.  The program usually pays for itself and becomes a net revenue generator in 1-3 years, with savings lasting for decades.

Small business owners in Ewing should have received a letter from Mayor Bert Steinmann highlighting the both financial and environmental benefits of your benefits in this program.  Be sure to check it out below if you haven’t received yours.

Letter from Mayor Bert Steinmann about Direct Install program.

The Ewing Green Team also recently ran an energy seminar to educate local businesses about program details which featured Sandra Torres, Outreach Director from the approved Direct Install contractor for Mercer County, Tri-State Light and Energy  and a representative from the BPU, Mike Winka.    Attendees were most impressed with the program – the simplified paperwork, ease of participation and the savings available to fund these important energy upgrades that they did not know were available.  Participation in the program makes it financially easier to not only do your bit to help the environment but also improve your bottom line with long term energy savings.

You may have missed the seminar, but it is not too late to learn more about how to take advantage of this program and improve your bottom line at the same time.  Contact the EGT or the Tri-State Representative, Sandra Torres for more information.  Our Direct Install page also has more information about the program.  Become the next Sustainability Hero in our town.

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