Dear EarthTalk: Radioactive rain recently fell in Massachusetts, likely due to Japan’s nuclear mess. Given the threats of radiation, wouldn’t it be madness now to continue with nuclear power? How can President Obama include nukes as part of a “clean energy” agenda? — Bill Mason, Hartford, CT In the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan, countries around the world that were growing more bullish on nuclear power are now reconsidering their future energy investments. Germany has shut down seven of its oldest nuclear reactors and is conducting safety studies on the remaining facilities; those that don’t make the grade could be closed permanently. Meanwhile, in earthquake-prone Chile some 2,000 demonstrators marched through the capital to protest their government’s enthusiasm for nuclear power. And China, the world’s fastest growing nuclear energy developer, has suspended the approval process on 50 nuclear power plants already on the drawing board, and begun inspections on 13 existing plants.But despite calls to shutter the U.S. nuclear program, President Obama remains committed to the industry despite his stated opposition to it pre-election. In December 2007, Obama told reporters at a campaign stop in Iowa: “Until we can make certain that nuclear power plants are safe…I don’t think that’s the best option,” adding that he was much more keen on solar, wind, biodiesel and other alternative fuels.According to investigative journalist Karl Grossman, Obama changed his tune on nuclear as soon as he took office, “talking about ‘safe, clean nuclear power’ and push[ing] for multi-billion dollar taxpayer subsidies for the construction of new nuclear plants.” Right away, Grossman says, Obama brought in nuclear advocate Steven Chu as energy secretary, and two White House aides that had been “deeply involved with…the utility operating more nuclear power plants than any other in the U.S., Exelon.”Undeterred by the Japanese nuclear disaster, Obama pledged just two weeks following the initial explosions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi facility that nuclear power should be revived in the U.S., as it provides “electricity without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.” He added that he requested a comprehensive safety review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to ensure the safety of existing facilities. “We’ll incorporate those conclusions and lessons from Japan in designing and building the next generation of [nuclear] plants,” Obama added.But just because nuclear energy isn’t a fossil fuel doesn’t make it green, given the ongoing risk of radioactivity. Also, reports the non-profit Beyond Nuclear, “Nuclear power is counterproductive to efforts to address climate change effectively and in time…funding diverted to new nuclear power plants deprives real climate change solutions, like solar, wind and geothermal energy, of essential resources.” Indeed, if policymakers were able to divert the hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to the U.S. nuclear industry every year to solar, wind and geothermal developers, there is no telling how quickly we could innovate our way to sustainable non-polluting energy independence and put the specter of nuclear power that much further in our rearview mirror. But it looks like as long as Obama remains in office, nuclear will remain a big part of our near term energy future, damn the torpedoes. 1 2
“I TOLD the group: Messi did not owe the World Cup to Argentina, but football owed the World Cup to Messi.”Coach Jorge Sampaoli was speaking after a Lionel Messi hat-trick against Ecuador – the 44th of his career – ensured Argentina survived a scare to reach the World Cup finals.The 2014 runners-up began the day sixth in the group, knowing only a top-four place would see them qualify automatically for Russia.They made a terrible start in Quito, conceding inside 38 seconds, but the Barcelona superstar led Argentina’s fight back to ensure they secured their place in next year’s tournament.It was part of a remarkable night of football that saw:Panama qualify for their first World Cup with a controversial goal in a 2-1 win over Costa RicaThe United States miss out on the tournament for the first time since 1986 after losing to Trinidad & TobagoChile manager Juan Antonio Pizzi step down after his side lost to Brazil to miss out on qualifying for their third consecutive World CupPortugal beat Switzerland to replace them at the top of their qualifying group but the Netherlands go out despite winningARGENTINAMessi said it would have been “crazy” had Argentina not qualified for Russia 2018, but it took his intervention to ensure they reached their 12th consecutive World Cup.Ecuador scored in the first minute, taking advantage of Argentina’s hesitancy, before Messi struck twice before half-time to calm some nerves.His third, a lofted chip over goalkeeper Maximo Banguera, saw his country win for the first time in the Ecuadorian capital since 2001 and, crucially, reach next year’s World Cup.Sampaoli warned against Argentina depending too much on Messi – despite it being a remarkable 11 months since any other Argentina player scored for the national team in a World Cup qualifier.“Today, luckily, the nationality of the best player in the world is Argentinean,” Sampaoli continued.“We must be sure everything does not depend on Leo but today he brought his great ability. I told the group we should help him be in the World Cup.”PanamaNestled between Kuwait and Moldova as the world’s 131st most populous nation, Panama’s biggest football achievement up until Tuesday evening was finishing as runner-up in the 2013 Gold Cup.Now, they have reached their first World Cup – but it was not without controversy, because the Gabriel Torres’ header that drew Panama level with Costa Rica did not appear to cross the line.Despite furious complaints from the visitors, the goal stood, and Roman Torres struck in the final few minutes to send Panama through.It was a neat reversal of fortunes for Panama, who missed out on qualifying for the last World Cup after conceding two goals in stoppage time against the US in 2013.This time, though, it was their 87th-minute winner that ensured their place in Russia – at the expense of the US.United StatesIn contrast to Panama, the United States has a population of 323.1 million. Their opponents on Tuesday, Trinidad and Tobago, have a population of 1.3m – roughly the same as the US state of Maine.Described as the “most surreal and embarrassing night in US soccer history” and “simply devastating” by American journalists, the players were left in tears following their shock 2-1 loss.“It’s a blemish for us. We should not be staying at home for this World Cup and I take responsibility,” coach Bruce Arena said of a team ranked 28th in the world.“We failed on the day. No excuses. We failed today. We should have walked off this field with at least a point.”Captain Michael Bradley described the night as the “perfect storm”.“Everything that could have possibly gone wrong did, in this stadium and in two other stadiums across the [Concacaf] region,” he added.“To give away the first goal like that [an own goal] is a killer. But the reality is it was all there for us, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves.”Chile & PortugalBrazil ended Chile’s slim hopes of reaching the World Cup as their 3-0 victory pushed Alexis Sanchez and company from third to sixth in the qualifying group.Midfielder Arturo Vidal, who missed the game through suspension, announced his retirement following the loss and tweeted that “my soul is destroyed”.“Thanks boys, for everything, for all these years together giving our lives in every game,” the 30-year-old wrote.Chile’s Argentinean manager Juan Antonio Pizzi also left his post after Tuesday’s disappointment.While it was misery for Sanchez, another superstar forward, Cristiano Ronaldo, was smiling as Portugal avoided the play-offs to guarantee their fifth consecutive World Cup appearance with a 2-0 victory over Switzerland.But the Netherlands – third in the 2014 tournament – are out, despite beating Sweden 2-0.The Dutch needed a seven-goal win to nudge their opponents out of the play-off berth behind group winners France. (BBC Sport)
First year Wisconsin volleyball head coach Kelly Sheffield has said all season that if his team could get healthy and gain some confidence there is no telling what they could accomplish.Wisconsin found that out Thursday night in Seattle with a 3-1 win over the top-overall seed and defending national champion Texas in the national semifinals, punching its ticket to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2000.“You know, we believed that we could win this match,” Sheffield told UW Badgers after the match. “And I think that’s a big part of anytime you go into anything. This has been a team that no matter who we played we believed, the players have believed that there’s a way to win.”Led by freshman setter Lauren Carlini with 50 assists and junior outside hitter Ellen Chapman with 17 kills, the Badgers snapped the Longhorns’ 23-match winning streak taking the match in four sets 25-19, 25-18, 26-28, 25-23. Four Badgers reached at least nine kills on the night.Wisconsin held Texas to a .156 hitting percentage, the team’s lowest offensive performance of the year. Senior libero Annemarie Hickey led all players with a 21-dig effort.Wisconsin’s biggest edge came at the service line where the Badgers picked up seven aces and only three service errors compared to the Longhorns’ two aces and nine errors.“We had to serve with confidence. We had to execute, fearlessness behind the serving line,” Sheffield said. “We believed if we did that…we’d have them out of system a lot. If they’re out of system, I knew we’ve got the best back court in the country and we’d be able to dig some balls.”After cruising through the first two sets hitting a combined .254, the Badgers had to battle from an early 2-5 deficit in set three. There were 13 ties and five lead changes, including ties at 20 and 24. Wisconsin earned a set point at 25-24, but lost three straight points to drop the third set.In the fourth set, Wisconsin found itself down 19-16, but a 5-2 Badger run tied the score at 21-21. With the score tied again 23, junior outside hitter Deme Morales ended the match with two kills, sending Wisconsin to its second ever national championship bout.Wisconsin will take on No. 2 Penn State for the third time this season in an all Big-Ten national championship match – Penn State has swept Wisconsin twice this season.The powerhouse Nittany Lions have reached a record nine national championship matches and have earned five national titles. Four of those crowns came in in consecutive years from 2007 to 2010.