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  • Nikhil Sharma at Torontoist looks at the latest City of Toronto TransformTO report on adapting to climate change.

  • The Toronto Star Fatima Syed looks at how community organizations in Toronto are getting involved in running local parks.

  • Politico.eu notes how Malta, despite having plenty of sun, is having difficulty getting solar energy (and other alternative energy) up and running.

  • The Inter Press Service examines the potential complexities involved in China's involvement in Argentina's nuclear energy program.

  • VICE reports on the desperate need to get Ojibwa consent before building a nuclear waste disposal site on their traditional lands.

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  • Anthony Easton at MacLean's writes in defense of Nickelback, one of Canada's most popular bands if not a critical darling.

  • Also in MacLean's, Stephanie Carvin notes that the new foreign and military policies announced by the Canadian government could still fall short.

  • Bloomberg View's Stephen L. Carter considers the idea of the just war through the lens of Wonder Woman.

  • Nuclear energy, it seems, will be India's answer to global warming in the era of Trump.

  • Qataris, Bloomberg notes, are trying to deal with their island country's state of siege.

  • Airbus may pull its production plants from the United Kingdom unless the country keeps single market access.

  • Refugees, Lynne Olson notes at National Geographic, helped save the United Kingdom during the Second World War.

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  • blogTO shares photos of old Toronto department stores.

  • Discover's Citizen Science Salon reports on how people are facing California seals and sea lions faced with famine.

  • D-Brief warns people to be cautious about the newest claim of detections of extraterrestrial intelligence.

  • The Dragon's Gaze reports on the discovery through microlensing of a distant planet, KMT-2015-BLG-0048Lb.

  • Dangerous Minds reports on a line of collectible china plates with nuclear reactors on them.

  • Joe. My. God. notes Christianity Today's denunciation of Trump as a fool.

  • Language Log looks at the new Hong Kong legislators who insulted China when they were being sworn in.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on the racism behind allegations of voter fraud.

  • The LRB Blog reports on the unrest in Kashmir.

  • The Map Room Blog looks at a new website devoted to the 1507 Waldseemüller world map.

  • Marginal Revolution notes how Brexit has hit food supplies.

  • Understanding Society presents a new study of assemblage social theory.

  • Window on Eurasia reports Russian allegations that outside forces are trying to break Russia down on regional lines, looks at how more prosperous Russian regions also send out more migrants, and reports on the linguistic Ukrainianization of Ukraine.

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Anti-nuclear activist Zach Ruiter writes about the latest campaign against the nuclear processing plant on Lansdowne just north of Dupont, just west of me.

Toronto's west end has a new nuclear neighbour. General Electric Hitachi announced August 19 that it plans to sell its Canadian nuclear operations, including its uranium pellet plant on Lansdowne, to BWXT Canada Ltd., a subsidiary of Lynchburg, Virginia's BWX Technologies, which operates one of only two facilities in the U.S. licensed to process highly enriched uranium.

BWX Technologies is the prime contractor in charge of the U.S. Department of Energy's 13,000-hectare nuclear weapons testing laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Among the "recent accomplishments" listed on the company's website: the manufacturing of the grapefruit-size plutonium cores used in the W88 thermonuclear warhead designed for the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

If BWXT acquires the necessary licence and regulatory approval from the federal government, it will take over GE Hitachi's operations and 350 employees at three plants in Toronto, Peterborough and Arnprior. BWXT's Cambridge plant was recently awarded a $103 million contract to supply the first eight of 32 steam generators for the refurbishment of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Tiverton.

The GE Hitachi plant at 1025 Lansdowne, north of Dupont, processes 53 per cent of all the nuclear fuel used in Canada's nuclear reactors. Drums of yellowcake uranium dioxide powder are trucked into Toronto and transformed into ceramic pellets for use in fuel rods at the Pickering and Darlington reactors.

I've blogged at length about my support for the plant. I see nothing in the article to justify a change of opinion.
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  • The BBC reports from Asmara, Eritrea's capital, on the eve of war.

  • Bloomberg notes the economic problems of Hong Kong and Singapore, looks at the final day of campaigning in the Brexit referendum, and notes the interim president of Brazil's desire to oust Rousseff.

  • Bloomberg View takes issue with the rejection of nuclear energy in the name of the environment and reports on how Russians are being hurt by their association with Putin.

  • The CBC reports on the ongoing trial of Led Zeppelin over the authorship of "Stairway to Heaven".

  • The Globe and Mail notes the homophobia of a rural Manitoba MP.

  • The Independent notes a poll suggesting most Brexit supporters believe the referendum will be fixed.

  • MacLean's notes the demand of a northern Ontario First Nation for mercury to be cleaned up.

  • At Medium's Mel, Jay Rachel Edidin writes about the fears for their husband post-Orlando.

  • The National Post notes that the Commonwealth is not going to replace the EU for the UK.

  • Open Democracy argues for a right to online anonymity.

  • The Toronto Star notes the visit of Prince Edward and his wife to the Union-Pearson Express.

  • U.S. News and World Report suggests/a> Clarence Thomas may not speak much because he's afraid of his native Gullah surfacing.

  • Wired looks at online mockery of Trump's campaign finance issues.

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  • Bloomberg looks at Argentina's push for renewable energy, reports on Rosatom's interest in developing South Africa as an entry into the African nuclear market, writes about China's opposition to anything remotely like separatism in Hong Kong, and looks at Poland's demand for an apology for Bill Clinton critical of the new government.

  • Bloomberg View notes the importance of honest statistics in Brazil, and calls for American arms sales to a friendly Vietnam.

  • CBC notes new Conservative support for a transgender rights bill and reports on how Ontario's climate policy will hit Alberta's natural gas exports.

  • Gizmodo notes Portugal has just managed to power itself entirely on renewable energy for four days.

  • The Inter Press Service describes the Middle Eastern refugee crisis.

  • The National Post looks at a proposed New York State ban on declawing cats.

  • Open Democracy reports on Norway's EU status via a left-leaning Norwegian, looks at the life of Daniel Berrigan, and notes the emergent Saudi-Indian alliance.

  • Universe Today describes the circumstellar habitable zones of red giants.

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  • The Big Picture shares photos of a Shanghai neighbourhood that refuses to sell out to developers.

  • James Bow rates California rail.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the large dwarf planet 2007 OR10.

  • Dangerous Minds notes a campaign by a 9/11 conspiracy theorist to raise funds to buy an airplane and a building.

  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at the Kepler-223 system.

  • Language Hat looks at an astonishingly thorough German-led effort to publish a dictionary of Latin.

  • The NYRB Daily assesses the Iran nuclear deal.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer considers Brazil and argues that any treachery in Sykes-Picot was less in the deal and more in the assumptions behind it.

  • Transit Toronto notes the return of GO Transit's seasonal trains to Niagara.

  • Window on Eurasia notes Moscow's refusal to allow Circassians a memorial march.

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  • Bloomberg notes two former British intelligence chiefs saying that the United Kingdom is safer within the European Union than without, wonders if Saudi Arabia will be able to accept the economic shocks involved in transitioning away from oil, suggests South Australia could profit hugely from storing nuclear waste, and shares one journalist's experiences inside North Korea.

  • Via The Dragon's Tales, I came across this Gizmag article reporting on a Dutch family living in a greenhouse.

  • The Inter Press Service notes controversies surrounding transnational humanitarianism.

  • The National Post wonders what non-endorsements of Trump by prominent members of the Republican Party will do to this institution.

  • Open Democracy writes about the ongoing revolution in gender relations in the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Rojava.

  • Wired reports on Sweden's ongoing transition away from cash to a completely digital economy.

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  • Bloomberg notes the European Parliament's criticism of Turkey's democratic deficit, reports the Czech foreign minister's statement that Brexit propagandists are distorting the reality, reports on Putin's preparation for upcoming national elections, and looks at an American nuclear engineer accused of transferring technology to China.

  • CBC reports on the infuriating trial of two Alberta parents who allowed their child to die of untreated meningitis, and looks at the mixed opinions of Attawapiskat residents about their community.

  • MacLean's is profoundly critical of the new Newfoundland budget, fiscally regressive.

  • National Geographic and Wired each consider, in the light of Inky the octopus' famous escape from his New Zealand cage, the ethics of putting smart cephalopods in tanks.

  • The Toronto Star notes the recognition by the Supreme Court of Métis and non-status Indians.

  • Wired notes how online fandom is making it more difficult to dispose of LGBTQ characters on television.
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  • Bloomberg notes an unexpected housing shortage in the Midwest, and considers the impact of the Panama scandal on the British Virgin Islands' economic model.

  • Bloomberg View calls for better regulation of the high seas, suggests (from the example of Yugoslav refugees in Denmark) that low-skilled immigrants can be good for working classes, and notes the failed states and potential for conflict in the former Soviet Union.

  • The Inter Press Service notes the fight against religious misogyny in India.

  • The Toronto Star's Chantal Hébert notes how voters in Ontario and Québec have been let down by the failure to enact ethics reforms in politics.

  • Spiegel looks at the spread of radical Islam in Bosnia.

  • Vice notes a photo project by a Swiss photographer who has been tracking couples for decades.

  • Wired</> looks at the US-European trade in highly-enriched uranium.

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  • Centauri Dreams looks at the nascent planets of HL Tauri, notes the water ice mountains of Titan, and notes the implications of red dwarfs for SETI searches.

  • Discover's The Crux looks at the moving frontiers of nuclear fusion research.

  • D-Brief suggests the Moon has a critical influence on Earth's magnetic field and notes a new effort to track down the Wow signal in two of our solar system's comets.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes that 55 Cancri e is likely a lava world and looks at starless planet PSO J318.5338−22.8603.

  • The Dragon's Tales studies the magic islands of Titan's Ligeia Mare and notes that world's ethane cycle.

  • The Map Room Blog shares new maps of Switzerland and a gravity map of Mars.

  • The Planetary Society Blog's Emily Lakdawalla reports on Ceres, while elsewhere the massive cuts to the Russian space budget are explored.

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Wired's Nick Stockton notes the interest of Russia's Roscosmos in developing nuclear thermal rocketry to make quick manned interplanetary flights. Something like this may indeed be needed for crewed interplanetary flight to be viable. The central prbolem is one of funding.

Nuclear thermal is but one flavor of nuclear propulsion. Rosatom did not respond to questions about their system’s specs, but its announcement hints at some sort of thermal fission. Which is to say, the engine would generate heat by splitting atoms and use that heat to burn hydrogen or some other chemical. Burning stuff goes one direction, spaceship goes the other.

The principle isn’t too far from chemical propulsion. The fastest chemical rockets produce thrust by igniting one type of chemical (the oxidizer) to burn another (the propellant), creating thrust. Chemical or otherwise, rocket scientists rate propulsion methods based on a metric called Specific Impulse, “Which means, if I have a pound of fuel, for how many seconds will that pound of fuel create a pound of thrust,” says Robert Kennedy, a systems engineer for Tetra Tech in Oak Ridge, TN, and former congressional fellow for the US House of Representatives’s space subcommittee. For instance, one pound of the chemical mixture powering the Space Launch System—NASA’s in utero rocket for the agency’s planned mission to Mars—produces about 269 seconds of thrust in a vacuum.

[. . .]

The engines the Soviets and Americans were developing during the Space Race, on the other hand, had at least double a chemical rocket’s specific impulse. Modern versions could likely do even better. Which means spaceships would be able to carry a lot more fuel, and therefore fire their thrusters for a longer portion of the trip to Mars (bonus: artificial gravity!). Even better, a thermal fission spaceship would have enough fuel to decelerate, go into Martian orbit, and even return to Earth.

Calling for a fission mission to Mars is great for inspiring space dreamers, but Russia’s planned engine could have practical, near-term applications. Satellites need to fire their thrusters every so often to stay in their ideal orbits (Also, to keep from crashing to Earth). Sokov thinks the main rationale for developing a nuclear thermal engine would be to allow for more of these orbital corrections, significantly increasing a satellite’s working lifespan. Fission power would also give probes more maneuverability. “One civilian application is to collect all the space junk,” says Sokov. “You are free to think of other, perhaps not as innocent applications.”

Russia may have the will to go nuclear, but it probably lacks the means. Rosatom has budgeted roughly 15 billion rubles on the project, which began in 2010 and is scheduled to have a launch-ready vehicle by 2025. That’s about $700 million: eyebrow-raisingly cheap for a 15-year long space project. For reference, just the rocket part of NASA’s Space Launch System is projected to cost nearly $10 billion.

And those 15 billion rubles don’t include the cost of launch, which could be why Rosatom made its 6-weeks-to-Mars announcement last week. “Going public can serve a number of purposes, including getting funding, increasing visibility, things like that from politicians, readers, and others who would like this visionary thing,” says Sokov. Rosatom plans to have a land-based test reactor by 2018.
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Reuters' Minami Funakoshi reports on the apparently permanent depopulation of the hinterland of Fukushima's nuclear catastrophe.

Tokuo Hayakawa carries a dosimeter around with him at his 600-year-old temple in Naraha, the first town in the Fukushima "exclusion zone" to fully reopen since Japan's March 2011 catastrophe. Badges declaring "No to nuclear power" adorn his black Buddhist robe.

Hayakawa is one of the few residents to return to this agricultural town since it began welcoming back nuclear refugees five months ago.

The town, at the edge of a 20-km (12.5 mile) evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant, was supposed to be a model of reconstruction.

Five years ago, one of the biggest earthquakes in history shook the country's northeast. The 10-metre (33-foot) tsunami it spawned smashed into the power plant on the Fukushima coastline triggering a meltdown and forcing nearby towns to evacuate. The disaster killed over 19,000 people across Japan and caused an estimated 16.9 trillion yen ($150 billion) in damages.

Only 440 of Naraha's pre-disaster population 8,042 have returned - nearly 70 percent of them over 60.

"This region will definitely go extinct," said the 76-year-old Hayakawa.
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  • blogTO depicts a new Toronto condo tower that will also be a vertical forest.

  • D-Brief notes the latest German success with nuclear fusion.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes the discovery of Jupiter analog HD 32963b.

  • The Dragon's Tales provides updates about the Russian wars in Syria and Ukraine.

  • Geocurrents examines the demographic history of the Philippines.

  • Language Log notes odd sound borrowings into Taiwanese.
  • Une heure de peine's Denis Colombi notes that sociology by its nature is political but not normative.

  • Window on Eurasia notes Russian fears that Belarus is drifting westwards and argues Kaliningraders are shifting towards a Europe-oriented identity.

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CTV reported on how Ontario gets most of its electricity from nuclear energy.

Nuclear power provided 60 per cent of Ontario's electricity in 2015, while renewables such as wind and solar power added only a tiny amount to the supply mix.

The Independent Electricity System Operator says Ontario got 24 per cent of its electricity from hydro-generated power from dams and run-of-river generators, and another 10 per cent from gas-and-oil fired generation.

Wind power supplied six per cent of the province's electricity last year, while solar power and biofuel generation each added less than one per cent to the grid.

The province stopped burning coal to generate electricity in 2014, but it had been providing about 25 per cent of Ontario's power a decade ago.

The average electricity price for Ontario residential consumers was 10.14 cents a kilowatt hour in 2015, more than double the rates from 2008.
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The Inter Press Service's Dennis Engbarth writes about Taiwan's apparent impending shift away from nuclear energy.

Taiwan may soon be the first nation in Asia to resolve to become a nuclear free nation after four decades of reliance on nuclear power.

Nearly 14 million of Taiwan’s 23 million people are expected to go to the polls Jan. 16 to choose between three presidential contenders: ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT) Chairman Chu Li-lun, 55, Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, 59, and People First Party Chairman James Soong, 73, a former KMT Secretary-General.

Tsai, a former Vice Premier with a doctorate from the London School of Economics, has a hefty lead in the campaign, and is publically committed to turning Taiwan into a “nuclear free homeland” by 2025 phasing out the nation`s three 1970s-era nuclear power plants operated by the state-owned Taiwan Power Co.

Two nuclear power plants in northern Taiwan each have two General Electric designed boiling water reactors (BWR), while a third plant on Taiwan`s southern tip features two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors (PWR).

After 38 years of martial law imposed by the KMT was lifted in July 1987, civic opposition to nuclear power surfaced, focusing especially on the construction of a fourth nuclear plant in Gungliao Township on Taiwan’s northeastern coast. It features two 1,350-megawatt advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) units designed by GE and Toshiba.

"We don`t want nuclear waste," say two Taiwanese women during a demonstration against nuclear power in Taipei on March 8, 2015. The flying fish and nuclear waste barrel refer to the "low-level" radioactive waste disposal facility set up in 1984 by the state-run Taiwan Power Co on Lanyu (Orchid Island) off Taiwan`s southeast coast that is opposed by the island`s indigenous Dawu people.

Taiwan’s continued use of nuclear power reemerged as a critical political issue after the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan.
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At The Conversation, Edward Wastnidge writes about how the Iranian nuclear deal, by reincorporating Iran into the international system, is making Saudi Arabia feel insecure next to its main regional challenger. This insecurity can lead to risk-taking, indeed.

As 2015 drew to a close, you could have been forgiven for cautious optimism as far as Saudi-Iranian relations were concerned. With the years-in-the-making nuclear deal finally sealed, Iran had finally been brought in from the cold in talks over the Syrian conflict. A fragile ceasefire had been agreed between the warring factions in Yemen. Iran and Saudi Arabia had also begun planning direct talks on the issues that had been dividing the two regional powerhouses.

The execution of the Saudi Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on January 2, however, has brought the mutual mistrust that plagues relations between these two states fully into the open. This crisis will clearly have a major impact on the various regional conflicts that Iran and Saudi Arabia are embroiled in – but with the sanctions imposed before the nuclear deal possibly about to be lifted, it also speaks volumes about Iran’s rapidly improving diplomatic position.

The lifting of sanctions against the Islamic Republic will no doubt strengthen Iran’s position both regionally and globally. Iran has already started to reap the diplomatic benefits of constructive engagement, as shown by its participation in the dialogue over Syria before any sanctions were removed. While that upward trajectory could have been stymied by the latest clash, and Bahrain, Kuwait, Sudan and the UAE have already cut their ties with Tehran, the key global powers have simply invested too much in the nuclear deal to see it thwarted by regional rivalry.

That much has been made clear by the West’s measured response to this crisis, with the US urging diplomatic engagement and accusing Saudi Arabia of exacerbating tensions at a time when they need to be reduced. In previous years, the attacks by protesters on the Saudi embassy in Tehran would have been met with a far stronger response against Iran and in favour of Saudi Arabia, particularly from the US.
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  • The Dragon's Tales reports on the Syrian war of Russia.

  • Geocurrents' Martin Lewis shares a video lecture of his noting misleading maps.

  • Language Hat notes the false Slavic etymologies of Leibniz.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on the human costs of living near a nuclear facility in India.

  • The Map Room's Jonathan Crowe reports that blog is returning.

  • The Planetary Society Blog reports about NASA's substantial new budget.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests Africa will become a major source of terrorists and notes that Russia is trying to ally with social conservatives in the Baltic States.

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The Toronto Star's Robert Benzie reports on the good news for Ontario.

Privately owned Bruce Power will invest $13 billion to refurbish the world’s largest nuclear station on Lake Huron.

In a first for Ontario, the company will as‎sume all financial risk of cost overruns from the overhaul of six of Bruce’s eight reactors that is to begin in 2020.

But that’s four years later than the refurbishment that had been expected to begin in 2016. ‎ The delay is because the company has determined there is additional life in the reactors, the oldest of which were built in the 1970’s.

“The agreement makes 23,000 jobs possible and supports an estimated $6.3 billion in annual, local economic development,” Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said Thursday.

“These actions will save the electricity system $1.7 billion and provide important relief for electricity consumers,” said Chiarelli.

No public money‎ will go into the Bruce refurbishment, but the company will earn a premium for the power it sells to the system.
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Bloomberg's Jonathan Tirone notes how, even in the aftermath of the nuclear deal, the extent of Iran's nuclear program is likely to be unclear for some time.

Questions will probably be left unanswered when International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors conclude their assessment of Iran’s past nuclear activities next week.

Investigators’ conclusion on whether Iran’s nuclear work has contained possible military dimensions “won’t be black or white,” IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said Thursday at a press briefing in Vienna, declining to provide details. The agency confirmed reports earlier in the day that its findings will be published next week.

“This is like a jigsaw puzzle,” Amano said. “We have the pieces now. I have a better understanding of the whole picture.”

With time winding down to when sanctions against Iran will be lifted in exchange for caps on its nuclear work, the long-awaited IAEA report is one of the final steps that needs to be taken. Under the accord agreed with world powers, the IAEA’s 12-year probe into Iran’s past should be concluded by Dec. 15.

The IAEA’s report may end one of the most contentious standoffs in the Vienna-based agency’s 58-year history. Inspectors have said they’re in possession of “credible” information showing Iran may have experimented with nuclear-weapons technologies. For its part, Iran accused the IAEA of being a dupe of foreign intelligence agencies bent on framing the country for violations it didn’t commit.


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