September 2, 2014

Crews remove “cobwebs” growing in pool with spent nuclear fuel at SRS

Image provided by SRNS shows the spent fuel racks before and after vacuuming

Image provided by SRNS shows the spent fuel racks before and after vacuuming

Workers at the Savannah River Site say they have now removed a mysterious “cobweb-like” bacteria whose appearance has perplexed researchers at the former nuclear weapons complex since its discovery three years ago.

In 2011, employees working at the site near Aiken were surprised to find the white, string-like growth in a large pool at the L Disassembly Basin which is used to store spent nuclear fuel assemblies.

Scientists at both facilities determined that the “cobwebs” were made up of a broad variety of bacteria along with a few other types of microbes that were able to survive despite the radiation and lack of carbon in the pools. Researchers say they have spent the past two years monitoring the “cobwebs” for growth patterns and changes.

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Sullivan’s, Isle of Palms residents asked to conserve water after leak

Charleston WaterResidents on the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island are being asked to conserve their water after a water main connecting to the barrier islands broke beneath Charleston Harbor.

Officials with the Charleston Water and Sewer Commission say the break was discovered Wednesday night in a 20-inch main that crosses the harbor from James Island. The main line provides drinking water for Sullivan’s Island and supplements water supplies on the Isle of Palms, two islands immediately northeast of Charleston

“We have enough water to supply both islands, but to be on the safe side, we’re asking residents to be mindful of how much water they’re using until Charleston Water System completes its repairs,” General Manager of the Isle of Palms Water and Sewer Commission Kristen Champagne said in a statement Thursday.

Residents, especially on Sullivan’s Island, are being asked to restrict any outdoor watering until repairs are made. Commission officials said they do not know at this time how long the pipe repair will take.

The commission is using a reverse osmosis plant and a standby well to keep residents of supplied with water.

“This is a temporary situation and our water supply should be back to normal as soon as Charleston Water System completes the repair,” Sullivan’s Island Town Administrator Andy Benke said in a statement.


Governor signs bill making solar energy more accessible in SC


Haley signed the bill underneath a solar panel array at a Columbia outfitter Wednesday

Haley signed the bill underneath a solar panel array at a Columbia outfitting store Wednesday

Gov. Nikki Haley held a ceremonial signing Wednesday for a new law that loosens restrictions on solar energy in South Carolina.

The Distributed Energy Resource Program Act will let third-party companies lease solar panels to customers without being regulated as a public utility. The leasing practice is meant to help homeowners afford the relatively expensive panels.

While the governor officially signed the bill into law back in June, Wednesday’s ceremony at a Columbia outfitter was a celebration for conservation and renewable energy groups. Those groups have long criticized state laws they said made South Carolina one of the most difficult states for installing solar panels on homes and businesses.

Haley said South Carolina trails neighboring states for solar energy usage.  “(Georgia and North Carolina) have been doing pretty well when it comes to solar energy and they don’t have any more sun than we do. The goal is to never be satsified, but what are we doing to move the ball forward?”

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State legislators OK Boeing land donation


Map showing locations of new properties financed by Boeing (Image: Lowcountry Open Land Trust)

Map showing locations of new properties financed by Boeing (Image: Lowcountry Open Land Trust) Click on map to see closer view

A panel of South Carolina legislators have given their approval to Boeing’s proposed donation of nearly 1,700 acres for a new state preserve in Berkeley County.

The Joint Bond Review Committee on Monday unanimously advanced the donation of the “Keystone” tract. The wooded 1,677-acre property, also known as Quenby Barony, is located on the edge of Francis Marion National Forest just south of the Huger community. The Budget & Control Board still needs to give its okay on the deal.

Boeing announced last month that it would finance the property’s sale and eventual donation to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The Quenby Barony property was part of more than 4,000 acres the company helped preserve as a condition for expanding its North Charleston assembly plant.

Boeing hopes to eventually develop over 400 acres of land near the Charleston airport that includes 153 acres of federally protected wetlands.  In order to get the permission to develop on that property, Boeing had to compensate by purchasing other land for conservation. The Army Corps of Engineers approved the mitigation plan last month.

The Lowcountry Open Land Trust (LOLT) purchased the Quenby Barony for $6.7 million with the aerospace company’s financial help. The conservation nonprofit said the deal will help further preserve the Cooper River basin.

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Governor: Dispose of current nuclear waste before accepting more


Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz

Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz visited the Savannah River Site on Monday

Gov. Nikki Haley said Monday she is not yet willing to support bringing in more nuclear waste to the Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken County, unless the federal governments acts on the waste that is already there.

The governor’s comments came as she toured the site with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The Energy Department is considering whether to process spent German reactor fuel at the former nuclear weapons station.

Moniz told reporters Monday that the U.S. has accepted spent fuel for years from research reactors in various countries that use American uranium. He also said it’s important to secure old nuclear waste so it doesn’t fall in the wrong hands through proliferation.

“President Obama has said that nuclear terrorism is the ultimate threat,” Moniz said. “This site is central with unique capabilities and the unique workforce in terms of addressing the consolidation (and) disposition of nuclear weapons material.”

But Haley said she would prefer that federal officials dispose of waste already stored at the site for decades, noting that the Obama Administration shuttered the Yucca Mountain repository that would have held the waste currently in South Carolina. [Read more...]