Category Archives: Cambridge

Can MIT’s Solar Revolution create nuclear power’s replacement?

MIT, Chesonis Foundation announce solar revolution

Goal: Bring the sun’s power to the people

April 22, 2008

Promising to transform solar power from a “boutique” option to an affordable, dependable, mainstream energy solution, MIT and the Chesonis Family Foundation today launched a “solar revolution” with the ultimate aim of making solar energy America’s primary carbon-free fuel.

The Solar Revolution Project (SRP), funded by a $10 million gift from the Foundation, will explore new materials and systems that could dramatically accelerate the availability of solar energy. The SRP will complement and interact closely with other large solar projects at MIT, creating one of the largest solar energy clusters at any research university.

The Chesonis gift will allow MIT to explore bold approaches that are essential for transforming the solar industry. Specifically, it will focus on three elements –capture, conversion and storage — that will ultimately make solar power a viable, near-term energy source.

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Vermont Yankee taking cues from Matt Groenig

This falls under the, “I shit you not” category. Help!

Yankee worker suspended after failing alcohol test

By BOB AUDETTE, Reformer Staff

Thursday, March 6 [2008]

BRATTLEBORO — A Vermont Yankee employee tested positive for alcohol after a fellow employee raised concerns about her fitness for duty. The employee, who had a blood alcohol content exceeding the threshold imposed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of .04 percent, was suspended for two weeks following the test on Jan. 29.

A spokesman for Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant said the name and job title of the person who failed the test, and whether she had returned to work, was not available to the public.

“All who work in this industry are bound by fitness-for-duty programs,” said Rob Williams. “Confidentiality of the program is a key federal requirement which rightly protects people’s privacy.”

The employee will be required to participate in follow-up testing, he said.

“The program also makes available counseling and referral services,” said Williams.

Entergy, which owns and operates the nuclear power plant in Vernon, is required by the NRC “to provide reasonable assurance” that plant personnel can perform their tasks “in a reliable manner,” that they are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, whether legal or illegal, and are notmentally or physically impaired from any cause that may adversely affect their ability to perform their duties, according to the NRC Web site. “All plants are required to have a behavioral observation component for their fitness-for-duty programs,” said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC. “In this case, it was behavioral observation that led to the testing of the worker, showing the program is doing what it should be.”

According to NRC regulations, if an individual has a blood alcohol content of .04 or greater, he or she is to be removed from his or her posts and referred to a plant operator’s employee assistance program.

It’s not limited to .04 percent though, said Sheehan. A company such as Entergy could institute an even lower threshold.

“Entergy abides by the .04 level,” said Williams.

“If this is a first-time offender, chances are good she will be able to take part in the company’s EAP, get the proper treatment and be restored to her duties,” said Sheehan.

A control room operator tested positive July 2007 for marijuana during a random fitness-for-duty test at Vermont Yankee. The 22-year employee of the plant claimed he had mistakenly eaten marijuana-laced brownies at a July 4 party.

The employee was removed from his duties and assigned to the plant’s training program and enrolled in Entergy’s EAP.

The plants are getting old. It’s really time to wake up.

I must say that after many years of reading the Brattleboro Reformer, I was never especially proud to call it my hometown paper. In fact, it isn’t even my hometown paper anymore. With my move to the big/little city four years ago, I traded the Reformer for what should have been the improved, edgy, urban version of a hometown paper. Unfortunately, it was the Cambridge Chronicle… which provided my first reason for gaining a certain level of respect for Brattleboro’s daily rag.

Not to digress too much, suffice it to say that in my 38 years on the planet, i have never come across a local weekly newspaper who seems to go so far out of its way to scandalize any city news it can get its manipulative hands on, with particular dramatics applied to any news related to the city’s public school system, as I have in the Cambridge Chronicle.

Having the opportunity to work within the walls of the city’s only public high school, I can say that all of the amazing and positive things that I see happening every single day are largely ignored by the Chronicle so that they can bolster their campaign to erroneously prove that there is little more than crime and corruption blanketing the school. The most poignant example was on the high school’s graduation day in the first year that I lived here. While every other paper in the United States published photos of caps in the air amidst stories focused on the unlimited potential of their graduates, the Chronicle headlined something about the 70-odd kids who failed to pass the state’s MCAS exam who wouldn’t be joining their classmates at the ceremony that day,

The Chronicle failed to mention the number of students who spoke one of the sixty or so non-English languages amongst their nearly 2,000 graduates… or when these non-graduating students began their education within the city. That was my first experience of disgust with a local newspaper… and the first time, in reflection, that I gained any measure of respect for the Reformer.

Since the spring of 2006, my friend (and partner in crime) and I have been submitting periodic press releases to the Reformer regarding the anti-nuclear photography project we’ve created (http://www.ChernobylVermont.com/). Not a single one was ever printed. Recently, a Letter to the Editor was published that said friend, John, had written in response to a previously published letter attempting to debunk the Chernobyl-Vernon connection with claims of superior technology and oversight in the Vermont Yankee plant. Due to its well-researched and highly technical nature, John’s response was printed in the paper… completely destroying all arguments made in the initial letter.

Due to a random stroke of luck, today I read the paper’s editorial of September 1st entitled, “Who’s Minding the Plant?” (http://www.reformer.com/editorials/ci_6778053) And today, I have recognized that, once in a while, even a small, local newspaper is capable of the courage necessary to let the truth override the politics of corporate contributions to the community and speak out about untenable situations that are otherwise being diminished or simply ignored by the larger media outlets.

Dear Brattleboro Reformer, you have gained my respect today. While your coverage of the plant has been mildly critical up to this point, I think you’ve finally managed to see the value of the contribution that you can make in terms of challenging the status quo of silence with regard to the impact that the nuclear plant has on the overall well-being of a wonderful and unique community. I applaud you for your decision to print this editorial, and welcome you to an elite group of intelligent individuals who recognize the NO-WIN situation regarding the extended licensing and increased output of an aging nuke plant that should, indeed, be moving towards decommissioning rather than these risky propositions.

You’ve made me miss Vermont all the more… a nuclear-free Vermont, that is. 

When John returned from the Ukraine with photos of the city surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear plant, it was immediately obvious that there were many similarities between that community (Pripyat) prior to the disaster and our own, beloved southern Vermont region. Upon seeing hundreds of images of the impact that the nuclear disaster had on the region surrounding the Chernobyl plant, I saw how urgent the need was to educate those who would be impacted most should the Vermont Yankee plant face a similar fate.