Science Magazine: German Researchers to Soon Switch On Stellarator Fusion Device
If you've heard of fusion energy, you've probably heard of tokamaks. These doughnut-shaped devices are meant to cage ionized gases called plasmas in magnetic fields while heating them to the outlandish temperatures needed for hydrogen nuclei to fuse. Tokamaks are the workhorses of fusion -- solid, symmetrical, and relatively straightforward to engineer -- but progress with them has been plodding.
Now, tokamaks' rebellious cousin is stepping out of the shadows. In a gleaming research lab in Germany's northeastern corner, researchers are preparing to switch on a fusion device called a stellarator, the largest ever built. The €1 billion machine, known as Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X), appears now as a 16-meter-wide ring of gleaming metal bristling with devices of all shapes and sizes, innumerable cables trailing off to unknown destinations, and technicians tinkering with it here and there. It looks a bit like Han Solo's Millennium Falcon, towed in for repairs after a run-in with the Imperial fleet. Inside are 50 6-tonne magnet coils, strangely twisted as if trampled by an angry giant.
Wall Street Journal: TransCanada Requests Suspension of U.S. Permit for Keystone XL Pipeline
The company behind the Keystone XL pipeline on Monday asked the U.S. government to suspend its permit application, throwing the politically fraught project into an indefinite state of limbo, beyond the 2016 U.S. elections.
In a letter, TransCanada Corp. asked the State Department, which reviews cross-border pipelines, to suspend its application while the company goes through a state review process in Nebraska it had previously resisted. The move comes in the face of an expected rejection by the Obama administration and low oil prices that are sapping business interest in Canada’s oil reserves.
Syracuse.com: Entergy to Close FitzPatrick Nuclear Plant in Oswego County
Entergy Corp. plans to shut down its money-losing FitzPatrick nuclear power plant in Oswego County, New York after the reactor runs out of fuel next year.
Entergy officials called a meeting of employees today to announce that the company will not install more enriched uranium fuel rods next September, which would be required to continue operating the facility.
Barring some unexpected intervention by state officials, the 850-megawatt facility will shut down in late 2016 or early 2017 and begin laying off its 615 employees.
Washington Post: China Confronts the Pain of Kicking Its Coal Addiction
China, the world’s biggest user of coal, is suddenly burning less of it, a change with enormous implications for the state of the atmosphere and the potential course of global climate change.
The shift has been both abrupt and unexpected, bringing fresh credibility to China’s pledge to rein in its greenhouse gas emissions, now also the highest level in the world. Blamed in the West for the failure of the last global climate change talks, held in Copenhagen in 2009, China is setting itself up to play a constructive role at the next round of discussions, slated to be held in Paris later this year.
Slate: Meet America’s First Offshore Wind Farm
The U.S. is finally building its first offshore wind farm. It’s a small, experimental demonstration project -- five turbines with 30 megawatts of capacity, near the southeast coast of Block Island, the preppy redoubt off the shore of Rhode Island.
Planning dates back to 2008, and construction of the steel structure that attaches to the ocean floor 90 feet below sea level began earlier this year and should be done this fall. “Next spring when the weather improves, we’ll lay the submarine cable that will support the project,” says Jeff Grybowski, chief executive officer of Deepwater Wind, the company behind the $300 million project.
Council on Foreign Relations: Automobile Fuel Economy Standards in a Lower-Oil-Price World
Corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, which require automakers to achieve government-mandated targets for the efficiency of the vehicles they sell each year, can reduce U.S. reliance on oil, cut emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, and save consumers money.
However, the recent fall in oil prices could undercut the rationale for stringent standards, because when gasoline is cheaper, consumers do not save as much on fuel costs when they buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. Ahead of a mandatory federal review of the policies, Varun Sivaram and Michael A. Levi modeled the costs and benefits of CAFE standards under lower oil prices than Barack Obama's administration assumed when, in 2011, it enacted rising standards through 2025.