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New nuclear reactors can help France become carbon neutral by 2050 -RTE

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French grid operator RTE said next generation nuclear reactors offer an affordable path to shifting the country’s energy mix away from fossil fuels and make the aim of carbon neutrality by 2050 achievable.

“Building new nuclear reactors is economically viable, especially as it makes it possible to maintain a fleet of around 40 gigawatts (GW) in 2050,” said the RTE in a report examining the different pathways to meet the expected rise in electricity demand.

Industry and government sources say the report is expected to help inform President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to go ahead with plans to build new nuclear plants.

Le Figaro reported last week that Macron wants to announce the construction of six new EPR nuclear reactors by the end of the year.

Achieving future carbon neutral goals without nuclear reactors would require a scale up of renewables faster than the most dynamic electric mixes in Europe, RTE said.

France and several other European countries have pushed to label nuclear energy as green investments in the European Union’s upcoming sustainable finance rules.

The carbon neutral goals will be “impossible” without a significant development of renewable energy, RTE said.

Other supply options include the development of further interconnectors between countries, expanding hydraulic storage, and installing batteries to store renewable power.

New thermal power plants that utilise carbon-free gases, such as “green hydrogen” which is produced through the use of renewable energy, can also be used in order to meet rising consumption forecasts, the operator said.

RTE said the current energy crisis shows Europe’s dependence on hydro-carbons, such as gas and coal, has an economic cost and that low-carbon production in the country is an issue of energy independence.

France’s nuclear safety watchdog ASN in February cleared more than half of the nuclear fleet to operate for a decade longer than originally planned after maintenance work, as 32-900 megawatt reactors are coming to the end of their lifespan.

France currently has about 62.4 GW of nuclear generation capacity provided by 57 reactors, RTE data showed.

REACTION

Environmental groups decried the report’s emphasis on nuclear energy and supported calls for a quicker build out of renewable generation.

Greenpeace focused on the three pathways which would see the grid operated on 100% renewable energy and called for debates on the energy transition.

“This not only proves that nuclear power is not a necessary evil, but also that, whatever option is chosen, renewable energies need massive development to respond to the climate emergency,” Greenpeace said.

The RTE report said that scenarios with high shares of renewables, or those that extend reactor life beyond 60 years, would “involve heavy bets on technology” to meet carbon neutrality goals.

French Green party members described the report as one-sided and an attempt to justify new nuclear projects while disregarding consumption control measures.

“The goal of the president of the Republic and his government is clear: to justify the revival of nuclear power at any cost,” said Matthieu Orphelin, who used to represent Macron’s party but who has joined the Greens.

The French renewable energy union SER said the scenarios presented in the report represented “a major paradigm shift,” as it is expected that renewables will need to cover at least 50% of demand by 2050.

(Reporting by Forrest Crellin and Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Mike Harrison)

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See what food challenges astronauts face in space – CGTN America

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For the first time ever, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency hosted the Deep Space Food Challenge. 

The competition brought universities and companies together to propose solutions on how to feed astronauts on a long mission. Last month, NASA announced that the winners and one of the international winners of the Phase 1 competition came from a group of students in a university in South America. 

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports Colombia.

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Deaf researchers are advancing the field of science — but barriers still hold many back – CBC.ca

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In a scrubby patch of forest near Halifax, Saint Mary’s University professor Linda Campbell and her master’s student, Michael Smith, squelch through mud, looking for lichens. The lichens they’re after can be used as natural biological monitors of pollutants from former gold-mining sites, like this one. 

Smith lifts one piece from a branch. It’s usnea, or beard lichen, which the researchers can use to assess levels of arsenic and mercury in the air. That’s because it absorbs nutrients — and pollutants, if they’re present — from the atmosphere rather than through roots.

Campbell notes that there were once industrial devices used to crush gold-bearing ore at the site where this lichen is now growing. The lichen is absorbing mercury initially released from the ore many years ago, that is still percolating out into the environment. “What took place 100 years ago is still being reflected in the lichen,” she said.

Campbell is a freshwater ecologist — one of a handful of experts in Canada who’s studied how contaminants move through ecosystems, and how to deal with them.

But she’s also part of another minority. Campbell is Deaf, and uses American Sign Language, or ASL, making her part of a group that continues to be underrepresented in science.

WATCH | ASL interpretation of Quirks & Quarks’ Deaf in science: Beyond the range of hearing documentary:

Deaf in science: Beyond the range of hearing [ASL]

5 days ago

American Sign Language interpretation of Deaf in science: Beyond the range of hearing , a radio documentary from Quirks & Quarks about the underrepresentation of deaf researchers in science, and how they’re bringing their unique perspective to the lab and the field. 20:39

Transcript of Quirks & Quarks’ Deaf in science: Beyond the range of hearing documentary

A report from earlier this year by the Royal Society in the U.K., for instance, noted that while about one per cent of the population is deaf, the percentage of STEM undergraduates in that country who are deaf has stagnated at just 0.3 per cent for the past decade. And, a 2017 U.S. study by the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes found that, overall, Deaf people obtain lower levels of education than their hearing peers.

In Canada, there is little formal data, but, anecdotally, Campbell knows of only five other deaf STEM university faculty members.

Campbell attributes the underrepresentation to barriers erected by attitudes among hearing people. 

“When science looks at that as an added cost, and added labour, to include people with disabilities, they’re not recognizing the differences and the successes that can be brought — that diverse thinking can be successful.” 

Barriers rooted in education

Alex Lu recently graduated with a PhD in computer science from the University of Toronto, where he studied Artificial Intelligence, or AI. Lu is Deaf, and uses sign language and lip reading, as well as his own voice.

Growing up, Lu says he always felt comfortable as a Deaf person, but found that hard to reconcile with the attitudes he encountered in his university education. He found people were used to teaching and learning science a certain way — which didn’t always involve working with Deaf people or ASL interpreters.

“I think I’m the first Deaf person in my program. So there was a whole bunch of confusion about how you get ASL interpreters and how they work in classes. There were a lot of professors that had never interacted with an ASL interpreter, or a student that uses an ASL interpreter,” he said.

AI researcher Alex Lu, who is deaf, said that he faced obstacles in his PhD studies at the University of Toronto due to the complications of getting ASL interpreters and instructors who were inexperienced in interacting with deaf students. (Submitted by Alex Lu)

“And then when you start looking into that, you start realizing, well, here are all of the barriers in the way that we’ve been educating deaf people.”

Some of those barriers can be traced back to the fact that, from the late 19th century to the early 1960s, sign language was often forbidden in education, as people believed it prevented Deaf children from learning speech. 

ASL often not built for science

Today, there are few Deaf researchers working in academia, which has led to a problem: much of the technical and specialized language used in STEM hasn’t made its way into signed languages such as ASL.

When there are no signs, interpreters may use fingerspelling — spelling out each letter of a word — or the sign for the word in general English, which can be inaccurate.

Colin Lualdi, a fourth year PhD student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, studies photonic quantum information. He said the lack of useful signs can be frustrating and tedious for deaf students, and can produce misunderstandings.

One example was the term “degeneracy,” which he encountered as an undergrad. His ASL interpreter signed using the English word meaning to get worse over time. In fact, in physics this actually refers to two systems with the same amount of energy.

WATCH | Physicist Colin Lualdi defines the physics concept of ‘spin’ in ASL:

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“And by that time, I realized we needed a new sign for it, in order to support the concepts that were being communicated,” he said.

Since then, Lualdi has joined a collaboration between Harvard University and the Learning Center for the Deaf to create signs for terms in quantum science. One of the signs the team has worked on is for electron; the current sign has an index finger circling a closed fist, representing a nucleus.

“It implies that you have an electron always circling a nucleus, right? But that’s not always true,” he said.

Instead, Lualdi and other project members have proposed a sign with just the index finger moving in a circle. 

WATCH | Physicist David Spiecker demonstrates the proposed new ASL sign for the electron:

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They’re now in the process of disseminating this sign and others, as well as syntax the project has been working on to improve communication of physics concepts, to see if they’ll be adopted by the broader community.

Either way, Lualdi says they’ve already made his own work as a scientist easier.

“Everyone wins when we have an improved framework of language and, and the process becomes much more efficient.” 

Bringing a unique perspective to fieldwork

Outside of physics labs, being Deaf in science can present its own challenges and opportunities, as it did for Barbara Spiecker. She came to love fieldwork while pursuing her masters degree in marine biology.

Spiecker, who is now doing a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said her experience as a Deaf scientist, and a user of ASL, have honed her powers of observation, and provided her with a different lens to view the natural world. 

During her PhD fieldwork, marine biologist Barbara Spiecker said her advisor was concerned that because she was deaf, it would be unsafe for to work in wet and slippery intertidal beaches. (Submitted by Barbara Spiecker)

“It’s very 3D based, a lot of what I do, and ASL is a 3D language. So often hearing people, when they research, have a different frame of how they see and interpret the world, and what they research. So, that’s what I bring to the table,” Spiecker said.

But Spiecker says being Deaf hasn’t always been seen as a strength. For the first two years of her PhD program, she was not provided an interpreter, which meant she missed out on learning opportunities. Spiecker says she had to fight hard to not have the cost of the interpreter pushed on her lab, which would have cut into their research budget and discouraged them from hiring Deaf students.

“That was quite the battle — if that was allowed, then I wouldn’t have got my PhD.”

In fieldwork, too, she encountered attitudes that could present obstacles. At one point, her work involved extended time on the seaweed carpet of the potentially treacherous intertidal zone. Advisors and potential employers expressed doubt she could be safe in the water.

“I [was] like, ‘there’s really no difference, you probably aren’t relying on your hearing at that point, either.’ My eyes are very vigilant in these situations,” she said.”It just took a little education and explanation, to help them realize there’s really no difference.”

The value of different perspectives

But Alex Lu says there is a difference in once important way — in that Deaf scientists, by virtue of their life experiences, contribute different perspectives.

“The value of having disabled people in science, and marginalized people in science isn’t that you just want to get people who are uniformly going to be superheroes or anything like that,” he says. Instead, he says what’s important is that “we contribute perspectives that are different from mainstream science.”

Back at the former gold mining site, Linda Campbell says science is strengthened by having more people contributing diverse perspectives, such as the issues she works on, challenging legacy contaminants affecting ecosystems.

Beard lichen has no roots and absorbs nutrients from the atmosphere. Since it also will absorb airborne pollutants, ecologist Linda Campbell studies it to determine whether old industrial sites are continuing to emit toxins into the atmosphere. (Moira Donovan/CBC News)

“We’re building many lines of evidence for the research and the potential risks of the tailings and how to manage those risks,” she said. When barriers prevent Deaf scientists from contributing to these kinds of challenges, she said, “you’re losing that whole group of people who have such intense, powerful skills that can advance the field of science.”

And the fact that some Deaf scientists have managed to work and advocate their way into positions working on environmental issues and other aspects of STEM doesn’t mean that the barriers have been removed — instead, she said it should be seen as inspiration for work that is still to come.

“There are many, many more people that could be successful and could contribute to science and make the planet a more healthy place. But they just can’t, because of those very barriers imposed on them,” she said.

“‘If they can do it, you can do it’ — that’s not it. It’s more that ‘they could do it, so we can find a way for you to do it, too.'”

Written and produced by Moira Donovan

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Newly unearthed dinosaur evolved 'large tail weapon' unlike any other – CNET

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Fossils found in Chile are from the bizarre dog-sized dinosaur species called Stegouros that had a unique slashing tail weapon.


Lucas Jaymez

In a southern and sparsely populated region of Chile, scientists excavated the skeletal remains of a naturally armored dinosaur that lived over 70 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period. Much to the team’s surprise, they found it possessed a rather bizarre feature: a knife-like artillery in place of a tail.

Although they echo beings straight out of fantasy novels, armored dinosaurs are a well-known crew. Ranging from the sharply adorned Kentosaurus to the curvy backed Hesperosaurus, paleontologists have already studied a long list of the physically shielded animals. But this new member of the warrior-like troop of beings piqued researchers’ interest because of its specialized armament that could’ve once sliced through enemies. 

The ancient herbivore “evolved a large tail weapon unlike any dinosaur,” the team said about the discovery in a report published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The dinosaur’s oddly shaped backside is decorated with a whopping seven pairs of bony deposits fused together, emulating actual blades. 

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A reconstruction of the newly unearthed dinosaur’s tail.


Lucas Jaymez

“It was an animal with a proportionally large head and a narrow snout with a beak,” Sergio Soto Acuña, lead author of the study and a doctoral student at the University of Chile said. “However, the most notable feature is the caudal weapon: the posterior half of the tail is enclosed in a structure made up of fused bony plates that give the tail a very strange appearance.”

The team dubbed the 2-meter (about 6-foot-6-inch) long species Stegouros elengassen due to the rest of its body resembling the Stegosaurus genus — aka Spike from The Land Before Time. Later, extensive DNA analysis and cranial examination revealed the animal to be more closely related to a dinosaur group called Ankylosaurs, but the team decided to keep the initial name.

“I think this finding radically changes what we thought about the evolution of armored dinosaurs in the southern hemisphere,” Acuńa said. “Our results show that they were not simple dispersal events of northern Ankylosaurs, but rather that they were a very ancient branch of primitive Ankylosaurs that evolved in isolation from other armored dinosaurs.”

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The hips, legs and tails of the Chilean dinosaur’s fossilized skeleton.


University of Chile

He said that one of the most surprising outcomes about this discovery was the revelation of an entirely new lineage of Southern Hemisphere armored dinosaurs that had evolved its own posterior weaponry — independently of plated dinosaurs, or Stegosaurs, and densely armored dinosaurs, or Euankylosaurs. 

Presumably, the dangerous appendage was used to defend against predators. But either way, Acuña adds, “This shows us that the fossil record of the Gondwanan continents can still have unexpected surprises for us.”

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A stegouros chomping on some leaves.


Lucas Jaymez

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