|The Week That Was
March 18, 2000
LOW TECHNOLOGY TO CLEAN UP NUCLEAR WASTE
You won't believe what they're about to use to absorb nuclear waste: cat litter. Nearly 1,000 scientists and engineers have spent 18 years and $1.5 billion so far trying to clean up a polluted site in upper New York state, using high-tech custom-designed robots and remote-controlled ovens. But now they are turning to zeolite, a family of 48 minerals which absorbs odors and moistures -- and which is the main ingredient in cat litter.
The project at West Valley, N.Y., involves digging a deep trench and burying a wall of zeolite to sop up radioactive material tainting the ground water and seeping toward a stream that feeds Lake Erie. One of the most abundant minerals in zeolite is clinoptilolite -- which has a strong affinity for strontium-90, the radioactive isotope that tainted ground water beneath a long-mothballed recycling plant for nuclear fuel rods. While it is still too early to guarantee the test will succeed, if all goes as planned the 26-foot-deep wall will act like a giant molecular sieve -- letting water flow but capturing any strontium-90 molecules.
Federal officials are watching the project closely and might apply it to help restore water quality at many other nuclear waste sites. Those involved say the results should be evident by the spring. The total cost of the project is estimated to be less than $1.5 million -- far less than it would cost to pump and treat the water year after year.
Source: Andrew C. Revkin, "It Works for Cats, and Maybe for Nuclear Waste," New York Times, February 24, 2000.
GLOBAL WARMING, MYTH OR FACT?
Ref: SHAOPENG HUANG, HENRY N. POLLACK & PO-YU SHEN. "Temperature
trends over the past five centuries reconstructed from borehole temperatures"
Nature 403, 756-758 (2000)
By measuring the temperature of the earth at various depths in boreholes, Pollack of the University of Michigan and the other researchers have been able to more accurately chart patterns in climate change farther back than the 19th century -- heretofore the earliest date for reliable measurements of temperature. They found that the warming trend noted by some scientists has probably been going on since well before the invention of the steam engine, let alone the internal combustion engine or sport-utility vehicle.
[A reader's remark: Wanna bet researcher Pollack gets his federal funds cut?]
Of 616 holes dug, 479 showed an average increase in temperature of 1.8 degrees since the 1500s, well before the advent of the Industrial Age. Many scientists, in fact, believe that we are emerging from a period of abnormally cool worldwide temperatures, a "Little Ice Age" that lasted from about the year 1400 to around 1850. If so, the rise in temperature after 1850 would, in effect, be a return to equilibrium or at least a more natural state and have nothing whatever to do with man and his machines.
Comment from the Washington Times editorial page: "More evidence that global warming advocates may be full of hot air was released but given scant media attention in the Feb. issue of the academic journal Nature. The data cast further doubt on the validity of the computer model-based idea that the planet is heating up in an abnormal, alarming way or that the cause is mankind's profligate burning of fossil fuels and other related industrial activities.
The Washington Post buried the story on page A13. Somehow, it doesn't take a great deal of imagination to believe that had the conclusions been supportive of global warming theory, the story would have appeared on Page One above the fold.
*************COMMENT BY READER*****************
Yet another article from one of the premier science journals with more evidence confirming the unusual warming of the last century.
WHAT WAS DONE: They looked at the temperature trend over the last 500 years.
WHAT THEY FOUND: It's getting warmer.
WHAT IT MEANS: It really truly is getting warmer. Honest, it is.
Of course, George. Can you say "Little Ice Age" by now? The beginning of the temperature record is right about at the LIA peak.