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PENINSULA DAILY NEWS

SUNDAY, AUGUST 19, 2012

D7

Wind: Capacity of 18 megawatts CONTINUED FROM D1

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

An adult pale grass blue butterfly collected near the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is shown with dented eyes and stunted wings at a university laboratory.

Study: Nuclear leaks sparked gene mutations THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

TOKYO — Radiation that leaked from the Fukushima nuclear plant following last year’s tsunami caused mutations in some butterflies — including dented eyes and stunted wings — though humans seem relatively unaffected, researchers say. The mutations are the first evidence that the radiation has caused genetic changes in living organisms. They are likely to add to concerns about potential health risks among humans, though there is no evidence of it yet. Scientists say more study is needed to link human health with the Fukushima disaster. The catastrophic meltdowns in three reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant after it was damaged by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami March 11, 2011, prompted a public backlash against nuclear power and forced the government to reassess resource-scarce Japan’s entire energy strategy. (The Fukushima plant has been stabilized but more than 100,000 people still can’t go home due to radiation fears, while work to decommission the plant will take about 40 years. (It was the world’s worst atomic accident since Chernobyl. (In May, the last of Japan’s 50 working reactors were turned off as safety checks were carried out, but two are now back online and generating power.) But the most visible example of the radiation’s effect was claimed by a group of Japanese researchers who found radical physical changes in successive generations of a type of butterfly that they said were caused by radiation exposure. They also said the threat to humans — a much larger and longer-lived species — remains unclear. “Our findings suggest that the contaminants are causing ecological damage — I do not know its implication to humans,” Joji Otaki of the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, a member of the research team, told The Associated Press in an email. A separate study, released last week, found very low levels of radioactivity in people who were living near the Fukushima

plant when it suffered the meltdowns.

Cesium levels The paper, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, measured cesium levels in 8,066 adults and 1,432 children and found average doses of less than 1 millisievert, which are considered safe. It was the first such study measuring internal exposures to cesium in a large number of people from the disaster. The research shows contamination decreased over time, particularly among children, in part because more precautions were taken with their food, water and outdoor activity. “No case of acute health problems has been reported so far; however, assessments of the long-term effect of radiation requires ongoing monitoring of exposure and the health conditions of the affected communities,” the report said.

Radiation unknown

But don’t expect cheaper power, at least at the start. Construction costs for the wind farm total about $65 million. Chugach agreed to buy the power at 9.7 cents per kilowatt hour, higher than the 6 cents per kilowatt hour Chugach pays on average, said Chugach Electric spokesman Phil Steyer. “Initially, Chugach expects that Fire Island will add a bit more than a dollar to the average residential monthly bill,” he said. The price is locked in for 25 years. In time, if natural-gas prices rise, it is expected to be a good deal for Chugach and its customers, CIRI says. CIRI is ready to show off what’s on site. The company recently took planeloads of reporters, photographers and others to the island to check out the project. For a project that has roots stretching back to the 1990s, when Chugach Electric studied a number of potential wind farm sites, things suddenly are moving fast. CIRI officials say the Chugach studies identified Fire Island as the prime spot because of winds that are strong but not too strong, proximity to Anchorage, minimal environmental impact and lack of conflict with other land uses. Chugach approached CIRI, the major landowner on Fire Island, to work with it on the project in 2000. Eventually, CIRI decided to take on the effort itself. It secured major environmental permits in 2009.

Pipeline: B.C. CONTINUED FROM D1 Black, 66, is founder and chief of Victoria-based Black Press Group Ltd. In addition to the PDN, Black Press’ operating companies have weekly and shopper publications in Washington state (including two Clallam County weeklies, Sequim Gazette and the Forks Forum) as well as daily and weekly newspapers in Canada, Hawaii and Ohio. Rick O’Connor, president and CEO of Black Press, said Friday that the Kitimat Clean project is “a separate venture from Black Press from all aspects.”

CHRIS ROSE executive director, Renewable Energy Alaska Project

are on the job. Workers come over daily by boat or small plane. “It’s very challenging because of the remoteness of it,” McManus said. “Logistically, it comes ‘Cleanest and greenest’ back to barging everything and getting these huge comA company owned by Black, Kitimat Clean Ltd., ponents onto the island,” is proposing to build the refinery about 15 miles McManus said. north of Kitimat and pipe gasoline, diesel and keroThe blades are made in sene 25 miles west to a marine terminal on a Pacific Brazil, and the towers are inlet south of Prince Rupert, about 500 miles north made in China, according to of Victoria, for loading on tankers. CIRI. “We want [the refinery] to be the cleanest and The state of Alaska greenest upgrading and refining site in the world,” awarded a $25 million grant he told the news media in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday. to help pay for the power Black said the refinery, which would be the first line, which CIRI will turn built in Canada in 25 years, would be capable of proover to Chugach once it’s cessing 550,000 barrels per day, ranking it among the world’s top 10 in capacity. complete. By comparison, BP LLC’s Cherry Point Refinery, CIRI expects to recover the largest in Washington state, processes about $17 million in a federal 230,000 barrels daily, according to The Associated stimulus grant that it says Press. will be used to lower the Black said he is hoping his proposal will change costs to Chugach. opposition from British Columbians and first CIRI owns 3,600 of Fire nations, many of whom oppose the $6 billion pipeline Island’s 4,000 acres. The rest project because they say the economic rewards for belongs to the Federal Aviathe province are not enough to offset the risk and tion Administration and consequence of an oil spill on the pipeline or off the Coast Guard. coast. Six miles long and 4 The pipeline to Kitimat is one of several under miles wide, the island is hillconsideration to transport crude from the oil sands of ier than it appears from the Athabasca region in northeastern Alberta. Anchorage, though the highAmong the others is Keystone XL, which would est point is less than 300 lengthen existing pipelines in the United States’ feet. midsection to link Athabasca with refineries in IlliBluffs overlook muddy nois and the Texas Gulf coast. beaches,. The Obama administration said it won’t decide It’s heavily wooded with whether to allow Keystone XL until next year. spruce, birch, cottonwood, alder and plenty of devil’s club and cow parsnip. barged over. The compoFive cranes, including A few grizzlies have nents must be precisely one that is among the big- appeared near the work site. staged at each turbine site. gest in Alaska at 660 tons, So have moose.

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“He was taken to the operating room, his skull was opened, they examined the brain, and the surgeon decided to pull the metal bar out from the front in the same direction it entered the brain.” Essinger said. He said Leite was conscious when he arrived at the hospital and told him what had happened. He said Leite was lucid and showed no negative consequences after the operation.

The price of power

So far, the actual radiation doses inflicted just after the accident are not exactly known, though exposure is thought to be very small, said David J. Brenner, a radiation physicist at Columbia University, who was not part of the research. “We do need improved estimates of the radiation dose that people in and near Fukushima prefecture actually received,” he told the AP. “Right now, our estimates are based on very, very rough calculations.” The research on the butterflies was published in Scientific Reports, an openaccess online journal by the Nature publication group, which provides faster publication and peer review by at least one scientist. It says pale grass blue butterflies, a common species in Japan, collected from several areas near the Fukushima plant showed signs of genetic mutations, such as dented eyes, malformed legs and antennae, and stunted wings. To study the genetic changes, the scientists raised the new generations of the butterflies in Okinawa, which has not been affected by the radiation releases, mating each Barged to island abnormal butterfly with Late last year, regulators one unaffected by such approved a contract for CIRI changes. subsidiary Fire Island Wind to sell power to Chugach Electric for 25 years. The first tower and turbine components were sent over by barge July 1. On July 13, the first tur“Today, he continues well, with few complaints bine — tower, blades and for a five-hour-long sur- generator — was erected. At the other 10 turbine gery,” Essinger said. “He sites, all major components says he feels little pain.” are in place, and a number of tower sections are up. ‘A miracle’ The prime contractor is a The bar fell from the New York company, Tetra fifth floor of a building Tech, which has built dozens under construction, went of wind farms around the through Leite’s hard hat, country and in Canada. entered the back of his skull Scott McManus is Tetra and exited between his Tech’s director of business eyes, Essinger said, adding: development, based in Glov“It really was a miracle” ersville, N.Y. that Leite survived. The logistics have been The accident and sur- the biggest issue, he said. gery took place Wednesday. Equipment must be

Bar: Operation CONTINUED FROM D3

It expects to start selling the power to Chugach Electric Association starting Sept. 30. With a capacity of just under 18 megawatts, the project is expected to generate just 4 percent of the power that Chugach sells to retail customers. But it’s a landmark for renewable-energy advocates. “This particular project is important because it’s the first wind project that’s going to serve the largest city in the state,” said Chris Rose, executive director of Renewable Energy Alaska Project, an advocacy group. “Tons of people are going to see this as they fly over. “They are going to start understanding that wind is a mature, commercial electric source rather than something that is on the drawing board for the future.” Environmentalists and consumer advocates support it, too. The Alaska Public Interest Research Group Cook Inletkeeper and the Alaska Center for the Environment are among those that say it makes sense. Chugach now relies mainly on natural gas and should be able save one-half billion cubic feet of gas annually, enough to power about 4,000 homes, said Ethan Schutt, CIRI’s senior vice president for land and energy development.

“This particular project is important because it’s the first wind project that’s going to serve the largest city in the state.”

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