On Friday, June 28, at 2:00pm EDT (1800 GMT) Todd Stern, Special Envoy on Climate Change, will answer your questions LIVE on a special Facebook event!
This is your opportunity to ask questions directly to the State Department about our efforts to slow climate change and how President Obama’s new initiative will affect our foreign policy.
Questions/comments that are off-topic, personal attacks, or in other ways violate our Terms of Service will not be answered.
Start posting your questions on this event page right now!
On June 25, President Obama, in a much anticipated speech before a receptive audience at Georgetown University, announced his Climate Action Plan. This plan includes the first federal carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants, further develops greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, prepares the nation for the impacts of climate change and supports U.S. efforts to assist with international global climate change programs.
Climate change is a complex problem that can no longer be ignored. The President’s Climate Action Plan states that, “While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged. Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution we can protect our children’s health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment.” Read more here.
The President’s Climate Action Plan has been welcomed by HMG and UK green groups. In other recent news, DECC Secretary Davey has set out his vision for the EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework, the Energy Bill has moved to the House of Lords, Scotland has hosted the UK’s largest renewable energy event, and HMG has announced measures to encourage the development shale gas in the UK.
Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are working to improve the safety and efficiency of nuclear fuel. TRISO fuel has been developed over the past decade to create FCM (fully ceramic microencapsulated ) fuel, which provides two additional layers of protection for nuclear fuel which, the ORNL scientists say, would result in improved safety of nuclear fuel, particularly in extreme conditions such as those that occurred in the 2011 Fukushima accident. Materials Science and Technology Division Associate Director Lance Snead spoke for ORNL stating that “our goal with FCM is to show that TRISO fuel is safer and more efficient for both current-generation reactors and next-generation designs.” Learn more at ORNL.gov.
On June 12, UK Science Minister David Willetts hosted the G8 science ministers and heads of national science academies at the Royal Society in London, in the first meeting of its type to be held since 2008. The U.S. was represented by Dr. Patricia Falcone, Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs, Office of Science and Technology Policy.
NASA’s Chief Technologist, Dr. Mason Peck travelled to the United Kingdom on April 30 to meet with the UK’s key space agency officials, university researchers and industry space technologists to learn about the UK”s strengths and interests in space technology.
NASA’s Chief Technologist, Dr. Mason Peck travelled to the United Kingdom on April 30 to meet with the UK’s key space agency officials, university researchers and industry space technologists to learn about the UK’s strengths and interests in space technology. He took the opportunity of this visit to explain NASA’s space technology investment approach, and discussed NASA’s new asteroid initiative, previously announced in President Obama’s FY 2014 budget request. Among the stops Dr. Peck made on his three day visit to the UK was a visit to the University of Strathclyde where he gave a keynote speech at the University’s Advanced Concepts Workshop.
On the second day of his visit, Dr. Peck toured the UK’s Space Agency in Harwell Oxford, where he met with Professor Richard Holdaway, Director of the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and Stuart Martin, CEO of Catapult’s Satellite Applications. Mr. Martin briefed Dr. Peck on the ways the UK, through Catapult, is promoting the application of space technologies to commercial uses. Described by Mr. Martin as an interface between research industrial and commercial sectors, Catapult provides venues and tools for actors in various industries looking to capitalize on space technology for commercial civilian uses. Working along similar lines and on the same campus as Catapult, but on behalf of the European Union Space Agency (ESA), Dr. Peck met with officials from ESA and the ESA’s Business Incubation Centre.
ESA officials briefed Dr. Peck on the goals for the new facility, which include a new building and additional staff. (On May 15, the ESA launched the new facility at an event attended by ESA Director Dordain and UK Science Minister David Willets. Minister Willets, according to press reports, acknowledged that “Space is crucial to many British business sectors and public services. If you want to see where flooding has done the most damage, if you want to assess exactly the state of the harvest, if you want to land planes precisely, even in fog, you are using services from space. Instead of thinking of space as a slightly odd luxury, we need to see it as a key part of the modern economy.”)
Dr. Peck introduced NASA’s new asteroid initiative announced as part of the President’s proposed FY 2014 budget for NASA. This new initiative, which follows President Obama’s direction in April 2010 to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and on to Mars in the 2030s, proposes to leverage NASA’s human, robotic and advanced technology activities for this first-ever human mission to an asteroid, while also accelerating efforts to improve detection and characterization of asteroids.
The $105 million in the budget supports a broad asteroid initiative, which includes planning for the capture and redirection of an asteroid, and an increased role for innovative partnerships and approaches to help us amplify efforts to identify and track asteroids and protect us from any potential threats. The asteroid mission involves robotically capturing a 7-10-meter diameter near-Earth asteroid with a mass around 500 metric tons and redirecting it safely to a stable lunar orbit where astronauts could later visit and explore it. An asteroid of this size does not pose a hazard to Earth. The initiative would expand current efforts to detect both large asteroids that pose a hazard to Earth and small asteroids appropriate as candidates for capture and redirection. The mission accelerates NASA’s technology development activities. It complements and aligns the Agency’s on-going work, such as scientific investigations and technology demonstrations on the International Space Station, and takes advantage of its work on the Space Launch System rocket, Orion crew vehicle, near-Earth object detection effort, and solar electric propulsion technology development. NASA will improve detection and characterization of asteroids, pursue solar electric propulsion (SEP) demonstration, develop a mechanism to capture an asteroid and redirect it to a stable orbit in the Earth-moon system, and begin designing a mission to send humans to it using the SLS and Orion. NASA is pursuing international engagement in all aspects of this new asteroid initiative.
Solar Impulse’s HB-SIA prototype is starting the crossing of America. First leg is Moffett Airfield at the Ames Research Center of NASA to Phoenix Sky Harbour Airport. Solar Impulse will fly across America in stages from San Francisco to Washington D.C. and New York City. | Photo by Fred Merz, Solar Impulse. Solar Impulse’s HB-SIA prototype.
This month the Energy Department introduced the coast-to-coast flight of a solar aircraft. With the wingspan equal to that of a Boeing 747, the Solar Impulse is crossing the United States using roughly 12,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) cells made by Silicon Valley-based SunPower to power its four electric engines. By pushing the boundaries of innovation, Solar Impulse is demonstrating solar’s potential to Americans from California to New York City. This ambitious aircraft incorporates advanced solar and battery technologies that enable it to fly both day and night. Read more
What if we could capture carbon dioxide waste from industrial plants and use it for something else — rather than have it contribute to air pollution?
A breakthrough, first-of-its-kind project in Port Arthur, Texas, is doing just that. The full-scale operation at Air Products and Chemicals’ Port Arthur hydrogen production facility is capturing carbon dioxide from two steam methane reformer hydrogen-production plants, and then using this would-be by-product to increase the efficiency of oil extraction from the West Hastings oil field in eastern Texas.
The Air Products and Chemicals hydrogen production facilities use a technique known as “steam reforming of methane” to produce hydrogen used in many industrial processes, including oil refinery operations. Unfortunately, like many industrial processes, the steam reforming process generates carbon dioxide as a byproduct. But by employing innovative carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies supported by Energy Department investments, the Port Arthur plant will now capture approximately 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Once captured, the carbon dioxide is then sent to the oil field where it will increase production by an estimated 1.6 to 3.1 million barrels — all while being safely and securely stored underground. Read more
Solar activity continued on May 14, 2013, as the sun emitted a fourth X-class flare from its upper left limb, peaking at 9:48 p.m. EDT. This flare is classified as an X1.2 flare and it is the 18th X-class flare of the current solar cycle. The flare caused a radio blackout – categorized as an R3, or strong, on NOAA’s space weather scales from R1 to R5 — which has since subsided.
The flare was also associated with a non-Earth-directed CME. CMEs and flares are separate but related solar phenomena: solar flares are powerful bursts that send light and radiation into space; CMEs erupt with billions of tons of solar material. They often, but do not always, occur together. Any time we can see a solar flare from Earth’s view, than at least some of its light and radiation must be directed at Earth. CMEs on the other hand may or may not be Earth directed. NASA observes CMEs, however, even when they are not traveling toward Earth, because they may impact spacecraft.
Experimental NASA research models show that this CME left the sun at around 745 miles per second, beginning at 10:18 p.m. EDT. It is not Earth-directed, however it may pass the Spitzer and Epoxi orbits, and their mission operators have been notified. If warranted, operators can put spacecraft into safe mode to protect the instruments from solar material
The Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) is pleased to introduce our new, updated public website: energy.gov/ne.
The new site was designed to help facilitate users’ access to NE documents, reports and program descriptions, with an emphasis on up-to-date, easily accessible information. The new homepage features our activities and initiatives, as well as links to most recent publications and press releases. The rest of the NE site is structured to match our organization — and enable easier navigation and more direct access to information about our programs.