TOKYO, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Japan is moving away from reliance on nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster, and plans to plans to build the world's largest offshore wind farm.
Officials say the proposal calls for construction of 143 wind turbines on platforms 10 miles off the coast of Fukushima, where the Daiichi nuclear power plant was damaged in the March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The wind farm will generate 1 gigawatt of power as part of a national plan to increase renewable energy resources following the post-tsunami shutdown of the Japan's 54 nuclear reactors, NewScientist.com reported Wednesday.
The Fukushima prefecture has said it intends to be completely energy self-sufficient by 2040, using only renewable sources, including the country's biggest solar park, which has also been proposed.
When completed, the Fukushima wind farm will surpass the 504 megawatts generated by the 140 turbines at the Greater Gabbard farm off the coast of Suffolk in Britain, currently the world's largest farm.
"This project is important -- I think it is impossible to use nuclear power in Fukushima again," project manager Takeshi Ishihara of the University of Tokyo said.
Soot called major global warming factor
SEATTLE, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Black carbon -- common soot -- not only causes smog but is the number-two contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide, a U.S. researcher says.
A four-year assessment by an international panel that included University of Washington atmospheric scientist Sarah Doherty found black carbon, the soot particles in smoke and smog, contributes about twice as much to global warming as previously estimated.
The estimate is far greater than that made in 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"We were surprised at its potential contribution to climate," said Doherty, one of four coordinating lead authors of the study.
Some previous research had suggested black-carbon emissions from sources like open burning of forests, crops and grasslands, and from energy-related emissions in Southeast Asia and East Asia, were being underestimated, she said.
A bright spot in the study is the finding that since soot only remains in the atmosphere a short time, controlling soot emissions can result in more immediate climate benefits than trying to control carbon dioxide, which can linger in the atmosphere for years, Doherty said.
"We hope reducing black-carbon emissions buys us some time," she said. "But it doesn't replace cutting back on CO2 emissions."
The study has been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.
NASA, ESA in Orion agreement
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- NASA says it has signed an agreement for the European Space Agency to provide the service module for the U.S. agency's upcoming Orion spacecraft.
The agreement will bring a European contribution to the spacecraft's Exploration Mission-1 set for 2017, NASA reported Wednesday.
The Orion vehicle has three major components -- the four-man crew capsule, the launch abort system, which would pull the crew module to safety in the unlikely event of a life-threatening problem during launch, and the service module, which will house Orion's power, thermal and in-space propulsion systems.
That's the component the ESA will provide under the terms of the agreement signed in med-December, NASA said.
"This is not a simple system," Orion Program Manager Mark Geyer said. "ESA's contribution is going to be critical to the success of Orion's 2017 mission."
That mission will be the first integrated flight test of both the Orion spacecraft and NASA's new Space Launch System rocket.
"We have a lot to look forward to in the coming years with human exploration," said Dan Dumbacher, deputy associate administrator for Exploration System Development at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "NASA is thrilled to have ESA as a partner as we set out to explore our solar system."
EPA: U.S. air pollution down in 2012
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Total toxic air releases in 2012 were down 8 percent from the 2010 figure, a survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found.
The EPA's annual Toxic Releases Inventory report, released Wednesday, said the drop was mostly because of decreases in hazardous air pollutant emissions, even while total air, land and water releases of toxic chemicals increased for the second year in a row.
Data for the inventory report are submitted each year to the EPA by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities and commercial hazardous waste facilities.
The inventory "plays a critical role in EPA's efforts to hold polluters accountable and identify and acknowledge those who take steps to prevent pollution," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said.
"Since 1998, we have recorded a steady decline in the amount of TRI chemicals released into the air, and since 2009 alone, we have seen more than a 100-million-pound decrease in TRI air pollutants entering our communities," she said.
Among the hazardous air pollutants showing decline were hydrochloric acid and mercury, likely due to installation of control technologies at coal fired power plants and a shift to other fuel sources, the EPA said.