Tuesday

All U.S. Nuclear Plants Should Be Phased Out, Former Regulatory Chief Says

Ex-Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Says Unfixable Flaws Plague the Nation’s Reactors. Gregory B. Jaczko’s position mirrors the arguments of various anti-nuclear groups. But it is highly unusual for a former top nuclear regulator to so bluntly criticize an industry whose safety he was in charge of ensuring. Jaczko said he only recently concluded that the nation’s 104 nuclear plants should be replaced after more fully considering “these very, very difficult problems” made more evident by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. “Continuing to put Band-Aid on Band-Aid is not going to fix the problem,” said Jaczko, who quit as NRC chairman last summer. He suggested that smaller reactors could improve safety. The New York Times

Fracking opponents in California win court victory that could delay drilling on federal land. U.S. Magistrate Paul Grewal in San Jose, Calif., ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management did not properly assess the threat that fracking could pose to water and wildlife before it leased land in Monterey and Fresno counties to oil drillers. “Ultimately, BLM argues that the effects of fracking on the parcels at issue are largely unknown,” Grewal wrote. “The court agrees. But this is precisely why proper investigation was so crucial in this case.” The lease deals in 2011 provoked an outcry from local landowners, environmentalists and Monterey County officials, who feared it could represent the start of a fracking boom, and spurred the lawsuit. San Francisco Chronicle

Study finds that strict school lunch standards may curb obesity. The findings, published in JAMA Pediatrics, compared outcomes between states with strict nutrition regulations versus other states. Overall, researchers found that students who received free or reduced-price lunches were more obese than students who did not take part in the programs, but the gap was much smaller in states with strict lunch standards. The results could bode well for standards introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in January 2012 that, among other things, set maximums for calories offered during lunch and mandate that only skim or reduced-fat milks are offered to students. Before that, the USDA only set minimum calorie counts. Reuters, MedPage Today

Despite warnings and state laws, texting while driving is as widespread as ever.  New National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures show that at any given daylight moment, about 660,000 drivers are using a cell phone behind the wheel, in line with the agency’s previous assessment in 2010. That comes despite bans passed by 39 states outlawing text messaging by drivers. Ten states also prohibit all motorists from using handheld phones while driving. “Many drivers see distracted driving as risky when other drivers do it, but do not recognize how their own driving deteriorates,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said. In 2011, cellphone use and other driving distractions led to more than 3,300 deaths and 387,000 injuries. PCMag, Los Angeles Times

Food flavoring company cited for exposing workers to harmful chemical. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused Newark, N.J.-based Natural Flavors of 12 violations, including one willful violation, the agency’s most serious charge. OSHA said workers in Newark were overexposed to diacetyl, a chemical used in flavorings that is linked to a rare lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans. “As early as 2004, the flavoring manufacturing industry has been aware that its workers who are overexposed to diacetyl on the job have developed severe, life-threatening lung disease. It is outrageous that Natural Flavors would expose workers to this debilitating chemical,” an OSHA official said. OSHA proposed penalties of $60,400. The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger, OSHA

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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