Judge cancels major US oil and gas exploration sale

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States (AFP) – A judge on Thursday canceled the sale of oil and gas exploration leases of some 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, after environmental groups sued the Biden administration citing major concerns. Federal District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras declared existing contracts invalid, saying the Department of the Interior did not adequately consider the leases’ impact on climate change when issuing them. According to the ruling, officials had used […]

Australia pumps cash into Great Barrier Reef protection

SYDNEY, Austalia (AFP) – Australia unveiled a billion-dollar package to protect the climate-ravaged Great Barrier Reef on Friday, hoping to prevent the vast network of corals from being removed from UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Conservative prime minister Scott Morrison announced the Aus$1 billion (US$700 million) nine-year plan, months after narrowly avoiding the reef being placed on UNESCO’s “in danger” list. “We are backing the health of the reef and the economic future of tourism operators, […]

Sweden approves plan to bury nuclear waste

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AFP) – Sweden’s government on Thursday announced it was approving a plan to provide a final storage place for radioactive spent nuclear fuel by burying it in metal containers deep in bedrock. The site of the final storage will be a facility in  Forsmark, which is also the home of one of Sweden’s three nucelar power plants, about 130 kilometres ( 81 miles) north of Stockholm. “We are doing this to take responsibility, […]

Japan to help with Bill Gates’ next-gen nuclear power project

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) – Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said Thursday it will work with Japan’s atomic energy agency to provide technical assistance to a US start-up run by Bill Gates that is building a next-generation nuclear reactor in Wyoming. American billionaire Gates is the founder and chair of TerraPower, which plans to build its plant in the US state by 2028 using a new technology called Natrium, touted as a “carbon-free, reliable energy solution”. The Japanese […]

Greenpeace says abandoned Yemen oil tanker a ‘grave threat’

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AFP) – A long-abandoned fuel tanker off the coast of war-torn Yemen poses a “grave threat” to millions of the impoverished country’s residents, potentially exacerbating its humanitarian crisis, Greenpeace warned on Thursday. The 45-year-old fuel vessel FSO Safer has 1.1 million barrels of crude on board and has been moored out at sea about six kilometres (four miles) off Yemen’s western lifeline port of Hodeida. “The abandoned tanker, with its toxic […]

Glacier lakes accelerate disappearance of permanent ice: study

GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) – Glaciers are retreating faster globally due to climate change but they melt more quickly when they flow into a lake than when they end on land, with consequences for water supplies, a new study found on Thursday. The Swiss-funded study is the first large-scale, detailed analysis of the phenomenon in mountain glaciers and could help forecast major water shortages and huge flood waves. It examined all 319 glaciers in the eastern […]

Tests of HIV vaccine using mRNA technology have begun

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — Testing in humans of an HIV vaccine that uses messenger RNA technology has begun, the biotech firm Moderna and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative said Thursday. This Phase 1 trial is being carried out in the United States among 56 healthy adults who are HIV negative. Despite four decades of research, doctors have yet to develop a vaccine to protect people from the virus that causes AIDS, which kills hundreds […]

Indonesia jails poachers over killing of 5 Sumatran elephants

ACEH JAYA, Indonesia (AFP) —  Nearly a dozen poachers were jailed by an Indonesian court Thursday over the 2020 killing of five critically endangered Sumatran elephants and the illegal trade of their lucrative tusks, as the Southeast Asian archipelago’s battle with wildlife crime continues. Rampant deforestation has reduced the elephants’ habitat and brought them into increasing conflict with humans, while their ivory tusks are prized in the illegal wildlife trade. Authorities found the dead elephants […]

More than 200 new species found in Mekong region: WWF

BANGKOK, Thailand (AFP) — Scientists discovered more than 200 new species across the greater Mekong region in 2020, according to a WWF report, despite the threats posed by climate change and human activities such as logging. The finds include a new primate, a colourless cavefish and an iridescent snake with an unusual non-overlapping pattern of scales. In all, 224 new species of plants and vertebrate animals were found in the region — which includes Myanmar, […]

Six sue Fukushima nuclear plant operator over thyroid cancer

by Kyoko HASEGAWA Agence France-Presse TOKYO, Japan (AFP) – Six young people sued the operator of Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant on Thursday over claims they developed thyroid cancer due to exposure to radiation after the facility’s meltdown. The plaintiffs, now aged between 17 and 27, were living in the Fukushima region when a huge earthquake on March 11, 2011 triggered a tsunami that caused the nuclear disaster. On Thursday their lawyers marched into the […]

Thailand rushes to contain oil spill after undersea leak

BANGKOK, Thailand (AFP) – Thailand’s navy and pollution experts battled Thursday to clear up an oil spill close to pristine holiday beaches, after an undersea pipeline leaked up to 50 tonnes of crude. The kingdom’s Pollution Control Department has warned that the spill in the Gulf of Thailand, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) off the coast of Rayong province, could threaten a national park in nearby Ko Samet island. Weak currents have kept the oil […]

Object found in the Milky Way ‘unlike anything astronomers have seen’

by Maddison Connaughton Agence France-Presse SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) – Australian researchers have discovered a strange spinning object in the Milky Way they say is unlike anything astronomers have ever seen. The object, first spotted by a university student working on his undergraduate thesis, releases a huge burst of radio energy three times every hour. The pulse comes “every 18.18 minutes, like clockwork,” said astrophysicist Natasha Hurley-Walker, who led the investigation after the student’s discovery, using […]