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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: NRC Approves Reactor, China Air Pollution Standards, NZ Bans UN Offsets

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission unanimously approved a new nuclear reactor design, the Westinghouse AP1000, to be used at two American utilities projects in South Carolina and Georgia. The Westinghouse AP1000 is a 1,154-megawatt that reactor relies more on forces like gravity and natural heat convection and less on pumps, valves and operator actions potentially lessening the chance of accidents, writes The New York Times. These projects will add 4,600 megawatts of generating capacity to the Southeast electrical grid, said the Nuclear Energy Institute.

China has stricter air pollution standards on the 2012 agenda, and will now start using the PM 2.5 standard and include smaller particles in their readings. Beijing air pollution has officially been reported as “slight,” while measurements from the U.S. embassy in Beijing has been reported as off the charts, due to the difference in standards. Public reporting on the new standard will begin in 2016, Reuters reports.

New Zealand will ban the use of U.N.-backed industrial gas offsets in its carbon trading scheme, a move that brings its carbon market in line with programs in Europe and Australia. Offsets from projects that destroy potent greenhouse gases hydrofluorocarbon-23 (HFC-23) and nitrous oxide (N2O) would be banned from today unless emitters had already entered into binding forward purchase agreements, Reuters reports.

Climate activists in Thailand have filed a class action lawsuit suing the Prime Minister and 10 government agencies for their alleged inadequate response and mismanagement in the recent flood crisis. The group Stop Global Warming is representing the 352 flood victims, and seeks compensation for the victims as well as an annual budget for flood rehabilitation, reports MCOT Online News.

Members of the Senate Committees on Energy and Natural Resources and Environment and Public Works sent a bipartisan letter to the EPA discussing the EPA’s intention to regulate hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) when diesel fuel is used. The letter says that the EPA appears to be taking a broad approach in defining diesel fuel.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the 2011 Critical Materials Strategy. The report examines the role that rare earth metals and other key materials play in clean energy technologies such as wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar cells and energy-efficient lighting. The report found that several clean energy technologies use materials at risk of supply disruptions in the short term, with risks generally decreasing in the medium and long terms. Supply challenges for five rare earth metals (dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium and yttrium) may affect clean energy technology deployment in the years ahead.

Three northwest businesses agreed to separate settlements with the EPA for alleged violations of the federal community right-to-know reporting requirements by failing to report releases of toxic chemicals on time to the federal Toxics Release Inventory. Frazier Industrial Company (Pocatello, Idaho), Formula Corp. (Auburn, Washington), and McClure Industries (Portland, Oregon) will pay nearly $12,000 in combined penalties, the EPA said.

Wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and areas of adjacent states are expected to lose their status as either endangered or threatened species under the newly issued U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule. The rule will allow for states to license hunting of the animals in certain circumstances. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has directed his Natural Resources Department to prepare a wolf management plan that permits private trapping in certain cases by February 1, Reuters said.

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