NRC approves first new nuclear plant in 3 decades

Posted Feb. 09, 2012, at 8:55 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The nation’s first new nuclear power plant in a generation won approval Thursday as federal regulators voted to grant a license for two new reactors at a site in eastern Georgia.

Atlanta-based Southern Co. hopes to begin operating the $14 billion reactors at its Vogtle site south of Augusta as soon as 2016. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the company’s plans on a 4-1 vote.

The NRC last approved construction of a nuclear plant in 1978, a year before a partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania. After that accident, fears of a radiation release were heightened and new reactor orders were brought nearly to a halt.

The planned reactors, along with two others in South Carolina expected to win approval in coming months, are the remnants of a once-anticipated building boom that the power industry dubbed the “nuclear renaissance.” The head of an industry lobbying group said the Vogtle project could be the start of a smaller renaissance that expands nuclear power in the United States.

Trans-fat blood levels plummet after FDA food-labeling regulation

The amount of trans fat in the American bloodstream fell by more than half after the Food and Drug Administration required food manufacturers to label how much of the unhealthful ingredient is in their products, according to a new study.

Blood levels of trans fat declined 58 percent from 2000 to 2008. FDA began requiring trans-fat labeling in 2003. During the same period several parts of the country, New York most famously, passed regulations limiting trans fats in restaurant food and cooking. The makers of processed food also voluntarily replaced trans fats with less harmful oils.

The decline, unusually big and abrupt, strongly suggests government regulation was effective in altering a risk factor for heart disease for a broad swath of the population.

Postal Service lost $3.3B in first fiscal quarter

WASHINGTON — The holidays weren’t merry or bright for the U.S. Postal Service.

The nation’s mail delivery service lost $3.3 billion in its first quarter, which runs from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 and encompasses the holiday shopping and shipping season.

Total mail volume reached 43.7 billion pieces, a 6 percent decrease from the previous year, the USPS said. Revenue on first-class and standard mail dropped 3.7 percent, to $650 million.

Despite slumping mail volume, the Postal Service’s shipping services improved, generating $2.8 billion for the quarter, a 7 percent year-to-year climb.

The rising cost of gasoline also affected revenue and forced the USPS to spend 6.3 percent more on transportation expenses in its first quarter. To reduce overall costs, the Postal Service cut 8 million work hours, helping to cut pay and benefits expenses by $180 million, or 1.4 percent.

Mexican army makes ‘historic’ seizure of methamphetamine

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Mexican troops have seized 15 tons of pure methamphetamine in the western state of Jalisco, an amount equivalent to half of all meth seizures worldwide in 2009.

The sheer scale of the bust announced late Wednesday drew expressions of amazement from meth experts. The haul could have supplied 13 million doses worth over $4 billion on U.S. streets.

The Mexican army said troops received several anonymous tips and found the massive drug stash in the township of Tlajomulco de Zuniga, near the Jalisco state capital of Guadalajara. The army statement called the seizure “historic,” implying it was the largest on record for the armed forces.

No people were found on the ranch and no arrests were made, although it appeared 12 to 15 people worked there.

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