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Japan to Release Treated Fukushima Water in Sea, Kyodo Says

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Japan to Release Treated Fukushima Water in Sea, Kyodo Says(Bloomberg) — Japan is planning to release millions of gallons of treated radioactive water from its wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, Kyodo News reported, citing unidentified people close to the matter.The government has agreed on this plan and an official decision by the cabinet is expected as soon as this month, according to the news agency. The verdict ends years of debate over how to dispose of roughly 1 million cubic meters of the water, enough to fill 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools, that leaked into the power stations that suffered core meltdowns after an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.The release likely won’t occur for another two years and could take decades to complete, Kyodo said. Storage tanks for the water at the site are forecast to be full by mid-2022.“It’s not true that the government has decided on a direction, or the timing for a decision,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters in Tokyo on Friday. “On the other hand, to avoid delaying the decommissioning of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, it is true that we can’t put off forever a decision on how to dispose of the treated water.”The government must compile many comments on the issue from the fishing association and others, and have a deep internal discussion before coming to a decision, Kato said.Dumping the water into the ocean threatens to hurt Japan’s relationship with South Korea, and comes despite opposition from environmental groups and the local fishing industry, which is still struggling to recover from the disaster. Discharges are a common practice in the atomic-power industry and would likely meet global guidelines.The release of the water “could deal a fatal blow to the future of Japanese fishery,” said Hiroshi Kishi, the chairman of the Federation of Japan Fisheries Cooperatives. “We absolutely oppose to the release of the water.”A METI panel recommended in February that the water should be released into the ocean or evaporated. Any water that is released into the environment will be re-purified and diluted to meet standards and the discharges would take place over decades, the ministry has said.Read More: Why Japan’s Radioactive Water May End Up In the Ocean: QuickTakeWhile Tepco, or Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., cycles in water to keep fuel and debris cool, about 180 cubic meters of contaminated water is pumped out of the reactor daily due to a steady flow of groundwater into the wrecked building. The tainted water is pumped out and run through a purification system called the Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS, then stored in one of more than 1,000 tanks at the site.The effort is part of the power utility’s $200 billion effort to clean up the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl.The treated water contains tritium, a form of hydrogen that has two extra neutrons, making it weakly radioactive. While tritium’s beta particles, those emitted during radioactive decay, are too low-energy to penetrate the skin, they can build up in the body if inhaled or consumed.The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report in April that it is ready to work with Japan “to develop a framework to provide radiation safety assistance before, during and after the disposition” once a decision on how to proceed has been made.(Updates with chief cabinet secretary’s comment in fourth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


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Why Small Businesses Are The Pawns of This Election Cycle

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Some guidelines for navigating through the red, blue, or purple uncertainty.

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We don’t know enough about COVID antibodies to count on them

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One of the biggest outstanding questions about the coronavirus, and one which could well determine the course of the pandemic, is the role that antibodies play in immunity.

By now you’ve probably heard plenty about antibodies in the context of immunity and developing a COVID vaccine. These Y-shaped proteins form because of an immune response to a pathogen or other hostile biological material. They may be personalized to sites on an individual virus called antigens, to which they attach and help prevent infection.

As with many viruses, antibodies form during the course of a COVID case and should offer protection against against a second coronavirus infection. But it’s still unclear just how potent these antibodies are and whether or not they may provide stronger immunity for some people more than others. And that raises the question of whether or not you can contract COVID-19 twice.

One central mystery that may take years to answer is how long COVID antibodies last. First off, antibodies don’t always behave the same everyone. Some may form powerful antibodies with staying power; others whose body’s so-called adaptive immune system produces weaker ones may face a much more brutal fight with COVID and be at a higher risk for reinfection. Human biology can react in unpredictable ways to new adversaries.

Then there’s the type of pathogen that the novel coronavirus is itself. Coronaviruses encompass a broad class of bugs which can include everything from some types of the common cold to SARS and MERS. There is to date no cure or vaccine for the common cold since there is such a variety of strains. There also aren’t any commercially available ones for SARS or MERS—or any coronaviruses for that matter.

Part of the reason for that is both the SARS and MERS outbreaks cause milder disease than COVID-19, and the former were contained relatively quickly. Patients who contracted SARS during that outbreak were found that have protective antibodies for an average of two years.

That doesn’t seem to be the case with the novel coronavirus—at least for certain COVID patients. In those who suffer from a mild case, antibody levels may be cut in half in just over two months, according to one study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Another new analysis by Imperial College London scientists released this week examined antibody levels among the British population. The report found that antibody prevalence dropped sharply and quickly in the study population: from 6% in late June to 4.4% in late September.

“This very large study has shown that the proportion of people with detectable antibodies is falling over time,” said Helen Ward, one of the lead study authors.

But there’s another twist: Those falling antibody levels don’t necessarily mean you’ll be reinfected with COVID. “We don’t yet know whether this will leave these people at risk of reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19, but it is essential that everyone continues to follow guidance to reduce the risk to themselves and others,” she said.

Other studies have shown there is a non-zero number of people who have been reinfected after recovering from COVID. A Lancet report published two weeks ago examined the case of a 25-year-old man from Washoe County in Nevada who contracted COVID-19 once in April and again at the end of May.

“The degree of protective immunity conferred by infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is currently unknown. As such, the possibility of reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 is not well understood,” wrote the authors from the University of Nevada and Nevada State Public Health Library.

To date, as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) puts it, “confirmed and suspected cases of reinfection of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been reported, but remain rare​.”​

Experts stress that the mere presence of coronavirus antibodies is no reason to assume you’ll have long-lasting immunity or protect others from infection. The latter point throws a big wrench into proponents of a “herd immunity” approach wherein you simply let enough people get infected and become immune.

At the end of the day, it is still be important to wash your hands, wear a mask, socially distance, and be generally responsible—antibodies or otherwise.

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Who is Ryan Smith, new owner of the Utah Jazz?

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The NBA’s Utah Jazz has been owned for close to 35 years by Utah businessman Larry H. Miller or his family. But in a move that stunned locals, the Miller family announced today that it would sell a controlling stake in the team to Ryan Smith, cofounder of tech company Qualtrics.

So who is the new owner of the Utah Jazz?

Here are the high points: Smith is young (42), loves basketball, and has signaled a strong commitment to social justice, particularly racial justice issues. And of course, he’s very wealthy.

Prior Jazz owner Miller was born in Salt Lake City and built a business empire starting with car dealerships, then expanding to a television station and movie theaters before purchasing the Jazz in 1985. The price tag was reportedly $22 million for 100% of the Jazz. Miller died in 2009 and passed control of the Jazz to his family.

The contrasts between Miller and Smith start with that price tag: Smith’s takeover of the Jazz will cost him a reported $1.66 billion. It’s not entirely clear how large the Smith’ stake will be, though the team was recently estimated to be worth $1.55 billion by Forbes. However much he got, Smith paid nearly thirty times what Miller paid for the entire team, in inflation-adjusted terms.

Smith can afford the markup. He co-founded Qualtrics, with his brother and father, a marketing professor at Brigham Young University, in 2002. In 2018, the company was sold to German business software giant SAP for $8 billion, though it remains an independently run unit and Smith still serves as CEO. The founders’ share of that payday was estimated at $3 billion, and Forbes now estimates Ryan Smith’s personal net worth at $1.3 billion.

What exactly did SAP buy? Qualtrics started off by offering customer surveys online, but has expanded considerably. It’s now best known for its so-called “customer experience management” software, which brings together a variety of data sources, including surveys, social media chatter, and direct customer feedback. The software is meant to track both broad sentiment about a company’s products and services, and specific customer interactions, such as repair or refund requests. One of Qualtrics’ closer competitors is Salesforce, which draws on a similarly broad array of data sources to help companies manage sales and customer relationships.

As Fortune detailed when we named him to its 40 Under 40 list in 2016, Smith is a lifelong Utah resident and, like the majority of Utah residents, a Mormon. He’s been a major booster of the local business community, helping found a coalition of central Utah tech businesses called Silicon Slopes.

Smith has been notably active on social justice causes. In June, at the height of Black Lives Matter protests, Smith announced he would personally match donations by Qualtrics employees to legal defense funds for the movement. In a 2017 Forbes profile, he strategizes with fellow founders about how to attract more diversity to Utah.

Those commitments should serve Smith well as an NBA owner, given recent collisions between sport and politics that included a brief NBA player strike in August in response to police shootings of African-Americans. They also mark something of a contrast with Miller, who in 2005 raised the ire of activists by refusing to show Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain at theaters he owned because it depicted a gay relationship.

Smith also clearly loves basketball. He has a court in his basement, as well as in the lobby of Qualtrics’ headquarters building in Orem, Utah. Smith’s Twitter feed is sports-heavy, and he has partnered with the Jazz before, including a sponsorship this year that helped raise $25 million for cancer research.

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