This special issue of the WatchDog focuses on the transparency of safety information related to dams, levees, impoundments, and related water-control structures. For environmental journalists, these subjects offer a goldmine of great story possibilities. These are stories that have not been covered much in the past decade, and stories that fit well at the local, state, or regional level.
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See the list of US nuclear facilities that could be endangered by dam failure, thanks to a document that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not want to release, made public by the Huffington Post. Watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsiblity filed suit August 15, 2013, under the FOIA to force the NRC to disclose more of what it knows.
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Is the public entitled to see documents that may bear on the safety of a for-profit utility's plan to restart the flaw-stricken San Onofre nuclear plant in California? Maybe not. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruled the utility must turn the documents over to the board — but currently plans to keep them secret from the public.Region:
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A company wants to mine Virginia's major uranium deposit so the state formed a multi-agency panel to study ending the three-decade ban on uranium mining. That panel hired a consulting firm that critics say was stacked with experts affiliated with the nuclear industry.Topics on the Beat:Region:
The federal Data.gov, while not perfect, has grown over three years especially strong in datasets from federal agencies that deal with the environment, energy, natural resources, health, and science. Many of them are downloadable, so that you can crunch them on your own computer. Several are map layers or geo-tagged in some way. See a few randomly chosen examples here.Topics on the Beat:
The Coast Guard defines "security zones" to protect certain sensitive facilities in its bailiwick. It does sometimes grant permission for boats to transit these zones. We suggest journalists interested in such maritime investigations contact their local Coast Guard district or station first.
Here, courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists, are some recent Congressional Research Service backgrounders that may be useful to environment/energy reporters, on chemical facility security, nuclear power plant design and seismic safety considerations, and proposed Keystone XL pipeline legal issues.