Gavin Newsom Reconsiders Closure of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant

gordm writes: Following appeals from scientists, a Stanford and MIT study showing Diablo Canyon could save California $21 Billion, demand curtailment and a projected power supply shortfall, Gov. Gavin Newsom is now considering keeping the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant open. Diablo Canyon generated 6% of California’s total electricity in 2021 and 12% of California’s carbon-free electricity.
Elon Musk has tweeted in support of keeping Diablo Canyon open, and in support of keeping European nuclear power plants running. According to the L.A. Times, Newsom said the state would seek out a share of $6 billion in federal funds meant to rescue nuclear reactors facing closure. The money comes from the Biden administration’s recently announced effort to rescue nuclear power plants at risk of closing. “The requirement is by May 19 to submit an application, or you miss the opportunity to draw down any federal funds if you want to extend the life of that plant,” Newsom said. “We would be remiss not to put that on the table as an option.”

A spokesperson for the governor clarified that Newsom still wants to see the facility shut down long term. “It’s been six years since PG&E agreed to close the plant near San Luis Obispo, rather than invest in expensive environmental and earthquake-safety upgrades,” the report notes. “But Newsom’s willingness to consider a short-term reprieve reflects a shift in the politics of nuclear power after decades of public opposition fueled by high-profile disasters such as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, as well as the Cold War.”

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EU Joins Mastodon Social Network, Sets Up Its Own Server

The European Union has joined the social network Mastodon, which has seen a staggering 30,000 new users after Elon Musk’s bid for Twitter was accepted. PC Magazine reports: On Thursday, the European Commission said it had set up its own server, dubbed EU Voice, to join Mastodon’s decentralized social network, also known as a “Fediverse.” The effort is currently only a pilot, but it represents the EU’s goal of supporting private and open-source software capable of rivaling mainstream social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. On the same day, the European Commission also launched an account for PeerTube, another decentralized platform that revolves around video sharing. “With the pilot launch of EU Voice and EU Video, we aim to offer alternative social media platforms that prioritize individuals and their rights to privacy and data protection,” said European Data Protection Supervisor Wojciech Wiewiorowski.

“In concrete terms this means, for example, that EU Voice and EU Video do not rely on transfers of personal data to countries outside the European Union and the European Economic Area; there are no advertisements on the platforms; and there is no profiling of individuals that may use the platforms,” he added. “These measures, amongst others, give individuals the choice on and control over how their personal data is used.”

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Lyft Exec Craig Martell Tapped As Pentagon’s AI Chief

According to Breaking Defense, the head of machine learning at Lyft, Craig Martell, has been named the Pentagon’s Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer. From the report: The hiring of a Silicon Valley persona for the CDAO role is likely to be cheered by those in the defense community who have been calling for more technically-minded individuals to take leadership roles in the department. At the same time, Martell’s lack of Pentagon experience — he was a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School for over a decade studying AI for the military, but has never worked in the department’s bureaucracy — may pose challenges as he works to lead an office only months old. In an exclusive interview with Breaking Defense, Martell, who also worked as head of machine learning at Dropbox and led several AI teams at LinkedIn, acknowledged both the benefits and risks of bringing in someone with his background. […]

As CDAO, Martell will be responsible for scaling up DoD’s data, analytics and AI to enable quicker and more accurate decision-making and will also play an important role in the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control efforts to connect sensors and shooters. “If we’re going to be successful in achieving the goals, if we’re going to be successful in being competitive with China, we have to figure out where the best mission value can be found first and that’s going to have to drive what we build, what we design, the policies we come up with,” Martell said. “I just want to guard against making sure that we don’t do this in a vacuum, but we do it with real mission goals, real mission objectives in mind.”

His first order of business? Figuring out what needs to be done, and how to best use the $600 million in fiscal year 2023 dollars the CDAO’s office was marked for in the Pentagon’s most recent budget request. “So whenever I tackle a problem, whenever I go into a new organization, the first questions that I ask are: Do we have the right people? Do we have the right processes? Do we have the right tools to solve the visions [and] goals?” Martell said. To tackle that, Martell wants to identify the office’s “marquee customers” and figure out what’s “broken in terms of… people, platform, processes and tools” — a process that could take anywhere from three to six months, he added. “We really want to be customer-driven here,” Martell said. “We don’t want to walk in and say if we build it, they’ll come.”

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Researchers Develop a Paper-Thin Loudspeaker

MIT engineers have developed a paper-thin loudspeaker that can turn any surface into an active audio source. MIT News reports: This thin-film loudspeaker produces sound with minimal distortion while using a fraction of the energy required by a traditional loudspeaker. The hand-sized loudspeaker the team demonstrated, which weighs about as much as a dime, can generate high-quality sound no matter what surface the film is bonded to. To achieve these properties, the researchers pioneered a deceptively simple fabrication technique, which requires only three basic steps and can be scaled up to produce ultrathin loudspeakers large enough to cover the inside of an automobile or to wallpaper a room.

A typical loudspeaker found in headphones or an audio system uses electric current inputs that pass through a coil of wire that generates a magnetic field, which moves a speaker membrane, that moves the air above it, that makes the sound we hear. By contrast, the new loudspeaker simplifies the speaker design by using a thin film of a shaped piezoelectric material that moves when voltage is applied over it, which moves the air above it and generates sound. […]

They tested their thin-film loudspeaker by mounting it to a wall 30 centimeters from a microphone to measure the sound pressure level, recorded in decibels. When 25 volts of electricity were passed through the device at 1 kilohertz (a rate of 1,000 cycles per second), the speaker produced high-quality sound at conversational levels of 66 decibels. At 10 kilohertz, the sound pressure level increased to 86 decibels, about the same volume level as city traffic. The energy-efficient device only requires about 100 milliwatts of power per square meter of speaker area. By contrast, an average home speaker might consume more than 1 watt of power to generate similar sound pressure at a comparable distance. The researchers showed the speaker in action, playing “We Are the Champions” by Queen. You can listen to it here.

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US Opens First Major Silicon Carbide Chip Plant

On Monday, the world’s largest plant for making silicon carbide chips was opened in central New York. Nikkei Asia reports: The $1 billion, 63,000 sq. meter fabrication plant, or “fab,” will be the first of its kind to make 200mm silicon carbide wafers, according to [North Carolina-based Wolfspeed]. Silicon carbide, or SiC, is an alternative to traditional silicon that is gaining popularity due to its energy efficiency when transferring power, something especially useful in electric vehicle manufacturing. Ahead of the fab opening, Wolfspeed announced a partnership with luxury EV maker Lucid Motors. It also has agreements with General Motors and China’s Yutong Group to supply silicon carbide chips for their electric vehicles.

The U.S. share of modern semiconductor manufacturing capacity has declined to 12% from 37% in 1990, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association, a group that has lobbied for the CHIPS Act. This trend, the group says, is largely due to a lack of government investment compared to other nations. […] In New York, there are hopes that other plants will cluster around the Wolfspeed fab. Wolfspeed received $500 million in construction subsidies from New York as the state seeks to expand its semiconductor manufacturing industry, which has generated nearly $6 billion a year in economic impact and over 34,000 jobs, according to [New York Gov. Kathy Hochul].

The grand opening of a modern manufacturing facility has a special resonance in central New York. The fab stands in the Mohawk Valley, an area along the Erie Canal that was once filled with traditional industry but long ago slid into an economic decline that has defined the region in recent times. So far the Wolfspeed facility has created 265 jobs, with a goal of over 600 new jobs by 2029, according to the company. The site sits directly across from a campus of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, New York’s public polytechnic college, and Wolfspeed has given the school $250,000 to help train potential future employees.

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