Russia’s Floating Nuclear Power Plant. Israel Versus Iran? No-Deal Brexit? Florida Sinkholes and More!

This is the transcript for the news segment on The Morning Brew for May 1, 2018. The show airs Monday-Friday at 10:30 AM EST.

You can catch the edited stream on YouTube here:

You can see the whole show on Twitch here and here (My computer froze. It’s in two parts, sorry.)!

Russia says its sea-based nuclear power plant is safe. Critics call it a ‘Floating Chernobyl.’

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If a Russian state-owned company has its way, remote regions of the world will soon see giant, floating nuclear reactors pumping power to port cities and drilling platforms in a real-life version of the Soviet reversal joke: In Russia, 70-megawatt nuclear reactor comes to you. The reactor in question is called Akademik Lomonosov. Once the barge is wired into the electrical grid in the Arctic town of Pevek in 2019, it will be the world’s northernmost nuclear reactor, capable of powering a town of 100,000 people (almost the population of Green Bay, Wis.) with what its manufacturer, Rosatom, calls “a great margin of safety” that is “invincible for tsunamis and natural disaster.” But environmental groups have other names for the barge: “Nuclear Titanic” is one. Another is “Floating Chernobyl.” Critics say that pretty much the worst thing you can do to a nuclear reactor is expose it to the high waves and fierce winds of the Arctic Ocean. Lomonosov, named after an 18th-century Russian scientist and poet, was towed out of the St. Petersburg shipyard on Saturday for its meandering, year-long journey. The floating energy plant has “incorporated” all the best qualities of traditional nuclear plants. It is also said to be protected from all kinds of natural and technical harms. There are skeptics, including 11,000 people who have signed a petition hoping to sink plans to launch the vessel. It has made a sizable chunk of St. Petersburg nervous. The barge was supposed to be equipped with nuclear fuel at the city’s shipyard, but city leaders thought better of fueling a first-of-its-kind nuclear reactor in the middle of a city of nearly 5.3 million people. And Russia’s Baltic Sea neighbors worried about what would happen if a nuclear reactor en route encountered bad weather or technical issues too close to their fjords. The ship itself will be pulled through the Baltic Sea, around the northern tip of Norway to Murmansk, a Russian city of more than 300,000 residents, where it will be fueled. It will ultimately be anchored at the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Arctic, northwest of Russia, and moored off the coast of Pevek, where it will replace an aging reactor. By 2019 the floating Nuclear plant will be online powering the power to the town and all the oil rigs in the area. I will stand over here while they play over there thank you.


Israel seems to be preparing for war with Iran, U.S. officials say

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An Israeli airstrike on the western Syrian city of Hama on Sunday killed two dozen Iranian soldiers and targeted arms recently delivered from Iran, said three U.S. officials, and is the latest sign that Israel and Iran are moving closer to open warfare. “On the list of the potentials for most likely live hostility around the world, the battle between Israel and Iran in Syria is at the top of the list right now,” said one senior U.S. official. Israel is increasingly wary of Iran’s influence in neighboring Syria, the three U.S. officials say. While Russia runs the air war for the Assad regime in Syria, Iran is now running the ground war, the officials said, with Iranian military present at every major Russian and Syrian regime base in the country. In the past two weeks Iran has increased military cargo flights to Syria, stocked with additional weapons and supplies like small arms, ammunition and surface-to-air missiles that two U.S. officials believe are meant both to shore up Iranian ground forces and to strike at Israel. For years the U.S. has tracked arms shipments from Iran to Hezbollah fighters in Syria supporting the Assad regime, but recently Iran has been supplying Hezbollah with more material and logistical support. The three U.S. officials said Israel now seems to be preparing for military action and is seeking U.S. help and support. Israel’s military acknowledges it has struck inside Syria more than 100 times since 2012, with weapons convoys intended for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Three weeks ago, Israel conducted a series of predawn airstrikes on a Syrian base in Homs province, according to two U.S. officials. Israeli jets targeted Tiyas Military Base, also known as T-4 Airbase, which houses Iranian drones and personnel. This is not the first time Israel has considered more aggressive action against Iran in Syria. During the Obama administration, the U.S. learned of growing efforts by Israel on the ground in Syria including possible involvement of Israeli personnel to counter Iran’s and Hezbollah’s increased activity in Syria. During the past week, senior Israeli military leaders have been meeting with senior U.S. counterparts, both in the region and in the U.S., looking for U.S. support for stronger action against Iran in Syria. U.S. officials say the Israeli requests include intelligence support.


No-Deal Brexit Risk Is Back as Barnier Warns Talks May Fail

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The prospect of a no-deal Brexit is real again. European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier is ramping up his rhetoric and officials in private worry that the risk of a messy divorce, which had receded at the end of last year, is now back. At least twice in the last week Barnier has made public warnings that talks could still fail, including a speech to bankers and finance lobbyists in which he told them to prepare for the worst. “No one should underestimate the risk of disagreement,” he said. And in private too, there’s a sense that the reassurance provided by two preliminary agreements in December and then March is fading, and no deal is being considered as a possible outcome again, according to one person involved in the negotiations. Talks are making slow progress and the Irish border issue remains intractable. Most of the talking is still about separation issues rather than the future relationship that the U.K. says it’s keen to pin down. EU officials say not much has happened since March.


Brexit Secretary David Davis continues to say in public that the chances of failure are very small. But adding to the uncertainty is that May’s grip on power is not as strong as it seemed earlier this year. She’s under pressure from both euroskeptics and pro-EU rebels, and also tarnished by an immigration scandal that has cost May her trusted home secretary Amber Rudd. If she goes, the chances of a messy divorce probably increase, depending on who replaces her.


Residents in Florida neighborhood evacuated due to massive sinkholes

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Residents in a central Florida neighborhood have been forced to evacuate due to massive sinkholes that have formed over the last week. At least a dozen sinkholes have been reported in the Wynchase neighborhood of Ocala, Florida, about 80 miles northwest of Orlando, according to local media reports. The holes have been forming around a retention pond. Residents from at least eight homes close to the pond were evacuated, with no clear indication of when they might be able to return home. The Ocala Fire Rescue department said that, “The cause may be linked to a private irrigation water main break. Units adjacent to the area have been evacuated as a safety precaution,” but the holes have multiplied and some have overlapped and/or intersected since then. The city’s engineer and the Emergency Management Department said they’re investigating the occurrence, with hopes of figuring out a how to fill in the sinkholes and keep them from developing again. They said the holes can’t be filled until they know the ground has settled.


Study: Invasive fist-sized tree frogs in New Orleans

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Invasive, noxious Cuban treefrogs that eat smaller frogs and grow as big as a human fist have established a population in New Orleans, and officials say they could soon pose a threat to native frogs across the Mississippi River. The U.S. Geological Survey says frogs caught at the Audubon Zoo in the city and at a nearby riverfront park are the first established population of Cuban treefrogs on the U.S. mainland outside Florida, where they’ve been multiplying at least since the 1950s. The captured frogs probably arrived on palm trees from Florida that were planted in the zoo in 2016. They have noxious skin secretions, lay their eggs in bird baths and fish ponds, and they can clog plumbing and cause power outages by short-circuiting utility switches where they seek refuge. They could easily cross the river on vehicles, boats, barges or debris and prey on smaller frogs. The geological survey has been using acoustic monitors since 2014 to check for Cuban tree frog calls in the Barataria Preserve of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, across the river just a few miles (kilometers) south of New Orleans. Now not only do we have to worry about humans crossing our borders, we have the Cuban frogs. I hope they brought some Cuban coffee with them at least.


Warning over carrot-crazed kangaroo attacks

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Each week thousands of people visit the grounds of a hospital in Morisset, New South Wales, to see the wild kangaroos (I wonder if they found any Mad Panda sightings). But some tourists have been kicked, scratched, and left with serious cuts by the marsupials hoping for food – their favourite snack being carrots. Local MP Greg Piper says urgent action is needed to educate tourists. “While kangaroos are cute, they are also capable of inflicting injury.” He says the problem has escalated over the past few years following a jump in the number of visitors. “Social media has changed everything,” Mr Piper says. Instagram, Facebook and blogs have been posting advice on where to get the perfect “Roo selfie” travel fast. Mr Piper believes around 3,000 people are coming each week to Morisset.

The tourists themselves are not the problem, it’s the fact that they all want to feed the animals – and that’s a bad idea. For one thing it’s not good for the kangaroos. They are grazing animals, and being fed by thousands of tourists each week changes their natural behaviour (become welfareroos). They come to expect and eventually demand food (so they are Aussie version of the sea gull over here in the states). That’s when they can become a danger to humans. “People don’t understand they are wild animals and have to be treated as such,” warns Mr Piper. “A male kangaroo can disembowel someone. They don’t set out to do it, but that’s the nature of how they fight: they kick with their big hind legs.” But people shouldn’t be frightened away entirely. Coming close to them is usually safe – even petting a kangaroo can be OK, provided it approaches first. But Mr Piper says it’s wise to steer clear of the big male kangaroos. “The males ones are tall and very powerfully built to the top. They basically look like they work out.” Most importantly, don’t feed the kangaroos – and certainly don’t feed them processed food. Even vegetables are not right for the animals, and in Morisset, it’s carrots that most tourists seem to be bringing. Carrots are high in sugar and can cause deadly diseases in the animals. They are wild animals, common sense dictates you do not go near a wild animal. Especially in their environment and I for one is not ready to get my bowels punched out by a roo.


Stories are edited by Merlin Wolfhound and the show is produced and directed by Maddy

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