Short items

Booze, drugs and cigarettes reduce brain activity 

Using single photon emission tomography (Spect) imaging, a psychiatry professor from California, US, studied the effects of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and cannabis on blood flow in the brain. His findings suggest that all these substances restrict blood flow in various brain regions, leading to reduced brain activity and scans that look remarkably similar to those of Alzheimer’s patients. Daily Mail, 5 May 2009 

Floating nuclear-powered rigs to exploit arctic oil reserves 

Russian energy giant Gazprom is planning to build floating platforms to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic. The rigs would be powered by nuclear reactors, leading to worries over difficulties in dealing with nuclear accidents in remote areas. Environmentalists are also worried that the rigs will dump their waste in the sea rather than storing it, causing untold damage to the fragile arctic ecosystem. The Observer, 3 May 2009 

No blame in US asbestos case 

US mining company WR Grace and three of its executives have been acquitted of knowingly contaminating the Montana town of Libby with asbestos from 1963-1990. While there was no question the company’s vermiculite mine was the source of the asbestos, the jury ruled that the contamination was not criminal and that the company had not tried to cover up the contamination. New York Times, 9 May 2009 

Bidding war over UK nuclear sites 

Fierce competition to acquire three sites for new UK nuclear power stations has ended with the government netting ?387 million. The consortium of Scottish and Southern Energy, Iberdrola and GDF Suez pulled out when bids for the Bradwell site, which finally went to French company EDF, topped ?100 million. The other two sites went to Germany’s RWE/E.ON. Financial Times, 30 April 2009