2010.10.19 13:53 News
By SAM GROBART | The New York Times | Published: October 12, 2010


Luke Geissbühler has raised the bar in the cool-dad competition.

In August, Mr. Geissbühler, a 40-year-old director and cinematographer, tethered a video camera to a weather balloon and sent both more than 100,000 feet into the stratosphere. The camera safely returned to the ground with the help of a small parachute.

The entire trip took about 90 minutes, but a seven-minute account of the voyage, posted on the video-sharing site Vimeo, has become a viral success, garnering more than one million views since it was first uploaded on Sept. 19. The breathtaking video, with its NASA-like views of the Earth’s curves, has made Mr. Geissbühler the latest in a long line of scrappy, do-it-yourself geek heroes.

A 100,000-FOOT VOYAGE Luke Geissbuhler tethered a video camera to a weather balloon and launched it in August from Newburgh, N.Y. The trip took 90 minutes, and a seven-minute video became a viral success. (Image: Luke Geissbuhler)

The instigator for this particular space program was Mr. Geissbühler’s 7-year-old son, Max, who had made more than a few requests for a handmade spacecraft.

“Our creative process works this way: he asks for the impossible,” Mr. Geissbühler said, “and then I have to tell him why it’s impossible. And then I start to question that. And then I start to investigate that.”

Mr. Geissbühler had already been exposed to the world of weather-balloon enthusiasts who record their flights, thanks to research he had done for a feature film. Intrigued by the possibilities afforded by a growing array of inexpensive personal technology devices, he set out to make his own aircraft, the beginning of an eight-month research and development program in the Geissbühlers’ apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

While being a cinematographer does bring with it a degree of technical skill, Mr. Geissbühler also had help from his brother, Phillip, who is a physicist in Boston.

“I’d ask him questions,” Mr. Geissbühler said, “and he’d come back with more complicated answers to my questions.”

The two worked out issues regarding wind, temperature and the predicted behavior of their aircraft.

The materials used to make the capsule were decidedly off-the-shelf. A Thai-food takeout container served as the fuselage. Spray-on insulation was applied inside the container, and chemical hand-warming packets were inserted to protect the camera and tracking device from sub-zero temperatures.

The recording device used was a GoPro Hero, a small digital video camera that costs less than $300 and is often used in sporting and outdoor pursuits. Also included was a friend’s iPhone, loaded with the free GPS-tracking app InstaMapper, which served as a homing beacon so the capsule could be retrieved after landing.


Building something designed to climb above the cruising altitudes of commercial aircraft, which generally fly between 30,000 and 40,000 feet, also meant that the Geissbühlers’ craft had to adhere to Federal Aviation Administration standards for weather balloons. That meant a payload of less than 4 pounds (in this case, it was a pound and a half), specific density restrictions and an extremely high degree of breakability in case the balloon or capsule came into contact with an aircraft.

Mr. Geissbühler also wanted to launch the balloon far from densely populated areas and heavy air traffic. The town of Newburgh, N.Y., seemed to fit the bill. (Mr. Geissbühler realized only after the fact that Newburgh is home to Stewart International Airport and an Air National Guard base.) Newburgh also had an added benefit.

“There was a party store in town that had a lot of helium,” Mr. Geissbühler said.

With the help of some friends, the Geissbühlers released the balloon in a park in Newburgh at 3 p.m. on a cloudy August day. It climbed at a rate of 25 feet per second, or 17 miles per hour. After 70 minutes, the balloon reached an altitude of around 100,000 feet, at which height the camera was capturing the curvature of the earth and the darkness of the upper atmosphere. Because of the reduced air pressure, the balloon expanded to its maximum diameter of 19 feet and then burst. The camera fell back to Earth at speeds that at times exceeded 150 miles per hour, even with the parachute extended.

The capsule landed in a tree 30 miles north of where it started. It was recovered by the Geissbühlers, who found everything intact.

Mr. Geissbühler said he was surprised by the tremendous response his video has generated.

“I guess people feel really empowered if they can send a takeout container to space,” he said.

Not only has he been praised for his ingenuity, but several commenters on the video site have commended him as a model parent.

“My son and I have always been tinkering, building things,” Mr. Geissbühler said. “He doesn’t know that’s not normal.”
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2010.09.30 15:30 News
By World Nuclear News | Published: September 20, 2010

South Korean Knowledge Economy Minister Choi Kyung-hwan (left) shakes hands with Julio de Vido (right), the Argentine planning minister, after signing a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on nuclear power development. (Image: 지식경제부)

South Korea has made headway into the South American nuclear market following the signing of an agreement to support Argentina's nuclear power program.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation in new nuclear projects and life extension of existing plants was signed on 16 September by South Korean knowledge economy minister Choi Kyoung-hwan and Argentinean planning minister Julio de Vido.
 
Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) is actively marketing new nuclear plants and, in December 2009, its APR-1400 design was selected as the basis of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) nuclear power program. Soon after the announcement of the UAE contract award was made, the South Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy declared that the country had set ambitious export targets of 80 nuclear power reactors by 2030.
 
Argentina's recent MoU signing follows similar agreements with other nations. Nuclear cooperation agreements have been signed with Russia as well as with Canada's AECL, and discussions with reactor vendors from other countries are ongoing.
 
Argentina has two pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) in operation, a Candu-6 at Embalse in Córdoba and a Siemens PHWR at Atucha in Buenos Aires. Construction on a second Siemens PHWR at Atucha began in 1981 and was suspended in 1994. In 2006, the government decided to complete Atucha 2 but delays to the project continue. Recent reports in the Argentine press give an estimated startup date for Atucha 2 of September 2011.
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2010.09.29 02:09 News
By World Nuclear News  Published: August 20, 2010

Dukovany with three of four reactors in operation. (Image: Petr Adamek)

Plans are under consideration for a district heating network for the city of Brno, 40 kilometres from the Dukovany nuclear power plant.
 
Dukovany features four VVER reactors with a total thermal power of 5500 MW. Plant systems convert 1760 MW of this into electricity for transmission over the grid, but some of the leftover heat could in future be piped to homes and businesses.

An environmental impact assessment for plans by plant owner CEZ was put to regional officials at the end of July, which is expected to take up to two years to evaluate. Should it get the go-ahead CEZ would need another two years or more to install the feeder pipeline, which would be more than 40 kilometres long.
 
Benefits for the residents of Brno would come in the shape of reduced emissions and stabilized heating prices. The supply should also be very reliable: There have been no unplanned shutdowns at Dukovany's four reactors in the last ten years.
 
Feasibility studies for a new reactor at Dukovany are expected to be completed this year and CEZ has said it is likely to ask for an environmental assessment when this is completed. The company is also tendering for the construction of two new reactors at its other nuclear power plant, Temelin, where some heat is already sent to a town just five kilometres away.
 
Yet a third new-build project for CEZ concerns the Bohunice power plant in neighbouring Slovakia, where the company has set up a joint venture for new build with the Slovakian state decommissioning company Javys. 
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