Sarah White

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Osterby, a village in Germany, allows residents to text a number to switch on street lights if they need to go out © dpa

There is a festive tradition in Finland that everyone decamps to the sauna on Christmas Eve to sit and sweat in candlelight before the feasting begins. Some even believe that a fairytale sauna elf, the saunattontu, guards the peaceful atmosphere and punishes those who misbehave.

But this year, few Finns got to enjoy their pre-Christmas detox. Even though many saunas are no longer heated with gas, “electricity is so much more expensive now”, says Anni Sinnemäki, Helsinki’s deputy mayor. “Some people might have [a sauna] on Christmas Eve but they won’t have used it on the Saturday before and the Saturday before that”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Will the energy crisis crush European industry?

As European businesses brace for energy shortages, workers at one plant in south-eastern France are getting a new winter wardrobe.

Saint-Gobain, the French building materials group, has ordered extra warm coats and gloves for staff at its warehouse in the Alpine town of Chambéry, who have agreed to turn down the heat this winter. In order to cut gas consumption, temperatures will be closer to 8C, instead of the usual 15C.

“It will be just like working outside so we have to give them all the tools to work in an outside environment”, says Benoit d’Iribarne, senior vice-president of manufacturing.

Turning down the thermostat is no mere cost saving for many of Europe’s industrial companies as they dig in for a hard winter.…  Seguir leyendo »

The nuclear power dilemma: where to put the lethal waste

Every morning, Benoit Gannaz places a small black device in his breast pocket to make sure his work is not killing him. Like every worker at the Chooz A nuclear power facility in northern France, he carries a detector that measures ionising radiation levels at all times.

The reactor was turned off more than three decades ago and the most hazardous materials removed soon after, but nobody here is taking any chances — least of all the project manager overseeing the challenging and lengthy process of decommissioning Chooz A. Gannaz’s job is to ensure the remaining hazardous materials on site are removed and stored away safely now that the lifecycle of the reactor is at an end.…  Seguir leyendo »