Hinkley Point: Design difficulties loom

Hinkley Point - artist's impression Image copyright EDF Energy
Image caption An artist's impression for EDF of how the new power station would look

Six years ago a French government inquiry issued a warning that makes for chilling and highly relevant reading even today.

The report said that the complexity of the kind of nuclear reactor destined for Hinkley Point was itself a "handicap" to its construction and its cost.

So it should come as no surprise that wherever the new European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) is being installed - in Finland, France and China - the projects are beset by delays and massive increases in price.

The EPR is what's called a Third Generation reactor and it's designed to be safer, more powerful and more efficient than earlier versions. Ironically, it's also meant to be easier to build. But so far the reality has been the opposite.

The first of the reactors was sold to a Finnish power company where, amid a blizzard of lawsuits, it's on course to be nine years late.

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Colombia warns on Zika baby risk

Baby with microcephaly
Image caption Colombian health officials have been closely monitoring the situation in Brazil

Health officials in Colombia are warning that as many as 600 babies could be born with microcephaly this year.

With the second highest rate of Zika virus infections after Brazil, Colombia has more than 2,000 pregnant women showing symptoms.

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Fears grow amid Brazil's Zika crisis

Water tank Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Brazilian authorities are targeting mosquito breeding sites

An alarming mixture of confusion and fear is blighting the pregnancies of thousands of women across this teeming tropical city in the northeast of Brazil, and wherever else the Zika virus has infected people.

Every day the emergency clinic at one of Recife's largest hospitals sees queues of nervous women so long that they reach into the car park, and the medical staff, already stretched, are now overwhelmed.

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Hawking: Humans at risk of lethal 'own goal'

Stephen Hawking Image copyright BBC/RichardAnsett
Image caption Prof Hawking said humans are creating "new ways things can go wrong"

Humanity is at risk from a series of dangers of our own making, according to Prof Stephen Hawking.

Nuclear war, global warming and genetically-engineered viruses are among the scenarios he singles out.

Read full article Hawking: Humans at risk of lethal 'own goal'

Floods unleash unprecedented criticism

Members of the Mountain Rescue teams wade through floodwater in Skeldergate, York, on 28 December 2015 Image copyright PA
Image caption The immediate response to floods may have been better organised - but many victims want to know why they were not better protected in the first place

Every bout of flooding triggers a predictable cycle of despair, anger and scrutiny, but this one has provoked an unprecedented level of criticism and questioning.

As the victims struggle with the misery of damage, mud and ruin, officials say we have entered an era of "unknown extremes" of weather and they want a "complete rethink" of how flooding is handled.

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Peake: What will the astronaut be doing in space?

Tim Peake

After all the drama of the launch, what will Tim Peake actually do during his six long months on the International Space Station?

After seeing the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield performing with his guitar or Scott Kelly of Nasa doing airborne somersaults, many might wonder if the ISS has a serious point.

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COP21: Namibia on frontline of drought battle

Image caption Namibia is struggling amid a deepening drought

On a farm so parched that it looks like a desert, Monica Amaraki reaches for an old brass tap only to find that no water flows from it.

Here in Namibia in southern Africa, a drought is intensifying, the soil has been turned into dust and animals are scouring the baked land for something to eat.

Read full article COP21: Namibia on frontline of drought battle

Clearing up dust's effect on climate

Scientific instrument - Etosha
Image caption A team of scientists has been gathering data on the dust rising from Etosha

Scientists are puzzling over what is described as a "missing jigsaw piece" in climate research - the role of dust in global warming.

With huge plumes of particles rising into the atmosphere from deserts and farmland, the question is whether they raise temperatures or lower them.

Read full article Clearing up dust's effect on climate

COP21: Drone to monitor rubbish dump gases

Media captionUnwanted food produces 21 million tonnes of greenhouse gas in the UK every year

An experimental drone fitted with sensors is being deployed to monitor gases rising from rubbish dumps.

The unmanned aircraft is being flown above Britain's 200 landfill sites to study a major source of UK emissions.

Read full article COP21: Drone to monitor rubbish dump gases

COP21: Philippines wrestles with climate dilemma

Philippines Image copyright Kate Stephens/BBC
Image caption The Philippines is regarded as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change

A developing country dubbed one of the most vulnerable to climate change has confirmed controversial plans for more coal-fired power stations.

The president of the Philippines has told the BBC the new coal plants are needed to meet demands for energy.

Read full article COP21: Philippines wrestles with climate dilemma