Christopher Joyce

Christopher Joyce is a correspondent on the science desk at NPR. His stories can be heard on all of NPR's news programs, including NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.

Joyce seeks out stories in some of the world's most inaccessible places. He has reported from remote villages in the Amazon and Central American rainforests, Tibetan outposts in the mountains of western China, and the bottom of an abandoned copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Over the course of his career, Joyce has written stories about volcanoes, hurricanes, human evolution, tagging giant blue-fin tuna, climate change, wars in Kosovo and Iraq and the artificial insemination of an African elephant.

For several years, Joyce was an editor and correspondent for NPR's Radio Expeditions, a documentary program on natural history and disappearing cultures produced in collaboration with the National Geographic Society that was heard frequently on Morning Edition.

Joyce came to NPR in 1993 as a part-time editor while finishing a book about tropical rainforests and, as he says, "I just fell in love with radio." For two years, Joyce worked on NPR's national desk and was responsible for NPR's Western coverage. But his interest in science and technology soon launched him into parallel work on NPR's science desk.

In addition, Joyce has written two non-fiction books on scientific topics for the popular market: Witnesses from the Grave: The Stories Bones Tell (with co-author Eric Stover); and Earthly Goods: Medicine-Hunting in the Rainforest.

Before coming to NPR, Joyce worked for ten years as the U.S. correspondent and editor for the British weekly magazine New Scientist.

Joyce's stories on forensic investigations into the massacres in Kosovo and Bosnia were part of NPR's war coverage that won a 1999 Overseas Press Club award. He was part of the Radio Expeditions reporting and editing team that won the 2001 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University journalism award and the 2001 Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Joyce won the 2001 American Association for the Advancement of Science excellence in journalism award.

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2:59am

Tue August 2, 2011
Energy

Worries Over Water As Natural Gas Fracking Expands

Originally published on Thu June 28, 2012 12:24 pm

Workers move a section of well casing into place at a natural gas drilling rig near Burlington, Pa. The industry is expected to drill as many as 10,000 new wells in the next few years.
Ralph Wilson AP

Drive through northern Pennsylvania and you'll see barns, cows, silos and drilling rigs perched on big, concrete pads.

Pennsylvania is at the center of a natural gas boom. New technology is pushing gas out of huge shale deposits underground. That's created jobs and wealth, but it may be damaging drinking water. That's because when you "frack," as hydraulic fracturing is called, you pump millions of gallons of fluids underground. That cracks the shale a mile deep and drives natural gas up to the surface — gas that otherwise could never be tapped.

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12:34pm

Fri July 29, 2011
The Two-Way

Panel: Nation Needs New Nuclear Waste Site, Pronto

As sagas go, it rivals the Star Wars epics: "Yucca Mountain: The Quest for a Nuclear Waste Dump" premiered in 1978, when the U.S. government added the Nevada site to its list of potential "permanent repositories." Since then, it's been a story of political intrigue, desert outposts, giant machines and doctored science.

Chosen in 1987 as the "winner" of the competition, the Yucca Mountain site was already half-built when President Barack Obama canceled the long-controversial project last year.

Now comes the sequel: Yucca Mountain Two.

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2:00am

Fri July 29, 2011
Environment

Fire Made Arctic Spew, Rather Than Absorb, Carbon

The Arctic tundra has been relatively thunderstorm-free for 10,000 years. But conditions are changing in the far north, and in 2007 a lightning strike caused the biggest wildfire ever recorded on the North Slope of Alaska. The tundra is normally a carbon sink, but scientists report in the journal Nature that that single fire released more carbon into the atmosphere than the entire Arctic tundra absorbs every year.

4:26pm

Tue July 19, 2011
The Science Of Japan's Nuclear Crisis

Commission: U.S. Must Make Nuclear Plants Safer

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says American nuclear plants need to be better prepared for the sudden and continued loss of electric power. Above, the Limerick Generating Station, a nuclear power plant in Pottstown, Penn.
Stan Honda AFP/Getty Images

America's nuclear reactors need new safeguards to ensure that the kind of accident that destroyed reactors in Japan last March doesn't happen here. That's the conclusion from a 90-day study of the accident undertaken by experts at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Fukushima accident in Japan damaged or destroyed four reactors and spread radiation for miles around the plant and it shook confidence in nuclear power around the world. Shortly afterwards, a task force of engineers at the NRC got their marching orders: figure out how to keep this from happening in the U.S.

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4:12pm

Mon June 6, 2011
Energy

Is The Future Of Nuclear Power In Mini Reactors?

Instead of building costly, huge nuclear power plants like the Exelon Byron station in Byron, Ill., engineers are scaling down — aiming for garage-sized reactors that produce just one-tenth the amount of electricity of a conventional facility.
Jeff Haynes AFP/Getty Images

Almost 60 years ago, engineers in Idaho switched on the world's first nuclear power plant. It was only able to illuminate four light bulbs. The reactor vessel in Idaho stood about eight feet high, and eventually it made enough electricity to power a building.

A nuclear plant today can produce 10,000 times as much electricity. But for the last 20 years, new nuclear plants have been too expensive to build. Now engineers are trying to revive the industry by thinking small again.

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