WASHINGTON

Nuclear regulators ease some emergency standards

Without fanfare, the nation’s nuclear power regulators have overhauled community emergency planning for the first time in more than three decades, requiring fewer exercises for major accidents and recommending that fewer people be evacuated right away.

Nuclear watchdogs voiced surprise and dismay over the quietly adopted revamp. Several said they were unaware of the changes until now, though they took effect in December.

At least four years in the works, the changes appear to clash with more recent lessons of last year’s reactor crisis in Japan. A mandate that local responders always run practice exercises for a radiation release has been eliminated.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which run the program together, have added one new exercise: More than a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, state and community police will now take part in exercises that prepare for a possible assault on their local plant.

BEDFORD, N.Y.

Estranged wife of RFK Jr. found dead at age 52

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s family says his estranged wife inspired them with “her kindness, her love, her gentle soul and generous spirit.”

Mary Richardson Kennedy, who had fought drug and alcohol problems, was found dead in her home Wednesday.

Westchester county executive’s office spokesman Ned McCormack says the medical examiner has taken her body to an office in nearby Valhalla. He says he can’t say anything about the cause of death until the autopsy.

Robert Kennedy Jr. is a prominent environmental lawyer and the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Mary Kennedy was his second wife. They had four children together.

MILWAUKEE

Good news for coffee lovers: It may help you live longer

One of life’s simple pleasures just got a little sweeter. After years of waffling research on coffee and health, even some fear that java might raise the risk of heart disease, a big study finds the opposite: Coffee drinkers are likely to live longer. Regular or decaf doesn’t matter.

The study of 400,000 people is the largest ever done on the issue, and the results should reassure any coffee lovers who think it’s a guilty pleasure that may do harm.

“There may actually be a modest benefit of coffee drinking,” said lead researcher Neal Freedman of the National Cancer Institute

No one knows why. Coffee contains a thousand things that can affect health, from helpful antioxidants to tiny amounts of substances linked to cancer. The most widely studied ingredient — caffeine — didn’t play a role in the new study’s results.

— From news service reports