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John Dolva

Nuclear power and Japan.

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@markwillacy Tokyo, Japan Mark Willacy North Asia correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

for the first time Japan evacuating people outside the 20km Fukushima nuclear no-go zone. People in villages 30km away being shifted now

17 minutes ago via web


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Japanese site organising june 11 anti nuclear day:

http://nonukes.jp/wo...ss/?page_id=137 - please bookmark


Action June 11: No Nuclear Power

The day marks three months after the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the earthquake and tsunami. The plants are still spewing radioactive materials. No one wants such dirty electricity harmful to human and nature.

Join us on June 11th with million-people action throughout the world and let our voice heard.

Many citizens and groups in Japan have started organizing June 11 actions like demonstrations or parades. We need your support to spread our message and hear from as many people on Earth as possible.

Why don't you endorse our June 11 actions?

Endorsing groups or organizations will be publicized on our website. We appreciate it if you decide to organize your own demonstrations, parades, gatherings, or anything on June 11th or 12th.

Our solidarity, if you are in Japan, in Asia, in Europe, in Americas, or anywhere in this world, will soon end this dark age of nuclear power generation (ed : bold)."

Edited by John Dolva

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Tell the Japanese government to protect children from reckless radiation limits


The nuclear disaster at the Fukushima reactors is far from over. Last week, the plant's owners, TEPCO, admitted that a full meltdown had occurred at Unit 1 and that molten fuel may have eaten through the floor of the reactor vessel.

Increased levels of radiation are being found throughout Japan. Last month, the Japanese government took the unpopular step of raising radiation limits for children in Fukushima Prefecture to twenty times the internationally recognized annual allowable dose for adults. (ed: format)

Our friends at Green Action Japan, a local NGO, have started a petition calling on the Japanese government to reverse its decision to expose children to dangerous levels of radiation. Please add your name here.



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Japan Fukushima Bad To Worse ...???

Meltdown May 18 2011



Monday, May 16, 2011

''Drawing lessons from Japan's nuclear disaster

By SANDEEP PANDEY Citizen News Service NEW DELHI — In 1945 the catastrophe was inflicted by the enemy. In what remains to date the most horrendous attack on human beings, more than 300,000 people were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and many more went on to suffer because of radioactivity-related ailments. But today Japan's catastrophe is self-inflicted.

What makes this tragedy more ironic is that the Japanese had resolved not to develop a nuclear-weapon program because they did not want to see any other population suffer the way they did in 1945. In spite of this noble resolve, the Japanese chose to go ahead with a large nuclear energy program. They never imagined that their nuclear power plants would one day bring back the nightmares of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to haunt them.

There seems to be no end to the horror at Fukushima. The emergency crew is working to contain the damage round the clock but new reports of radiation releases pour in every day. In a ridiculous attempt to allay public fears, first the Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported a radiation level in water at the Fukushima No. 1 plant's reactor No. 2 to be 10 million times higher than the permissible limit, causing panic among workers, but it later retracted it claiming it to be erroneous and stated that the radiation levels were in fact only 100,000 times higher. Should that be considered a cause for relief? Even that level can be fatal for humans.

Already radiation released by this accident has affected water, soil and food in this area and has probably made the area inhabitable for some time to come, and people have been forced to evacuate by the government. One can only salute the emergency crew members who are trying to bring the plant under control knowing full well the dangers that their government is exposing them to.

In Hiroshima and Nagasaki people had no choice as they were caught unawares. In Fukushima, the scientists who built the nuclear power plants were well aware of the dangers involved in this technology. The Japanese government has put its population to tremendous risk by adopting its nuclear-energy program.

Japan has begun seriously researching renewable energy options, and hopefully it eventually will rely more on technologies that are safer, cleaner and cheaper to meet its energy needs. Japan has resolved to become a low carbon society in the near future; now it must commit itself to be no-nuclear society too.

The accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has shaken popular confidence in nuclear energy as never before. Countries that were toying with the idea of either starting or reviving their nuclear-energy programs are now having second thoughts. It is people's awareness that has prevented a single new nuclear power plant to be built in Europe and the United States for the last 25 to 30 years. Nuclear power plants are turning out to be the most costly and dangerous method of producing electricity. Most developed countries that have them will be phasing them out in the coming years.

One compelling reason for phasing out nuclear-power programs is that scientists have not been able to figure out how to safely dispose of the radioactive waste created by the plants. The spent fuel is cooled in pools and continues to pile up.

The most common hazards faces by human beings due to exposure to radiation are cancer or leukemia and genetic mutations that can affect future generations. The high doses of radiation at the Fukushima nuclear plant may not prove to be immediately fatal to workers involved in the cleanup, but it is likely to manifest itself in the form of cancers later in life and could even impact the workers' future offspring. In short, such people will suffer through no fault of their own.

Japanese energy policymakers should be held responsible for the resulting misery as no government has a right to expose its citizens to radiation hazards. They should adopt safe technological options for producing electricity. Citizens should have a role in determining the energy policy of the government, and well informed public debate must precede decision-making.

Consider the nuclear power plant at Narora in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh state. It is situated on the banks of the Ganga River. In 1993 there was a major fire at this nuclear power plant, and it was only sheer luck that it did not get out of control.

If an accident of the scale that took place at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal (1984) happened at the Narora nuclear plant, it would jeopardize all life along the banks of the river for much of the breadth of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and parts of Bangladesh. Depending on the direction of wind, Delhi could be affected too as it is merely 50 to 60 km from there.

We must not play with nature. The safest place for uranium is underground. This radioactive material must not be mined. There are better ways of producing electricity to meet our energy demands, and some energy demands could be filled without utilizing electricity. Hence a wise and sane energy policy must be developed in consultation with the people.

Dr. Sandeep Pandey leads the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM).''


ECOACTION : http://ecoactionteam.org/?p=1585

After Japan Nuclear Power Plant Disaster: How Much Radioactivity in the Oceans?

May 18, 2011 EcoActionTeam

National Science Foundation awards rapid-response grants to establish ocean radionuclide levels from Fukushima


Radiation level in the oceans in 1990, mostly from nuclear weapons testing, measured in Becquerels.

Credit and Larger Version

Among the casualties of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan was the country's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

A result of the loss of electricity, overheating at the power plant led to significant releases of iodine, cesium and other radioisotopes to the environment.

Japanese officials recently raised the severity of the nuclear power plant incident to level 7, the highest level on the international scale and comparable only to the Chernobyl incident 25 years ago, says Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

"When it comes to the oceans, however," says Buesseler, "the impact of Fukushima exceeds Chernobyl."

Radionuclides in seawater have been reported from the Fukushima plant's discharge canals, from coastal waters five to ten kilometers south of the plant, and from 30 kilometers offshore.

"Levels of some radionuclides are at least an order of magnitude higher than the highest levels in 1986 in the Baltic and Black Seas, the two ocean water bodies closest to Chernobyl," says Buesseler.

He has been awarded a rapid-response grant from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences to establish baseline concentrations of several radionuclides in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

"Finding this information early on is key to understanding the severity of the releases and related public health issues," says Buesseler.

He and colleagues will establish a baseline radionuclide data set for the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, using an east-to-west network of sampling stations where the ability to retrieve ocean water samples already exists.

Researchers learned much from Chernobyl about the fate of radioactive fallout delivered to the oceans, and about using that fallout as a "tracer" for how fast ocean waters mix and sediments accumulate.

"After Chernobyl, fallout was measured not only in samples close to the site, such as those in the Black Sea, but as far afield as the north Pacific Ocean," Buesseler says.

Because the atmosphere and oceans are linked, scientists would expect radionuclides present in the atmosphere also to appear in the ocean, albeit at very low levels, says chemical oceanographer Henrieta Dulaiova of the University of Hawaii.

Dulaiova has also been awarded a rapid-response grant from NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences to study the fallout.

She is monitoring ocean waters to establish baseline concentrations of radionuclides, and to determine the spreading of released radionuclides.

"Like the people of Japan–though certainly to a lesser degree–we are dealing with a radiochemical situation that will be with us for a long time," says Don Rice, director of NSF's chemical oceanography program.

"To understand how the ocean and atmosphere have handled this contamination in the years ahead, we must first get a snap-shot of the situation today," says Rice. "Buesseler and Dulaiova are doing just that."

Dulaiova's study is focused on the central Pacific Ocean, and includes coastal and offshore waters off Hawaii, Guam and the Midway Islands.

"Hawaii's proximity to Japan makes it an important monitoring point," says Dulaiova. "We're conducting weekly coastal and monthly offshore water sample collections."

Bi-weekly samples from Guam are also collected, and samples are obtained from ships cruising the western Pacific.

The samples are then analyzed for cesium isotopes, whose signature allows scientists to identify radionuclides released from Fukushima.

Dulaiova is also planning to look at other radionuclides such as iodine, strontium and some actinides that were released.

"The information is needed," she says, "so that any subsequent efforts to understand the severity of the releases, the bioaccumulation of radionuclides in the ocean food web, and ocean processes and spreading patterns of the released radioisotopes, all have good baseline data."

The researchers hope to develop an understanding of marine radionuclides on a global scale.

Read More: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=119577&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click

Edited by John Dolva

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''Tokyo, Japan (CNN) -- Japan's economy, sputtering since the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, has fallen into recession, according to government figures released Thursday.

The country's gross domestic product fell by an annualized rate of 3.7% in the first quarter of the calendar year, according to the government, a much steeper fall than Japanese economists had predicted.

Comparing the first quarter to the previous year, according to Japan's cabinet office, the GDP fell 0.9%. In the fourth quarter of 2010, the GDP fell 0.8% as compared to the same quarter of the previous year. Thursday's GDP figures show a second consecutive quarterly drop, which fits the economic definition of a recession.

Industrial output in March was down 15.3%, the worst monthly drop in the country's history.

Businesses in the region affected by the tsunami were hit hard, with 10,000 of 24,000 businesses affected and 600 expected to close.

The figures, which did not include data from tourism or trade, underscore the fact that the natural disaster of March has become an economic disaster.''

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May 19, 2011 11:33:41 PM

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co is likely to book about a 1 trillion yen ($12.3 billion) net loss for its fiscal year that ended in March due to losses from the accident at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japanese media reported on Friday.

That would be highest ever annual loss reported by a Japanese company, excluding financial institutions, the Nikkei business daily said.

The utility's president, Masataka Shimizu, will step down to take responsibility for the handling of Japan's worst ever nuclear accident, the Yomiuri newspaper said. Senior executive Katsutoshi Chikudate will become the [...]


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World looks beyond nuclear energy

Last week I discussed the likely policy changes in Japan with respect to nuclear energy in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster

  • By Saadallah Al Fathi, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 May 23, 2011
  • 3510741613.gif


  • Image Credit: Reuters
  • An aerial view of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station is seen in Fukushima Prefecture in this photo taken by the Air Photo Service on March 24, 2011. Tokyo Electric on Friday announced a $15 billion loss for the fiscal year that ended in March with three of its reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant still smoldering from a meltdown and a fourth full of dangerous uranium fuel rods at risk of collapse.

Last week I discussed the likely policy changes in Japan with respect to nuclear energy in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster — no more reactors will be built and the country may become nuclear-free in the long run.

The most radical reaction to the disaster is in Germany since opposition to nuclear energy there is historical. The Germans decided a long time ago to abandon nuclear energy but the decision was reversed later in a poll.

Fukushima renewed the public demonstrations and Germany immediately decided to temporarily close seven of its 17 reactors and ordered safety reviews for all. The review emphasised that "no safety concern has been found in regard to the nuclear reactors stress safety test", but observers believe that the seven old reactors are unlikely to operate again, especially because there was no shortage of electricity after the closure.

German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen admitted that these plants are not as "robust" as other newer facilities. Of course no sudden retreat can be acceptable as over 22 per cent of German electricity is nuclear and time is needed to establish alternatives.

But the most profound "change of mind" in Germany is that of the Chancellor Angela Merkel who appointed an "Ethics Commission" to study the future of electricity generation and concluded that Germany should abandon nuclear power.


Only last year, Merkel decided to extend the life of the 17 reactors even though a poll showed more than 60 per cent of the Germans want their country to give up nuclear energy without delay. Merkel had spent months revising the Schröder policy, in what her critics described as a gift to the nuclear lobby.

Merkel admitted that the Japan disaster made her change her mind and she surprised voters by calling for a swift German phase-out of nuclear power.

The commission's draft report advises that all the reactors should be shut down by 2021, which is much more radical than the reaction in Japan. The report will only become final by the end of the month and will recommend "a complete withdrawal" from nuclear energy.

There is no doubt that the German economy could benefit from the reduction of energy use by conservation and efficiency improvement measures and the development of alternative power sources, the very elements that are supposed to substitute nuclear power. Wind and solar energy already supply 16.5 per cent of German electricity, from a level of only 5 per cent in 2000, and the country has one of the fastest growing renewable energy markets in the world. The previous target of 30 per cent renewable electricity by 2020 is expected to be greatly surpassed by the upcoming policy shift.

US nuclear retreat

In the US the "nuclear renaissance" may now be turning to "nuclear retreat". Although president Obama defended the use of nuclear energy, conditions on the ground suggest at least a slowdown. Reactor components manufacturing company Areva has postponed indefinitely the construction of its US plant, and the crisis in Japan did contribute to a decision last month to put on hold construction of two nuclear reactors in south Texas.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) described the construction of the Calvert Cliff 1,500 MW reactor as "ineligible" because of French ownership that is prohibited by federal law although no environmental impacts have been found against the project. Illinois lawmakers are no longer pushing for an end to a 24-year ban on nuclear power.

Merrill Goozner in the Financial Times of May 9 suggests that it is not only the impact of Fukushima but "the heavy subsidies needed to build new nuclear plants and the increased costs from tougher safety standards" which make "nuclear less competitive option for producing electricity than a mix of cheap natural gas, wind and even solar power, which is rapidly declining in cost".

The NRC was recently criticised in the House of Representatives for a number of issues related to the industry where representatives from states with plants near major cities and seismic faults wanted them shut down, and states with new plants on the drawing boards wanted faster reviews and states with large quantities of nuclear waste wanted a long-term storage facility.

The NRC has 12 licence applications under review as the first hearing on a new reactor application since the 1970s to be conducted this summer is likely to be slow.

Other countries' plans are already under stress and will likely be impacted by the shifts in Japan, Germany and the slowdown in the US; therefore the nuclear retreat is real.

The writer is former head of Energy Studies Department in the OPEC Secretariat in Vienna.

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Wind is Japan's strongest alternative to nuclear

TWO months after the explosions and radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, the prime minister, Naoto Kan, has announced that the country will not build any new reactors.

If Kan really means it, the government will have to abandon the plans for expanding nuclear power it adopted only last year. To make up the energy shortfall, Kan has set the ambitious goal of using renewables.

That is most likely to mean wind, according to a report released last month by the Ministry of the Environment. There is "an extremely large introduction potential of wind power generation", it says, especially in the tsunami-hit north-east of the country.

"The potential of wind is huge because of the contribution from offshore generation with Japan's long coastline," agrees Tetsunari Iida, founder of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies in Tokyo, who advocates a 100 per cent switch to renewable energy by 2050. At present, Japan produces just 3 per cent of its electricity from renewables: solar, wind and geothermal. Nuclear contributes 30 per cent.

Taking into account wind strength, available land and the potential for offshore farms, the report estimates that Japan could install wind turbines with a capacity of up to 1500 gigawatts. More realistic estimates in the report suggest that with appropriate financial incentives, turbines with a capacity of 24 to 140 GW could be installed. Assuming the turbines operate a quarter of the time, this would provide up to 35 GW of electricity on average, matching the combined output of about 40 of Japan's existing 54 nuclear reactors.

Next in line is solar energy, which the report estimates could provide between 69 and 100 GW without taking up any productive agricultural land.

Perhaps surprisingly, given Japan's 120 active volcanoes and the 28,000 hot springs associated with them, geothermal energy scarcely figures in the ministry's report. At best, it says, only 14 GW is available, but much of that is inaccessible because of restrictions on development in national parks. At other sites, exploiting geothermal energy would disrupt springs currently used as spas.

A switch to renewables will require huge amounts of new infrastructure. This will need to be paid for by offering special tariffs as incentives for providers to feed energy from renewable sources into the grid. By coincidence, on the morning of 11 March - the day of the earthquake - the Japanese cabinet approved proposals that would achieve this. "It's under review by the parliament, and could provide a really big push for renewables if it's passed," says Iida.

The contribution from renewables to Japan's electricity supply is currently almost static, having increased from 3.1 to 3.3 per cent between 2008 and 2009. Iida blames "poor policy support" for this lack of growth. So it is possible that as the shock of Fukushima fades, support for renewables will go the same way. However, polls reported this week suggest that two-thirds of Japanese back a shift away from nuclear power.

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Japan looks to replace nuclear with world's first super solar array

Facing increased pressure to find a new energy solution in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, the Tokyo government has announced plans to deploy what could be the world's first national solar array.

The proposal, scheduled to be unveiled in detail at the upcoming G8 Summit in France, would mandate that all buildings in Japan, business and private alike, have a solar array on its roof to help generate energy for the entire country. The goal of the proposal would be to have the national array in place by 2030. And while such a sci-fi scene as an entire nation sporting futuristic <a href="http://dvice.com/archives/2010/04/post-5.php">solar panels on every roof might seem fantastical (imagine the view from Google Earth!) anyone with experience in Japan knows that this would be one of the more conservative uses of tech in the country, so we may in indeed see this super solar array after all.

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Two more reactors at Japan plant suffered meltdown, operator says

24.05.2011 05:58

Two more reactors at Japan plant suffered meltdown, operator says

The operator of a damaged nuclear power station in north-eastern Japan said Tuesday a partial fuel meltdown was believed to have taken place at two more reactors at the plant, dpa reported.

The latest update suggested that three of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were believed to have suffered fuel meltdowns after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant.

The plant has leaked radioactive substances into the environment ever since.

The operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), said earlier that a meltdown was believed to have occurred at reactor 1 soon after the disaster knocked out the plant's cooling systems with most of its fuel having melted down to the bottom of the pressure vessel.



AM with Tony Eastley

Monday to Saturday from 8:00 am on ABC Local Radio and 7:10 am on Radio National.

AM is Australia's most informative morning current affairs program. AM sets the agenda for the nation's daily news and current affairs coverage.

PETER CAVE : Outraged Japanese parents have held a rowdy demonstration outside the Education Ministry in Tokyo, to protest against the government's decision to weaken nuclear safety standards in schools.

Under the new guidelines, Japanese children can now be exposed to 20 times more radiation than was previously permissible.

The government argues the new rules are essential to keeping schools in the Fukushima region from being forced to close.

As our North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy reports from Tokyo.

(Sounds of protest)

MARK WILLACY: They came from radiation zone of Fukushima to the doors of the Education Ministry in Tokyo - hundreds of parents, furious that the government will now allow school children to be exposed to 20 times more radiation than was allowed before the nuclear disaster.

(Sound of Sanako Kaji speaking)

"While it may perhaps be safe to raise the exposure limit from one millisievert to 20 millisieverts per year, it doesn't seem to be the case that the people raising that limit would allow their own children to go and play in those areas," says Fukushima resident, Sanako Kaji.

Like a sacrificial offering to an angry mob, an Education Ministry official was bundled outside to speak to the demonstrators, although he had very little to offer them at all.

(Sound of ministry official speaking)

"The current radiation levels for schools in Fukushima pose no health risks to kids at all," says the ministry official. "The ministry does agree that it should take every measure possible to lower radiation levels at schools," he says.

The hapless official's words only seemed to anger the protestors even more.

The decision to increase the acceptable safety level to 20 millisieverts a year means Japanese children are now allowed to be exposed to as much radiation as a German nuclear worker.

The new regulation has provoked outrage from within the government, with the prime minister's chief scientific advisor resigning in protest.

But the government says it had no choice but to raise the legal exposure limit, saying about three-quarters of the schools in Fukushima have radiation levels above the old safety level of one millisievert. Meaning if they didn't increase the maximum allowable dose of radiation, the vast majority of schools would have to close, putting the education of hundreds of thousands of children on hold.

For the protestors, the meltdown at Fukushima is an ominous warning that the government must heed.

(Sound of Tsutomu Une speaking)

"This is an opportunity to get rid of nuclear energy and to switch to renewable energy," says Tsutomu Une. "If we let this chance pass us by we're wasting all the sacrifices made by the victims of this disaster," he says.

According to the US based Nobel Prize winning group, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the new limits mean exposed children now have a one in 200 risk of getting cancer, compared with a one in 500 risk for adults.

This is Mark Willacy in Tokyo for AM.

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Video: Business

Tepco confirms triple meltdown (1:17)

May 24 - The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant confirms meltdown in a total of three reactors soon after the March 11 quake. Paul Chapman reports.

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relevant data : http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=14000&view=findpost&p=226459


Tokyo Times


Masayoshi Son, the CEO and president of Japanese telecom company Softbank and the richest man in the country plans to involve his company in a project that will build 10 solar power plants in the country.

Son’s idea is to build an “Eastern Japan Solar Belt” to promote the country’s shift away from nuclear and towards renewable energy – solar, wind and geothermal. His project would also help the northeast part of Japan recover after March 11’s quake and tsunami, which triggered a nuclear crisis after Fukushima plant’s reactors were destroyed.

Each of the new plants would cost about Y8 billion ($97 million), and the funding scheme is still a bit unclear.

Son’s company may contribute with about 10 percent of the money, while local authorities could cover about Y100 million for each plant. Softbank would borrow the rest from the banks, according to the Nikkei financial newspaper.

What’s the connection between a telecom company and renewable energy? Apparently, none. But while Softbank will keep earnings reports separate on the two businesses, it may enter a partnership with Sharp Corp. to adopt its solar panels. The two companies also have a deal in the mobile phone sector.

Japan’s prime minister Naoto Kan publicly announced that the country will give up on its plans of increasing the share of nuclear energy out of the total production, and focus on renewable sources instead. The prime minister could soon announce a plan that would make it compulsory for all new buildings to have solar panels on their roofs, by 2030. [AFP]

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New leak feared - http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/news/international/New_leak_feared_at_stricken_Japan_nuclear_plant.html?cid=30321926

Geiger counter sell out - http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/05/26/idINIndia-57260220110526?feedType=RSS&feedName=entertainmentNews&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+reuters%2FINentertainmentNews+%28News+%2F+IN+%2F+Entertainment+News%29&utm_content=Google+International

Japan’s Sunrise Plan: Down with Nuclear, Up with Solar - http://www.tomorrowisgreener.com/japan%E2%80%99s-sunrise-plan-down-with-nuclear-up-with-solar/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TomorrowIsGreener+%28Tomorrow+is+greener%29&utm_content=Google+International



Greenpeace finds radioactive sea life off Japan

By North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy, wires

Updated 1 hour 14 minutes ago

r744007_6113823.jpg Samples of fish, shellfish and seaweed were collected in the Pacific Ocean, 20 kilometres off Fukushima. (AFP: Air Photo Service)

Greenpeace says data from its radiation monitoring in the ocean off Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant shows massive levels of contamination in seaweed and other marine life.

The environmental group is warning that both the environment and people are at long-term risk.

After taking samples of fish, shellfish and seaweed collected in the Pacific Ocean, 20 kilometres off Fukushima, Greenpeace sent them for analysis at independent French and Belgian laboratories.

The conservation group says the results show seaweed radiation levels are 50 times higher than official limits, while other marine samples showed high levels of radioactive caesium and iodine.

Greenpeace says it proves radioactivity is accumulating in marine life and not diluting, as claimed by Japanese authorities.

The group criticised Japanese authorities for their "continued inadequate response to the Fukushima nuclear crisis" sparked by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

"Despite what the authorities are claiming, radioactive hazards are not decreasing through dilution or dispersion of materials, but the radioactivity is instead accumulating in marine life," said Jan Vande Putte, a Greenpeace radiation expert.

"The concentration of radioactive iodine we found in seaweed is particularly concerning as it tells us how far contamination is spreading along the coast, and because several species of seaweed are widely eaten in Japan."

Mr Vande Putte accused Japan of doing too little to measure and share data on marine life contamination and said: "Japan's government is mistaken in assuming that an absence of data means there is no problem."

"This complacency must end now, and [the government must] instead mount a comprehensive and continuous monitoring program of the marine environment along the Fukushima coast, along with full disclosure of all information about both past and ongoing releases of contaminated water," he said.

The tests were conducted by Greenpeace monitoring teams on shore and from its Rainbow Warrior flagship, which was only allowed to test outside Japan's 20-kilometre territorial waters.

Japan has said ocean currents and tides are rapidly diluting contaminants from the tsunami-hit atomic plant, and Fukushima prefecture said that no fishing is going on at the moment in its waters.

"We have exercised self-restraint as [prefectural] safety tests have not been conducted yet," said a Fukushima official.

"We will make a decision after confirming the results of the tests, which will take place shortly."

The official added: "People do not bother fishing now. If you caught fish or other marine products in waters near the plant, they wouldn't sell."

Japan's fisheries agency, and neighbouring prefectures, have been checking marine products at different spots, and the government has prohibited fishermen from catching some species found to have elevated radiation levels.

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The Irish Times - Friday, May 27, 2011

The sun sets on Japan's nuclear age


A protester shouts slogans at an anti-nuclear rally in front of the Tokyo headquarters of Tepco. Photograph: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters


NUCLEAR FALLOUT: The meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant has grave implications for Japan’s planned atomic energy expansion, and also its long-term economic growth

IN A CITY where mass demonstrations are rare and generally tame, Tokyo has seen at least four in the past month, all against nuclear power. Thousands of people have marched past the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) shouting slogans at the executives they hold responsible for the world’s worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl.

Furious parents from Fukushima Prefecture this month dumped irradiated soil from school playgrounds on the desks of government bureaucrats. More protests are planned in the sweltering summer months, when looming power cuts and leaking radiation from the ruined Fukushima Daiichi power plant will make life very uncomfortable for citizens in this densely populated, sprawling metropolis.

Could these angry, scattered voices from below congeal to topple Japan’s entire energy policy, or even abort the global turn to nuclear power? Prime minister Naoto Kan has already thrown a huge bone to the anti-nuclear lobby by asking for the temporary closure of the Hamaoka plant southwest of Tokyo.

Even as utility executives digested that unexpected request, polls suggest that nearly two-thirds of the public support the decision, which takes offline what many call the most dangerous power plant in the country. In a press conference this month, Kan further stunned the embattled industry by saying that energy policy in Japan must “go back to the drawing board,” which would mean reversing a four-decade focus on atomic power.

Nuclear proponents, however, have been quick to deny that any of this signals an energy revolution. “Energy economics and the current state of renewable energy technology are not suitable for a major shift within the next 10 to 30 years because of the need to accommodate the stable, predictable demand for power by Japanese industry and residential consumers at affordable prices,” says Paul J Scalise, an energy expert and fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies, Temple University, Japan. He says Japanese capitalism simply cannot survive without nuclear power – at least for now.

The country faces no easy options. With virtually no resources and heavily dependent on oil from the volatile Middle East, Japan rushed to build atomic plants in the 1970s and 1980s, mostly near coastal areas that have suffered earthquakes and tsunami for millennia.

Whatever about the dubious merits of that decision, Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors (including 17 operated by Tepco) now provide about 30 per cent of its total power needs, when running at full capacity. With Fukushima and other plants offline, capacity is down to about 22 per cent.

Before the March 11th megaquake triggered the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi complex, Japan’s government aimed to boost this to 50 per cent. Another 12 plants were planned, including one of the largest in the world in Aomori Prefecture, in the country’s north.

Famously the only country to have suffered an attack by atomic weapons, Japan is the unlikely leader of a global nuclear revival. Three corporate heavyweights – Hitachi, Toshiba (which built several of the Fukushima reactors) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – have become world leaders in the complex technology behind nuclear power. Between them, they planned to double capital investment by more than $100 million (€70 million) by the end of the decade.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries planned to boost staff numbers of 4,500 at its nuclear power division by 1,000 within five years. Toshiba paid $5.4 billion in 2006 for a 51 per cent share in Westinghouse Electric, a leader in the Chinese market.

A controversial if little-known by-product of the industry’s enormous expansion in Japan was the amassing of weapons-grade plutonium to more than 45 tonnes, or one-fifth the global total.

Before the earthquake, those corporations, and Japan’s bureaucratic watchdog, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, were chasing for a share of about 150 new nuclear plants mooted for construction around the world, adding to the roughly 440 reactors already online.

Shrugging off the legacy of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, the industry was attempting a comeback, driven by the demand for low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels. But it faced a major problem: without government financial and political help, they would never be built because the nuclear option is still considered too risky and expensive for most commercial investors.

That’s why former British prime minister Tony Blair and other world leaders increasingly talked up the benefits of atomic power as a key strategy to fight climate change. “It’s difficult to see how to reduce CO2 emissions without nuclear power stations,” Blair told a Tokyo audience three years ago. It was notable too that even as Fukushima’s fires smouldered in late March, Kan stood side by side with French president Nicolas Sarkozy in Tokyo to defend their nuclear strategies.

“Everyone is trying to cut CO2,” said Sarkozy, whose country generates 70 per cent of its power needs at nuclear plants. “The advanced countries don’t have much choice right now.” Apart from recommending new global safety standards, a nodding Kan had little to add.

Japan’s largest business lobby, the Keidanren, has made its position very clear. Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura this month demanded that Kan rescind his decision on Hamaoka, which he called “extralegal” and a “political performance”. With Japanese businesses already struggling to compete with mighty China, the nation cannot afford to ditch nuclear power, he warned.

For that reason, many analysts say that Kan’s more recent pronouncements are rhetoric designed to appease angry voters. The government’s true long-term intentions should be gauged by the fate of the two nuclear plants under construction in remote Shimane and Aomori prefectures. “Both power plants took over 10 years to site and build, cost billions of yen in construction costs and would cost the taxpayer even more to decommission if they were never brought online,” says Scalise.

Expect developing nations, with limited rights to public protest, to forge ahead with pro-nuclear policies, says Scalise.

By far the most important is China, with 27 reactors under construction, followed by Russia with 11, and India and South Korea with five apiece. Beijing announced a suspension of approval of new plants in March but most observers expect that to be temporary.

In the US and Europe, where public opinion is more hostile to nuclear power than ever, new construction is almost impossible. German and Italian leaders flinched in Fukushima’s aftermath. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised legislation in June as part of a plan to “quickly exit” from nuclear power.

As for Japan, much depends on how the media react to the growing catastrophe in Fukushima. So far, the big newspapers and broadcasting outlets have taken a cautious line, steering away from the word meltdown, for example, until Tepco admitted last weekend that is precisely what happened at Reactor 1 in the 24 hours after the March 11th quake struck.

The biggest recent survey, by state broadcaster NHK, found just 12 per cent of respondents in favour of scrapping all nuclear power stations; 42 per cent supported the status quo.

But nuclear opponents, largely ignored until this year, are increasingly getting a hearing, especially in the mass-selling weeklies. “In the end, building a nuclear plant in Japan with absolute safety is impossible,” says Atsushi Kasai, a member of the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. In an interview with the Japan Times, Kasai said Fukushima would force Tepco and the government to scrap its entire nuclear blueprint and eventually shut down all Japan’s reactors. Only time will tell if he is correct.

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Japan's Nuclear Cartel

Atomic Industry Too Close to Government for Comfort


REUTERS After the oil crisis of the 1970s, Japan embraced atomic power with a vengeance. Since then, the ties between the government and the nuclear industry have become so intertwined that public safety is at threat. Inspections are too lax, and anyone who criticizes the status quo can find themselves out of a job.

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It was a Friday morning, and Yukio Yamaguchi had left his gray cardigan at home and was wearing his good, dark-brown suit instead. He had boarded the Shinkansen, Japan's high-speed train, to travel to Kashiwazaki-Kariwa on the west coast, home to the world's largest nuclear power plant.

The reserved physicist with horn-rimmed glasses and a gray goatee is an anti-nuclear activist with the Citizens' Nuclear Information Center. He was on his way to attend the meeting of a commission that addresses earthquake safety for power plants. This meeting, together with TEPCO, the operator of the Kashiwazaki plant, was being held to discuss the subject of earthquake and tsunami safety. It was the morning of March 11, 2011.

Shortly after 1 p.m., Yamaguchi sat down in his usual seat, the second from the left in the first row, in a wood-paneled conference room at the Niigata Prefecture administration building. But what good was it to warn people about the dangerous tidal waves? "It was the same as always," says Yamaguchi. "One man against a dozen TEPCO people. And they said that everything was in perfect order." Until 2:46 p.m., that is, when TEPCO's "perfect order" was destroyed.

The building suddenly started shaking. It was an earthquake, and everyone ran outside. The meeting was interrupted for 15 minutes, but then it was reconvened. A TEPCO spokesman pointed out, once again, how well the Kashiwazaki plant was protected against earthquakes and tsunamis.

No one in the room suspected that in those very minutes, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) farther to the east, a wave more than 14 meters (46 feet) high was rolling toward the six-meter protective wall at TEPCO's second-largest nuclear complex.

The meeting in Niigata ended at about 4 p.m. Just as Yamaguchi was checking into a local business hotel (the bullet train had stopped running, because of the earthquake), TEPCO was notifying the government that it had lost control over the reactors at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Making a Farce of Safety Claims

Time and again, the new realities have revealed the nuclear lobby's safety slogans to be a farce. Apparently the earthquake alone caused the first tubes to crack. The fuel rods melted down into redhot clumps of uranium, eating holes into the floor of the reactor pressure vessel in Unit 1 at an early juncture. And not even the risk of steam explosions has been averted.

TEPCO's and the Japanese government's reassurances have proven to be meaningless. Tens of thousands of people have had to leave their homes, possibly for good. Even the mountain village of Iitate, almost 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the disaster site, has begun to be evacuated.

For a full two months, TEPCO management tried to reassure the public and denied all responsibility, even during its ineffectual attempts to get the damaged reactors under control. It wasn't until last Friday that TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu and Vice President Sakae Muto finally announced their resignations -- a decision that was driven mainly by the company's massive quarterly loss of €10.7 billion ($15.1 billion).

The choice of Toshio Nishizawa, another top executive at TEPCO, to replace Shimizu will hardly change the company's inept crisis management strategy. The crisis team will continue to meet on the second floor of the TEPCO headquarters building in Tokyo, in a large conference room with pieces of paper taped to the inside of the windows. The top executives sit around a semicircular table. There is Muto, head of TEPCO's nuclear division until now, who used to chair the meetings, with Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata sitting to his left. Katsumata usually makes an appearance at 9 a.m. and returns between 6 and 7 p.m. Shimizu was rarely seen at the meetings recently, says another executive.

There are several smaller, round tables scattered around the conference table. Teams of outside experts, including specialists from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission and France's Areva nuclear power company, as well as Japanese scientists, sit at these tables. Everyone stares at a large video screen showing dedicated lines to all of TEPCO's power plants, including Kashiwazaki.

At the moment, however, they are usually looking at the bottom left corner of the screen, where there is an image of Masao Yoshida, 56, the head of the plant, who is reporting from the earthquake-proof room at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. "Yoshida often has trouble getting his message across," says one of the meeting participants. "The people at the site have to make an effort to convey how serious the situation really is."

Too Big to Fail

It isn't even entirely clear who is actually responsible for crisis management. A few weeks ago, when SPIEGEL asked a TEPCO spokesman who was running the crisis team, he replied: "Prime Minister (Naoto) Kan." When a member of the Japanese parliament asked the government the same question, it replied: "Primarily TEPCO." Meanwhile, the country's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) announced: "We all support TEPCO in a unified manner in its management of the crisis." One of the government's contributions to this support is financial -- Tokyo is spending the astronomical sum of €43 billion to protect TEPCO from ruin. The axiom "too big to fail," which guaranteed the survival of the major European and American banks during the financial crisis, is also proving to be applicable to Japan's largest electric utility.

TEPCO, the world's fourth-largest power company, employs more than 52,000 people and most recently posted annual revenues of about €35 billion. Before World War II, the government nationalized all electric utilities and merged them into regional monopolies. The resulting 10 companies are now private, but they have retained their regional dominance.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has consistently treated the electric utilities as tools with which to execute its industrial policy. In return, the utilities enjoy guaranteed profits. Some 45 million people in the Tokyo region get their electricity from TEPCO. The company is ubiquitous. It pays for research and sponsors many news programs. It even built a giant electricity museum in the center of Tokyo's popular Shibuya shopping district.

The Fukushima disaster destroyed much more than a power plant. It has destabilized the entire system on which the Japanese nuclear industry is based. In Japan, the term "The Atomic Village" refers to an isolated elite that has formed around the country's nuclear complex. Its residents include TEPCO's nuclear divisions and the corresponding departments at the METI. Scientists, politicians and journalists are also members of this exclusive nuclear club.

Activist Yamaguchi has repeatedly run up against the secure walls surrounding this Atomic Village. "They all feel connected," he says. "They all studied at the top university in Tokyo, and after that they worked here at TEPCO or at the agency that's supposed to regulate TEPCO."

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