¶ “Why Oil Is Not the Future” • While the oil market has stabilized a bit in recent months, there are many good reasons to believe that the industry is on the decline for good. In fact, petroleum consumption in the past couple of years is much lower than it was in the 90s, despite the fact that the economy grew close to 50% in this time. [Care2.com]
¶ “Why Donald Trump Can’t Save the Coal Industry” • President Donald Trump set off a panic among environmentalists and celebrations in coal country in an executive order he proclaimed would lead to a “new era in American energy.” The terror and revelry are both based on projections for a future that will never arrive. [Newsweek]
¶ Installed renewable energy capacity around the world grew by 161 GW in 2016 bringing…
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A Halo of Storms and Heatwaves — New Study Confirms that Global Warming is Wrecking the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream
“We came as close as one can to demonstrating a direct link between climate change and a large family of extreme recent weather events.” — Michael Mann
The Earth is warming, the weather is growing more extreme, and from the observational perspective, it appears that the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream has undergone some seriously disturbing changes. Over the past five years, this subject has been one that’s spurred heated debate among scientists, meteorologists, and global climate and weather watchers. Now, a new model study finds that it’s likely that the Jet Stream is being significantly altered by human-forced climate change and that this alteration is helping to drive extreme weather events like the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Pakistan flood and Russian heat wave, the 2011 Texas heat wave and recent floods in Europe.
(More extreme variation in upper level wind speeds is an upshot of polar…
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Making Sense of Trump Ties to Alleged Neo-Nazis, Hungary-Putin Axis, Russian Mobsters, and Israeli Settlements
On March 17th, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) “called on the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to investigate whether senior White House counterterrorism advisor Sebastian Gorka falsified his U.S. naturalization application by failing to disclose his membership in a Hungarian neo-Nazi organization.” Gorka used to work as an advisor to Putin ally, Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban. Orban was the first (only?) European leader to publicly endorse Trump.
Yesterday, March 30th, Larry Cohler-Esses at Forward .com wrote an open letter entitled, “Dear Dr. Gorka: Six Questions Trump’s Counter-Terrorism Aide Won’t Answer“: “on March 22, I sent you a few basic questions about your relationship to the far-right Hungarian group known as the Vitezi Rend.”
As with Steve Bannon, the potential ties between Gorka and Neo-Nazis are not as strange as they…
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Fukushima, March 31 (Jiji Press)–Japan on Friday lifted its evacuation orders for the village of Iitate and two other areas that had been enforced due to the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station in northeastern Japan.
The move came six years after Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> power station suffered meltdowns after the huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, triggering evacuation orders in many places in Fukushima Prefecture, including Iitate and the other two areas.
Residents of Iitate, the town of Namie and the Yamakiya district in the town of Kawamata, totaling some 22,100 at the end of February, can now return home, except in a handful of places included in no-go zones where radiation levels are still too high.
With the evacuation order set to be removed for the town of Tomioka on Saturday, Okuma and Futaba, the host towns of the crippled power station, will be the only Fukushima municipalities without an area where an evacuation order has been lifted.
Meanwhile, municipalities where evacuation orders have been removed have their own problems: a slow return of residents.
Hisako Sakiyama, a medical doctor and representative of the 3.11 Fund for Children With Thyroid Cancer, speaks to reporters in Tokyo, Friday, March 31, 2017. Sakiyama, who has sat on government panels to investigate the Fukushima disaster, says a child who was 4 at the time of the disaster , has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and that case is missing from the official government records.
TOKYO (AP) — A child diagnosed with thyroid cancer after the Fukushima nuclear accident is missing from government checkup records, an aid group said Friday, raising questions about the thoroughness and transparency of the screenings.
Japanese authorities have said that among the 184 confirmed and suspected cases of thyroid cancer in Fukushima, no one was under age 5 at the time of the 2011 meltdowns. They’ve said that suggests the cases are not related to nuclear-plant radiation, as many were after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
The 3.11 Fund for Children With Thyroid Cancer, however, said Friday that one child who was 4 when the meltdowns occurred has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. That case is not listed in data from Fukushima Medical University, which is overseeing thyroid-cancer screening and surgeries and had treated the child.
Hisako Sakiyama, a medical doctor and representative of the 3.11 Fund, which gives aid to families of children diagnosed with thyroid cancer, said that any missing case is “a major problem,” and raises the possibility that others may also be missing from the data.
The university has been carrying out ultrasound screenings of some 300,000 youngsters in Fukushima 18 and younger at the time of the nuclear accident. It has repeatedly said it stands behind its data but declined to comment on individual cases, citing privacy concerns.
Seisho Tanaka, a spokesman for the screenings, said those who may have had tested negative could have developed cancer afterward and sought medical treatment outside the screening process. He declined to comment further.
The officials have argued the Fukushima cases are popping up because of “a screening effect,” meaning the meticulous testing uncovered cases that would not be known otherwise.
Sakiyama, who has sat on a legislative panel investigating the Fukushima nuclear disaster, said the screening system was flawed. The child, a boy now 10, and one of the fund’s aid recipients, had surgery at Fukushima Medical University last year and is receiving treatment there, making it difficult to think the university could be unaware of the case, she added.
“It is very puzzling how they would not want to come forward with the case,” she said, adding of the Fukushima cases and radiation: “There is no reason to outright deny the link.”
The boy, who continues to receive treatment from the hospital, and his family have not spoken publicly.
Thyroid cancer is usually not fatal with proper treatment. It’s extremely rare among children and young adults under normal conditions, but since young people are not typically screened for it, it can go undetected for years.
Of the thousands of thyroid cancer cases that surfaced after Chernobyl, in the Ukraine and Belarus, about half or about 15 percent, depending on the study, were those under age 5 at the time of the accident.
Although it’s still difficult to reach a conclusion on a link with radiation, studying the cancers and how they developed can shed light on the question, he said recently in a Skype call.
(MENAFN – Asia Times) Six years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident three global nuclear corporations are fighting for their very survival.
The bankruptcy filing by Westinghouse Electric Co. and its parent company Toshiba Corp. preparing to post losses of 1 trillion (US9 billion), is a defining moment in the global decline of the nuclear power industry.
However, whereas the final financial meltdown of Westinghouse and Toshiba will likely be measured in a few tens of billions of dollars, those losses are but a fraction of what Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) is looking at as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
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If the latest estimates for the cost of cleaning up the Fukushima plant prove accurate, Tepco faces the equivalent of a Toshiba meltdown every year until 2087.
In November 2016, the Japanese Government announced a revised estimate for the Fukushima nuclear accident (decommissioning, decontamination, waste management and compensation) of 21.5 trillion (US193 billion) – a doubling of their estimate in 2013.
But the credibility of the government’s numbers have been questioned all along, given that the actual ‘decommissioning’ of the Fukushima plant and its three melted reactors is entering into an engineering unkown.
This questioning was borne out by the November doubling of cost estimates after only several years into the accident, when there is every prospect Tepco will be cleaning up Fukushima well into next century.
And sure enough, a new assessment published in early March from the Japan Institute for Economic Research, estimates that total costs for decommissioning, decontamination and compensation as a result of the Fukushima atomic disaster could range between 50-70 trillion (US449-628 billion).
If confirmed over the coming years, it will be the most expensive industrial accident in history with even greater implications for the people and energy future of Japan.
Rather than admit that the Fukushima accident is effectively the end of Tepco as a nuclear generating company, the outline of a restructuring plan was announced last week.
Tepco Holdings, the entity established to manage the destroyed nuclear site, and the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF) are seeking ways to sustain the utility in the years ahead, confronted as they are with escalating Fukushima costs and electricity market reform.
The NDF, originally established by the Government in 2011 to oversee compensation payments and to secure electricity supply, had its scope broadened in 2014 to oversee decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi plant on the Pacific Ocean coast north of Tokyo.
The latest restructuring plan is intended to find a way forward for Tepco by securing a future for its nuclear, transmission and distribution businesses. If possible in combination with other energy companies in Japan.
Map of Japan’s nuclear plants. Photo: Japan Atomic Industries Forum Inc, 2016.
But the plan, already received less than warmly by other utilities rightly concerned at being burdened with Tepco’s liabilities, is premised on Fukushima cost estimates of 21.5 trillion — not 50-70 trillion.
To date Tepco’s Fukushima costs have been covered by interest-free government loans, with 6 trillion (US57 billion) already paid out. Since 2012 Tepco’s electricity ratepayers have paid 2.4 trillion to cover nuclear-related costs, including the Fukushima accident site.
That is nothing compared to the costs looming over future decades and beyond and it comes at a time when Tepco and other electric utilities are under commercial pressure as never before.
The commercial pressure comes from electricity market reform that since April 2016 allowed consumers to switch from the monopoly utilities to independent power providers.
In the ten months to February 2017, the main electric utilities lost 2.5 million customers, with Tepco alone losing more than 1.44 million. Hence, profits have fallen off a cliff.
Prior to the deregulation of the retail electricity market, Tepco had 22 million customers. As the Tepco president observed late last year “The number (of customers leaving Tepco) is changing every day as the liberalization continues … We will of course need to think of ways to counter that competition.”
Countering that competition shouldn’t mean rigging the market, yet Tepco and the other utilities intend to try and retain their decades long dominance of electricity by retaining control over access to the grid. This is a concerted push back against the growth of renewable energy.
Current plans to open the grid to competition in 2020, so called legal unbundling, are essential to wrest control from the big utilities.
The message of unbundling and independence, however, doesn’t seem to have reached the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) that oversees the electricity industry.
Current plans would allow Tepco to establish separate legal entities: Tepco Fuel & Power (thermal power generation), Tepco Energy Partner (power distribution) and Tepco Power Grid (power transmission).
Tepco Holdings will retain their stock and control their management, meaning the same monopoly will retain control of the grid. Where Tepco leads, the other nine electric utilities are aiming to follow.
Leaving the grid effectively still under the control of the traditional utilities will throw up a major obstacle to large scale expansion of renewable energy sources from new companies.
Such businesses will be ‘curtailed’ or stopped from supplying electricity to the grid when the large utilities decide it’s necessary, justified for example to maintain the stability of the grid.
The fact that ‘curtailment’ will be permitted in many regions without financial compensation piles further pain onto new entrants to the electricity market, and by extension consumers.
Further, METI plans to spread the escalating costs of Fukushima so that other utilities and new power companies pay a proportion of compensation costs. METI’s justification for charging customers of new energy companies is that they benefited from nuclear power before the market opened up.
The need to find someone else to pay for Tepco’s mess is underscored by the breakdown of the Fukushima disaster cost estimate in November.
When put at 22 trillion estimate, 16 trillion is supposed to be covered by Tepco. The Ministry of Finance is to offer 2 trillion for decontamination, and the remaining 4 trillion is to be provided by other power companies and new electricity providers.
The question is how does Tepco cover its share of the costs when it’s losing customers and its only remaining nuclear plant in Japan, Kashiwazaki Kariwa (the worlds largest), has no prospect of restarting operation due to local opposition?
What happens when Fukushima costs rise to the levels projected of 50-70 trillion?
The policy measures being put in place by Tepco, other utilities and the government suggests that they know what is coming and their solution for paying for the world’s most costly industrial accident will be sticking both hands into the public purse.
Shaun Burnie is a senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, Tokyo. He has worked on nuclear issues worldwide for more than three decades, including since 1991 on Japan’s nuclear policy.
FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — The government on Friday lifted the remaining evacuation orders for large parts of areas less seriously contaminated by the radiation due to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster.
The government lifted evacuation orders that had affected some parts of the towns of Kawamata and Namie as well as the village of Iitate. A large part of the town of Tomioka will also be released from the evacuation order Saturday.
The move will scale down the evacuation zones to about one-third of what they had originally been. But it is uncertain whether many residents will return to their homes amid radiation fears, while the most seriously contaminated areas around the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remain a no-go zone.
Initially, 11 municipalities — many of which are located within a 20-kilometers radius of the crippled nuclear complex — had been subject to the evacuation orders. They were later rezoned into three categories based on their radiation levels, with the most seriously contaminated land defined as the difficult-to-return areas.
Through radiation cleanup work and efforts to rebuild infrastructure, the government said in 2015 that it aimed to remove by the end of the current fiscal year through Friday all the evacuation orders except for those issued to the difficult-to-return zones.
But the government failed to do so in the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which host the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
Okuma and Futaba have some areas not designated as highly toxic, but both towns will remain under full evacuation orders due to insufficient infrastructure, according to government officials.
The areas where evacuation orders will be lifted by Saturday had a registered population of about 32,000, or 12,000 households, around the end of February. Even after the move, seven municipalities will be partially or fully subject to evacuation orders.
As for the difficult-to-return zones, the government plans to create areas where they will conduct intense decontamination and lift the evacuation orders for those areas in about five years’ time.
The number of Fukushima people who fled from their homes in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, which also triggered the nuclear crisis, stood at about 77,000 people as of March. The maximum number was about 165,000 marked in May 2012.
Where Toshiba’s $10bn nuclear debt came from: the Vogtle AP1000 construction site in Georgia, under inspection by NRC Commissioner Svinicki.
Toshiba’s nuclear flagship goes bust after $10 billion losses
News that one of the world’s biggest nuclear power constructors, Westinghouse, has filed for bankruptcy in with debts of over $10 billion has put the entire sector on notice and issued a dire warning to nuclear investors everywhere, writes Jim Green. Among the likely casualties: the UK’s Moorside nuclear complex in Cumbria.
The rapidly-evolving nuclear power crisis escalated dramatically yesterday when US nuclear giant Westinghouse, a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Toshiba, filed for bankruptcy.
The Chapter 11 filing took place in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York in New York City.
Westinghouse and its parent Toshiba are in crisis because of massive cost overruns building four ‘AP1000’ nuclear power reactors in the southern US states of Georgia and South Carolina.
The combined cost overruns for the four reactors now amount to about $1.2 billion and counting. And it has now emerged that they may never be finished at all. Whether the four reactors will be completed is now subject to an “assessment period”, according to Westinghouse.
The corporate mishap may also signal the end of new nuclear power in the US. No other reactors are under construction in the country and there is no likelihood of any new reactors in the foreseeable future. The US reactor fleet is one of the oldest in the world, with 44 out of its 99 reactors having been operated for four decades or more.
A $10 billion financial hole – and it’s getting deeper!
Toshiba says Westinghouse had debts totalling US$9.8 billion. Plans for new Westinghouse reactors in India, the UK and China are in jeopardy and will likely be cancelled. Bloomberg noted yesterday: “Westinghouse Electric Co., once synonymous with America’s industrial might, wagered its future on nuclear power – and lost.”
The same could be said about Toshiba, which is selling profitable businesses to stave off bankruptcy. Toshiba said yesterday it expects to book a net loss of $9.1 billion for the current fiscal year, which ends on Friday – a record loss for a Japanese manufacturer.
That projected loss is also well over double the estimate provided just last month, raising investor fears that the final figure may be greater still. “Every time they put out an estimate, the loss gets bigger and bigger”, said Zuhair Khan, an analyst at Jefferies in Tokyo. “I don’t think this is the last cockroach we have seen coming out of Toshiba.”
The BBC noted that Toshiba’s share-price has been in freefall, losing more than 60% since the company first unveiled the problems in December 2016. Toshiba president Satoshi Tsunakawa said at a news conference yesterday: “We have all but completely pulled out of the nuclear business overseas.”
Westinghouse is the major member of the Nugen consortium that’s set to build a massive three-reactor AP1000 nuclear complex at Moorside in the UK, next to the Sellafield site. The company has already stated that while it intends to progress the project through planning stages, it is unable to take on financing or construction and intends to sell its share.
Nugen’s other member, the French energy company Engie (formerly GDF Suez) has also gone on record as wanting to extricate itself from the Moorside project in favour of the ‘new energy’ economy based on renewable, storage and smart grid technologies.
It’s now looking increasingly probable that the Moorside project, given the state of the Nugen consortium and the massive failure of the AP1000 design, may never progress to construction.
The good news for the nuclear industry? The UK’s Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) today – with impeccable timing – accepted the AP1000 design as “suitable for construction in the UK“ and issued Westinghouse a Design Acceptance Certificate.
Is the nuclear game up at last?
A similar crisis is unfolding in France, which has 58 power reactors but just one under construction. French ‘EPR’ reactors under construction in France (Flamanville) and Finland are three times over budget – the combined cost overruns for the two reactors amount to about €12.7 billion and counting.
The French government is selling assets so it can prop up its heavily indebted nuclear utilities Areva and EDF. The French nuclear industry is in its “worst situation ever” according to former EDF director Gérard Magnin.
Meanwhile a simple comparison of decommissioning provision between France and Germany indicates that EDF has massively under-budgetted for its liabilities. Germany has set aside €38 billion to decommission its 17 nuclear reactors (€2.2 billion each), but France has set aside only €23 billion to decommission its 58 reactors (€0.4 billion each).
When the real costs, for which EDF will be liable, come in, they could easily bankrupt the company. This in turn puts the UK’s Hinkley Point double EPR nuclear project, in which EDF is the main partner, in doubt.
The crisis-ridden US, French and Japanese nuclear industries account for half of worldwide nuclear power generation. Other countries with crisis-ridden nuclear programs or nuclear phase-out policies account for more than half of worldwide nuclear power generation.
Meranwhile renewable energy generation doubled over the past decade and strong growth, driven by sharp cost decreases, will continue for the foreseeable future.
Toshiba’s nuclear unit files for bankruptcy, 1 tril. yen loss eyed
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Toshiba Corp. said Wednesday its troubled U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse Electric Co. has filed for Chapter 11 and it could post a net loss of over 1 trillion yen, the biggest ever for a Japanese manufacturer.
Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, as the Japanese parent company was rushing to limit further losses from the U.S. unit and looking to exit the money-losing overseas nuclear business.
With the do-or-die decision on the filing, Toshiba will make all-out efforts to move out of its financial woes, Toshiba President Satoshi Tsunakawa told a press conference in Tokyo after Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy.
“We are almost risk-free as we are pulling out of overseas nuclear operations, the biggest problem,” he said.
Toshiba said it could post a group net loss of 1.01 trillion yen ($9.13 billion) for the fiscal year ending on Friday, with massive costs related to the Chapter 11 filing. Westinghouse has $9.8 billion in total liabilities, much of which must be shouldered by Toshiba under a debt guarantee for the U.S. unit.
The estimated net loss would eclipse 787.3 billion yen posted by Hitachi Ltd. in the year to March 2009 following the 2008 global financial crisis and would be much worse than the 390 billion yen loss the company projected in February.
The huge loss would put the company in a negative net worth of 620 billion yen at the end of March, Toshiba said, far larger than the 150 billion yen it previously estimated.
Tsunakawa said that he feels responsibility for the company’s crisis but has no intention to step down as chief executive.
He took the helm at the company last June after it had been hit by an accounting scandal in 2015.
The bankruptcy filing will deconsolidate Westinghouse from Toshiba’s financial results for the current fiscal year.
The company has been under pressure to have Westinghouse file for bankruptcy protection, as the unit is the main cause of its massive losses with delays in U.S. plant projects leading to cost overruns, informed sources have said.
The nuclear-to-electronics conglomerate was looking to finalize losses related to the unit within the current fiscal year through the bankruptcy filing.
In February, Toshiba said it was expecting a loss of 712.5 billion yen in its U.S. nuclear business for the nine months through December on an unaudited basis. The company had to delay its earnings announcement twice, saying it needed more time to look into an accounting problem at Westinghouse.
Faced with ballooning losses, Toshiba had been considering a way to separate itself from the debacle at Westinghouse, which it bought in 2006 as a step to tap into overseas markets.
The cash-strapped company has decided to spin off its prized memory chip business and sell a majority stake, or even the whole operation, to raise funds to bolster its financial standing.
Toshiba closed the first round of bids Wednesday for the new semiconductor division that it plans to establish on Saturday. It has likely attracted 10 bidders and will choose the preferred buyer in May, according to sources close to the matter.
Tsunakawa is confident that the bidders have a strong financial standing and the proceeds from the sale will be able to eliminate the company’s liabilities.
He estimates the value of the chip business at 2 trillion yen at least, and said he expects the value to continue to rise.
Toshiba is seeking support from Korea Electric Power Corp. as a sponsor, aiming to sell its Westinghouse shares to the South Korean utility.
“We are focused on developing a plan of reorganization to emerge from Chapter 11 as a stronger company while continuing to be a global nuclear technology leader,” Westinghouse Interim President and Chief Executive Officer Jose Emeterio Gutierrez said in a release.
The company turned the corner in stemming the bleeding for the time being. But the fate of its turnaround remains unclear.
The sale of Westinghouse and the pullout of the overseas nuclear business will leave the company with no core profit-making businesses after it sold its cash-cow medical business and as it plans to sell its chip operation.
The outlook for the sale of the U.S. unit is far from certain. Toshiba may find it difficult to attract a buyer with slowing demand for nuclear power generation after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.
The projected spread of radioactive cesium-137 from a disaster at the No. 3 reactor’s spent fuel pool of the Kori nuclear plant in Busan, South Korea (Provided by Kang Jung-min)
A serious nuclear accident in South Korea could force the evacuation of more than 28 million people in Japan, compared with around 24 million in the home country of the disaster.
Japan would also be hit harder by radioactive fallout than South Korea in such a disaster, particularly if it occurred in winter, when strong westerly winds would blow radioactive substances across the Sea of Japan, according to a simulation by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington-based think tank.
The simulation, based on a scenario of an unfolding crisis at the Kori nuclear power plant in Busan, South Korea, was led by Kang Jung-min, a South Korean senior researcher of nuclear physics, and his colleagues.
At events in Japan and South Korea, Kang, 51, has repeatedly warned about East Asia’s vulnerability to a severe nuclear accident, saying the region shares the “same destiny” regardless of the location of such a disaster.
The Kori nuclear complex is home to seven of the country’s 25 commercial reactors, making it one of the largest in South Korea. Its oldest reactor–and the first in the country–went online in 1978.
Spent nuclear fuel at the Kori plant is cooled in on-site storage pools next to reactors.
But the operator of the plant has ended up storing spent fuel in more cramped conditions than in the past because waste keeps accumulating from the many years of operations.
An estimated 818 tons of spent fuel was being stored at the pool of the Kori No. 3 reactor as of the end of 2015, the most at any reactor in the country.
That is because the No. 3 pool has also been holding spent fuel from the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors since their fuel pools became too crowded.
Storing spent fuel in such a manner greatly increases the risk of a nuclear accident, Kang warned.
Kang’s team simulated the series of likely events that would follow if the No. 3 reactor lost power in a natural disaster or an act of terrorism.
With no power, the spent fuel at the No. 3 reactor could not be cooled. The cooling water would evaporate, exposing the fuel rods to air, generating intensive heat and causing a fire.
Hydrogen gas would then fill up the fuel storage building, leading to an explosion that would result in the release of a large amount of vaporized cesium-137 from the spent fuel.
Assuming that the catastrophe occurred on Jan. 1, 2015, the researchers determined how highly radioactive cesium-137 would spread and fall to the ground based on the actual weather conditions over the following week, as well as the direction and velocity of winds.
To gauge the size of the area and population that would be forced to evacuate in such a disaster, the team took into account recommendations by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, a private entity, and other organizations.
The results showed that up to 67,000 square kilometers of land in Japan–or much of the western part of the country–would fall under the evacuation zone, displacing a maximum of 28.3 million people.
In South Korea, up to 54,000 square kilometers would need to be vacated, affecting up to 24.3 million people.
The simulation also found that 18.4 million Japanese and 19 million Koreans would remain displaced for even after 30 years, the half-life of cesium-137, in a worst-case scenario.
Radioactive materials from South Korea would also pollute North Korea and China, according to the study.
Nineteen reactors in South Korea are located in the coastal area facing the Sea of Japan, including those at the Kori nuclear power plant.
Kang said the public should be alerted to the dangers of highly toxic spent fuel, an inevitable byproduct of nuclear power generation.
One ton of spent fuel contains 100,000 curies of cesium-137, meaning that 20 tons of spent fuel would be enough to match the estimated 2 million curies of cesium-137 released in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
An average-size light-water reactor produces about 20 tons of spent fuel in one year of operation.
East Asia is home to one of the world’s largest congestions of nuclear facilities, Kang said.
Japan, China and South Korea, which have all promoted nuclear energy as state policy for decades, together host about 100 commercial reactors.
A number of nuclear-related facilities are also concentrated in North Korea, particularly in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang.
If a severe accident were to occur in China, the pollution would inevitably spill over to South Korea and then to Japan.
“That is why people should take serious interest in not just their own country’s nuclear issues, but also in neighboring countries,” Kang said. “Japan, China and South Korea should cooperate with each other to ensure the safety and security of spent fuel and nuclear facilities.”
He said the risks of a fire would be reduced if spent fuel were placed at greater intervals in storage pools.
“Ideally, spent fuel should be moved to sealed dry casks and cooled with air after it is cooled in a pool for about five years,” he said.
Rice cakes are tossed to a crowd ahead of the full-scale opening of Sakura Mall Tomioka, a publically-established and privately-run mall, in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 30, 2017.
TOMIOKA, Fukushima — A shopping mall opened in this town near the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant on March 30, amidst hopes it will jumpstart the return of the populace as evacuation orders will be lifted for most of the town on April 1.
In addition to returning residents, the mall is expected to be used by employees working on decommissioning of the nuclear plant.
Before the nuclear disaster, Tomioka was considered to have the largest concentration of commercial facilities in Futaba County, which also hosts the nuclear plant. Together with the lifting of the evacuation orders, the town is touting its recovery as the “capital of the county.”
The mall, called “Sakura Mall Tomioka,” has around 4,500 square meters of floor space. In November last year, a home improvement store and three restaurants opened early, and on March 30 this year a supermarket and drugstore opened, bringing the facility into full operation. At a ceremony for the opening, Mayor Koichi Miyamoto said, “I am sure this mall will aid recovery (of areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster).”
The Tomioka Municipal Government set up the mall by renovating buildings along National Route 6. The areas of the town with evacuation orders being lifted will cover 9,544 residents (based on March 1 population figures), but in the near term only a few percent of the population are expected to actually return to the town. Evacuation orders will remain in place for parts of the town with high radiation levels, called “difficult-to-return” zones.
Why won’t Japan speak out as an A-bombed country?
The Japanese government has announced it will abstain from talks underway at the U.N. headquarters on establishing a convention to outlaw nuclear weapons. By abstaining from the talks, Japan is effectively abandoning its opportunity as the world’s only atomic-bombed country to serve as a bridge between nuclear and non-nuclear states.
On the reason for Japan’s abstention, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida pointed out that the five nuclear powers of the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China are not taking part, and said that the talks “may have the opposite effect of deepening the divide between nuclear and non-nuclear states.”
In October last year, the Japanese government voted against a U.N. resolution on launching the talks. But at the time, Kishida expressed the view that Japan would actively take part in negotiations that were to begin in March.
The state of opposition between nuclear and non-nuclear states remains unchanged. It therefore makes no sense for Japan to first say it will participate and bridge the gap, only to make a turnabout and declare it will not participate, citing fears that opposition between the two camps would deepen.
The government’s decision, which overturned the foreign minister’s previous statement that Japan intended to participate, damages trust in Japanese diplomacy.
Changes in global affairs since last autumn appear to have influenced Japan’s decision not to participate. In November last year, Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election, and the Trump administration has taken an active stance toward bolstering his country’s nuclear capabilities. The United States and other nuclear powers argue that it is not realistic in terms of security to establish a convention outlawing nuclear weapons when facing the threat of North Korea’s missile and nuclear development.
The United States is said to have pressed Japan to abstain from the talks. Some Japanese government officials took the position that even if Japan took part in negotiations, it would be limited to stressing its opposition to the convention, creating the impression of a negative stance, which would be meaningless. But this is an overly defensive position.
For Japan to participate as a bridge-builder, it needed to prepare the proper environment, by expanding the ring of like-minded countries, for example. But there is no evidence that Japan made such efforts.
Another round of negotiations is due to be held between June and July, and it is possible that a draft of the nuclear weapons convention could be compiled at that time.
It is said that such a treaty would be weak without the participation of nuclear states, but it is nevertheless possible that it would play a major role in the long run in shaping international opinion on banning nuclear weapons. It is lamentable that Japan is not taking part in that process and speaking out as a country that has suffered as an atomic-bombed country.
Great majority of Japanese back nuke ban treaty talks: JCP head
NEW YORK — The Japanese Communist Party (JCP) chief slammed the Japanese government for abstaining from a United Nations conference to negotiate a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons despite the vast majority of Japanese supporting the treaty talks.
“It is such a shame that the Japanese government is absent from this conference. However, the vast majority of the Japanese people strongly support the negotiations,” JCP head Kazuo Shii told a March 29 session of the first round of talks on the Nuclear Weapons Convention at the U.N. Headquarters.
Shii stated that through the conclusion of the nuclear arms ban treaty and efforts among civil societies across the globe, “We can press countries that are dependent on nuclear weapons to change their policies and join efforts to abolish nuclear weapons.”
Families of 40 choir members cancel Tokyo trip after travel advisory from Chinese embassy
Parents of a children’s choir in southern China are seeking refunds for a trip to a singing competition in Japan that they cancelled over concerns of radiation leaks.
Their requests to refund the training, travel and accommodation fees, which add up to 19,800 yuan (US$2.900)for each child, have been denied by the singing training centre of the Guangzhou Opera House, with which the choir is affiliated, Television Southern of Guangdong reported.
The concerned parents said each family paid fees to the training centre in January for training, visas, insurance and accommodation for the trip to Japan for an international choir competition in August.
Forty students signed up for the trip, the report said.
Many parents became worried a month later when the Chinese embassy in Tokyo issued a reminder of record-high radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which has been leaking radioactivity since being badly damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
The embassy statement cited a spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing and urged Chinese tourists in Japan to make appropriate arrangements. The request for refunds was denied by the training centre, who insisted that parents would have to pay 20 per cent of costs, or about 4,000 yuan, to cancel the trip.
Many parents said that was unacceptable as health concerns should be of priority to the training centre as well as the families.
Some parents rallied in front of the training centre to raise attention to the issue, the report said.
The head of the choir said in a statement that the group was non-profit and he would personally ask for a full refund from the Opera House.
He said he had arranged a meeting to negotiate for the parents on Thursday.
Japan has become a popular travel destination for Chinese tourists in recent years after it eased visa rules for mainland tourists, who have flooded to their near neighbour where they spend up large on items that range from luxury watches to toilet seats.
Former Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan speaking at his lecture “The Truth about the Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima and the Future of Renewable Energy” on Tuesday at Statler Auditorium.
About a year after taking office in 2010, Naoto Kan, the prime minister of Japan at the time, had his worst nuclear nightmare.
Once the Great East Japan Earthquake hit, a tsunami followed and led to the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Kan detailed his reaction to the meltdown and the reasons behind his drastic change in position — from strong support of nuclear power to opposing its use — at a packed Statler Auditorium on Tuesday.
While Japanese politicians have extensive experience responding to earthquakes and tsunamis, no one knew how to respond to an accident of this scale and the response mechanism was underprepared, Kan said.
“Not a single person could shed light on what its consequences might be,” he said in Japanese at Tuesday’s lecture, a transcript of which was provided to The Sun.
While the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency was built to equip the prime minister with specialized knowledge of nuclear disasters, Kan was surprised to learn that the director-general of NISA was a Tokyo University graduate with a degree in economics.
“How can we fathom the appointment of an economist to be director-general of an agency charged with responding to nuclear accidents?” Kan asked.
What was clear to Kan, however, having majored in applied physics at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, was that it would quickly become an unprecedented disaster.
“I knew that if the cooling systems were disabled, a meltdown would occur,” he said.
Realizing that even the electricity company known as Tokyo Electric Power Company that was responsible for the power plant did not have a grasp on the exact situation, Kan braced the dangers and made a personal visit to the disaster site himself on the morning after the incident.
“I went to Fukushima because I felt that I would need to have an accurate knowledge of the situation at the power plant to determine the radius of evacuation,” he said.
The week following the disaster, a series of accidents occurred: Three reactors had experienced hydrogen explosions.
Goshi Hosono, his special advisor, informed Kan about multiple “worst-case scenarios” — including the need for a forced evacuation within a 170-kilometer radius of the site and a voluntary evacuation within 250 kilometers.
Tokyo was within that range.
That plan involved the evacuation of an unprecedented 50 million people.
“Unimaginable hardship and confusion would ensue,” he said. “Yet there was nothing imaginary about this forecast. We were a hair’s breadth away from this actuality.”
While Japan had lost about 30 of its firefighters at the site during the week, Kan was shocked by TEPCO’s simultaneous request to let its employees leave the Fukushima site.
“Abandoning the reactors would mean that the situation would worsen in a matter of hours,” he said. “If the 10 reactors and 11 spent fuel pools were abandoned, Japan itself would be decimated. My own view was that to abandon the site was unthinkable.”
Kan saw TEPCO as responsible for the accident and, without TEPCO’s technicians, the situation was impossible to keep in control. He demanded that TEPCO remain on site, even if that meant putting lives at risk.
To hold TEPCO accountable, Kan established the Integrated Response Center, which facilitated communication between TEPCO and the Japanese government. This coordination allowed helicopters to pump water into the Unit 2 reactor as a measure against spreading radioactivity.
“Had venting of the Unit 2 reactor been delayed and pressure risen within its containment vessel, explosions would have erupted that shattered the entire reactor like a rubber balloon and we would have confronted my worst-case scenario,” Kan said.
Kan credited the success of avoiding the “worst case scenario” to TEPCO, Self-Defense Force members, firefighters, the police and some luck.
But, reflecting on the root cause of the accident, Kan placed part of the blame on TEPCO, claiming “TEPCO courted disaster by never formulating a contingency plan.”
Evaluating Japan’s current nuclear energy use plan, Kan was critical of the Liberal Democratic Party’s continued support for restoring nuclear power plants.
While Kan, before his resignation, had proposed reaching zero dependence on nuclear energy by 2030, the LDP chose to restore 44 reactors to operation, he said.
“However, the Japanese population at large is against this policy,” Kan said.
Under Kan’s leadership, Japan was able to deflect the worst-case scenario, but the former prime minister was quick to admit that the water contaminated by radiation from the vessels has been leaking.
Kan maintained doubt of TEPCO’s ability to complete incineration of the radioactive debris in 40 years.
“My guess is that at Fukushima the process will take more than 100 years,” he said.
Kan’s personal experience in Fukushima led him to advocate for using renewable sources — solar power, wind power and biomass — instead of relying on nuclear power and fossil fuels.
“I took my last months as Prime Minister proposing to the Diet [the Japanese parliament] a bill for the establishment of the FIT system,” he said. “Since the introduction of the FIT system, the use of renewable energy and especially solar power has grown in Japan.”
More specifically, Kan promoted combining agriculture with supplying renewable energy.
“Sunlight can be shared between crops and solar panels,” he said. “If this practice spreads, Japan could supply over half its energy supply from farmlands.”
Kan called on nations to reduce use of nuclear energy and invest in renewable energy.
“The use of renewable, natural energy and the end of reliance on nuclear energy and fossil fuels, can open a path to a peaceful world,” Kan said. “It is my intention to continue to commit myself without respite toward the achievement of this goal.”
The United Nations has just held the first of two global summits to negotiate “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. This was sponsored by 57 nations, and with 125 nations represented, but the nuclear weapons-dependent nations did not participate.
Does this mean that the conference is meaningless? Perhaps. Yet, increasingly, public opinion supports nuclear disarmament, and those governments are being challenged, to explain their support for nuclear weapons.
Globally, the Paris climate agreement will continue, while Trump Trashes U.S. Climate Policy.
Climate change forcing indigenous peoples from their homelands.
International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA): global economic growth possible with 2˚C scenario with Renewable Energy.
- America leads boycott of historic UN conference on nuclear weapons ban. $Trillions for nuclear weapons, as USA rejects UN nuclear ban conference. How did the Pentagon lose $10 Trillion? Air Force B-2 to Get New Digital Nuclear Weapons.
- Would Trump stage a “terrorist situation” if his popularity went right down?
- Will Westinghouse be able to complete any of its nuclear projects? South Carolina, Georgia, nuclear projects under the cloud of Westinghouse’s troubles.
- Cover-up of America’s nuclear waste disaster: Hanford, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, Westlake…. Concern about nuclear waste shipments to South Carolina.
- Remembering Three Mile Island.
- Nuclear power, once the “golden goose” for small towns – now a liability.
- Another pretend-environmental nuclear front group joins the throng- “Environmental Progress”.
- Trump attack, in his war on science and on the Earth’s climate.
- Governors of New York and California Reaffirm Commitment to Exceeding Targets of the Clean Power Plan. Wisconsin and Louisiana cities join 23 others in USA, in going for 100% renewable energy.
- Great Barrier Reef bleaching? No, according to Breitbart, that is fake news.
JAPAN. 11,000 Wikileaks documents related to Fukushima. Residents furious over high court decision to revoke Takahama nuclear plant injunction. TEPCO fails to pinpoint melted fuel at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
NORTH KOREA. Need for America and China to work together on North Korean situation.
UK. Ireland demands to be consulted on potential effects of nuclear power station on England’s west coast. Nuclear decommissioning debacle is costly for Britain. Britain will struggle with nuclear regulatory system, after leaving European Union. Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) sounds alarm over doctored papers and security breaches at French nuclear parts supplier. As if in a department store sale day, foreign nuclear companies compete to sell their radioactive products to Britain.
UKRAINE. Danger to Europe of Ukraine’s nuclear corruption.
U.N. Considers a Historic Ban on Nuclear Weapons, But U.S. Leads Boycott of the Talks, Democracy Now, MARCH 30, 2017 Some 120 countries gathered at the United Nations this week to draft a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. But the United States is leading a boycott of the talks. Meanwhile, more than 2,000 scientists signed an open letter endorsing the U.N. talks, and, on Tuesday, Pope Francis encouraged the United Nations to pursue the “total elimination” of nuclear weapons. We speak to Zia Mian, physicist, nuclear expert and disarmament activist. He is co-director of the Program on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to a historic debate at the United Nations. Some 120 countries gather this week to draft a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. But the United States did not take part. In fact, the U.S. led a boycott of the talks. This is U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley…….
AMY GOODMAN: U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley was joined by envoys from Britain, France, South Korea and other nations in opposing the U.N. talks on a nuclear weapons ban treaty. Russia and China have also declined to participate in the conference.
We’re joined now by Zia Mian, physicist, nuclear expert and disarmament activist, co-director of the Program on Science and Global Security at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He’s co-author of Unmaking the Bomb: A Fissile Material Approach to Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation.
What’s happening here? Why is the U.S. leading this boycott?
ZIA MIAN: The news is not that the U.S. is leading a boycott. We knew the United States wasn’t going to participate and that it’s been trying to force its nuclear NATO allies also to not participate. The news here is that, after 70 years, the vast majority of countries in the world have decided they’ve had enough of waiting for the United States and the other countries with nuclear weapons to keep their promise that they would get rid of nuclear weapons, and said, “Enough is enough. We are now going to create an international treaty that will ban nuclear weapons, and you are going to be nuclear outlaws. And you’re going to have to deal with this new reality.”
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So how did these nations come together now?
ZIA MIAN: It’s taken years and years of effort by non-weapons states and peace movements around the world to build the kind of coalition that it’s taken to bring a resolution to the United Nations last year, in which 123 countries, as you mentioned, voted in support of the beginning of talks. The United States tried actively to block that resolution being passed. It actually sent a classified memo to all of the NATO allies the U.S. protects with its nuclear weapons, saying, “Don’t support this resolution at the United Nations. And if the resolution passes, don’t go, or else.” It was actively threatening its own allies to make sure they wouldn’t participate, because they know that in many of the countries in Europe, in particular, and in countries like Japan, which are protected by U.S. nuclear weapons, public opinion and many parliaments are actually in favor of joining the process to ban nuclear weapons. And it’s taken a lot of effort by the United States to keep these countries out of the process…….https://www.democracynow.org/2017/3/30/un_considers_a_historic_ban_on
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