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June 13 Energy News

geoharvey

Science and Technology:

¶ The first leg of an Arctic climate change study in the Hudson Bay is being canceled because of climate change. Unusally abundant sea ice, loosened by global warming, has come from the High Arctic. So the research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen, scheduled to used by the expedition, had to be used instead for search and rescue operations. [Miami Herald]

CCGS Amundsen (Wikipedia Image)

¶ A highly combustible form of energy locked deep in the ocean finally can be harvested using a new technique, but experts say deploying that technique on a broad scale could spell trouble for the climate. The solid material, called methane hydrate, is a form of the hydrocarbon methane that is locked in cages of ice called clathrates. [Yahoo Singapore News]

World:

¶ A five-year smart grid project in Shetland has been hailed a success. The £18 million Northern Isles…

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June 13, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Old Energy Left Behind — Equivalent of 7 Gigafactories Already Under Construction; Tesla Plans 10-20 More

GarryRogers Nature Conservation

GR: Prices are falling and production is accelerating. Interesting comments.

“In an interview with Leonardo DiCaprio during late 2016, Elon Musk famously claimed that it would take just 100 Gigafactories to produce enough clean energy to meet the needs of the entire world. As of mid 2017, in the face of an ever-worsening global climate, the equivalent of 7 such plants were already under construction while plans for many more were taking shape on the drawing boards of various clean energy corporations across the globe.

(Elon Musk shares climate change concerns, expresses urgency for rapid transition to clean energy in interview with Leonardo DiCaprio during late 2016.)

“Tesla’s own landmark gigafactory began construction during late 2014. Upon completion, it will produce the Model 3 electric vehicle along with hoards of electric motors and around 35 gigawatt hours worth of lithium battery storage every single year (a planned output that Tesla…

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June 13, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 12 Energy News

geoharvey

Opinion:

¶ “New highland wind farm plans just the start of renewable future” • A $300 million wind farm that will be developed in Tasmania’s Central Highlands will have a significant impact. It will increase Tasmania’s wind generation by about 50%, create 150 jobs through construction and deliver enough clean energy to power 60,000-plus homes. [The Mercury]

Wind turbines in Tasmania (Andrew Baker, Wikimedia Commons)

¶ “No, Rick Perry, California’s renewable energy policies aren’t dangerous for the grid” • Fossil fuel advocates argue that California’s energy policies are not just unnecessary, but risky. But the argument that they will destabilize the grid is no more than a reflexive objection from those who see their fossil fuel investments dwindling. [Los Angeles Times]

World:

¶ Jerusalem-based renewable-energy developer Energiya Global will invest $1 billion over the next four years to advance green power projects across 15 West African countries…

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June 13, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Former chief of Fukushima probe criticizes reactor restarts

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The leader of the Diet investigation into the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster blasted the Abe administration’s policies on restarting reactors, noting that proper evacuation plans are not in place.

What are you going to do if a tsunami comes?” Kiyoshi Kurokawa, former chairman of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, said at a June 12 meeting of the Lower House ad hoc committee for research of nuclear power issues. “How can you go (there) to rescue people if cars cannot move forward on roads?”

Kurokawa was referring to the restarts of the No. 4 and No. 3 reactors of the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture in May and June.

The reactors cleared the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety standards that were established after the accident unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said these standards are the strictest in the world.

But Kurokawa said, “I cannot accept such rhetoric.”

Kurokawa, also a professor emeritus of medical science at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, was selected as chairman of a third-party advisory body established by the ad hoc committee in May.

He and other experts of the advisory body responded to questions at the meeting of the ad hoc committee on June 12.

Kurokawa also raised questions about the rules for personnel at the NRA, the country’s nuclear watchdog.

In January, Masaya Yasui, an official of the Ministry of the Economy, Trade and Industry, assumed the post of secretary-general of the NRA’s secretariat

Kurokawa said he was concerned that an official of the economy ministry, which has promoted nuclear power generation, is now at the top of the secretariat.

Previously, a “no-return rule” was in place that prohibited employees of the NRA secretariat from returning to the economy ministry.

However, the Abe administration changed the rule to allow them to return to the ministry at bureaus not directly related to nuclear power generation.

Regarding the change, Kurokawa said, “The most important thing is to protect the no-return rule.”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706130017.html

 

 

June 13, 2017 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Fukushima may get rice variant that absorbs less radiation

Thank you, now I feel so much safer:

Mutant rice to be introduced into Fukushima prefecture as part of efforts to dispel lingering negative publicity.

Capture du 2017-06-13 18-25-17.pngThe Koshihikari rice variant with low cesium absorption, right, looks almost indistinguishable from normal Koshihikari rice.

 

TSUKUBA, Ibaraki Prefecture–A new type of the famed Koshihikari rice strain that absorbs just half as much radioactive cesium as the regular variety may be grown in Fukushima Prefecture.

The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization hopes to introduce it into the prefecture as part of efforts to dispel lingering negative publicity after the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster of 2011.

Satoru Ishikawa, who leads NARO’s Crop Safety Unit, and his co-workers used ion-beam irradiation to cause a gene mutation in Koshihikari to block the discharge of sodium ions from its roots. That enhanced the concentration of sodium ions in its root cells and suppressed the intake of cesium.

When the mutant was test-grown on contaminated soil alongside conventional Koshihikari, the cesium concentration in the mutant turned out to be 55 percent lower in unpolished rice grains and 59 percent lower in rice straw, both well below the government’s safety limit.

The mutant had about the same number of rice ears and about the same yield of unpolished rice grains as traditional Koshihikari, and its taste was evaluated by an external organization as being “almost equal” to that of the parent strain.

The use of potassium ion fertilizer to suppress cesium absorption has been effective in reducing cesium, but that method is expensive and labor intensive.

(Use of the mutant suppresses cesium uptake) more effectively when combined with the use of potassium fertilizer,” Ishikawa said. “We hope introduction of the mutant will be considered as an option in areas where farming is going to be resumed.”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706130005.html

June 13, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan accused by UN special rapporteur of eroding media freedoms and stifling public debate of issues such as the Fukushima nuclear meltdown

2738The government of Shinzo Abe has been vocal about ‘unfair reporting’.

 

Japan accused of eroding press freedom by UN special rapporteur

Investigation prompted by concern over government pressure on country’s media over issues such as Fukushima and WW2

The UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression has accused Japan of eroding media freedoms and stifling public debate of issues such as the Fukushima nuclear meltdown and the country’s actions during the second world war.

In a report submitted to the UN human rights council, David Kaye said he had identified “significant worrying signals” about Japan’s record on freedom of expression.

His investigation – the first into freedom of the press in Japan – was prompted by concern over mounting government pressure on the country’s media.

Critics have cited the domestic media’s delay in reporting that the March 2011 accident at Fukushima had caused a nuclear meltdown – a decision believed to reflect official attempts to play down the severity of the disaster.

In 2014, the Asahi Shimbun, under pressure from the administration of the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, retracted an article claiming 650 workers had fled the Fukushima Daiichi plant soon after the disaster, defying an order by its then manager, Masao Yoshida, to stay and make a last-ditch effort to regain control of the reactors.

The paper later admitted its account, based on the newspaper’s interpretation of leaked testimony by Yoshida, was mistaken. Significantly, however, the report’s retraction led to the breakup of an Asahi investigative team that had produced several scoops critical of the government’s handling of the crisis.

While Kaye did not refer to specific reports on the Fukushima meltdown, he did voice concern over the removal from school textbooks of references to Japan’s wartime use of sex slaves.

Kaye noted the gradual disappearance of references to “comfort women” – tens of thousands of women, mostly from the Korean peninsula, who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels before and during the war.

In 1997, all seven history textbooks approved for use in junior high schools addressed wartime sexual slavery, yet none referred to the issue between 2012-15, and only one mentioned it last year.

Kaye said the lack of public debate over Japan’s wartime role, restrictions on access to information, and government pressure that has led the media to practise self-censorship “require attention lest they undermine Japan’s democratic foundations”.

Japan responded angrily to claims that media freedoms were at risk under Abe.

Its ambassador to the UN, Junichi Ihara, accused Kaye of peddling “inaccuracies” about the government’s commitment to a free press. In a statement to the UN human rights council on Monday, he said: “It is regrettable that some parts of [Kaye’s] report are written without accurate understanding of the government’s explanation and its positions.”

Ihara rebutted Kaye’s claim that a law permitting the government to suspend broadcast licences for TV and radio networks for “unfair reporting” was being used to pressure senior editors into underplaying or ignoring sensitive political stories.

Last year, the internal affairs minister, Sanae Takaichi, prompted an outcry after saying that broadcasters that repeatedly failed to show fairness in their political coverage, despite official warnings, could be taken off the air.

Soon after, three veteran news anchors – all with a reputation for grilling government politicians – left their jobs almost simultaneously, sparking allegations that they had been pressured to quit after Abe and his colleagues complained about them during private dinners with media executives.

Ihara noted that no minister had ever suspended a broadcasting licence, adding that the law “does not give rise to any pressure on the media”.

Kaye’s report was similarly critical of the 2014 state secrets law, under which journalists can be imprisoned for up to five years for reporting classified information passed on by whistleblowers. He said the law was “overly broad” and risked being applied arbitrarily, adding that the government “should not be in the position of determining what is fair”.

Ihara countered: “Information designed as specially designated secrets is limited under strict conditions,” adding that “information-gathering activities performed by journalists are not punishable under the act”.

The rift between Japan and the UN widened after Joseph Cannataci, special rapporteur on the right to privacy, said an anti-conspiracy bill being debated in parliament could “lead to undue restrictions to the rights to privacy and to freedom of expression”.

The government insists the new law is necessary for Japan to fulfil its international obligation to deter acts of terrorism. Abe denounced Cannataci’s assessment as “extremely unbalanced” and said his conduct was “hardly that of an objective expert”.

Confrontations between Japanese and UN representatives have grown more heated in recent years. In 2015, Tokyo suspended payments to Unesco after it included disputed Chinese documents about the Nanjing massacre in its World Memory List.

Yoshihiko Noda, the secretary general of Japan’s biggest opposition party, accused Abe’s government of “slamming the door” in the faces of UN special rapporteurs, according to the Mainichi Shimbun.

Earlier this year, Reporters Without Borders ranked Japan 72nd in its global press freedom index – the lowest among the G7. The country has slid down the rankings since 2010, when it was placed 11th.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/13/japan-accused-of-eroding-press-freedom-by-un-special-rapporteur

June 13, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Study to emphasize individual solutions to big issues as a way to reduce support for government efforts

To emphasize individual solutions to big issues is for sure needed, but it should never be used to discharge corporations and government from their own responsibilities

authority-vs-responsibility1

 

Emphasizing individual solutions to big issues can reduce support for government efforts

Following the shutdown of the Fukushima power plant, which endured one of the worst nuclear accidents in history in 2011 due to a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami, Japan began a national initiative that encouraged saving electricity. This created an opportunity for Seth Werfel, a graduate student in political science at Stanford University, to investigate how recognition of individual efforts to improve energy usage might affect support for government-based solutions.

He found that the more people said they curbed energy use on their own, the less they supported a tax increase on carbon emissions.

“At first, I thought this result was counterintuitive because you’d expect people who took those actions to support government action as well,” said Werfel, whose work was published today in Nature Climate Change. “But it is intuitive, just not obvious. When the surveys made people feel like they’d done enough, they said that the government shouldn’t make them do more.”

Although his study was focused on an environmental issue, Werfel said other research suggests this reaction could be highly pervasive, affecting many other issues. He also found that the loss of support for government actions among the people who reported their personal efforts occurred regardless of political ideology.

How surveys changed support

Taking advantage of the energy-saving initiative, Werfel surveyed about 12,000 people in Japan. All surveys included a question about the extent to which people supported a government tax increase on carbon emissions. Half of the surveys contained a checklist that respondents used to indicate energy-saving actions they performed. On average, people who received the checklist surveys were about 13 percent less likely to support the government tax than people who did not receive a checklist.

People who performed the checklist tasks also indicated on the accompanying survey that they felt that individual actions were more important than those of the government for achieving energy sustainability, and that conserving energy and protecting the environment shouldn’t be a top national priority.

Werfel then sent checklist surveys to about 200 respondents who had been in non-checklist groups. Compared to how they responded in the initial, non-checklist survey, the respondents who checked the most boxes in the list of energy-saving actions in this second survey exhibited the greatest increase in their opposition to government actions. Werfel said this seems to indicate that people who perform more of these types of actions are more likely to see individual contributions as sufficient progress toward energy-saving goals.

Additional surveys showed that a checklist containing only one very easy individual action did not affect people’s support of the carbon tax. However, people were 15 percent less likely to support the tax if they checked a box stating that they thought recycling was important – an effect that was largest among people who said they cared most about the environment. Werfel stressed that this, as with all of these results, should lead people to not assume anything about the behavior of any one person.

“It would be way too strong to say these findings apply to someone who spends their life being environmentally conscious and advocating for government support of pro-environment initiatives,” he said.

Werfel also tested whether making people feel morally good about themselves made them more likely to oppose government action, but the results of that survey were inconclusive.

Striking a balance between pride and complacency

Werfel said he believes this phenomenon likely impacts issues beyond environmentalism, such as disease prevention, economic inequality and homelessness, a hypothesis he is currently investigating. Given the evidence so far, Werfel cautions that we should be more aware about the potential downsides of celebrating every individual and private sector contribution we see as benefitting the greater good.

“Sometimes there’s a danger to thinking you’ve done enough,” said Werfel. “We spend a lot of time encouraging people to do these things at home – to care about them and announce that they’ve done them – and there could be some backfire effect.”

More information: Seth H. Werfel. Household behaviour crowds out support for climate change policy when sufficient progress is perceived, Nature Climate Change (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3316

https://phys.org/news/2017-06-emphasizing-individual-solutions-big-issues.html#jCp

 

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June 13, 2017 Posted by | environment | , , | 1 Comment

Radiation levels exceeding state-set limit found on grounds of five Chiba schools

n-kashiwa-a-20170614-870x580.jpgRadiation levels exceeding the state safety limit have been detected on the grounds of five schools in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture.

 

Radiation levels exceeding the government-set safety limit of 0.23 microsieverts per hour have been detected on the grounds of five schools in the city of Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, the prefectural board of education said Monday.

Between late April and mid-May, the board officials detected radiation levels of up to 0.72 microsieverts per hour in certain areas of the schools, including Kashiwa High School and Kashiwa Chuo High School. The areas — including soil near a school swimming pool and drainage gutters — are not frequented by students, but the board closed them off and will work to quickly decontaminate them, the officials said.

Kashiwa has been one of the areas with high radiation readings since the 2011 nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

According to NHK, the board of education had been checking the soil on the school premises in Kashiwa after radiation levels beyond the state limit were detected in shrubbery near the city’s public gymnasium. The board will announce the results of radiation tests at other schools in the prefecture around the end of July, NHK reported.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/13/national/science-health/radiation-levels-exceeding-state-set-safety-limit-found-grounds-five-chiba-schools/#.WUAPbjekLrc

June 13, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Ibaraki nuclear facility where radioactive leak occurred was slack on safety

The facility handled plutonium but was unaware that a major accident could happen.

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As the facts surrounding the June 6 incident where five workers were exposed to radioactive materials following an accident at a nuclear research facility in Ibaraki Prefecture continue to emerge, it has become clear that the facility’s stance concerning safety management has been simply too soft — especially considering that it handles materials used for nuclear fuel.

The accident in question happened at around 11:15 a.m. on June 6 at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA)’s Oarai Research & Development Center in the coastal town of Oarai in Ibaraki Prefecture. Uranium oxide and plutonium oxide powder that had been stored in double-wrapped plastic bags inside a sealed stainless steel container were accidentally released across the research laboratory after the bags suddenly burst, thereby exposing all five workers nearby to the radioactive compounds. Prior to the leak, one of the workers — a man in his 50s — was opening the container for inspection.

The check was carried out at an unsealed work station referred to as the “hood.” The radioactive materials had been stored at a pressure level lower than the surrounding area, in an attempt to prevent them from leaking. However, this proved to be ineffective. The compounds flew across the room, in powder form, immediately after the bags burst open.

In addition to the hood, there is also a “glove box” inside the facility, which can be used to handle dangerous materials. However, the facility has no specific rules determining which work station should be used for which purpose, and it has become normal practice at the site for workers to handle sealed nuclear materials — such as those kept inside containers — at the hood work station.

Apparently, during the check of the stainless steel container at the Oarai facility, there was no intention of opening the plastic bags, and therefore, it was judged that, “There was no danger of being exposed to radiation.”

However, the contents of the stainless steel container had not been checked once in 26 years. Commenting on this issue, an executive from the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has criticized the JAEA, stating, “How could they even be sure that the contents were kept sealed?” Meanwhile, an executive from the JAEA has said, “It was not anticipated that the plastic bags would burst. It seems that working at the hood work station may have been inappropriate.”

In addition, it has become clear that the five workers were not wearing full-face masks at the time of the accident. Instead, they were wearing masks that only covered their noses and mouths. Also, despite the fact there was a surveillance camera in the room, no footage was recorded, and no one was video monitoring the situation at the time of the accident.

Furthermore, an official from the NRA points out that, “It seems the facility was unaware that a major accident could happen.”

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170613/p2a/00m/0na/016000c

June 13, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment