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October 13 Energy News

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Opinion:

¶ “Pioneering Community Solar in the Granite State” • Legal and regulatory roadblocks forced solar advocates in Keene, New Hampshire, to develop a comprehensive framework for adding a 43-kW rooftop array to Monadnock Food Co-op, whose focus on sustainability and downtown location made it a natural partner. [ilsr.org]

Solar power in winter (Photo: 1010uk via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

¶ “California Fires Are an Urgent Reminder to Get the Country Off Fossil Fuels Now” • Is this the new normal? Summers and autumns filled with extreme hurricanes in the East and fires in the West. Billions of dollars of damage, thousands of lives uprooted – many lost completely. And global temperatures continuing to increase. [Food and Water Watch]

Science and Technology:

¶ For the second year in a row, scientists have discovered a massive hole in Antarctica’s sea ice, and they’re not sure what’s causing…

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

The U.S. solar industry’s new growth region: Trump country — The Crusader Journal

By Nichola Groom LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s administration has vowed to revive the coal industry, challenged climate-change science and blasted renewable energy as expensive and dependent on government subsidies. And yet the solar power industry is booming across Trump country, fueled by falling development costs and those same subsidies, which many Republicans […]

via The U.S. solar industry’s new growth region: Trump country — The Crusader Journal

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

A new solar farm opened in Southern Russia — Eurasia Network

A new solar farm opened last month in Southern Russia, increasing the share of renewable energy sources in the national energy mix. Other solar power projects are going to be implemented in the following months and years, promoting the development of new industrial capacities in the country, which is ready to cover new energy needs with renewable energy sources.

via A new solar farm opened in Southern Russia — Eurasia Network

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

Escalating danger of an American nuclear first strike on North Korea

THE GROWING DANGER OF A U.S. NUCLEAR FIRST STRIKE ON NORTH KOREA, War on the Rocks, 

DAVID BARNO AND NORA BENSAHEL, OCTOBER 10, 2017
The escalating tensions over North Korea have brought the United States closer to war on the Korean peninsula than at any other time in decades. Yet Washington is just as likely as Pyongyang, if not more likely, to initiate the first strike — and would almost certainly use nuclear weapons to do so. Such a strike may be the only way to decisively end the North Korean nuclear program, but its incalculable effects would extend far beyond the devastation and destruction in Korea. Its political, economic, and moral consequences would permanently and disastrously undermine U.S. interests for generations to come — and must be avoided at all costs.

There are many reasons to believe a U.S. first strike against North Korea is now more likely than ever. First, the North Korean nuclear program has now achieved capabilities that previous U.S. administrations always insisted were dangerously unacceptable. The regime now has between 30 and 60 nuclear weapons, and recently tested one with the equivalent destructive power of a hydrogen bomb. Its long-range ballistic missiles can already deliver those weapons to Japan, Guam, Alaska, and Hawaii, and now may also be able to reach the west coast of the United States. Pyongyang has now threatened to test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean, elevating worries about the regime’s unpredictable and dangerous behavior even further. The United States has always reserved the right to use its nuclear weapons first against such compelling threats.

These very real threats would have confronted any president occupying the Oval Office in 2017, but President Donald Trump has chosen to react to this perilous situation in dangerously provocative ways……..

The possibility of a first strike against North Korea has long been discussed as one way to address its growing nuclear threat. Yet very few understand the grim military logic that only an overwhelming surprise nuclear strike provides a decisive option. There is simply no other way to destroy North Korea’s nuclear capabilities while minimizing the risk of massive conventional or nuclear retaliation.

There are two crucial reasons why a conventional first strike cannot be effective. First, the timelines involved are too long. It would require weeks or even months of preparation: building up troops, aircraft, and ships, as well as evacuating tens of thousands of U.S. citizens. Any of these highly visible preparations for war could lead Pyongyang to launch a preemptive strike of its own — including massive artillery and chemical attacks on Seoul, and nuclear strikes across the region, including against U.S. territory. The same logic would hold even if the United States could somehow pull off a surprise conventional attack, since most experts envision such an attack lasting days or weeks. In either case, Kim would have absolutely no incentives to hold back any of his military capabilities, including nuclear weapons. His regime’s survival would be at stake, leading to a classic “use-it-or-lose-it” scenario.

Second, and more important, a conventional first strike simply cannot destroy enough North Korean military capability to prevent a retaliatory second strike. North Korean nuclear weapons have been deliberately dispersed throughout the country, including on mobile launchers and in locations deep underground, to prevent this exact scenario. ……..

A nuclear first strike, then, may seem like an attractive military option to a president who has vowed to end the North Korean nuclear threat once and for all. Yet its political, economic, and moral consequences would be so devastating that it would be hard for any American to imagine, in retrospect, why this ever seemed like a good idea.

First and foremost, the human costs would be catastrophic. Millions of North Koreans would either be killed or grievously wounded from the effects of fires, blasts, and radiation. The radioactive fallout from such a strike could spread contamination thousands of miles, directly affecting South Korea, Japan, and China, as well as countries and populations across the region and beyond. Global or regional weather patterns could also be disrupted, affecting agriculture and the environment for years to come.

Even if those tragic human costs could somehow be set aside, the cascading range of other consequences would be sufficient to avoid such an attack. China could respond militarily, by moving forces into the parts of North Korea less affected by the strike, for example. This could result in a risky confrontation with U.S. forces seeking to confirm the complete destruction of North Korean nuclear capabilities. Chinese troops could also collide with a potential influx of U.S. and South Korean ground troops trying to establish civil order and provide humanitarian relief to the North Korean populace in the aftermath of the strikes. China might also respond to an attack on its ally more forcefully, by striking U.S. bases in the region or possibly even the U.S. homeland, especially since radiation would inevitably blanket some of its territory………

Is nuclear war on the Korean peninsula inevitable? No, but only if the Trump administration recognizes that a nuclear first strike cannot be a viable alternative, because its consequences are simply unfathomableDeterrence is the vastly preferable option. The United States faced similar challenges after World War II, when the Soviets and then the Chinese developed nuclear weapons and the ability to strike U.S. targets. In both cases, arguments for American first strikes to remove these threats were soundly rejected in favor of long-term policies of deterrence — which have successfully avoided a nuclear conflagration for many decades. Effective deterrence requires only an adversary who is rational enough to seek his own survival — a threshold that even Kim Jong Un meets.

Trump’s most trusted advisors and experienced veteran military men, John Kelly and James Mattis, should repeatedly make this argument to the president while there is still time. There is virtually no likelihood that North Korea can be pressured to give up its nuclear program at this juncture. Given that reality, the best way to advance U.S. national security and protect American lives is to publicly commit to deterring the Korean regime while privately removing threats to its survival. The alternative is a deadly nuclear first strike from which there will be no winners.https://warontherocks.com/2017/10/the-growing-danger-of-a-u-s-nuclear-first-strike-on-north-korea/

October 13, 2017 Posted by | politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Rokkasho NPP Violated Safety Rules

Nuclear fuel reprocessing operator violated safety rules: regulator
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japanese nuclear regulators concluded Wednesday that Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. violated legally binding safety rules by failing to conduct necessary checks for over a decade at its uncompleted spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the country’s northeast.
The failure of checks at an underground portion of the plant in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture for some 14 years eventually resulted in about 800 liters of rainwater flowing into a building housing an emergency diesel generator in August this year. The generator is a crucial device in times of crisis such as the loss of external power.
Japan Nuclear Fuel President Kenji Kudo said at a Nuclear Regulation Authority’s meeting that he will prioritize inspections of all facilities at the plant and suspend its operations to seek a safety approval on the plant to put it onstream.
The utility plans to check its facilities and some 600,000 devices by the end of this year before requesting the authority to resume its safety assessment for the plant.
The body applied for a safety assessment of the plant in 2014 and aimed to complete it in the first half of fiscal 2018, but the goal is likely to be delayed due to the need for inspections.
The envisioned nuclear fuel reprocessing plant is a key component of the government’s nuclear fuel recycle policy, which aims to reprocess spent uranium fuel and reuse extracted plutonium and uranium as reactor fuel.
But the Rokkasho plant has been riddled with problems, with its completion date postponed 23 times since 1997, its initial target. It also had to meet as new, tougher safety standards made in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex, triggered by the 2011 deadly earthquake and tsunami.
The authority also said holes and cracks at exhaust pipes discovered at Japan Nuclear Fuel’s uranium enrichment plant in September also violate safety rules. The defects were left undetected for a long time due to a lack of inspection.
A utility compiles safety programs, which need to be assessed and approved by the authority.
If any grave flaws are found, the authority can issue an order to stop the operation of the plants or retract its approval to construct a nuclear plant.
Japan Nuclear Fuel “should have a substantial sense of crisis,” a member of the authority said. “We will take necessary measures if an improvement is not seen in ensuring the safety (in operating the plant).”
Nuclear fuel recycling plant screening suspended
Japan’s nuclear regulator says the operator of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in northern Japan has violated safety regulations.
The plant in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture, is run by Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority said at a meeting on Wednesday that the company violated its in-house safety regulations.
In August, rainwater was found to have flowed from piping in an underground tunnel into a building housing an emergency power generator at the plant. The firm was later found not to have conducted necessary inspections of the tunnel for 14 years.
At Wednesday’s meeting, company president Kenji Kudo pledged to address this and other maintenance problems before submitting documents needed for the regulator to conduct safety screening of the plant.
NRA member Satoru Tanaka pointed out that superficial efforts cannot fix the problems because the matter has to do with business operations. He suggested that the company should have a sense of crisis, and warned of tough measures unless safety improves.
The company aims to confirm the safety of all installations at the plant and draw up a management plan this year. Safety screening is required before the plant can fully operate.
Japan Nuclear Fuel appears to face difficulty in completing work on the plant by the first half of fiscal 2018 as planned. The facility is a pillar of the government’s nuclear fuel recycling program.

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

Rokkasho Fuel Reprocessing Plant Faked Safety Records For 14 Years

(Kyodo) Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. violated legally binding safety rules by failing to conduct necessary checks for over a decade at its uncompleted spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant…
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Unfinished nuclear fuel reprocessing plant faked safety records: NRA
The firm that owns an uncompleted nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture failed to conduct necessary checks and falsified safety check records relating to the plant, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has reported.
The NRA concluded on Oct. 11 that Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) has violated safety measures after it was learned that the firm failed to carry out the required checks and nevertheless continued to write down “no abnormalities” in safety check records. There has been a spate of incidents such as the flow of rainwater into facility buildings at the plant in the Aomori Prefecture village of Rokkasho.
The plant, which is scheduled to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, was on the verge of hosting a final-stage NRA safety inspection, but the checkup is likely to be postponed considerably as JNFL now has to prioritize in-house inspections of all facilities at the plant.
One of the main roles of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant is the extraction of reusable uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, making it a key part of the nuclear fuel cycle. However, the Rokkasho plant has been riddled with problems, and its completion date has been postponed 23 times since the initial planned opening date of 1997. Currently, the plant is scheduled to be completed in the first half of fiscal 2018, but this could be difficult.
In August, it came to light that about 800 liters of rainwater had flowed into an emergency electrical power building at the plant. The cause was the leaking of rainwater from an underground facility. This facility, however, has never been checked since its construction in 2003. JNFL nevertheless gave it a false “no abnormalities” appraisal in its daily records. Furthermore, about 110 liters of rainwater also flowed into the underground facility in September.
Apparently, the firm has tried to clarify the issue by saying that, “The (no abnormalities) comment was referring to another underground facility nearby.”
The company plans to complete safety checks at all its Rokkasho plant facilities within the year, and then submit the results to the NRA — with the intention of inviting the NRA to resume safety inspections of the plant.
Japan Nuclear Fuel skipped safety checks at Rokkasho plant for 14 years
Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.’s Rokkasho reprocessing plant in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture, allegedly violated safety rules for over a decade.
Nuclear regulators concluded Wednesday that Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. violated legally binding safety rules by failing to conduct necessary checks for over a decade at its uncompleted spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the country’s northeast.
The failure of checks at an underground portion of the plant in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture for about 14 years eventually resulted in about 800 liters of rainwater flowing into a building housing an emergency diesel generator in August this year. The generator is a crucial device in times of crisis such as the loss of external power.
Japan Nuclear Fuel President Kenji Kudo said at a Nuclear Regulation Authority’s meeting that he will prioritize inspections of all facilities at the plant and suspend its operations to seek a safety approval on the plant to put it on stream.
The utility plans to check its facilities and some 600,000 devices by the end of this year before requesting the authority to resume its safety assessment for the plant.
The body applied for a safety assessment of the plant in 2014 and aimed to complete it in the first half of fiscal 2018, but the goal is likely to be delayed due to the need for inspections.
The envisioned nuclear fuel reprocessing plant is a key component of the government’s nuclear fuel recycle policy, which aims to reprocess spent uranium and reuse extracted plutonium and uranium as reactor fuel.
But the Rokkasho plant has been inundated with problems, with its completion date postponed 23 times since 1997, its initial target. It also had to meet new, tougher safety standards made in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power complex, triggered by the powerful March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of the Tohoku region.
The authority also said holes and cracks at exhaust pipes found at Japan Nuclear Fuel’s uranium enrichment plant in September also violated safety rules. The defects had been undetected due to a lack of inspections.
A utility compiles safety programs, which need to be assessed and approved by the authority.
If any grave flaws are found, the authority can issue an order to stop the operation of the plants or retract its approval to construct a nuclear plant.
Japan Nuclear Fuel “should have a substantial sense of crisis,” a member of the authority said. “We will take necessary measures if an improvement is not seen in ensuring the safety (in operating the plant).”

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

UN: Japan Violated Human Rights, Fukushima Evacuees Abandoned

“Why should people, especially women and children, have to live in places where the radiation level is 20 times the international limit?” Sonoda said. “The government hasn’t given us an answer.”
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Mitsuko Sonoda’s aunt harvesting rice in her village, which is outside the mandatory evacuation zone, before the disaster.
Fukushima evacuee to tell UN that Japan violated human rights
Mitsuko Sonoda will say evacuees face financial hardship and are being forced to return to homes they believe are unsafe
A nuclear evacuee from Fukushima will claim Japan’s government has violated the human rights of people who fled their homes after the 2011 nuclear disaster, in testimony before the UN in Geneva this week.
Mitsuko Sonoda, who voluntarily left her village with her husband and their 10-year-old son days after three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant went into meltdown, will tell the UN human rights council that evacuees face financial hardship and are being forced to return to neighbourhoods they believe are still unsafe almost seven years after the disaster.
“We feel abandoned by the Japanese government and society,” Sonoda, who will speak at the council’s pre-session review of Japan on Thursday, told the Guardian.
An estimated 27,000 evacuees who, like Sonoda, were living outside the mandatory evacuation zone when the meltdown occurred, had their housing assistance withdrawn this March, forcing some to consider returning to their former homes despite concerns over radiation levels.
In addition, as the government attempts to rebuild the Fukushima region by reopening decontaminated neighbourhoods that were once no-go areas, tens of thousands of evacuees who were ordered to leave will lose compensation payments and housing assistance in March next year.
The denial of financial aid has left many evacuees facing a near-impossible choice: move back to homes they fear are unsafe, or face more financial hardship as they struggle to build lives elsewhere without state help.
“People should be allowed to choose whether or not to go back to their old homes, and be given the financial means to make that choice,” said Kendra Ulrich, senior global energy campaigner for Greenpeace Japan.
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Sonoda’s son and a friend drinking from a mountain stream before the disaster.
“If they are being put under economic pressure to return, then they are not in a position to make an informed decision. This UN session is about pressuring the Japanese government to do the right thing.”
Evacuees are being encouraged to return to villages and towns near the Fukushima plant despite evidence that some still contain radiation “hot spots”.
In Iitate village, where the evacuation order was lifted this March, much of the surrounding forests remain highly radioactive, although homes, schools and other public buildings have been declared safe as part of an unprecedented decontamination effort.
“You could call places like Iitate an open-air prison,” said Ulrich. “The impact on people’s quality of life will be severe if they move back. Their lives are embedded in forests, yet the environment means they will not be allowed to enter them. Forests are impossible to decontaminate.”
After months of moving around, Sonoda and her family settled in Kyoto for two years, where local authorities provided them with a rent-free apartment. They have been living in her husband’s native England for the past four years.
“We’ve effectively had to evacuate twice,” said Sonoda, who works as a freelance translator and Japanese calligraphy tutor. “My son and I really struggled at first … we didn’t want to leave Japan.”
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Sonoda and her family near her home in Fukushima before the disaster.
Concern over food safety and internal radiation exposure convinced her that she could never return to Fukushima, aside from making short visits to see relatives. “It’s really sad, because my village is such a beautiful place,” she said. “We had a house and had planned to retire there.”
The evacuations have forced families to live apart, while parents struggle to earn enough money to fund their new accommodation and keep up mortgage payments on their abandoned homes.
“Stopping housing support earlier this year was an act of cruelty,” Sonoda said. “Some of my friends had to go back to Fukushima even though they didn’t want to.”
Greenpeace Japan, which is assisting Sonoda, hopes her testimony will be the first step in building international pressure on Japan’s government to continue offering financial help to evacuees and to reconsider its resettlement plan.
It has called on the government to declare Fukushima neighbourhoods unsafe until atmospheric radiation is brought to below one millisievert (mSv) a year, the maximum public exposure limit recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.
While 1 mSv a year remains the government’s long-term target, it is encouraging people to return to areas where radiation levels are below 20 mSv a year, an annual exposure limit that, internationally, applies to nuclear power plant workers.
“Why should people, especially women and children, have to live in places where the radiation level is 20 times the international limit?” Sonoda said. “The government hasn’t given us an answer.”
 
Fukushima evacuees have been abandoned by the Japanese government
Mitsuko Sonoda says Tokyo is violating the human rights of evacuees by pressuring them to return to the area, even though radiation levels remain high following the 2011 nuclear power plant disaster
I used to live in Fukushima with my husband and our child, in a fantastic natural environment with a strong local community. That was until the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 destroyed coastal communities and killed tens of thousands of people.
The day after it hit, there were constant aftershocks. It gave us another massive scare when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant exploded. We decided to evacuate to Western Japan to protect our child.
The government raised the level of “acceptable” exposure to the same standard as nuclear workers – 20 times the international public standard. My son was not a nuclear worker, but a little boy, more vulnerable to the effects of radiation than adults.
Like my family, many fled contaminated areas that were below the raised emergency level, but higher than acceptable. We have been labelled “self-evacuees”. We have never received compensation, outside some housing support.
Some of the evacuee children have struggled to adjust to a different environment. They have continued to miss family, friends and old schools, and have been bullied by other children in their new residences. There were even rumours of “contagion”.
Many children also really miss their fathers, who have often stayed in Fukushima for their jobs.
Mothers have silently tackled these difficulties, including health problems in themselves and their children. We have sometimes been labelled neurotic, irrational and overprotective, our worries about radiation dismissed. Divisions and divorce have been common.
All the while, we miss our relatives, friends, old community and the nature we used to live in.
In March, the government lifted evacuation orders, and the housing support for self-evacuees stopped. Citizens were pressured to return to Fukushima. Research said radiation levels still exceeded the government’s long-term goals.
Because evacuation orders have been lifted, Tokyo Electric Power Company will also stop compensation for victims by March 2018. We need this accommodation support to continue any kind of stable life.
Before Fukushima, they said a major accident could not happen. Now they say radiation is not a problem. They say hardly any compensation is needed. Why should we have to return to live in a radioactive area? Nuclear victims don’t seem to have the right to be free from radiation.
I’m travelling to Geneva this week to testify at a pre-session for the UN Human Rights Council’s review of Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s resettlement policies are violating our human rights. If the Japanese government doesn’t support the nuclear survivors, what’s stopping other countries from doing the same in the future?
Mitsuko Sonoda is a Fukushima nuclear accident survivor and evacuee. She now advocates for the rights of nuclear disaster victims, and is going to the UN Commission for Human Rights with the support of Greenpeace Japan

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

Voluntary evacuees win compensation over Fukushima nuclear disaster

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FUKUSHIMA — The Oct. 10 ruling by a district court here, in which Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the Japanese government were ordered to pay plaintiffs in Fukushima and nearby prefectures a total of 500 million yen in damages from the 2011 nuclear disaster, covered those who lived outside evacuation zones, signaling a shift in the compensation system.

Roughly 3,800 plaintiffs brought a suit against the company and the state requesting a total of some 16 billion yen in damages, and of them, the Fukushima District Court ordered payments for some 2,900 people ranging from 10,000 to 360,000 yen per person. The court also recognized the responsibility of the national government in the nuclear disaster, ruling that it jointly pay half of the 500 million yen.

The majority of the plaintiffs in the case lived outside of the evacuation zones and voluntarily left the area following the disaster. Others lived outside of Fukushima Prefecture and were not eligible for receiving compensation from the accident. The decision recognized the right of voluntary evacuees and some in neighboring prefectures to compensation, expanding the scope of those eligible to receive payments.

“This opened up the possibility for anyone to be able to claim damages and receive relief,” the legal group representing the plaintiffs in the case commented.

The number of residents who lived in the same areas as the victorious plaintiffs in Fukushima Prefecture alone exceeded 1.5 million. While the odds of the case being appealed are high, if the court maintains its ruling, it will have an enormous impact on the current compensation system.

Concerning the government’s involvement in the accident, the court decision cited a 2002 long-term assessment concluded by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, which predicted that a tsunami caused by a magnitude-8 or higher earthquake was possible along the coast of Fukushima Prefecture. The court pointed out that based on this assessment, the government could have predicted that a 15.7-meter tsunami could hit the power plant just as TEPCO estimated later in 2008, and stated that the government’s inaction to order the utility to prepare tsunami countermeasures by the end of 2002 was “significantly lacking in rationality.”

The standard for the amount of damages to be paid by TEPCO was decided in interim guidelines put in place by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation, and a broad distinction in compensation between those living in and nearby evacuation zones and those who chose to evacuate voluntarily was drawn by the end of 2011.

The amount to be paid to those living in the evacuation zones was set at a minimum of 8.5 million yen, but the amount awarded to voluntary evacuees was set at 80,000 yen in principle. Additionally, those living in the Aizu region of Fukushima Prefecture, Ibaraki Prefecture and other areas not directly nearby the reactors were completely excluded from receiving compensation, creating a disparity among evacuees from different regions and leading to numerous litigations.

Because of this, the plaintiffs in the Fukushima case claimed that they, including those living outside the evacuation zones, shared the same worries of having been exposed to radiation. Without claiming individual compensation, the group decided to file the suit for 50,000 yen per month until the radiation levels in the air where each person lived returned to the pre-disaster levels — 0.04 mircosieverts or lower in all cases — regardless of the place of residence of the plaintiff.

Additionally, they divided the regions where the plaintiffs lived in such a way that a total of 35 representatives from each of the areas testified to damages. There are few precedents of this method, such as noise disturbance cases for those living near airports and military bases, but the group decided to adopt the method as it looks to have the state review the conventional compensation system itself.

The Oct. 10 court decision stated that the interim guidelines were merely a yardstick, and that the certification of compensation payments exceeding those guidelines should naturally be allowed, taking one important step forward in restructuring the system.

“Behind those 2,900 plaintiffs who won compensation are all of the victims (of the Fukushima disaster),” said lawyer Yoshio Nagumo, the head of the group’s legal team. He hopes that this case will become an example to lead the reform of the compensation system. However, the amount actually awarded to each person was low.

“The ruling doesn’t accurately reflect the damage suffered,” said Jun Watanabe, another member of the legal team, hinting at the possibility of appealing the ruling. “We’ll fight in order to raise the amount of appropriations even further.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20171011/p2a/00m/0na/014000c

11 oct 2017 court case won.jpg

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

TEPCO Held Liable for Fukushima Disaster

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From Majia’s Blog
The Japan Times is reporting that TEPCO was found liable for the Fukushima disaster in a case brought by citizens whose lives were terribly upended by the Daiichi meltdowns and spent fuel pool fire:
Government, Tepco ordered to pay ¥500 million in damages for Fukushima disaster. Kyodo [The Japan Times] https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/10/10/national/crime-legal/court-orders-tepco-government-pay-damages-fukushima-disaster/#.WdzdCjvdnFI
…[in] the second ruling of its kind in a series of group lawsuits filed nationwide. The Fukushima District Court ordered the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to pay ¥500 million to about 2,900 of the 3,800 plaintiffs…. In the ruling, presiding Judge Hideki Kanazawa concluded that the government and Tepco are both to blame for failing to take steps to counter the risk of a huge tsunami caused by an earthquake, as they were able to foresee the risk based on an assessment issued in 2002.
TEPCO was responsible in many ways for the Fukushima disaster, but culpability extends beyond this single corporation and the government responsible for its regulation. I’ve explained in my post “nuclear governmentality” that the nuclear apparatus is unified by a set of common logics, technologies, protocols, authorities and value orientations that are global in operation (http://majiasblog.blogspot.com/2017/09/nuclear-governmentality.html).
 
CULPABILITY and LIABILITY
 
Reactors 1 through 5 at the Fukushima Daiichi site were based on General Electric’s Mark I design. This design was declared flawed by two engineers from General Electric who resigned in 1975 after expressing concerns about potential containment failures, particularly in loss of cooling accidents. You can read more here:
Fukushima: Mark 1 nuclear reactor design caused GE scientist to quit in protest. (2011, March 15). ABC the Blotter. Available http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/fukushima-mark-nuclear-reactor-design-caused-ge-scientist/story?id=13141287
General Electric’s poor reactor design likely contributed to the explosions that occurred at the Daiichi complex. Reactors like the ones that melted down in Fukushima are still operating in the US and elsewhere.
 
 
The nuclear industry is rendered immune from its culpability by limits on liability and by seemingly unconditional governmental support (a finding explained by the “security” logic of nuclear governmentality).
 
 
In Japan, the Atomic Energy Basic Law passed in 1955, the same year the LDP was formed, focused nuclear liability on plant operators (such as TEPCO), thereby absolving designers (e.g., GE). The law allowed for use of nuclear power for energy and created the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute. It dictated control over fissile materials, measures for patented inventions, and radiation protections.
 
Article 21 of the law dictated compensation for nuclear accidents, although the law has been criticized for not specifying level of governmental responsibility.
 
The government of Japan has ultimately assumed responsibility for TEPCO’s liabilities, although the corporation operates as a stand-in. TEPCO returned to profitability in 2013 having externalized most of its losses in a state-sponsored plan to offload liabilities:
 K. Ohira and M. Fujisaki (31 July 2012) ‘Taxpayers, Electricity Users Finance TEPCO Bailout’, The Asahi Shimbun, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201207310068
TEPCO’s 2016 Annual Report (http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/corpinfo/ir/tool/annual/pdf/ar2016-e.pdf) describes how the company has been dis-assembled into holding companies in its efforts toward renewed profitability.
 
 
 
A rational assessment of cost and benefits must also address the risks posed by nuclear power.  The existence of an international nuclear liability convention points to the potential cataclysmic risks from nuclear power hazareds and demonstrates how decision-makers limit economic liability for the nuclear complex, allowing it to externalize full costs.
 
The Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC),[i] limits international liability for nuclear disasters by offering a uniform and limiting set of compensation standards for victims of nuclear disasters in impacted countries not the origin of the disaster. The convention also exonerates manufacturers, placing liability exclusively on operators. 
 
The convention essentially limits only the liability, but not the incalculable risks, from nuclear accidents. The externalities of international nuclear disasters are therefore primarily assumed by the exposed individuals. Although fixed costs and liabilities cannot be provided, it is possible to address actual and potential liabilities and risks from nuclear power.
 
In 2012 Japan expressed interest in joining the CSC after a February visit by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy, Daniel Poneman.[ii] During the visit, a Japanese prime ministerial envoy “secretly promised” to Poneman that Japan would resume its pluthermal nuclear program, raising considerable controversy in Japan when leaked because of the dangers of plutonium enriched MOX fuel, as subsequently reported by The Mainichi :
A Japanese prime ministerial envoy secretly promised to the United States that Japan would resume its controversial “pluthermal” program, using light-water reactors to burn plutonium, according to documents obtained by the Mainichi. 
The secret promise was made by Hiroshi Ogushi, then parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office, to Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, during Ogushi’s visit to the United States on behalf of then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in September last year. The revelation comes as Japan’s pluthermal project remains suspended in the wake of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster due to safety concerns. The fact that a Japanese official promised to the U.S. to implement such a controversial project without a prior explanation to the Japanese public is expected to stir up controversy.[iii]
Poneman advocating running Japan’s Rokkasho reprocessing plant, which had drawn safety concerns when, as mentioned previously, Japanese scientists announced finding a potentially active fault running through the site.[iv]
 
At a July 2012 press conference, Poneman implicitly endorsed plutonium-enriched MOX fuel production at Rokkasho as an important tool for reducing climate change and reducing Japan’s excessive plutonium stockpiles:
“Obviously what is done in the long term at Rokkasho is a decision for the Japanese people, the Japanese government to make,” Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said during a July 2012 press conference in Tokyo. 
He added that “to the extent that there would be paths forward for Rokkasho” that could avoid increasing Japan’s stockpile of plutonium, “that would be a good thing.” Poneman coupled this, however, with a public pitch for letting Japan use nuclear power to reduce carbon emissions, acknowledging that it is an important tool “for our friends and colleagues in Japan … who are very worried about climate change.”[v] 
MOX fuel increases likelihoods of risks because of the increased heat and radiological contamination produced by its fissioning. Despited acknowledged risks, demonstrated empirically with the explosion at Fukushima Unit 3, Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission endorsed continuing fuel recycling.
 
The Rokkasho plant construction is still underway, although also still delayed, as reported recently here http://fissilematerials.org/blog/2017/10/rokkasho_plant_is_facing_.html
 
Despite this setback, Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission remains a cheerleader for plutonium production at the very troubled Monju reactor, as part of the “national energy mix”:
Associated Press (15 September 2017). Bucking public sentiment, Atomic Energy Commission backs nuclear power for national energy mix (Sep 15, 2017 ) https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/09/15/national/commission-supports-nuclear-power-japans-energy-needs-despite-shift-public-opinion/#.WcE9ucbdnc 
The report also endorsed continuing the government’s ambitious pursuit of a nuclear fuel cycle program based on plutonium, despite a decision last year to scrap the experimental Monju reactor, the centerpiece of its plutonium fuel program, following decades of poor safety and technical problems. Japan faces growing international scrutiny over its plutonium stockpile because the element can be used to make atomic weapons.
Nuclear governmentality, the logic and code of conduct of the nuclear apparatus, operates autopoietically, closed to negative feedback.
 
Individual authorities within this apparatus are rewarded for their role reinforcing and extending nuclear governmentality.
 
Poneman’s role as a nuclear industry advocated was solidified when Poneman left the Department of Energy in 2015 to take on the role of CEO at Centrus Energy, formerly USEC, an enrichment processing facility.
 
The U.S. based Center for Public Integrity noted the nuclear industry’s revolving door relationship with the Department of Energy (DOE), observing that during Poneman’s approximate five year tenure at the DOE he approved or advocated hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts and subsidies to USEC.[vi]
 
U.S. pressure is just part of the big picture at Rokkasho and with nuclear in general in Japan. Nuclear energy and enriched fuel are part of Japan’s national security strategy, as has been publicly acknowledged by LDP representatives. Nuclear power is the gateway to nuclear weapons and rising geopolitical tensions breed anxious warriors. Unwavering support for nuclear power tends to coincide with nuclear-based conceptions of state security. Consequently, the nuclear energy complex is closely coupled in important ways with the military complex….
 
 
REFERENCES
 
[i] T. Nakagawa (3 February 2012) ‘Japan Wants in On Nuclear Accident Compensation Pact’, The Asahi Shimbun, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201202030021, date accessed 5 February 2012.
 
[ii] Ibid.
 
[iii] “Japan made secret promise with U.S. to restart pluthermal nuclear program,” The Mainichi (June 25, 2013): http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130625p2a00m0na006000c.htm.
 
[iv] K. Hasegawa ‘Quake Risk at Japan Atomic Recycling Plant’, Pys.Org December 19 2012, http://phys.org/news/2012–12-quake-japan-atomic-recycling-experts.html#jCp, date accessed 25 December 2012.
 
[v] Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey Smith “Japan’s Well-Placed Nuclear Power Advocates Swat Away Opponents,” NBC (March 12, 2014 ) http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/fukushima-anniversary/japans-well-placed-nuclear-power-advocates-swat-away-opponents-n50396
 
[vi] Douglas Birch, (2015, May 13) Former Energy Department official wins huge pay raise after moving to firm with deep ties to DOE” Center for Public Integrity (May 13, 2015): http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/05/13/17265/former-energy-department-official-wins-huge-pay-raise-after-moving-firm-deep-ties.

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

Donald Trump versus the freedom of the press

Trump finds the First Amendment ‘frankly disgusting’ https://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/348184/trump-finds-the-first-amendment-frankly-disgusting/In News by Jordan Freiman / October 11, 2017 Donald Trump on Wednesday continued his ongoing feud with NBC over a report that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the president a “fucking moron” during a meeting at the Pentagon back in July. That comment was reportedly in response to Trump demanding that the U.S. increase its nuclear stockpile 10-fold, an absurd request considering we have plenty of nukes to wipe out every single person on the planet many times over.

Trump, as he did with the initial “fucking moron” report (which has been corroborated by multiple sources), called the nuke story “Fake News.” Defense Secretary James Mattis chimed in to call the latest report “absolutely false” as well, but Trump took things a step further during a press conference on Wednesday.

“That was just fake news by NBC, which gives a lot of fake news lately,” Trump told reporters, claiming he just wanted to make sure the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal was in good shape. For what it’s worth, Trump previously boastedabout how the nuclear arsenal has in fact been “modernized,” despite it not being possible to complete such an undertaking in just six months.

“It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write,” the president of the United States said, “and people should look into it.”

Well, people have looked into it. Turns out we’ve got this whole First Amendment thing which includes freedom of the press.There are obviously limits on that freedom, and those are typically hashed out in court. Under normal circumstances, the president is supposed to uphold the constitution. It’s in the oath of office, after all. Instead, Trump continues to threaten to pull NBC’s broadcasting license.

October 13, 2017 Posted by | civil liberties, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Donald Trump wanted 8 fold increase in nuclear weapons: that’s when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron”

Donald Trump’s nuclear demand led to Rex Tillerson’s moron jibe THE AUSTRALIAN, RHYS BLAKELY,RICHARD LLOYD PARRY 11 Oct 17 A call by Donald Trump for an eightfold increase in the number of US nuclear warheads led to his secretary of state calling him a moron, according to new reports of a meeting at the Pentagon.

Mr Trump made the request in July during a wide-ranging review of America’s military position and after being shown a slide depicting the size of the US nuclear arsenal, three officials who were in the room told NBC News.

He is said to have pointed out the highest number on the chart — about 32,000 nuclear warheads in the late 1960s — and told his advisers that he wanted to have a similar number once more. The US is estimated to have about 4,000 warheads.

Senior advisers explained that the request would break an array of weapons treaties and risk triggering a new global arms race. The meeting included Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Jim Mattis, the defence secretary, and Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state.

After Mr Trump had left, Mr Tillerson allegedly called the president a moron.

Mr Trump yesterday dismissed the story as inaccurate, tweeting: “Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our US nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean.”

He added on Twitter: “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their Licence? Bad for country!”

Broadcast licenses are administered by the Federal Communications Commission and are not usually revoked unless a holder commits serious illegal conduct.

Mr Trump had described the alleged “moron” comment as fake news on Tuesday but added that he and Mr Tillerson should perhaps compare IQ scores…….. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/donald-trumps-nuclear-demand-led-to-rex-tillersons-moron-jibe/news-story/bf43b88334e0e0e63579f9a60b3b7d6b

October 13, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Earthquake detected near North Korea’s nuclear site – raising fears of a new nuclear test

Fears of new nuclear test in North Korea after earthquake is detected near test site, Mirror UK, 12 Oct 17 All of North Korea’s previous six nuclear tests registered as earthquakes and the country’s latest tremor has struck on Friday the 13th A small earthquake has been detected in North Korea where previous nuclear tests have been carried out.

The United States Geological Survey said a 2.9 magnitude quake with a depth of 5km was recorded 23km north-east of Sungjibaegam.

 The area is has been used previously by the country to carry out nuclear drills which have resulted in subsequent tremors.

A statement on the US Geological Survey website reads: “This event occurred in the area of the previous North Korean Nuclear tests.

“The event has earthquake like characteristics, however, we cannot conclusively confirm at this time the nature (natural or human-made) of the event.”

All of North Korea’s previous six nuclear tests registered as earthquakes of magnitude 4.3 or above.

The last test the country carried out on September 3 registered as a 6.3 magnitude quake.

The US Geological Survey said that quake struck 55 km north northwest of Kimchaek. There was no reports of damage or casualties…….. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/fears-new-nuclear-test-north-11333338

October 13, 2017 Posted by | incidents, North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The role of climate change in California’s wildfires

Scientists See Climate Change in California’s Wildfires
Strong winds and months of record-high temperatures have fueled the destructive fires, 
Scientific American, By Debra KahnAnne C. MulkernE&E News on October 12, 2017 

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — As wildfires engulf nearly 170,000 acres of Northern California wine country, questions are swirling about the role of climate change in causing damage of historic proportions.

The fires, which started late Sunday night in the hills of Napa and Sonoma counties, quickly ballooned to 22 separate conflagrations in eight counties, killing at least 21 people by Tuesday evening. The Tubbs Fire, in Sonoma County, has been responsible for at least 11 deaths so far, making it the sixth-deadliest fire in state history. Nearly 300 people are still reported missing and 25,000 have been evacuated in Sonoma County alone, with more than 3,500 homes and businesses destroyed.

Strong winds were responsible for the fires’ quick incursion into urban areas, but months of record-high temperatures, preceded by heavy rainfall last winter, also fueled the destructive power of the fire that burned through the region, climate experts said.

Residents of inland Northern California are now experiencing the confluence of these trends. The fires are expected to persist for weeks, until the rainy season begins next month. Strong winds are predicted to return as soon as tomorrow, giving firefighters a narrow window to get the blazes under control…….

Temperatures soared in the San Francisco Bay Area in early September, hitting 106 degrees Fahrenheit in San Francisco, a new record, and 108 in San Rafael, north of the city. It was the warmest summer in more than 100 years of record keeping, said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA: “It beat the previous record by a pretty wide margin.”

Those high temperatures dried out vegetation throughout the area, he said. While fires are a part of life in California, this one became more destructive because it had so much dry brush and grassland — fed by last winter’s rains — to burn.

Powerful winds pushed the flames farther, Swain said. Known locally as the Diablo wind, they’re similar to the Santa Ana wind in Southern California, and they reached an unusually high speed of 79 mph Sunday night. Coupled with relatively low humidity, the wind patterns quickly created havoc.

“This is very much a weather-driven fire, but there is definitely a climate component to the overall story, too,” Swain said.

The dead brush and trees were the result not just of this year’s hot temperatures, but also of the state’s historic drought, which officially ended with the rainfall last winter, said LeRoy Westerling, a management professor at the University of California, Merced’s School of Engineering.

Scientists typically hesitate to say any specific event happened because of climate change, Westerling said. Yet, he said, “we know that these events are affected by the weather and the climate and how dry it is. The climate system has been altered by people … all the weather we’re experiencing and what’s driving these wildfire events is climate change.”…… https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scientists-see-climate-change-in-californias-wildfires/

October 13, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Donald Trump threatens NBC TV Network over its negative coverage of himself

Donald Trump threatens NBC’s broadcast licence over nuclear story he says was ‘pure fiction’  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-12/donald-trump-threatens-nbc-broadcast-licence/9041652 United States President Donald Trump has threatened NBC’s broadcast licences because he is not happy with how its news division has covered him.

But experts say his threats are not likely to lead to any action.

The NBC network itself does not need a licence to operate, but individual stations do.

NBC owns several stations in major cities.

Stations owned by other companies such as Tribune and Cox carry NBC’s news shows and other programs elsewhere.

Licences come from the Federal Communications Commission, an independent government agency whose chairman is a Trump appointee.

Mr Trump said NBC “made up” a story about the President’s plans for the country’s nuclear arsenal.

He tweeted that the broadcaster “made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our US nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!”

October 13, 2017 Posted by | civil liberties, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Greenpeace protestor show poor security at French nuclear station – by breaking in!

Protesters Broke Into a Nuclear Power Plant to Prove How Badly Defended It Is Stunt was to show poorly defended France’s nuclear plants are, Fortune, By Reuters  12 Oct 17 

Greenpeace activists broke through two security barriers and launched fireworks inside the grounds of a French nuclear plant on Thursday to highlight the vulnerability of the plants to attacks.

The environmentalist group issued video footage showing several of its members inside the fence of EDF’s Cattenom nuclear plant in northeast France, and launching several rounds of fireworks over the plant.

Local police said eight people had been detained. EDF said there had been no impact on Cattenom’s security and condemned Greenpeace’s intrusion as “irresponsible.”

“Do we need to wait for a malicious attack on a nuclear plant before EDF gets out of denial?” asked Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaign head Yannick Rousselet.

Olivier Lamarre, deputy head of EDF’s French nuclear fleet, said on a call with reporters that Greenpeace activists had broken through two barriers and reached the reactor’s nuclear zone to within a few tens of meters of the nuclear installations.

He said that as the activists had raised their hands in the air and unfurled a Greenpeace banner, police officials present on the site arrested them without violence within eight minutes……..

Greenpeace this week published a report saying the spent-fuel pools of EDF’s nuclear reactors are highly vulnerable to attacks as their confinement walls have not been designed with malicious attacks in mind……..http://fortune.com/2017/10/12/greenpeace-cattenom-nuclear-plant-security/

October 13, 2017 Posted by | France, incidents, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment