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Yet again, Australia sets out to wreck international climate talks

Australia gets out the wrecking ball, again, in international climate talks

Giles Parkinson, In separate arena this week, Australia has been accused of attempting to water down the languageof the Pacific Islands Forum declaration on climate change. And in Bangkok it has sided with the Trump administration and Japan in attempting to weaken climate finance obligations in a move that has horrified some observers.

Australia is coming under increasing scrutiny since Malcolm Turnbull announced the country was dumping the emissions obligation proposed for the National Energy Guarantee, and was then dumped by the party’s climate denying conservative wing anyway.

Morrison has shown no interest in climate change, and has instructed new energy minister Angus Taylor to focus only on “bringing down prices” and ensuring the country retains as much “fair dinkum” coal in the system as it can.

The international community is looking on in horror, and so are the main business lobby groups in Australia, such as the Business Council of Australia – who have campaigned vigorosuly for a decade to minimise Australia’s contribution to climate action, but understand the considerable reputational, trade and business consequences of choosing to do nothing.

Morrison has so far resisted calls from the party’s far right to follow Trump out of the Paris climate treaty, but in crucial and complex climate talks in Bangkok this week, sided with the US and Japan in a dramatic attempt to weaken climate finance obligations.

The Bangkok talks were called to give negotiators extra time to put together the so-called “rule-book,” which will provide the fine details of the Paris agreement, particularly as countries gear up to increase their climate targets to try and drag the collective efforts closer to the target of limiting global warming to “well below” 2°C, and possibly 1.5°C.

But little progress has been made in Bangkok, forcing the UNFCCC, which runs the climate talks, to call for the annual talks scheduled this year in Poland to begin a day earlier, in the hope that visiting heads of state have something to work with when they turn up.

Climate campaigners say the proposed text on article 9.7 of the Paris accord, which refers to accounting and is meant to establish rules about how developed countries report what finance they provide to developing countries, serves to muddy the rules rather than clarify them.

The campaigners say that the proposal would allow countries to report whatever items they like – including commercial loans ≠ as climate finance, in contrast to demands of clear financial and technical packages to help them developing countries cope with future extreme weather-related events.

“(This) does not create any meaningful rules on how climate finance is accounted for, and instead it essentially says ‘countries should report what they want,’” Brandon Wu, director of policy and campaigns for ActionAid USA, told Devex.

“This would completely let rich countries off the hook and deprive developing countries of real money for real action,” Wu said. Other campaigners said this meant climate finance could just be re-badged existing aid.

These problems are being felt acutely in the Pacific, where island nations are furious with Australia’s stance on climate, its attachment to coal, and its refusal to act on its declarations that “it takes climate change seriously.”

The current Coalition government still has no policy in place to try and reach what is regarded as a very low interim target of a 26-28 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030. Continue reading

September 6, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change, politics international | Leave a comment

Austria continues its legal action crusade against nuclear power in Europe

Liberation 5th sept 2018 Austria continues its legal crusade against nuclear power in Europe. The
government has decided to appeal against an ECJ ruling authorizing public
subsidies to the British Hinkley Point EPR. “Just back from her maternity
leave, the Minister of Sustainable Development, Elisabeth Köstinger,
declares war again at the Atomic Lobby.”

The Kronen Zeitung , the country’s
leading newspaper, set foot on the plate announcing Tuesday, that the
Austrian government would appeal, before the Court of Justice of the
European Union (CJEU), a judgment that authorized public subsidies from the
British government for the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant. The Austrian
Council of Ministers will decide this Wednesday to appeal, with the support
of Luxembourg.

Austria does not want to abandon the legal battle against
nuclear energy in Europe, which it is conducting on several fronts. Last
March, Vienna also filed another complaint, this time concerning the Paks
reactors in neighboring Hungary. On the left, right and even far right, no
Austrian political party defends atomic energy. Antinuclearism is indeed
the subject of a broad consensus in the country. Since 1978, this type of
energy is de facto prohibited. That year, a referendum prevented the
commissioning of the Zwentendorf atomic power plant, which would have been
the first in Austria.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | EUROPE, Legal | Leave a comment

New highs for solar power generation in Germany, as extreme heat shut nuclear and coal plants

PV steps in to cover coal and nuclear power shortfalls The sunny, dry summer has seen solar break several records and PV kept the lights on when a lack of coolant – caused by rising river water temperatures – led to the temporary shuttering of conventional power plants in France and Germany.

Taking into account such conditions, it is hardly surprising there were new highs for solar power generation in Germany. In July, for example, PV plants generated 6.7 TWh – more than in the previous record month of May, when 6.45 TWh was generated.

As Bruno Burger, Head of Energy Charts at Fraunhofer ISE, told pv magazine, the share of solar energy in power generation in July was 15.1% – and in May, due to numerous public holidays, it reached 15.6%.

May 6 saw the one-day penetration record broken as 22.2% of German power came from solar, with that percentage peaking at half of the supply at 1pm, to set a new hourly landmark, Mr. Burger revealed.

PV also set new records in the U.K., said James Watson, of Solarpower Europe. In the week from 21 to 28 June, 533 GWh of solar power was generated, making PV the country’s main energy source that week, ahead of gas. According to Mr. Watson, Denmarkrecorded 361 hours of sunshine in May, leading to a 33% increase in solar generation and new records. Mr. Watson said solar energy in one country after another set impressive new milestones, confirming the important role of the renewable in the European electricity mix.olar keeps the lights on

Aurelie Beauvais, of Solarpower Europe, said PV systems filled summer gaps where conventional energy failed. In France and Germany, for example, coal and nuclear power plants had to be shut down as the necessary quantities of cooling water would no longer have been available – PV was able to keep the electricity grid stable and provide the required electricity.

“Without solar energy, there would have been major power supply challenges in July,” said Mr. Burger, referring to power reductions in conventional plants due to rising river temperatures. PV systems would have reached a maximum daily output of between 25 and 30 GW, he added.

Mr. Burger pointed out the proportion of solar in Germany could be significantly higher if an electricity price brake had not been enforced in 2013 by today’s Federal Minister of the Economy, Peter Altmaier.

The move greatly slowed the expansion of PV, said Mr. Burger, adding: “We could use this [PV] now to better get through the hot summer months,” especially since PV power generation peaks at noon, coinciding with the highest demand to fuel air conditioning and refrigerators.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC) lobby for African nations to ratify comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty

African countries can help ban nuclear weapons – ICRC, 2018-09-05 

September 6, 2018 Posted by | AFRICA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Rising CO2 levels could push ‘hundreds of millions’ into malnutrition by 2050

 An additional 290 million people could face malnutrition by 2050 if little is done to stop the rise of greenhouse gas emissions, a study finds.

The increased presence of CO2 in the atmosphere could cause staple crops to produce smaller amounts of nutrients such as zinc, iron and protein, the researchers say.

Using international datasets of food consumption, the study estimates that these changes could cause an additional 175 million people to be zinc deficient and an additional 122 million people to be protein deficient by 2050.

The findings show that malnutrition is most likely to affect parts of the world that are already grappling with food insecurity, such as India, parts of North Africa and the Middle East, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

Growing problems

Climate change is known to threaten food security by increasing the chances of extreme weather events such as heatwaves and drought – which can cause crop failures.

However, climate change could also threaten food security by worsening malnutrition.

Across the world, humans get the majority of the key nutrients they need from plants. Crops, including cereals, grains and beans, provide humans with 63% of their protein, which is needed to build new body tissue.

Plants also provide humans with 81% of their iron, a nutrient that facilitates the flow of blood around the body, and 63% of their zinc, a nutrient that helps fight off disease. (Other sources of these nutrients include meat and dairy.)

However, recent experiments show that, when food crops are exposed to high levels of CO2, they tend to produce lower amounts of these three key nutrients.

The reason why this happens is still not well understood, says Dr Matthew Smith, a researcher in environmental health from Harvard University and lead author of the new study published in Nature Climate Change. He tells Carbon Brief:

“The prevailing theory for many years has been that higher CO2 causes a faster growth rate[in crops] – which favours carbohydrates rather than other nutrients important for human health that cannot be taken up quickly enough by the roots.”

However, there is also evidence that suggests not all nutrients decrease under higher CO2, notes Smith, meaning the extent of the impact is still an “open question”.

Under pressure

For the new study, the researchers estimated how global levels of malnutrition would be affected when the average concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches 550 parts per million (ppm).  He tells Carbon Brief:

“The prevailing theory for many years has been that higher CO2 causes a faster growth rate[in crops] – which favours carbohydrates rather than other nutrients important for human health that cannot be taken up quickly enough by the roots.”

However, there is also evidence that suggests not all nutrients decrease under higher CO2, notes Smith, meaning the extent of the impact is still an “open question”.

Under pressure

For the new study, the researchers estimated how global levels of malnutrition would be affected when the average concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches 550 parts per million (ppm)…….

The results show that India faces the largest malnutrition increases out of any country. By 2050, an additional 50 million people in India could become zinc deficient, while an additional 502 million women and children under five could face anemia as a result of iron deficiencies.

Other high-risk countries include Algeria, Iraq and Yemen – three countries which are already grappling with higher-than-average rates of malnutrition, Smith says:

“Hundreds of millions of people could become newly deficient in these nutrients – primarily in Africa, southeast Asia, India and the Middle East – potentially contributing to a range of health effects: anemia, wasting, stunting, susceptibility to infectious disease, and complications for mothers and newborns.”

Curbing CO2

Despite the stark findings, there are “many steps that can be taken” to reduce the impact of rising CO2 levels on malnutrition, Smith says:…..

The findings add to previous research showing “the potential health consequences” of rising CO2 levels, says Prof Kristie Ebi, a researcher in public health and climate change from the University of Washington, who was not involved in the study. She tells Carbon Brief:

“The growing body of literature on the impacts of rising CO2 concentrations on the nutritional quality of our food indicates the health consequences could be significant, particularly for poorer populations in Africa and Asia – although everyone could be affected.”

September 6, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

USA’s Duke Energy rules out any new nuclear plants in its long range plans

No more nukes: Duke Energy writes new nuclear out of its long-range plan,  By John Downey  – Senior Staff Writer, Charlotte Business Journal

 Sep 6, 2018, For the first time in 13 years, Duke Energy Carolinas is not proposing any new nuclear construction in its 15-year road map for new power plants.

Instead, Charlotte-based Duke (NYSE:DUK) will focus on getting license extensions for its existing, almost 11,000-megawatt nuclear fleet. The company will start with the first of the Oconee Nuclear Station’s three, 880-megawatt units, the current license for which expires in 2033. Oconee is near Seneca, South Carolina.

Glen Snider, Duke’s director of resource planning for the Carolinas, says the change is born of a number of developments in the industry. They include last year’s decision by S.C. Electric & Gas to abandon the proposed, $20 billion-plus V.C. Summer nuclear expansion and the expectation that strict limits on carbon emissions are likely to be further off than had once been expected.

Some version

Every year since 2005, Duke had included plans for some version of a new nuclear plant. That year, the Integrated Resource Plan filed by Duke proposed having the plant up and running by 2016.

Even last year, after Duke had announced it dropped plans for the proposed, 2,234-megawatt W.S. Lee Nuclear Station in Gaffney, South Carolina, the long-range plan still had a place for a possible, 1,100-megawatt plan that might start construction in 2032.

This year’s IRP, which projects through 2033, was filed Wednesday and there is no new nuclear construction proposed.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission initially licensed nuclear plants for 40 years. It has already established that qualified plants can get a 20-year extension to total 60 years.

All of Duke’s plants are currently licensed to run for 60 years. The NRC is now considering whether it will allow plants an additional 20-year extension……….

September 6, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

The economic pain of nuclear power station closures

Nuclear Plant Closures Bring Economic Pain to Cities and Towns, Pew, STATELINE ARTICLE, September 5, 2018, By: Martha T. Moore  “…….. Aging nuclear power plants are closing, doomed by the high cost of refurbishing them and the low price of natural gas. That is causing fiscal pain for municipalities that rely on revenue from the plants, and creating political pressure for state subsidies to forestall further shutdowns……….

Six reactors have shut down in the past five years, and eight more reactors are scheduled to close by 2025 at plants in California, Iowa, Massachusetts and Michigan. Nuclear power operators have said they will close a further five reactors at four plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania if those states don’t offer subsidies.

The closure of Indian Point, announced in January 2017, capped decades of controversy over its safety, and was a victory for environmental groups and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had long opposed the plant.

But the closure presents the local Hendrick-Hudson school district, where 2,500 children practice evacuation drills annually and nurses have iodide pills on hand in case of a radiation leak, with a budget crisis. About one-third of the district’s annual $79 million budget comes from Indian Point’s payment in lieu of taxes. By 2024, three years after the power plant huts, the yearly payments will have dwindled from $25 million to $1.35 million. ……..

Many nuclear power plants have curried public favor by being good corporate citizens. In Londonderry, for example, Three Mile Island runs a golf tournament for the local fire department that raises enough money to cover the $50,000 annual mortgage payment on the firehouse.

Redevelopment of Three Mile Island isn’t an option, Letavic said, because of the nuclear waste that will remain on the site, which is in the middle of the Susquehanna River……

In Lacey Township on the New Jersey shore, the nation’s oldest operating nuclear plant, Oyster Creek, will shut down in September after 49 years. The town gets $11 million in annual taxes from Oyster Creek and has identified itself so closely with the nuclear plant that its municipal seal bears the symbol of an atom as well as a sailboat and a pheasant. …….

Asking for State Help

Four states have moved to shore up nuclear power plants financially despite opposition from some environmental groups, consumer advocates and the coal and natural gas power industries.

In 2016, New York passed a $7.6 billion package to help three upstate nuclear power plants — though not Indian Point. And Illinois passed legislation directing $2.4 billion to two plants in the state through “zero emissions credits” 

…..In New Jersey, where 40 percent of the state’s electricity comes from nuclear plants, the state will subsidize two plants at a rate of $300 million a year under a bill enacted in May. (Oyster Creek was not included in the subsidy plan.) Connecticut enacted legislation last October that could allow its sole nuclear plant, the Millstone reactor in Waterford, to sell electricity at higher prices if Dominion Energy, its owner, can show the reactor is financially strapped. ………

As part of the nuclear subsidy packages, some states have increased requirements for obtaining power from renewable sources: New York and New Jersey will require half of their power to come from renewables by 2030, and Connecticut will require 40 percent by that date. Illinois will require a quarter of its power to come from renewables by 2025.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, employment, USA | Leave a comment

Tomari nuclear power plant in Hokkaido is using emergency generators, due to earthquake

Tomari nuclear plant using emergency generators, Japan’s nuclear regulatory body says the Tomari nuclear power plant in Hokkaido is using emergency generators to cool fuel after the region was hit by a powerful earthquake.

The plant’s operator Hokkaido Electric Power Company says all 3 channels from outside power sources were cut off about 20 minutes after the quake struck early Thursday.

The plant’s 3 reactors are all currently offline, with a total of 1,527 fuel assemblies in its storage pools.

Following the quake, 6 emergency diesel-powered generators automatically switched on to cool the nuclear fuel. No changes in storage pool water levels or temperature have been reported. The Nuclear Regulation Authority and Hokkaido Electric say it is not yet clear when outside power sources will be restored, with all thermal power plants in Hokkaido currently shut down.

The emergency generators will be able to keep the Tomari plant running for at least 7 days, based on diesel fuel supplies stored on its premises.

They added that the earthquake did not seem to cause any irregularities in key plant facilities and radiation monitoring posts have shown no change.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | Japan, safety | Leave a comment

For the first time, Japan acknowledges radiation death from Fukushima, and will compensate the family

Fukushima disaster: Japan acknowledges first radiation death from nuclear plant hit by tsunami Japan has acknowledged for the first time that a worker at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami more than seven years ago, has died from radiation exposure.

Key points:

  • The man had worked at the plant since the earthquake and tsunami in 2011
  • He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2016, in his 50s
  • The Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry ruled that compensation should be paid to the family

The Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry ruled that compensation should be paid to the family of the man in his 50s who died from lung cancer, an official said.

The worker had spent his career working at nuclear plants around Japan and worked at the Fukushima Daiichi plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power at least twice after the March 2011 meltdowns at the station.

He was diagnosed with cancer in February 2016, the official said. ……..

The ministry had previously ruled exposure to radiation caused the illnesses of four workers at Fukushima, the official said.

But this was the first death……

Tokyo Electric is facing a string of legal cases seeking compensation over the disaster.

The news came as the northern Hokkaido region was hit by a 6.7 magnitude earthquake, sparking concerns at the three-reactor Tomari nuclear plant, which lost power as a result of the earthquake.

The Tomari plant has been in shutdown since the Fukushima disaster.

The Fukushima crisis led to the shutdown of the country’s nuclear industry, once the world’s third-biggest.

Seven reactors have come back online after a protracted relicensing process.

The majority of Japanese people remain opposed to nuclear power after Fukushima highlighted failings in regulation and operational procedures in the industry.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | deaths by radiation, Fukushima continuing, health | Leave a comment

Companies Orano – formerly AREVA, and Holtec aim for private-public partnerships on USA’s nuclear wastes

Plans Move Forward for Privately Funded Storage of Nuclear Waste, Power 09/05/2018 | Darrell Proctor The Trump administration has revived the discussion of using Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a repository for the nation’s nuclear waste. Nevada officials remain opposed to the idea of putting spent nuclear fuel in long-term storage at a site about 100 miles from Las Vegas.But while a bill to resurrect Yucca Mountain as a storage site moves through Congress, other groups have stepped forward with plans to site, build, and operate nuclear waste storage and disposal facilities in areas including Texas and New Mexico. Those plans have reignited the debate about what the U.S. should do with its nuclear waste, along with the discussion of whether the federal government or the individual states should take the lead in developing long-term storage plans.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) says at least 12 U.S. reactors are committed to closing over the next five years, joining the more than 20 reactors shuttered over the past 10 years across the country. That’s lot of spent nuclear fuel, in multiple locations, in need of safe storage, whether at an interim site or at a facility designed for long-term storage……….

Interim Storage Sites in Development

Two members of Wednesday’s panel represented companies developing interim storage sites. Interim Storage Partners (ISP), a joint venture of Orano USA [Orano – formerly AREVA] and Waste Control Specialists (WCS), is pursuing a license for a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for used nuclear fuel at an existing WCS disposal site in Andrews County, Texas. Holtec International, which has been acquiring nuclear plants that have closed or are scheduled to close in order to carry out their decommissioning, is developing a CISF in southeastern New Mexico, in a remote area between Carlsbad and Hobbs……..

Joy Russell, vice president of corporate business development and chief communications officer for Holtec, said her company formed a business unit—Comprehensive Decommissioning International—in a 2018 joint venture with SNC-Lavalin after SNC-Lavalin in 2017 acquired Atkins, a nuclear waste solutions company. Russell said the New Mexico site encompasses about 1,000 acres, with “about 500 acres being used to build the facility.” Russell said the site, known as HI-STORE CIS, would use the company’s HI-STORM UMAX technology, which stores loaded canisters of nuclear waste in a subterranean configuration.

Russell said her group has a public-private partnership with the Eddy Lee Energy Alliance, representing Eddy and Lee counties in New Mexico, for the project, which she said has support from both local and state officials.

“We’re doing educational outreach in New Mexico,” said Russell. “We do township meetings, where we testify before the mayor and town council. We meet one-on-one with candidates. We had to start with the basics. What people think of when they hear nuclear fuel, they think of the fuel you put in your car, and how that could leak into the ground. We have to educate people on what [nuclear] fuel is. We focus on safety, security, and technology.”

Russell agreed that public concerns centers on the transport of nuclear waste. “The number-one thing I hear, all the time, about consolidated interim storage is transportation.” Holtec also has its license application before the NRC for review; Russell said it expect the agency will complete its review in July 2020, putting the New Mexico site on a timeline to receive its first shipment of spent fuel in 2023.

Revisiting Yucca Mountain

Congress first chose Yucca Mountain as a storage site for nuclear waste in 1987. Years of research into the site followed; estimates are that $15 billion was spent on the project. Sproat noted his efforts on licensing for Yucca Mountain before his retirement from the DOE, with a license application submitted to the NRC in 2008. The Obama administration ended funding for the project and halted the licensing process in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Nuclear Waste Fund (NWF), which collected money from the states to finance waste storage projects, was ordered by a federal court in late 2013 to stop collecting that money until the federal government made provisions for collecting that waste…………..

September 6, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Japan holds public hearings on what to do with growing amounts of radioactive water from the ruined Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

EDITORIAL: All options need to be weighed for Fukushima plant tainted water  September 6, 2018 The government has held public hearings on plans to deal with growing amounts of radioactive water from the ruined Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The hearings, held in Tomioka and Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture as well as in Tokyo, underscored the enormous difficulty government policymakers are having in grappling with the complicated policy challenge.

The crippled reactors at the plant are still generating huge amounts of water contaminated with radiation every day. Tons of groundwater percolating into the damaged reactor buildings as well as water being injected into the reactors to cool the melted fuel are constantly becoming contaminated.

Almost all the radioactive elements are removed from the water with a filtering system. But the system cannot catch tritium, a mildly radioactive isotope of hydrogen.

The tritium-contaminated water is stored on-site in hundreds of large tanks. As the number of tanks has reached 900, the remaining space for them is shrinking and expected to run out by around 2020, according to the government.

Clearly, time is growing short on deciding what to do about the problem.

A task force of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has considered five options, including release into the Pacific Ocean after dilution, injection into deep underground strata and release into the air after vaporization. The group has concluded that dumping the water into the ocean would be the quickest and least costly way to get rid of it.

This is seen as the best option within the government.

Tritium is a common radioactive element in the environment that is formed naturally by atmospheric processes. Nuclear power plants across the nation release tritium produced in their operations into the sea according to legal safety standards.

But these facts do not automatically mean that releasing the tritium-laced water into the sea off Fukushima is a good approach to the problem.

Local communities in areas affected by the 2011 nuclear disaster are making strenuous efforts to rebuild the local fishing and agricultural industries that have been battered by the radiation scare. There are still countries that ban imports of foodstuffs produced in Fukushima Prefecture.

Local fishermen and other community members have every reason to oppose the idea of releasing tritium into the ocean. They are naturally concerned that the discharge would produce new bad rumors that deliver an additional blow to the reputation and sales of Fukushima food products.

Unsurprisingly, most of the citizens who spoke at the hearings voiced their opposition to the idea.

Moreover, it was reported last month that high levels of radioactive strontium and iodine surpassing safety standards had been detected in the treated water.

The revelation has made local communities even more distrustful of what they have been told about operations to deal with the radioactive water.

It is obvious that the hearings at only three locations are not enough to sell any plan to cope with the sticky problem to skeptical local residents. The government needs to create more opportunities for communication with them.

In doing so, the government should show a flexible stance without adamantly making the case for the idea of releasing the water into the sea. Otherwise, there can be no constructive debate on the issue.

It can only hope to win the trust of the local communities if it gives serious consideration to other options as well.

During the hearings, many speakers suggested that the water should be kept in large tanks until the radioactivity level falls to a very low level.

The pros and cons of all possible options, including this proposal, should be weighed carefully through cool-headed debate before the decision is made.

Repeated discussions with fruitful exchanges of views among experts and citizens including local residents are crucial for ensuring that the final decision on the plan will win broad public support.

The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima plant, should disclose sufficient information for such discussions and give thoughtful and scrupulous explanations about relevant issues and details.

The government, which has been promoting nuclear power generation as a national policy priority, has the responsibility of building a broad and solid consensus on this problem.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | Japan, wastes | Leave a comment