Tag Archives: Nuclear

Germany goes back to black in snub to green power


From Reuters – June 20, 2011

by Peter Dinkloh and Christopher Seitz

(Reuters) – Germany
is set to turn back to coal, gas and imports to fill the energy chasm
left by its fast-track exit of nuclear power, refusing to boost green
power and threatening its efforts to lower emissions.

The government permanently shut eight nuclear power plants immediately after the Fukushima crisis in Japan, and is closing the remaining nine in stages up to 2022.

Europe’s largest economy is shying away from pushing for renewable
energy to replace those plants, even though opinion polls show people
are willing to accept higher bills to support green power.

2006, Germany envisaged producing 35 percent of its power through
renewable energy by 2020, and has retained this target even though it is
shutting 13 percent of its generation capacity.

and industry experts see a return of conventional power and imports as a
stopgap, endangering the country’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas
emissions by 40 percent by 2020, compared with 1990 levels.

seems Germany will replace lost nuclear generation by coal and gas, and
imports, rather than adding new renewable capacities,” Societe Generale
analyst Didier Laurens said.

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Japan under fire for failure to implement safeguards at Fukushima – The Guardian


From The Guardian – June 18, 2011

by Staff and Agencies

Japan under fire for failure to implement safeguards at Fukushima

UN report says nuclear regulators ignored warnings that the plant was vulnerable to tsunamis

Japanese nuclear regulators have been criticised by the UN for
failing to implement sufficient tsunami safeguards at the Fukushima
plant despite warnings as early as 2002 that the plant was vulnerable to
a tidal wave disaster.

A detailed assessment by experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – the first outside review of Japan‘s
nuclear crisis – suggested several shortcomings both before and after a
tsunami crippled the power station on 11 March and triggered the
world’s worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl.

A three-page
summary issued following the 18-member team’s inspection in May said
Japan underestimated the threat from tsunamis to the Fukushima plant,
and urged sweeping changes to its regulatory system.

were criticised for failing to plan for a tsunami that would surge over
the power station’s 5.7m (19ft) wall. The wave that crashed into the
complex after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake was about 14m (46ft) high.

protective steps were taken as a result of an evaluation after 2002 –
the projected tsunami height was increased – but they were insufficient
“to cope with the high tsunami run-up values and all associated
hazardous phenomena”.

“Moreover, those additional protective
measures were not reviewed and approved by the regulatory authority,”
said the report. It added: “Severe accident management provisions were
not adequate to cope with multiple plant failures.”

However, the
document, obtained by Reuters after it was submitted to IAEA member
states prior to its publication, also praised the way workers on the
ground dealt with the aftermath of the tsunami.

Given the extreme
circumstances it is doubtful “that any better solutions than the ones
actually chosen could have been realistically implemented”, said the
full 160-page report, prepared for a ministerial nuclear safety meeting
in Vienna next week.

At the IAEA-hosted meeting, to be held 20-24
June, some 150 nations will begin charting a strategy on boosting global
nuclear safety, but differences on how much international action is
needed may hamper follow-up efforts, diplomats say.

Japan’s crisis has prompted a rethink of energy policy around the world, underlined by Germany’s decision to shut down all its reactors by 2022 and an Italian vote to ban nuclear power for decades.

2007, the IAEA was ignored when it called on Japan to create a more
powerful and independent nuclear regulator, and the report underlined
the need for greater regulatory control. “An updating of regulatory
requirements and guidelines should be performed reflecting the
experience and data obtained during the Great East Japan Earthquake and
Tsunami,” it said.

Japan has a well-organised emergency readiness
and response system, but “complicated structures and organisations can
result in delays in urgent decision making”, it added.

The report
also listed wider lessons for improving nuclear safety worldwide and
help avert any repeat of the disaster, saying that reactors should be
built so that they can withstand rare and “complex combinations” of
external threats.

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BBC Video & Story: Mafia sank ships of toxic nuclear waste


From the BBC – June 14, 2011

by Duncan Kennedy

Watch video and read original story

A shipwreck apparently containing toxic waste is
being investigated by authorities in Italy amid claims that it was
deliberately sunk by the mafia.

An informant from the
Calabrian mafia said the ship was one of a number he blew up as part of
an illegal operation to bypass laws on toxic waste disposal.

The sunken vessel has been found 30km (18 miles) off the south-west of Italy.

The informant said it contained “nuclear” material. Officials said it would be tested for radioactivity.

Murky pictures taken by a robot camera show the vessel intact and alongside it are a number of yellow barrels.

Labels on them say the contents are toxic.

The informant said the mafia had muscled in on the lucrative business of radioactive waste disposal.

But he said that instead of getting rid of the material safely, he blew up the vessel out at sea, off the Calabrian coast.

He also says he was responsible for sinking two other ships containing toxic waste.

Experts are now examining samples taken from the wreck.

Other vessels

official said that if the samples proved to be radioactive then a
search for up to 30 other sunken vessels believed scuttled by the mafia
would begin immediately.

For years there have been rumours that
the mafia was sinking ships with nuclear and other waste on board, as
part of a money-making racket.

The environmental campaign group
Greenpeace and others have compiled lists over the past few decades of
ships that have disappeared off the coast of Italy and Greece.

Processing waste is highly specialised and is supposed to be an industry where security is the top priority.

tests show that there is nuclear material on the seabed it will prove
that the mafia has moved into its dirtiest business yet.

Watch video and read original story


Italian Referendum Victory: No! to Nuclear Power and Privatized Water


From Counterpunch.org – June 14, 2011

by Michael Leonardi

After an inspiring mass
mobilization of people across Italy with demonstrations of all kinds:
banner drops, critical mass bike rides, workshops, information booths,
film screenings, use of the social networking and facebook, people
running nude through the streets, flash mob die-ins, young people living
confined in a giant rendition of a radioactive drum for over a month,
and a door to door, neighbor to neighbor, person to person grassroots
storm, the Italian people have won a historic vote against the forces of
global capitalism and privatization to ban the construction of Nuclear
Power plants now and forever, to keep or return Water resources to
public ownership and to Prosecute the criminal behavior of political
leaders — first and foremost Silvio Berlusconi.

Italians managed to overcome the daunting task of a
quorum of 50 per cent + 1 of all Italian voters in the face of a mass
media controlled by Berlusconi and a government that was encouraging
voters to go to the beach instead of vote on the first weekend of summer
vacation for Italian grade school, middle school and high school
students. The quorum had not been reached for over a decade on any
referendum. This time the Italian people responded with 57 per cent of
the voters turning out to the polls, the highest on any referendum in
over 20 years, and with the quorum being surpassed in every region of
the country. 95 per cent of the voters have voted “SI” to say No as the
Italian winds of change have grown to gale force.

The vote began on Sunday morning and by mid-day the
results showed that only around 10 percent of voters had responded
nationally. There was a frenzy of activity in every town and city, on
the streets, in the coffee bars, in the town squares, on the beaches,
everywhere! The proponents of the referendums threw all caution to the
wind as they called to every passerby to go to the polls and not let
this important opportunity to express our collective democratic voice
pass by. This was an incredible mobilization that had a domino effect,
as students, families and co-workers pushed one another to make the
democratic process function for the people once and for all. Flags
sprung up on balconies, stickers on the windows of busses and walls of
the metros, with bicyclists up and down the coasts whistling and
shouting to get out the vote. By 7 o’clock on Sunday the attendance at
the polls was up to 30 per cent. The depression of the morning gave way
to a nervous feeling that maybe it really was possible that the quorum
could be reached. People went to the phones and text messages and
continued to hit the streets contacting and calling out to everyone to
let them know that they could be that one vote to tip the scales. 

The polls closed on Sunday at 10 o’clock and by that
time voter turnout was reported at 41 per cent, the quorum was well
within reach. 25 towns and cities out of over 8000 had already reached
the quorum and the predictions were that the last 10 per cent could be
reached on Monday. Being so dominated by the Catholic church, the word
miracle started to spring forth from people’s lips as a nervous and
incredulous tension continued to build. The government still had some
tricks up its sleeve. It was rumored that they might not count the votes
from Italians living abroad on the nuclear question. It was said that
we needed to arrive to at least 52 or 53 per cent of the vote to ensure
the Quorum and not just 50 per cent+1, would it be possible? Rome was in
a stir of activity, and people there were convinced saying that they
hadn’t felt this kind of energy in the streets since the student
uprisings of 1968.  In the region of Calabria, the only region that
voted for Berlusconi’s right wing coalition in the municipal elections,
the activists were more cynical. Would they be the downfall of the
quorum for the country? While nationally the turnout was at 41 per cent
Calabria was only at 30 and the tension was palpable. On Monday the
Italian people responded and even in Calabria! We surpassed the 50 per
cent + 1 and sailed to 57 per cent, overcoming any possibility that the
votes from abroad could change the outcome.

Italy was overcome with joy. The leader of the
Italian of Values Party Antonio Di Pietro, who launched the petition
drives for the referendums on Nuclear Energy and Legitimate Impediment
held a press conference to express his pride and contentment with the
outcome of this historic vote, stating that “this was a victory of the
Italian People and not of the Political Establishment,” and again
calling for Berlusconi to resign from power. The hundreds of local
committees and local, regional and national organizations erupted in
celebrations in piazzas across the country. The main party was held in
Rome and symbolically took place in front of the Roman monument known as
the Bocca Della Verita’ / The Mouth of Truth.

While the national media reported the election
results with the usual mouthpieces from Berlusconi’s government and the
Opposition Democratic Party, the message from the piazzas and il popolo
Italiano / the Italian people was clear, this was a victory of, by and
for the people and not under the banner or any of the political party of
the current political caste. As Marco Bersani of the organization ATTAC
Italia said, “it is time to change the discourse in Italy. This was not
a victory of any of the major political parties but should be
recognized as a clear signal that Italians are fed up with the
ineptitude of the political leadership in the country and are ready for
direct democracy to confront the serious issues affecting the

This victory should not only be seen in the context
of the Italian political landscape but also in its significance for the
rest of Europe and the world. Italians have voted Yes to say no to the
privatization of water resources. Many of Italy’s water resources are
already poorly managed by multinational corporations and now Italians
have decided that water as a primary resource should be controlled and
managed publicly. Yesterday at Napoli’s celebration rally, the renegade
Italian priest Alex Zanotelli reiterated that “all life comes from
water, water is the mother of our existence and it must not be the
multinationals that decide how it should be managed and distributed, but
the people of the world. We must join together to build human
relationships and to create a network of direct democracy to protect
Water and other public goods from exploitation.” The Italian decision to
say no to the privatization of water is an challenge to the European
parliament, the G8 and the IMF  that are threatening the privatization
of all public resources in the face of the growing debt crisis facing
the Global Economy. Italy now stands alone as the first European country
to take this step against the forces of privatization.

Italy’s decision to ban the production of nuclear
energy is a signal to the nuclear industry that its time of disastrous
profiteering at the expense of our and our children’s future is coming
to an end. Italians are now calling for a democratic and just national
energy plan that puts renewable energy first. The mass movement of
citizens is tired of the business as usual politics dominated by the
energy giants and the pressure from the U.S. government to become a
nuclearized nation. The people are demanding a diffuse and safe energy
production plan that utilizes the abundant sunshine and winds for which
Italy is noted and that can help provide thousands of needed jobs for
young people left out of the economic shell game dominated by the
corrupt business class.  

Italians have also decided that elected politicians
should not be protected from prosecution while in office and that the
law should be applied equally for everyone. This vote eliminates the
Berlusconi government’s decree called Legitimate Impediment which
allowed office holders, and especially Berlusconi himself, to be excused
from appearing in court.

The winds of change are blowing strongly now in
Italy and there is a renewed hope and belief that another world really
is possible. Let’s hope that the people of the world take inspiration
from this new dawn in Italy and join in this global struggle against
privatization, nuclear energy and government corruption. Here the people
realize that despite this historic victory, the struggle has only just

Michael Leonardi splits his time between Ohio and Italy. He can be reached at mikeleonardi@hotmail.com.

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CNN’s John King interviews Arnie Gundersen about the Hot Particles discovered in Japan and the US


From NuclearFreePlanet.org and CNN.com – June 2011

CNN’s John King and Arnie Gundersen discuss “hot particles” detected in Seattle and Japan, the cozy relationship between Japanese regulator NISA (Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency) and plant owner TEPCO, and changes at the Fukushima accident site since March. John King and Arnie Gundersen also discuss how TEPCO’s acknowledgement today of another error in calculating radiation dose more than doubles the amount of radioactivity to which people in the Northern Hemisphere have been exposed.

Watch CNN clip here


Japan doubles radiation leak estimate


From the Guardian – June 7, 2011

by Justin McCurry

The amount of radiation released by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the days after the 11 March tsunami could have been more than double that originally estimated by its operator, Japan‘s nuclear safety agency has said.

revelation has raised fears that the situation at the plant, where fuel
in three reactors suffered meltdown, was more serious than government
officials have acknowledged.

In another development that is
expected to add to criticism of Japan’s handling of the crisis, the
agency said molten nuclear fuel dropped to the bottom of the pressure
vessel in the No 1 reactor within five hours of the accident, 10 hours
earlier than previously thought.

By the end of last week,
radiation levels inside the reactor had risen to 4,000 millisieverts per
hour, the highest atmospheric reading inside the plant since the

The agency also speculated that the meltdown in another
reactor had been faster than initially estimated by the plant’s
operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco).

It is not clear whether
the revised account of the accident, the world’s worst since Chernobyl
in 1986, would have prompted Tepco to respond differently at the time.

it is expected to raise questions about the ability of Japan’s nuclear
authorities to provide accurate information to the public.

to the latest estimates, 770,000 terabequerels – about 20% as much as
the official estimate for Chernobyl – of radiation seeped from the plant
in the week after the tsunami, more than double the initial estimate of

In a possible sign that the contamination is more
widespread than previously thought, a university researcher said at the
weekend a small amount of plutonium had been identified a mile from the
front gate of the Fukushima plant.

It is the first time plutonium thought to have originated from the complex has been detected in soil outside its grounds.

Masayoshi Yamamoto, a professor at Kanazawa University, said the level
of plutonium in the sample was lower than average levels observed in
Japan after nuclear weapons tests conducted overseas.

The release of findings coincided with the start of an investigation on Tuesday into the accident by a 10-member panel.

Last week, a fact-finding team from the International Atomic Energy
Agency criticised Tepco for failing to acknowledge the risk to the
plant from a tsunami, despite warnings from government experts and its
own scientists.

The panel, led by Yotaro Hatamura, a human error
expert from Tokyo University, will issue an interim report by the end of
the year. “I think it is a mistake to consider [the plant] safe,” he

The prime minister, Naoto Kan, said he would be willing to
undergo questioning in the hope that the report “stands up to scrutiny
from around the world”.

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Japanese PM to Fall on Sword over Fukushima


From Time Magazine’s Ecocentric blog – June 2, 2011

by Krista Mahr

Naoto Kan, Japan’s beleaguered prime minister, has acknowledged for
the first time since March 11 that he may step down — but not until he’s
done doing what he needs to do. Kan has come under increasing pressure
from both inside and outside his party to give up his post after his
handling of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and continuing nuclear
crisis. In a televised meeting with his party on Thursday morning, Kan
said: “I’d like to pass on my responsibility to a younger generation
once we reach a certain stage in tackling the disaster and I’ve
fulfilled my role.” He did not indicate when that might be.

It was an effort to save his job ahead of a no-confidence motion that
took place 3PM today in the lower house of parliament. The motion,
which would have required Kan to dissolve the parliament and call for
new elections or resign with his Cabinet in 10 days, was voted down 293
to 152. Still, its submission by the main opposition Liberal Democratic
Party (LDP) and two smaller opposition groups underscores the fact that
Japan’s political landscape is nearly as volatile as its geology.

In the months since March 11, Kan has come under fire for his
government’s response to the crisis, from the length of time that it has
taken to build temporary housing for the thousands left homeless after
the tsunami to the lack of clear communication about the severity and
scope of the nuclear crisis that has followed. Indeed, Kan was
peculiarly absent from the public sphere during the first month of the
crisis — he did not set foot in the disaster zone for weeks after the
tsunami — with chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano tirelessly facing world’s cameras.
More recently, detailed reports have emerged that Kan was deeply
involved in trying to prevent a full-blown nuclear fallout at Fukushima
during those early days, which may account for — if not excuse — his

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Germany to shut down nuclear plants by 2022


From CBC.ca – May 30, 2011

by Associated Press

Germany’s coalition government decided early Monday to shut down all of
the country’s nuclear power plants by 2022, a policy change prompted by
Japan’s nuclear disaster, the environment minister said.

Meanwhile, the country’s seven oldest reactors taken off the grid
pending safety inspections following the catastrophe at Japan’s
Fukushima nuclear power plant in March will remain offline permanently,
Norbert Roettgen said. The country has 17 reactors in total.

Roettgen praised the coalition agreement after negotiations through the night between the governing parties.

“This is coherent. It is clear. That’s why it is a good result,” he said in Berlin.

Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2010 had pushed through measures to
extend the lifespan of the country’s 17 reactors with the last one
scheduled to go offline in 2036, but she reversed her policy in the wake
of the disaster.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, stands alone among the world’s
major industrialized nations in its determination to gradually replace
nuclear power with renewable energy sources.

Through March — before the seven reactors were taken offline — just
under a quarter of Germany’s electricity was produced by nuclear power,
about the same share as in the U.S.

Energy from wind, solar and hydroelectric power currently produces
about 17 per cent of the country’s electricity, but the government aims
to boost its share to around 50 per cent in the coming decades.

Many Germans have been vehemently opposed to nuclear power since the
1986 Chornobyl disaster sent radioactive fallout over the country. Tens
of thousands repeatedly took to the street in the wake of Fukushima to
urge the government to shut all reactors.

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Nuclear Thorium

Thorium: Nuclear Power’s Last Hope…Maybe


Awhile back I did a piece on nuclear energy and you would have thought I was in favour of hanging petty thieves (that theory belongs to the Harper Conservatives). I said nothing in favour of nuclear but only made the point that before anything is rejected, it (the modern version) should be studied so we can understand our options. At that point we had had Chernobyl and Three Mile Island but not, of course, Fukushima.

In the Globe and Mail for May 23 last, on the op-ed page is an article by Neil Reynolds, headlined “With Thorium We Could Have Safe Nuclear Power”.

Here is the opening paragraph to set the stage:

[quote]In the beginning, nuclear scientists identified two fuel sources for the atomic age: uranium and thorium. They went with uranium. Why? It wasn’t because uranium was the better fuel. Thorium is more abundant. It is simpler. It is safer. (Although slightly radioactive, it can’t sustain a chain reaction in a nuclear reactor and, hence, can’t “melt down.”)[/quote]

Incidentally, why did we end up taking what was so obviously the wrong path? In short, because you can’t make Plutonium from Thorium – while you can from Uranium. And Plutonium was essential to building nuclear warheads. As Reynolds explains, “In the Cold War, the science goal was synonymous with the military goal:
nuclear weapons. Plutonium delivered the deadliest mushroom cloud.” Nuclear power from Uranium was a two-for-one proposition: energy and weapons.

Now, Dear Friends, did old Uncle Rafe come out in favour of nuclear power? Is it time we all set our hairpieces on fire? Does he want to have reactors like they have (had, I suppose) in Japan?

No, I want no such thing! Nuclear power as we know it has been thoroughly discredited as dangerous and expensive – and we still haven’t found a safe way to get rid of the waste.

Nor am I ready to accept a column in the Toronto Globe and Mail as definitive of the matter. Mr. Reynolds is an experienced and able columnist but he is not the scientific community. His proposition requires a hell of a lot more information from not only science but regurgitated from a thorough public debate.

If there is to be a debate it must be about Thorium, not Uranium, and free of the sort of cant by which debates are too often destroyed.

If Thorium is what Reynolds says it is, there would be an end to the destruction of our rivers and Site “C” would be abandoned (which it should be regardless).

Which brings on the other side of the debate:
What if our energy customers decide to abandon us in favour of Thorium? In the island mentality that is the hallmark of our American cousins, they will always opt for their own supply of whatever is critically needed – so long as they have that option.

Ironically, it was the US cancelling of our Uranium which had got us into big time trouble in the late 70s. So sure were we of American customers that Atomic Energy of Canada, Ltd. stockpiled a huge quantity which it was now stuck with. That led the way for Canada, under then Deputy Energy Minister and later Senator Jack Austin, to form a worldwide cartel of uranium producers.

My own history was as BC Minister of Environment, banning exploration for and mining of Uranium in 1979.

But, let’s get back to the theme – we are not talking about Uranium but Thorium and for all the reasons above and more it makes abundant good sense to find out what it does and judge its use based on the Precautionary Principle – meaning that proponents must demonstrate its safeness.

Now, once again, dear friends, as loudly as possible, and in unison, shout: “Rafe Mair is not in favour of nuclear power – only of examining an alternative which is alleged to be a safe, and efficient alternative!”