Nuclear Power news

Chernobyl, 29 years on: a race against time

Today, 26 April 2015, marks the 29th anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster in world history – the Chernobyl catastrophe. And unfortunately, preventing further major releases of radioactivity into the environment seems to be a race against time. As a new Greenpeace report detailing the efforts at the sight shows, there are no real solutions in sight.

Nearly three decades after the start of the Chernobyl disaster, its atomic legacy is a stark and ominous reminder that nuclear power can never be a safe energy source.

In 1986, two explosions destroyed Chernobyl reactor unit 4, located in the Ukraine. Its graphite core burned for ten days. The radioactive releases heavily contaminated what became a 2600 km2 exclusion zone – which included 76 cities, towns, and villages. Due to the power of the explosion, fire, and reactor core meltdown, radioactivity was projected to high enough altitudes that the plume was carried thousands kilometers away, sweeping across the whole of Europe and contaminating vast tracts of land. In terms of radioactive caesium (Cs137), a total of at least 1.3 million km2 of land was contaminated to varying degrees – an area roughly twice the size of France. And this contamination will last for many generations, given the 30-year half-life of Cs137.

Hundreds of thousands of citizens and cleanup workers were exposed to significant levels of radiation – at least 300,000 of these workers received radiation doses that were 500 times the limit for the public over one year.

Twenty-nine years later, people continue to suffer from the affects of the accident, with well-founded scientific estimations in the range of many tens of thousands of cancers and deaths.

One of the increasing concerns at the site is the integrity of the building structures. The explosion in 1986 caused serious damage. And, due to the high radiation levels, work on the damaged building after the accident had to be scrapped. Ageing and corrosion have only further deteriorated these structures. In addition, some that were damaged in the accident, for example by cracking, are only now being discovered due to the inaccessibility of the site.

A collapse of the sarcophagus, leading to a release of radioactive substances into the environment around the site, cannot be ruled out. And this could pose serious problems.

There are more than 1.5 million tonnes of radioactive dust inside the ruins. If the sarcophagus were to collapse, a high volume of radioactive material would be released, and could lead to an exposure to radiation as far as 50 kilometers away. There are also nearly 2,000 tonnes of flammable materials inside the sarcophagus. In the event of a fire, even without a collapse, heat from the fire could cause the release of a high level of radioactive dust particles.

In order to help minimize this risk, the Shelter Implementation Plan was agreed to in 1997. The cornerstone of this medium-term proposal is the New Safety Confinement (NSC) – a massive, self-supporting, domed, hall-like steel structure: 257 metres wide, 165 metres long, and 110 metres high. It cannot be assembled directly above the destroyed reactor due to high radiation levels. However, it is currently being assembled in two parts to the side of the damaged reactor. These will be joined together, and then slide over the reactor on a hydraulic lifting system – a process that will take three days to complete.  When it is completed, it will be the largest movable structure on earth.

The total cost of the Shelter Implementation Plan is currently estimated at €2.15 billion. Due to delays and significant cost increases, there is now a shortfall of hundreds of millions of euros. Later this week, an international conference hosted by the German government will focus on the on-going threats from Chernobyl. The nations who have funded this project will discuss how to fill these enormous deficits.

The shelter itself is designed with the exceedingly limited goals of preventing further water leaking into the destroyed reactor and becoming contaminated – as has happened as the current sarcophagus has deteriorated – and to contain radioactive material in the event of the total collapse of the existing reactor sarcophagus.  It is projected to last for only 100 years.

As the author of the new Greenpeace report concludes, a major drawback of the SIP, however, is that recovering the fuel-containing material is not part of the project, although the greatest threat to the environment and people comes precisely from these fuel-containing, highly radioactive substances. While the protective shell is designed to make it possible for this fuel-containing material to be recovered at a later point in time, the financial means to actually implement fuel containing material recovery are not provided by the SIP. Thus, the long-term threat posed by the destroyed reactor block will not have been averted by the current efforts underway. In short, it must be stated that 29 years after the worst nuclear disaster the world has yet seen, the damaged reactor is still a danger. A real solution to the situation is nowhere in sight.”

 As with the more recent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, there is no foreseeable solution for Chernobyl. Despite the continuing decline of the nuclear power industry worldwide, hundreds of ageing nuclear reactors continue to operate, while new reactors are being built – which increases nuclear risks significantly. Almost certainly whenever the next accident happens in the 21st century, efforts will still be underway to contain and manage the Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi sites.

What Chernobyl, Fukushima, and hundreds of smaller nuclear accidents have clearly shown is the inherent risk of the nuclear technology: there will always be an unforeseen combination of human failure, technology error, and natural disaster that could lead to a major reactor accident and massive release of radiation. The lessons are clear – there is by definition no such thing as "nuclear safety." The only way to make sure that the next Chernobyl and Fukushima does not happen is to phase nuclear out.

Kendra Ulrich is a senior global energy campaigner with Greenpeace Japan.

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Chernobyl, 29 Years On: a race against time


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End Nuclear Power Now, Says World Uranium Symposium

EcoWatch: Uranium mining across the world should cease, nuclear power stations be closed and nuclear weapons be banned, according to a group of scientists, environmentalists and representatives of indigenous peoples. Three hundred delegates from 20 countries that produce uranium for nuclear power, weapons and medical uses called for an end to all uranium mining in a declaration launched on Earth Day this week at a meeting in Quebec, Canada. The venue for the World Uranium Symposium was chosen because...

Tokyo finds high levels of radiation in children's park

TOKYO (Reuters) - Authorities in the Japanese capital have cordoned off a playground where high levels of radiation were detected this week, reviving concerns about nuclear contamination four years after the Fukushima disaster.

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How do systems get unstuck?

Human enterprise appears stuck, like an addict, in habitual behaviour. We have plenty of data alerting us to global heating, declining species, disappearing forests, and rising toxins in our ecosystems. Yet, after decades of efforts to reverse these trends and some notable achievements — whaling moratorium, ocean dumping ban, renewable energy projects — the key trends appear evermore troubling. [1]

In December, 2014, I attended a gathering hosted by the International Bateson Institute (IBI) and Centro Studi Riabilitzione Neurocognitiva Villa Miari, a clinic for paralysis patients in Schio, Italy. We observed therapeutic methods employed at Centro Studi to help us consider links between these methods and a efforts to address the ecological paralysis apparent in our social systems. "How Do Systems Get Unstuck" is a long-term, collaberative research project of the Bateson Institute.

The Institute is named after genetics pioneer William Bateson and his son, anthropologist and systems theorist Gregory Bateson. Gregory once famously remarked in Steps to an Ecology of Mind that "The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think." He suggests that if we are going to resolve our ecological challenges, we must rethink, not only our social systems, but our habitual ways of thinking.

At Schio, we asked: Can the healing of paralysis in the body, a healing that requires a full-systemic reformation, provide us with ideas about how to approach the challenge of changing human society?

Clinic founder Dr. Carlo Perfetti has developed paralysis rehabilitation therapies based on systems theory, particularly on the ecological and physiological work of Gregory Bateson [2] and Pyotr Anokhin [3]. Dr. Perfetti devised systemic therapies that treat the whole person, consider the patient's mental context, memory, physical environment, setting, language, and other factors.

Healing takes place with active patients, fully involved in the process, with mental states and an environment that will influence the outcome. We now know that the actual actions of organisms follow continuous internal feedback, analysis, comparison to goal, response to environment, and readjustment. Most of this process remains subconscious.

Living beings appear comprised of co-evolving systems, sub-systems, and super-systems that interact, adjust to conditions, and reach states of dynamic homeostasis that endure over time through internal feedbacks and self-regulation. Biological and social evolution are not linear processes, but rather co-evolving, self-referencing processes. Knowing this may help us understand how to influence social transformation.

A real, living system — including a society at risk — must coordinate and integrate a range of inputs from interacting components. This feature of systemic change, Integration, matches Gregory Bateson's first criterion of mind and nature: They are both an aggregate of interacting components. [4] Contrary to the traditional Cartesian assumption that these components could be isolated and analyzed in linear sequence, we understand now that living organisms, ecosystems, or societies, operate as an integrated whole. How can this help us change society?

One characteristic of system integration reveals that no single component can control the system. A ruling dictator can dominate a society, but cannot control the outcome of that dominance, which may be revolution. Humans can influence global weather with geo-engineering, but cannot control the weather system's response to that interference. Likewise, an activist may protest against injustice, but cannot control the society's response to that protest. Smart protesting, then, would take this integration of systems into account.

This sort of analysis may seem a bit too intellectual for serious activists. Why not simply confront the system and let the chips fall where they may? Well, we've tried that. Being right does not guarantee success. We may need to think more deeply about how systems actually change.

Action in a system — as pointed out by Bateson — is triggered by recognizing a significant difference. Furthermore, the message of this difference is sent by code through the system. [5] When Greenpeace boards a Shell Oil ship heading for the Arctic, this is a coded message. Simply reciting global heating data would not be as effective. Speaking in dramatic code, delivering the "mind bomb," has been the core of Greenpeace strategy from the beginning and dates back to Gandhi and civil rights activism. If the coded message is clever enough, no explanation is necessary. Boarding an oil drilling rig or blocking a whaling ship speaks for itself.

The "significant difference" communicated to the system by these actions might be: Peace vs. War or a sustainable human future vs. an overheated planet. This difference must be clear or the system will not respond. Systems change because the whole system recognizes the "significant difference," which creates what health science calls a "motivation" for change. However systems experience multiple and often contradictory motivations. I may want to lose weight, but I love almond croissants! We want a sustainable world, but we don't want to give up private cars. To change, all systems must confront contradictory motivations.

The system has to chose an action, among countless options, that will help it achieve a new dynamic equilibrium. In physical and social systems, many of these choices remain subconscious and the effects will be complex and non-linear. The system undergoes continuous feedback to measure behaviour against a goal, which itself may undergo change during this process.

Memory and expectation also impact this complex process. One of the patients undergoing treatment at Centro Studi had been a former basketball player. While the patient recalled the memory of a sports movement from his youth, the practitioner moved the patient's arm, connecting memory to current action. The system's own memory can serve as a model or visualization of action. Components of the system can respond to this visualization at both conscious and subconscious levels. Similarly, we might see that understanding culture is critical in social change, because culture carries the images from these social memories.

The dark side of memory, of course, is that habitual action may hinder change. Habitual memory may keep a society stuck, but deep within our social memory, there may exist experiences that can serve as models of genuine change. We may witness this in modern social change movements that learn from ancient, indigenous, pre-industrial societies.

Exploratory adaption

In a 2015 study, at McGill University in Canada, M. Szyf and E Abouheif [6] manipulated an environmental factor (DNA methylation) to achieve size variations in ants with identical gene sequences. The study shows that genes may not directly determine a physical characteristic, but rather express tendencies in response to environmental conditions.

Recent studies in "social genomics" show that gene expression also responds to social environments. According to a review paper by S. W. Cole at the UCLA School of Medicine, the human genome possesses "social programs to adapt molecular physiology to the changing patterns of threat and opportunity ancestrally associated with changing social conditions." [7] The larger environment of a system provides a framework for integrating responses to stress.

Change in nature is neither random, nor determined, but remains dynamic and exploratory. Under environmental stress, a cell explores new ways to shape physiology. A 2014 study by Erez Braun [8] at the Network Biology Research Laboratories, in Haifa, Israel, found that biological cells allow for flexibility of response, redesigning for new environments using "exploratory adaption."

Braun exposed cell populations to environmental stress that they had not encountered during their evolutionary history. Rather than selecting from random mutations, new cell states emerged, not strictly determined by the genome, but through an exploratory process to discover alternatives. We might want to compare his findings with the case of a successful human species that finds itself in a world so altered by its own success that its survival appears at risk.

We may realize, for example, that the goals of a society, as a semi-bounded system, are not necessarily the goals of any individual. A society, similar to a body, may be compelled to survive, and thrive in ways that remain unconscious to individuals and groups. Under stress, the internal language of the system may explore for alternatives that are not "chosen" by individuals. Different components may experience the stress signals differently, and may have divergent and contradictory goals. Any number of these contradictions could be a source of paralysis in a social system.

Although we we may not be able to precisely match the functions of cells, organisms, and societies, we may observe patterns that connect intention to outcome, and we may glimpse some explanations for social "stuckness." The systemic perspective suggests that isolated efforts of piecemeal ecology — segregated sanctuaries, local bans on toxins, carbon taxes, and so forth — may not slow the large-scale overshoot of human activity.

It is possible that to influence the path of the larger society, an individual or group may find it useful to speak in metaphors, parables, stories, legends, and archetypes that aid the adaptive explorations of that society. This may help explain why reciting data about global warming, or posting millions of social media rants, fails to move society at a deep enough level to inspire genuine change. If we understand how living systems actually change, we may avoid well-intentioned but insufficient and counter-productive actions.

In 2009, for example, the popular Avatar film may have had more impact than environmental groups in helping turn society toward sustainability. Boycotting climate conferences may say more than going and protesting. Agents of change in society could benefit from re-examining their strategies to address the systemic nature of change.

Change agents have to play a role as teacher or guide, helping the whole system — person or society — play creatively with their potential to reorganize the system to a new state, which may be a return to a remembered state. A body, or a society, is not a machine and cannot be "fixed" as a machine. The "patient" including a society in distress, experiences change as a whole, integrated system.


We are attempting to discover new ways of thinking, new language and actions that might help society free itself from habitual behaviour. When the context changes, and a learned trait no longer serves the system, how does the system discover a new context? Can we learn lessons from healing modalities that will inform us about ways to influence modern, industrial societies facing ecological crisis?

In the spirit of "exploratory adaption," we may certainly attempt to make these sorts of comparisons. The environmental movement, frustrated by the pace of genuine ecological progress, after a half century of environmental action, may at times appear somewhat like the family of an alcoholic, gazing upon the limits of its habitual strategies.

Integration of components stands out as an obvious, initial feature of an effective change agent's method, learning to amalgamate, blend, and employ all potentials of the system. Treat the whole system, not the symptoms. Accept the fact that the system-in-full will have to participate, and that the system's worldview, sensations, feelings, memory, stories, and expectations will influence the effectiveness of any action.

In systems, relationships comprise the change, not individuals. Relationships are what endure in nature, not individuals or components. Our language, as Gregory Bateson observed, is biased toward things, against relationships. We say "the table is hard," conferring "hardness" upon the table, but this "hardness" can only be experienced when the table stops some momentum. Hardness is only one half of a relationship. Likewise, our language and thinking about change, has to be a language of relationships, not things. A river is not a thing. A river is a process. Likewise, a body, a forest, or a society is a process, not a thing.

Society does not necessarily transform in the course of single human lifetime any more than a body transforms in a single cell's lifetime. Agents of change must influence the context and then let that context find its new state of dynamic homeostasis. No one controls the outcome of an action.

In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the term karma means action. The response to actions are not isolated in time, but reverberate throughout the entire system. Karma does not mean that my ego will be reborn as a new version of me, but rather that every action is a participation in a living, dynamic system, and that action will influence the system in ways not intended by the actor, including feedback on the actor. In modern politics and media theory, we call this "blowback." This is system feedback, helping the system analyze and redirect its actions.

Feedback means that we are engaged, at every step of transformation, in two-way storytelling, in messages coded and launched into the system, which then get variously interpreted and fed back as messages that influence actions of other components. Thus, the effective change agent works with metaphor, and we hear this in the parables of sages and poets. Gandhi didn't recite poverty-line statistics or the Gini coefficient; he went into the poorest communities and helped, encouraged the poor to help others, and staged public events that exposed injustice.

When a cell encounters a novel change in its environment, it responds with "exploratory adaption." When an adaption succeeds, it sends it's new coding into the pool of information that represents its new culture. Metaphor is the storytelling version of this exploration.

Data won't change things. Sensations change process. A new story is the context that initiates change. The effective information — by a rehabilitation practitioner or change agent — is coded for a deeper reading by the system.

If the change agent, however, presumes control, he or she becomes a dictator and ultimately fails. Absolute power does not exist. To work, the agent of change must play in the field of possibility, in the larger mystery that represents the complex forces that will result in a successful future state.

Humility and modesty are the means to show respect for this mystery. Theory or vision without humility, becomes doctrine, and rigid doctrine always collapses under change. We may benefit as change agents if we acknowledge our humble place in the network of co-evolving systems.

Thus, in healing, with genomes under stress, or with effective activism, one may witness a modest guidance, gentle touch, probing questions, a compassion that respects the entire system. The change agent takes an appropriate role, improvising, seeking a way to help the larger cause. We witness in these circumstances a sort of common decency.

Rex Weyler is an author, journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace International.


[1] Johan Rockström, et. al., "Planetary Boundaries," Nature, v. 461, September 23, 2009. Anthony D. Barnosky, et. al., "Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere," Nature, v. 486, June 7, 2012. William Rees, "the Way Forward: Survival 2100," in Solutions, v. 3, #3, June 2012.

[2] Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature, E.P. Dutton, New York,1979; and Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Jason Aronson Inc., New Jersey, London, 1972.

[3] "La Teoria del Sistema Funzionale Nella Psicofisiologia di P. K. Anochin" (The Theory of Functional System in the Psychophysiology of P. K. Anokhin) M.G. Imperiali, et. al., Catterdra di psicologia, Universita di Roma.

[4] Gregory Bateson, "Criteria of Mental Process," Mind and Nature, Bantam, New York, 1980, p. 102.

[5] Bateson, Mind and Nature, p. 102.

[6] S. Alvarado,R.Rajakumar, E.Abouheif, M. Szyf, "Epigenetic variation in the ​Egfr gene generates quantitative variation in a complex trait in ants," Nature Communications 6, Article n.6513, March 11, 2015.

[7] S. W. Cole, "Social Regulation of Human Gene Expression,"Am J Public Health, 103:S84–S92. doi:10.2105/ AJPH.2012.301183; 2013.

[8] Erez Braun, "The unforeseen challenge: from genotype-to-phenotype in cell populations," Rep. Prog. Phys. 78.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan court approves restart of reactors in boost for Abe's nuclear policy

KAGOSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - A Japanese court has rejected a legal bid to block the reopening of the Sendai nuclear power station on safety grounds, removing one of the last big hurdles to switching reactors back on after the 2011 Fukushima crisis paralyzed the industry.

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Japan court rejects request to halt restart of Kyushu Electric's Sendai reactors

KAGOSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - A Japanese court rejected a lawsuit to halt the restart of Kyushu Electric Power's Sendai nuclear station, plaintiffs said on Wednesday, brushing aside the concerns of local residents worried about the safety of the plant.

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Japan nuclear ruling to show whether legal fight emboldened

Reuters: A Japanese court will rule on Wednesday on an injunction to block the restart of two more nuclear reactors, a decision that could determine whether a legal drive by citizens to prevent the reopening of the sector on safety grounds will gather steam. The ruling on the Sendai plant could show whether last week's halting of reopening the Takahama plant over safety concerns was an aberration by an anti-nuclear judge or whether the judiciary has become bolder in supporting the rights of citizens over...

Japan nuclear ruling to show whether legal fight emboldened

KAGOSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - A Japanese court will rule on Wednesday on an injunction to block the restart of two more nuclear reactors, a decision that could determine whether a legal drive by citizens to prevent the reopening of the sector on safety grounds will gather steam.

Read more [Reuters]

Costs for Germany's nuclear exit could rise to $75 billion

BERLIN (Reuters) - The bill for shutting down Germany's nuclear power plants and building a safe disposal site for nuclear waste could rise to 70 billion euros ($75 billion), the head of a government commission told daily Frankfurter Rundschau in an interview

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Japan CO2 Emissions Reach Near-Record High After Nuclear Plant Closings

Yale Environment 360: Japan's carbon dioxide emissions reached their highest levels since 2007 last year, according to a government analysis of data for the year ending in March 2014. Greenhouse gas emissions had been on a downward trend as the country replaced coal and natural gas power stations with nuclear plants. However, all 48 of Japan's nuclear power reactors have been offline since September 2013 — the result of rigorous safety checks enacted after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Reuters reports. The country has...

Convention on Supplementary Compensation on Nuclear Safety does not protect you

The Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) is an international nuclear liability regime governed by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The convention, signed in 1997, but so far not in force for lack of interest, channels and pins absolute liability onto the operators of the nuclear power plant. In addition, it also acts as a pool from where signatory countries can draw funds if necessary in case of a nuclear accident. With Japan signing and ratifying CSC in January this year, it came into force on 15 April.

Many nuclear reactor and equipment supplying companies would want you to believe that the sole purpose of CSC is to help you receive your compensation quickly and speedily after you are hit by a nuclear accident. However, this is not true. The CSC was not created to protect your interest and your rights, but in fact it was created to shield multibillion dollar nuclear reactor manufactures and suppliers from their responsibilities. These companies don't want to be held liable for damages caused due to an accident at any of their inherently dangerous nuclear plants and hence hide behind the protective shield of CSC.

In the 1980s, India did not have any law to deal with liability and damages caused by industrial accidents and then was hit by the Bhopal catastrophe. Many countries around the world including the US, did not have such a law either. However immediately after the gas leak tragedy in Bhopal, Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California, ordered an inquiry. As a direct consequence of Mr. Waxman's actions, there is a law in place that protects citizens of the US from such chemical leaks.

India's Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) bill was tabled in the parliament in 2010, the same year in which a Bhopal court convicted 7 union carbide officials for causing death due to negligence. Since the verdict came more than 25 years after the gas tragedy, it aroused national and international interest. 2010 was also the same year when an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused the world's largest oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Needless to say that these events influenced the CLND to a great deal and this is how clause 17 was incorporated in the Act.

Clause 17, in simple language, states that the operator shall have the right to sue the supplier if the accident was the fault of a manufacturing defect. In other words, it states that if a GE Hitachi plant in India were to explode due to manufacturing or design defect, the Indian nuclear operator would have the right to sue GE Hitachi for damages. Wouldn't you agree that this clause is a fair one to have?

Companies such as French Areva and EdF, US's Westinghouse, Japan's GE Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi, Canada's SNC Lavalle / AECL and Russia's Rosatom don't think it's fair to allow operators this right to recourse. They say that India should change its law in accordance with CSC. These companies have been pressurizing the Indian Government since the time Indian Parliament enacted the law. Foreign diplomats and dignitaries such as Canadian Consul General Richard Bale openly criticised India and asked the Government to "tweak the liability law". Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Former French President Sarkozy asked India to follow the international liability regimes. A senior official from the Obama administration asked "India to ensure that its nuclear liability regime conforms with the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage".

Just few months after India passed its nuclear liability law, on 11th of March 2011, Japan suffered a triple meltdown nuclear disaster at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. A Japanese Government's investigation report stated that negligence as well as fault in design was what caused Fukushima nuclear disaster and not the earthquake or the tsunami. The cost of Fukushima crossed $100 billion but since Japan did not have a nuclear liability law, it was the taxpayers who've had to pay, and many of the victims still suffer under inadequate compensation. Whereas GE, Hitachi and Toshiba, the companies that designed and built the Fukushima reactors have not had to stand up and pay for their responsibility.

Just over a year after the Fukushima nuclear accident, the President & CEO of GE Hitachi Canada wrote to the Canadian authority reviewing consultations for a new nuclear liability law in Canada, making arguments why nuclear suppliers should be indemnified from liability. In his letter dated May 28 2012, he wrote, "In the event of a nuclear accident involving one of Canada's reactors – all of which are along the US border – there would likely be a flurry of legal actions against several parties, particularly those with deep pockets like GEH Canada". Notice the use of word "deep pockets" here.

He further wrote, "That is exactly what happened in 1984 when an accident at a chemical plant in Bhopal, India, resulted in multiple lawsuits in US courts against Union Carbide, the parent of the Indian company where the accident occurred".

Mr. Mason used Bhopal as an example to enforce his statement about companies with "deep pockets". In just a few words, Mr. Mason discredited the legitimate demands of the victims of Bhopal gas tragedy. Being one of the worst industrial disasters of our time, Bhopal is the very reason why we should have supplier liability. To date, GE Hitachi also has to apologize yet for its role in the Fukushima catastrophe.

After having witnessed the aftermath of Bhopal gas tragedy rather closely, I find Mr. Mason's statement very offensive. But when the stakes are so high, decisions can't be emotionally driven. It has to be logical and fair. If the fault is theirs then the responsibility should be theirs too. The only fair thing to do is to protect supplier liability in India and ensure other countries follow suit.

(Greenpeace Condemns the New International Nuclear Liability Convention)

Hozefa Merchant works as nuclear analyst for Greenpeace India.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan court halts restart of two reactors in blow to nuclear sector

FUKUI, Japan (Reuters) - A Japanese court on Tuesday issued an injunction to prevent the restart of two reactors citing safety concerns, in a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to return to atomic energy four years after the Fukushima crisis.

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Japan court blocks restarting of two nuclear reactors

Agence France-Presse: A Japanese court on Tuesday issued a landmark injunction against the restarting of two atomic reactors, after the country's nuclear watchdog had given the green light to switch them back on. The district court in the central prefecture of Fukui made the temporary order in response to a bid by local residents to halt the restart of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant, a court official said. The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) last December approved the restarting...

Japan's CO2 emissions hit second-highest on record

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's greenhouse-gas emissions rose to the second-highest on record in the year ended March 2014, revised government figures showed on Tuesday, reflecting a rise in coal-fired power after the indefinite closure of nuclear power plants.

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Japan's CO2 emissions hit second-highest on record

Reuters: Japan's greenhouse-gas emissions rose to the second-highest on record in the year ended March 2014, revised government figures showed on Tuesday, reflecting a rise in coal-fired power after the indefinite closure of nuclear power plants. Emissions rose 1.2 percent to 1.408 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent from a year earlier, according to the revised data published by the Ministry of Environment. That was up 0.8 percent from 2005 and up 10.8 percent from 1990. That compares...

Japan court to decide on nuclear plant, crucial to atomic future

Reuters: A Japanese court on Tuesday issued an injunction to prevent the restart of two reactors citing safety concerns, in a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to return to atomic energy four years after the Fukushima crisis. It is the second court ruling in less than a year against reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power, the country's most nuclear-reliant utility before Fukushima. The ruling is a snub to Japan's beefed up nuclear safety after Fukushima and threatens to set back government plans...

Food from Fukushima could be hitting Britain's shelves through legal safety loophole

Independent: Food produced around the Fukushima nuclear disaster site could be making its way on to British shelves because of loopholes in safety rules, The Independent can reveal. Products contaminated by radiation, including tea, noodles and chocolate bars, have already been exported from Japan under the cover of false labelling by fraudsters. Experts warned that Britain’s food regulations were not strong enough to prevent these kinds of contaminated products – which are fraudulently marked as coming...

Fukushima reactor meltdown was man-made disaster, says official report

Guardian: Last year's accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was a manmade disaster caused by poor regulation and collusion between the government, the operator and the industry's watchdog, a report has said. In a highly critical assessment published on Thursday, a Japanese parliamentary panel challenged claims by the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), that the triple meltdown at the plant in north-east Japan had been caused solely by a 14-metre tsunami on 11 March last year....

Japan: Get ambitious on emissions cuts

Japan Times: Japan continues to lag behind in international efforts to curb emissions of greenhouse gases to combat climate change. The government, which remains unable to decide on a new medium-term target for cuts in the nation’s emissions by citing uncertainty over Japan’s nuclear power generation, needs to come up with ambitious plans that match those by other industrialized economies. By the end of March, 33 of the countries taking part in talks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change...

India's Modi Goes Shopping for Nuclear Power in France, Canada

Reuters: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to advance the purchase of massive nuclear reactors and fuel from France and Canada to power a resurgent economy, overriding domestic opposition and concerns over liability laws as he embarks on a foreign tour. In France, where Modi is making his first visit since taking office last year, he will seek to speed up price negotiations for the building of two reactors by state-run Areva S.A. of 1,650 megawatts each in the western state of Maharashtra. An...

Japan considers evaporation, storage of tritium-laced Fukushima water

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is considering evaporating or storing underground tritium-laced water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant as an alternative to releasing it into the ocean, Tokyo Electric Power Co's chief decommissioning officer told Reuters on Wednesday.

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Radiation from Fukushima disaster newly detected off Canada's coast

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Radiation from Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has for the first time been detected along a North American shoreline, though at levels too low to pose a significant threat to human or marine life, scientists said on Monday.

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Radiation from Fukushima disaster newly detected off Canada's coast

PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - Radiation from Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has for the first time been detected along a North American shoreline, though at levels too low to pose a significant threat to human or marine life, scientists said on Monday.

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Nuclear reactors and blackouts: an explosive mix that caused the Fukushima disaster

Turkey has just suffered a massive failure of its electricity grid. A long-lasting blackout spread over more than half of the country, leaving the capital Ankara and many large cities in the dark.

It may take a while to investigate the initial cause of that failure, but there already is one clear lesson: it has been a wake up call against the construction of nuclear reactors in earthquake- and blackout-prone Turkey.

Every knowledgeable engineer will confirm that a fragile and unstable grid requires more flexible power plants that can quickly turn on and off or promptly change their output, in order to help the electricity network find a new balance and stability. On the other hand, large nuclear power plants are the most unflexible source of energy, because they take several days to start, and while they can stop within seconds, every sudden shut down creates a safety risk and large financial loss. Because of this, nuclear reactors make the grid even more vulnerable, and are definitely not a suitable solution to the blackout problems. 

Even worse, an operating nuclear reactor represents a real ticking bomb in case of a loss of electricity supply. Do not forget that it was actually the loss of electricity - and not directly the damage from the earthquake - that caused the nuclear reactors in Fukushima to melt down and explode, releasing the massive radiation cloud that contaminated large areas of land and sea. More than 150,000 people had to abandon their houses, villages, farms, livelihoods and sacred places where their families were buried, never to be able to return. They have lost nearly everything, and a number of them may die prematurely – especially the children who are most vulnerable to the radiation.

In Fukushima, the earthquake was the cause of a major black out, but it was the black out itself that eventually resulted in the nuclear disaster. This is because there is a high concentration of radioactive material inside every nuclear reactor, and its radiation generates huge amounts of heat even after the reactor has been stopped. A typical 1,200 MW reactor, such as the one planned for Akkuyu in Turkey, contains about 100 tons of highly radioactive fuel. This nuclear fuel still produces about 40 MW of heat when the reactor is stopped – this is enough to boil and turn roughly 50,000 liters of water into vapor every hour. This intense heat generated from the radioactive decay inside the reactor continues for days and weeks, and there is nothing that can stop it. The only way to prevent even a closed nuclear reactor from melting down (and releasing its radiation into the environment) is non-stop cooling. This however requires large motors and pumps to circulate thousands of liters of water through the reactor every minute.

Whenever there is a blackout (or even a simple failure of a transformer between the nuclear power station and the electricity transmission grid), the nuclear reactor has to stop, because the grid cannot take away the electricity it produces. But as the reactors stops, and with no power supply through the network, there is also no electricity to run the reactor cooling system. This is exactly what makes nuclear reactors extremely vulnerable to blackouts.

The only life-line in such a situation is formed by the backup diesel generators inside the nuclear power plant. They have to quickly start up to produce the electricity vitally needed for the reactor cooling systems. But if these diesel generators fail there is nothing that can stop the disaster. It only takes a few hours after the loss of cooling before the reactor begins to melt. In Fukushima, the first nuclear building exploded and released a radioactive cloud less than 24 hours after its reactor’s cooling system failed.

There are numerous studies into the problem. For example research by US Sandia National Laboratories shows that in the case of total failure of reactor cooling, radiation starts escaping in about 17 hours. What happened at Fukushima was a well known problem, but the government and the nuclear industry kept denying the risk by saying it was unlikely or even impossible that it could happen. Unfortunately, the reality has proven the opposite, at the cost of hundreds of billions of in economic damages and human suffering. 

Before Fukushima, a very similar accident happened in Sweden in 2006. Following a black out and shut down of reactors at the Forsmark nuclear power plant, the backup diesel generators failed to start. The power plant went into darkness, computer screens in the control room went blank, and the indicators and control systems were down. It was only thanks to a huge stroke of luck that, twenty minutes later, at least some of the generators were eventually started up manually. It did not take even an earthquake or tsunami to cause a total black out and almost a major nuclear accident there.

There are many lessons that Fukushima has taught us. One of them is that no matter how technically advanced the nuclear reactor, there is always an unpredictable and deadly combination of human error, technological failure and natural disaster that can lead to a catastrophic nuclear accident. The other is that not even a rich country like Japan, famous for its robots and skills to handle major disasters, can handle a large nuclear reactor accident.

Many countries have started to take this problem seriously. Even the French nuclear Institute IRSN published a report in 2012 showing that a major nuclear accident in France could result in damages exceeding 540 billion EUR. The leader of the study, Patrick Momal was quoted as suggesting that it would be an “unmanageable European catastrophe”

I was a high school student in Czechoslovakia when the Chernobyl accident happened in 1986 and contaminated large parts of my country. In the past three years, I have travelled to Fukushima five times after the accident in 2011, working there as a radiation protection expert.

I will never forget the fear of mothers worried about their children, tears of teachers not able to protect their students, the despair of people left on their own and deceived by their government, and the hopelessness of those who had to flee and have not received the compensation or means to find a home and start a new life.

This is why I also want to share my horrifying experience and tell the truth about nuclear hazards: because we can’t allow Chernobyl and Fukushima to happen again. Turkey still has a chance to avoid such a fate by changing its mind about Akkuyu and other nuclear power plans. The simple fact is that the country does not need them to keep its lights on. 

Jan Beranek currently works as Program Director for Greenpeace Mediterranean. He studied physics and has a university diploma for graduating a radiation protection course. He also led the response work of Greenpeace International in Japan after Fukushima accident in 2011.

[Image: Bags of Contaminated Soil in Fukushima. Piles of bags containing contaminated soil, mud and grass at a site in Iitate village, three and a half years after the nuclear accident. 10/27/2014 © Noriko Hayashi / Greenpeace]

Read more [Greenpeace international]

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‘Big Bang’ particle collider restarts after refit

Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) have restarted their Large Hadron Collider (LHC) “Big Bang” machine after a two-year refit, launching a new bid to resolve some of the mysteries of the universe.  In a live blog covering the restart, CERN said on Sunday that one of the two beams had completed the 27km circuit of the LHC, beneath the Swiss-French border near Geneva.  The LHC had been shut down for two years for a refit of its machinery and wiring. CERN spent about $150 million (CHF144 million) on the upgrade, opening the massive machine every 20 metres, checking magnets and improving connections.  Any new discoveries it makes are unlikely to emerge until mid-2016. Scientists are promising nearly twice the energy and more violent particle crashes this time around. They hope the more powerful beam crashes – expected to start as early as June – will give them a peek into the unseen dark universe.  The collider was instrumental in the ...
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Japan's ruling party wants 20 percent nuclear power in energy mix: media

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's ruling party wants a revived nuclear power sector to eventually make up a fifth of electricity generation, local media said, a controversial move for a public opposed to nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

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Is the Spanish Government bullying Spaniards?

Imagine a world where the right to protest or organise a rally was only granted to the wealthy. This is about to happen in Spain.

Last week the Government passed a pack of reforms that will penalise, with heavy fines, most forms of social protests. Want to oppose coal burning with a protest near a coal power plant? Be prepared to pay 600.000 Euro – per activist! This is one of the direct consequences of the new "Gag Law".

Some context: In May 2011, right after the Arab Spring, people all over Spain camped in public squares to protest against corruption, budget cuts, bipartisanship and banks beings rescued, among other issues. It's what we call the "Indignados" movement. Since then, protests have become more frequent and larger in Spain. They have also adopted some new forms: protests at the front door of politicians, flamenco or rumba singing at bank branches, gatherings to stop evictions from houses, etc.

The Partido Popular coming to power in November 2011 added fuel to the fire of these protests, due to its big corruption scandals, lack of social dialogue and promotion of very unpopular laws and policies such as a ban on abortion, a new electoral law that further penalises small parties, and massive budget cuts to health and education. The party has also set up policies that take the country decades backwards in environmental practices: relaxed building restrictions on the coast, reforms that favour oligopolies in the energy sector, increasing electricity bills and turning towards obsolete and polluting sources of energy among many other unsavoury things.

Thus, the Government, instead of tackling the very causes of public unrest, is passing worrying reforms (Código Penal or Criminal Code and Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana or Citizen's Security Act) aimed at minimising any expression of discontent against its politics. The Government is alone in this journey. The reforms have been heavily criticized by every party in the opposition, in addition to lawyers, judges and even the police and the UN Commission for Human Rights.

While the reforms are specifically designed to counter the new forms of protests mentioned above, they now include two articles aimed directly at Greenpeace's activities: climbing buildings and demonstrating near certain infrastructures, such as power plants and docks.

The new rules will penalise social protests with higher and higher fines, which would be issued at the administration's convenience. Basically this will make protests readily usable for political purposes. Going to an impromptu demonstration or deploying a banner from a building, for instance, can now be fined with up to 1,000 Euro per person. But if the banner is hung from a nuclear power plant or other infrastructure like this, fines can reach 600.000 Euro per activist – all upon Government's discretion.

Freedom of expression and assembly and the right to protest are at stake here. But Greenpeace will do every possible thing to defend that right. Greenpeace Spain will continue working with other organisations at a national and international level. And, of course, doing what we do best: peaceful protests.

Raul San Mateo is Communications Specialist with Greenpeace Spain.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Geopolitical Tremors: America, Nuclear Talks and the New Middle East

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2015 - my last year as head of Greenpeace

There is an old African proverb that says 'if you want to travel fast go alone, if you want to travel far go together'. After five and a half years at Greenpeace, I think together we have travelled fast and far. And, we have travelled together. But it is nearly time for me to embark on a new journey.

By the end of this year I will be stepping down as the Greenpeace International Executive Director. The journey is far from over, and I will stay on it with you. I will then take on my most important role with Greenpeace, as a supporter and volunteer.

A volunteer on a journey, like those currently aboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza. Six courageous volunteers, who stand for us all, are making #TheCrossing. Like the tip of an 'iceberg' made up of seven million concerned people, they are following Shell's giant oil rig, the Polar Pioneer, as it makes its way across the Pacific towards the Alaskan Arctic to undertake dangerous Arctic oil drilling.

Why am I sharing this with you now if I won't be leaving for nine months? It's because the Board of Greenpeace International needs to begin the search for its next Executive Director, and such a search is public and requires extensive consultation. In the coming weeks we will be saying more about it. For the present, we have produced a statement that explains this announcement.

As I say in the statement, this is not a sudden decision for me. It's not that I could not do more here, at Greenpeace International. I'd be happy to continue to work with, or rather for, all of you. But over the last year I have been feeling a strong pull to return home to South Africa. I have been away for 17 years and it feels that the time to return is upon me.

I watch with despair how the South African government, my government, is rolling out plans to spend as much as a trillion Rand (US$ 85 billion) on an absurd deal with Russia to build some seven nuclear reactors.

So, when Greenpeace International has made the smooth transition to new leadership I will be devoting whatever skills I have acquired over the years to the fight for energy justice in South Africa. I believe this to be one of the biggest challenges facing my country since the ending of apartheid.

This struggle is of course about not only about climate change, it's also about development and making sure that the roughly one-in-five South Africans without electricity have access to clean power. It is also about democracy. For over 60 years we have seen that nuclear power and democracy don't mix.

I want to do what I can to help my country develop based on democratic, 21st century, renewable energy systems. Currently, there is only one nuclear power plant in Africa, at Koeberg, just outside Cape Town. As we said when we hung a banner on it in 2002, during the Earth Summit, it should be the first and last.

It's a tough call, but for every activist there is a battle we must fight, and this is mine.

Over the last few months I have been discussing with the International Board Chair, Ana Toni, when the best time would be for me to step down. We have discussed how best to ensure the smooth transition I mentioned. As a result, I have agreed to stay on in my current position until the end of the year, at latest, to allow for a successor to be found and the handover to be completed. I will carry on as normal in helping win as many campaign victories as possible.

Greenpeace has come a long way as an organisation in recent years. We've strengthened our links to other groups in civil society and become a strong partner in the broader justice movement. We're including our volunteers and supporters in strategic decisions, we've moved to a more open and 'people-powered' approach to campaigning and are more active than ever in the key environmental battlegrounds.

Success or failure in these battlegrounds will decide the fate of our environment and the legacy that we pass on to our children.

I am confident that with the support of so many people we are on the right path to achieve those bigger, and urgently needed campaign victories.

Over the coming months I very much look forward to continuing to work with all of you while the search for my successor gets under way.

They say in any struggle you must lead, follow or get out of the way. In my view, we must all become leaders.

I will continue to follow the development of our fabulous organisation. And, wherever possible, I will join you in getting in the way of the destructive forces that are preventing a just transition to a green and peaceful future.

Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Opinion: A Bad Deal with Iran Is Better than None

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Wrong kitty litter led to radiation leak at New Mexico nuke waste dump

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Japan makes a start on sharing lessons from nuclear crisis

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The strong arm of the Grrrowd

Grrrowd is a powerful new model for crowdfunding legal cases involving human and environmental rights. It's the Kickstarter of class action suits, the Indiegogo of good cases for good causes.

It's the place where a poor Mexican community can get help fighting off the 86 appeals and other legal actions filed by big Agribiz companies who are trying to overturn a law protecting 8000 years of traditional corn cultivation.

Or where the indigenous people of Canada's Beaver Lake Cree Nation can get help standing up to protect the land and water of their traditional home – and the very future of a planet threatened by climate change – from the environmental nightmare of tar sands oil extraction.

Or where you can protect African Rhinos by challenging plans for a coal mine in a South African wildlife reserve.

Would you please take a minute to check out the links and see how you can add your weight to civil society's struggle?

Turning collective will into legal action

All of these cases involve rich industries locked in conflict with poor communities, the natural world, or future generations. Grrrowd can help them tip the scales of justice back into balance.

As our world becomes more connected and less encumbered by borders, the power of people banding together for a common cause grows stronger. As our ability to communicate, reach out and network with one another grows stronger, you might say our planet is developing a nervous system made of billions of human beings – synapses and nerve endings in a vast neural network that can sense and respond to threat. But to create transformative change, we need more than the sensing and communications that a nervous system provides: we need muscle.

Grrrowd is muscle. It's a great example of how we can turn our collective will into legal action for the good of the many, the future of our planet, and our rights as human beings.

Greenpeace and the rule of law

Is it confusing to read that Greenpeace believes profoundly in the rule of law? After all, we're not afraid of being arrested and put on trial for taking a stand, or to expose the special interests behind bad laws, or to challenge the authority under which bad laws are made.

But that's not disdain for the law.

It's disdain for the law's failure to protect the global commons, human rights, and the needs of future generations. In fact, over its 40-year history, Greenpeace is responsible for or has contributed to the MAKING of far many more laws than we've ever broken: and that's part of our mission. We raise difficult questions about what society deems acceptable, and seek to change that.

We stood up with our supporters to oppose nuclear waste dumping at sea in the 80s – it's now illegal. We stood up with our supporters to oppose international trade in toxic waste – it's now illegal. The dumping of oil rigs like the Brent Spar in the North Sea? Illegal. Commercial whaling? Illegal. Ozone-killing chemicals? Illegal. Logging in the ecologically sensitive areas of the Great Bear Rainforest? Illegal.

All of the laws that protect against those abuses were made on the back of public protest, civil disobedience, and the re-examination of the laws which once permitted what today are environmental crimes.

Human law is not written on stone tablets, it's made of clay. It's constantly reshaped.

Crowdfunding for justice and defending the global commons

Justice is supposed to serve the many, not the moneyed few. But when it comes to the rights of the natural world, or of future generations, who pays their legal fees to challenge laws that harm their interests? How does the ocean hire a lawyer? Where is the public defender who will prepare a case for my great-great-granddaughter's right to clean air, clean water, and healthy food?

All too often in the world today, in which corporations are granted the rights of personhood and our legal and legislative systems can be perverted to serve private gold rather than the common good, legal protection or redress can be a commodity – one whose cost is out of reach.

Too many people whose human rights have been violated or whose land or oceans have been ravaged could only turn out their pockets when asked, "How much justice can you afford?"

Now, by crowdfunding legal cases, everyone with a conscience can support 'David' in hauling 'Goliath' before the courts.

Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International. He recently accepted an invitation to join Grrrowd's Advisory Board.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Hungary in talks on Russian nuclear fuel supply with Euratom: EU

BUDAPEST/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Talks are taking place between Hungary and the European Union's Euratom Supply Agency (ESA) to try to settle differences over a plan for Russia to supply nuclear fuel to the Paks power plant, a European Commission spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

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Radiation, climate force Bikini Islanders to seek US refuge

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Japan court denies injunction against MOX nuclear fuel use

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Japan's Kyushu hopes to restart reactor in July: company official

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