Nuclear Power news

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

The US is rethinking its approach to the Middle East and has even found commonalities with erstwhile archenemy Iran. Meanwhile, relations with traditional American allies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, are cooling. A nuclear deal could further the shift.
Read more [Spiegel Online]

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

Iran cannot be a trusted partner with its support for terrorists, a dire human rights record and it's denial of Israel's right to exist. But demonizing the country is not a viable policy. It's time for the West to reach a nuclear deal with Tehran.
Read more [Spiegel Online]

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

(Reuters) - A radiation leak at an underground nuclear waste dump in New Mexico was caused by "chemically incompatible" contents, including kitty litter, that reacted inside a barrel of waste causing it to rupture, scientists said on Thursday.

Read more [Reuters]

Japan makes a start on sharing lessons from nuclear crisis

SENDAI, Japan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When professional boxer and model Tomomi Takano heard that children in Japan's Fukushima prefecture were becoming unfit and overweight as the 2011 nuclear crisis there limited the time they could play outside, she decided to use her skills to help.

Read more [Reuters]

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.

Read more [Reuters]

Radiation, climate force Bikini Islanders to seek US refuge

Agence France-Presse: A tiny central Pacific community, forced to evacuate their homes because of US nuclear testing, are now demanding refuge in the United States as they face a new threat from climate change. "We want to relocate to the United States," Nishma Jamore, mayor of the atoll of Bikini, said on the weekend as Pacific waters continued to eat away at the small Kili and Ejit islands in the far-flung Marshall Islands archipelago. Jamore heads a community of about 1,000 islanders who have lived in exile on...

Japan court denies injunction against MOX nuclear fuel use

TOKYO (Reuters) - A local district court in southwestern Japan on Friday denied granting an injunction against Kyushu Electric Power Co's use of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel at its Genkai No.3 reactor, the nuclear operator said.

Read more [Reuters]

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

TOKYO (Reuters) - Kyushu Electric Power Co hopes to restart a nuclear reactor in southwestern Japan in July, a company official said, marking what would be the nation's first resumption in about two years following stringent safety checks that were imposed after the 2011 Fukushima crisis.

Read more [Reuters]

Japan inches closer to final approval for nuclear reactor restart

TOKYO (Reuters) - A reactor in southwestern Japan cleared another regulatory hurdle on Wednesday, another small step in Japan's return to nuclear power after all units were shut down for stringent safety checks following the 2011 Fukushima atomic disaster.

Read more [Reuters]

Japan utilities set to scrap five aging nuclear reactors

TOKYO (Reuters) - Three aging nuclear reactors in Japan will be decommissioned due to the high cost of upgrading them in line with tougher safety standards set after the Fukushima disaster, their operators said on Tuesday.

Read more [Reuters]

After 4 Years, Fukushima Nuclear Cleanup in Japan Remains Daunting, Vast

LA Times: Neon pink and yellow banners flutter along the roadsides, their gentle flapping breaking an eerie stillness. The houses here are shut tight, the streets are nearly deserted, the fields that once sprouted rice, tomatoes and cucumbers are fallow. Shigeo Karimata dons a hard hat and a mask and prepares to get out of his car. "Some people say, 'Oh, it looks like a festival!`" says the avuncular 62-year-old Environment Ministry worker. "Then they see the writing on the flags: 'Decontamination Work...

Anthropocene: New dates proposed for the 'Age of Man'

BBC: The Anthropocene - a new geological time period that marks the "Age of man" - began in 1610, a study suggests. Scientists believe that the arrival of Europeans in the Americas had an unprecedented impact on the planet, marking the dawn of this new epoch. The findings are published in the journal Nature. Others say that the industrial revolution or the first nuclear tests better signal the start of the Anthropocene. While some believe the exact date for a new epoch can only be determined...

A lesson from Fukushima: A safe, clean energy future will be nuclear-free

Today, the 11th of March 2015, marks the fourth year since beginning of one of the world's worst nuclear disasters: the triple reactor core meltdowns and catastrophic containment building failures at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. It's a nuclear crisis that, unfortunately, continues to unfold.

The widespread environmental contamination largely remains. Decontamination efforts are, many times, missing the government's targets. Massive amounts of highly radioactive water flow into the ocean from the reactor site every day. The location of molten reactor cores in Units 1-3 remains unknown – which is a problem that requires massive amounts of cooling water every day to minimize the risk of another major radiation release.

In spite of these ongoing problems and the fact that many of the over 120,000 displaced nuclear refugees are still living in difficult evacuation conditions four years later, the Abe government in Japan is pushing to restart the country's idled nuclear fleet.

Prime Minister Abe has been touting nuclear as a necessary part of the energy mix, needed for the country to meet its climate commitments. In reality though, it is highly unlikely that Japan will ever reach the 15-20% nuclear electricity targets that have been currently floated by a special task force of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Environment.

Relying on nuclear to fulfill Japan's climate obligations is betting the future of the planet and generations of people to come on a politician's fantasy.

And, how "safe" and "clean" is this energy source, really? If we believe the nuke huggers, it is very safe – one catastrophic accident occurs only once every 250 years, they say.

However, it doesn't take a nuclear scientist to tell you we've experienced a few more major accidents than that in the 70 years of nuclear programs, including the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant — with 3 reactors at the site experiencing core meltdowns; the catastrophic meltdown at Chernobyl; and the partial meltdowns at the Three Mile Island and Fermi 1 nuclear power plants in the US – just to name a few.

A logical person would look at this evidence, as well as the industry's track record, and either revise their opinion or revise their prediction models. Probably both are in order.

Unfortunately, the industry, and many regulators, have continued to tow the "safety" line – while at the same time weakening reactor safety standards so that aging reactors can meet them. And the aging nuclear fleet in many parts of the world results in increased safety risks, as components degrade with time and wear.

If we are to discuss "safety" within the context of nuclear, it's also important to broaden our perspective beyond a narrow focus on solely catastrophic accident risks at operating nuclear reactors, to major environmental and public safety risks imposed by the entire nuclear cycle. These include uranium mining; uranium processing to create nuclear fuel (milling, conversion, enrichment and fabrication – each step uses fossil fuels and generates radioactive wastes); radioactive releases during operation – both, routine radioactive releases and accidental ones; and the ever increasing nuclear waste problem. After over seven decades of nuclear technology, final spent nuclear fuel disposal is still unsolved anywhere in the world. Some countries, like the UK, France, and Russia, compound the radioactive waste problem by "reprocessing" spent nuclear fuel — a chemical process separating plutonium from high level radioactive waste, which not only generates an enormous amount of radioactive gaseous and liquid effluent, but increases nuclear bomb proliferation risks.

There are also indications that even in the absence of a major disaster, nuclear reactors may be hazardous to human health – particularly for children.

A Japanese child writes on a placard during the "Peace on Earth" commemoration event for the third anniversary of Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Thousands of citizens gathered against the pro-nuclear government to stop the restart of nuclear power plants in Japan. 03/09/2014 © Kazuya Hokari / Greenpeace

The positive is that we do not need to accept this dirty, dangerous, and outdated technology – neither to keep the lights on nor to meet carbon reduction targets.

Perhaps nowhere is this point more relevant than in Japan. As of the fourth Fukushima Daiichi disaster anniversary, the country will be nearly a year and a half without a single reactor online – and not a single blackout or brownout as a result.

And while successive Japanese governments have failed to enact robust policies that fully support the renewable energy expansion and energy efficiency measures needed to meet the global challenge of mitigating climate change impacts, local governments are stepping into the leadership void left by the national government.

Fukushima City declared in December 2012 that its first objective to revitalize the disaster-ravaged prefecture was "Building a safe, secure, and sustainable society free from nuclear power." In 2014, the prefectural government followed through on that goal with a committment to a 100% renewable energy target by 2040.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government just announced a record 23% reduction in carbon emissions in the fourth year of its cap and trade program – due in large part to energy efficiency measures that began as a result of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.

These important steps stand in stark contrast to those of the Abe government, which continues pushing for nuclear power – while at the same time developing mechanisms to undermine the development of renewable energy. The nuclear village that Abe inhabits, along with the bureaucrats in the Industry Ministry and nuclear power companies, have seen the clean energy future – and they don't like it. They know that the costs for renewable energy – especially solar PV – will continue to drop and its market share increase across the planet. And these plummeting costs, rapid construction times, and massive carbon savings from modern renewable energy sources, render old, dangerous, and dirty technologies, like nuclear energy, obsolete.

Those who created the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe know that their nuclear power plants have no place in a modern Japan. And they are fighting as hard as they can to stop clean energy progress and shore up their dirty-energy-based profits.

But, for the people of Japan, a majority of whom oppose any nuclear restart, there are massive opportunities on the horizon for a truly safe and clean future. And we, at Greenpeace, will stand with them – against the onslaught of the nuclear village – to ensure that the clean, renewable energy future becomes a reality.

To stand together with the clear majority of Japanese people who believe a #ZeroNuclear future is possible, for Japan and the world, add your name to the petition today.

If you would like to share your own story and hope for our shared energy future in the comments, please feel welcome. (note: we may tweet items from the comments, we will ask you first).

Kendra Ulrich is a Global Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan PM vows new five-year plan to rebuild from 2011 disaster

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday vowed to draw up a new-five year plan to speed rebuilding from a massive 2011 tsunami and the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl that have left thousands still homeless.

Read more [Reuters]

TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Disaster: four years of an ongoing nuclear crisis

Tomorrow, March 11th 2015, is a somber anniversary for the people of Japan: four years since the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, sparking a tsunami, claiming tens of thousands of lives, and beginning the worst nuclear disaster in a generation: the triple reactor core meltdowns and destroyed containment buildings at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

And, four years later, the nuclear crisis continues to unfold: both the environmental contamination and the ongoing human suffering caused by the disaster.

A team of IAEA experts check out water storage tanks TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on 27 November 2013. The expert team is assessing Japanese efforts to decommission the stricken nuclear power plant. Photo Credit: Greg Webb / IAEA

Even Japan's Prime Minister Abe – an unabashed nuclear supporter who has been pushing for the restart of Japan's nuclear fleet – has taken a step back from his position of 2013 that the radioactive water crisis was "under control."

In January 2015, he admitted that, "There [are] a mountain of issues, including contaminated water, decommissioning, compensation and contamination... When I think of the victims still living in difficult evacuation conditions, I don't think we can use the word 'settled', to describe the Fukushima plant".

One of the plagues of the Fukushima site has been – and continues to be – a crisis of that most fundamental of elements, the very foundation for life on this planet: water.

Water, contaminated with some of the most dangerous and long-lived man-made toxins ever created: radioactive elements like cesium, bone and brain-seeking, carcinogenic strontium-90, and 61 other radionuclides.

As recently as 25 February, TEPCO admitted that highly radioactive water – 50 to 70 times more radioactive than the already high radioactivity levels previously seen onsite – had been leaking into the ocean for nearly a year. TEPCO chose not to disclose the leak until now. The fishermen's union declared this latest news a complete breach of trust between the utility and the local fisherman.

And this, at a time when TEPCO has been seeking approval from the local fishermen's union to start dumping some 297,000 tons of "treated," radioactive tritium-contaminated water into the ocean.  

Just how big is TEPCO’s radioactive water problem?

Arakawa River in Sekikawa. A Greenpeace monitoring team found radiation levels high enough to require evacuation in several locations to the northwest of the crisis-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, including Iitate village, 40km from the plant and 20km beyond the official evacuation zone. 03/27/2011 © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

Well, let's get down to the numbers:

  • 320,000 tons – the amount of highly contaminated water as of December 2014 waiting in about 1000 massive tanks onsite for "treatment" to remove the 62 radioactive elements contaminating it – except for the radioactive hydrogen isotope, tritium.
  • 300 tons – water per day sprayed into the reactor vessels to cool the molten reactor cores in Units 1-3: cores that no one actually knows the exact location of.
  • 800 tons – the amount of groundwater migrating onsite every day. Of which, 300-400 tons becomes radioactively contaminated.
  • 400 tons – the amount of highly radioactive water flowing into the Pacific Ocean every day – a figure that does not include this latest leak announced in February.
  • 11,000 tons – the estimated amount of highly contaminated water sitting in trenches – which TEPCO has attempted to pump up for treatment with limited success.

The crux of this is that, not only does the contamination continue to flow from the reactor site and into the environment, but the locating of the reactor cores and decommissioning of the site are themselves contingent upon controlling this onsite watery onslaught.

In an attempt to get a grip on the natural hydrology of the site, TEPCO has focused on two major projects: building a sea wall to control the massive radioactive leaks into the ocean and building an ice wall to reduce the amount of water flowing onsite every day.

The efficacy of both projects raise significant doubts. Both projects are based on the assumption that 30 meters below the surface, the soil layers become impermeable rock, which would serve as a sort of natural floor, preventing water from moving beneath the walls.

Unfortunately, independent geological surveys show that reactor site is built on the soil equivalent of a sponge – highly permeable sand and pumice stone – to a depth of 200 meters.

Offsite, the situation in surrounding communities is tragically surreal.

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

Decontamination efforts are generating a massive amount of radioactive waste. This waste is packed into huge cubic meter black bags and moved to temporary sites. 54,000 thousand such open-air, temporary, rad waste storage sites lie scattered throughout the surrounding areas, including in the backyards of homes, parking lots, and parks. (Reference) Official estimates of the storage volume required to house this mountain of radwaste are between 15 and 28 million cubic meters of waste, enough to fill 12 to 23 Tokyo Domes.

In short, the decontamination efforts are not getting "rid" of the radioactive problem – they are simply moving it, and sometimes not very far.

In places like the heavily contaminated city of Iitate, thousands of decontamination workers swarm over the site – many bent over a bit of curb or sidewalk scrubbing with a toothbrush – a poignant reminder of both the enormity of the problem and the deep losses for the community members who once lived here. Now, four years on, these are still nuclear ghost towns.

And in spite of such valiant efforts on the part of the decontamination workers, the sheer magnitude of the problem seems to prevent real success.

Greenpeace radiation experts have visited Fukushima 23 times – the first in the weeks immediately following the start of the disaster. In October 2014, Greenpeace monitoring results from Iitate (40km from Fukushima Daiichi), Fukushima city (60km), Miyakoji of Tamura city (20km) and Kawauchi village (20km) showed that efforts at decontamination were still failing to reduce contamination in many areas to meet the Japanese government’s long-term decontamination target level of 0.23micro Sv/h. In Kawauchi, part of which had its evacuation order lifted in October 2014,  Greenpeace monitoring found 59% of our radiation measurements were over the target level and, again, with higher levels found away from the roads.

But people cannot be expected to live full, meaningful lives in their former communities by being confined to clean "corridors" along the roads and walkways. This was once a heavily agricultural region. The loss of the land means the loss of an entire way of life and many former residents' entire livelihoods.

Approximately 120,000 nuclear refugees are still living in temporary housing, their lives left in limbo: not enough compensation to establish a life somewhere else, and either not able to, or choosing not to return to their former homes.

Namie town is completely abandoned and an officially closed off area. Only clean-up and nuclear workers from the plant are allowed into the zone with special permission. Level of radiation: 0.43 micro Sievert per hour. The normal rate before the Fukushima nuclear disaster was 0.08 microsieverts an hour. The impact of the Fukushima meltdown in the surrounding villages is already obvious with abandoned homes and gardens rapidly falling into decay. 06/01/2014 © Robert Knoth / Greenpeace

"Why would people come back here permanently to live?" asks Masami Yoshizawa, a farmer who refused to leave his cattle herd in Namie. "There is no infrastructure any more; no schools, shops or transport."

And that is a question no one should ever have to ask – particularly not when the disaster is man-made.

On this day, as we do every day, we remember the victims – many of whom are still suffering from this nuclear disaster. And we will continue to fight, with the majority of the people of Japan who oppose any nuclear restart, to ensure that the future is one which is safe, clean, and nuclear-free.

Add your name to the petition today, to show the Japanese policy-makers and their industry allies, that we believe a #ZeroNuclear future is possible, for Japan and the world.

If you would like to share your own story and hope for our shared energy future in the comments, please feel welcome. (note: we may tweet items from the comments, we will ask you first).

Kendra Ulrich is a Global Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Japan.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Police break up anti-nuclear protest by Greenpeace in Paris

Associated Press: Police in Paris detained five Greenpeace activists on Monday after they dangled from a bridge and unfurled banners on the Seine River that call for cuts in nuclear power, the environmental group said. France has the world's highest reliance on nuclear power — about two-thirds of its current energy production — and parliament is going to debate nuclear power this week. The activists protested on a bridge near the National Assembly, parliament's lower house. The banners — one floating on the water...

Where were you when Fukushima happened?

Four years ago the world watched in horror as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants exploded across our TV screens and spewed radioactive waste into air and sea. In commemoration of this anniversary, we asked Greenpeace volunteers, staff, supporters and allies to share some of their own memories. Many have also shared their hopes for a #ZeroNuclear tomorrow. We hope you will too.

Malcolm Carroll

Malcolm Carroll is from Wales in the UK, and works with People Against Wylfa B to oppose a new reactor. He tweets @Gobhoblin

"Last year in Fukushima, I saw for myself the natural disaster of the tsunami and the man-made nuclear disaster. I met children who had not been allowed outside for 6 months, families who cannot return to their family homes and have nothing to pass on to their children. In 2011, I was in Wales, grieving for people as the disaster unfolded— and growing angry. The same people who brought us Fukushima want to build new reactors in Wales. Was Fukushima a man-made disaster, which could have been prevented? Mr Naoto Kan, Japan's Prime Minister at the time, says that the Fukushima disaster started when we first said yes to nuclear. He's here in Wales now to help Wales prevent a nuclear disaster by stopping the building of new reactors."

Dr. Rianne Teule

Dr. Rianne Teule is the Campaign Director at GP Belgium, a nuclear expert and lifetime advocate of a nuclear-free world. She tweets @RianneTeule

"It was a Friday morning. I opened my computer in the Greenpeace office in Johannesburg and saw the news about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Within 5 minutes, various nuclear campaigners all over the world exchanged information via Skype about the status of the nuclear power plants in the affected region. By lunchtime it was clear that something was seriously going wrong with the Fukushima Daiichi plant. My body trembled from a mix of emotions, mostly fear and overwhelming concern for those whose lives could be destroyed. Three days later, I joined the Greenpeace Fukushima Rapid Response Team in Amsterdam. And two weeks after, driving through the contaminated areas around Fukushima, I saw the levels on my radiation monitors rise, and it hit me hard: I am entering a new 'Chernobyl' area, where hundreds of thousands of people are involuntarily being exposed to high radiation levels…"

Ful Ugurhan

Ful Ugurhan is a physician from Mersin in Turkey and the current spokesperson for Mersin Anti-Nuclear Platform. Anti-Nuclear Platform tweets @NKPTurkiye

"Mersin is where the first nuclear power plant in Turkey (Akkuyu Project) is planned to be installed. I was in Mersin when I heard about Fukushima. My first thought was "I was unfortunately right". I had just campaigned against the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, stating how risky the investment is in terms of health effects due to waste and accidents. Also, the Akkuyu region is an earthquake zone, so many people held up Fukushima as an example to stress the immense risks. Fukushima means 'Nuclear Disaster' for me. I always support energy efficiency as a first step, not dangerous nuclear investments. I believe that we can easily supply the necessary energy by renewable energy."

Dagmar Dehmer

Dagmar Dehmer is a journalist at Der Tagesspiegel newspaper and she lives in Berlin in Germany. She tweets @dpomondi

"I produced the pages of our newspaper on the 11th of March 2011. When the breaking news of an earthquake came in and minutes later of the Tsunami, I knew it would be a long evening. The reactors of Fukushima Daiichi lost power. I knew this would be a disaster if power for the cooling pumps could not be restored. When I left in the middle of the night I was very worried. The next morning I heard the news and there was still no power. I was unsure if I should already write that a core meltdown was likely. I did not want to cause panic but I knew it was true. I called half a dozen nuclear experts, they all shared my bad feeling. I believe without Fukushima the German nuclear power stations would have run at least ten years longer. I really hope that Fukushima is the last core meltdown we will see. Nature developed very well with the sun as its energy source. I hope, we humans learn from that experience."


Patrick is from Lyon in France, and supports Greenpeace as a volunteer.

"On March 11, 2011, I was just on my way to the "Primevère" in Lyon, a major environmental event in the region. We went there to put up a Greenpeace booth and while driving in the car, we heard the announcement of the earthquake and the tsunami hazard. After we had set up the booth, we started talking about what was happening in Japan with friends from other anti-nuclear groups. Everyone was trying to find out more and get online information by using their smartphones. Over the 3-day event, we first realized that there was actually a widespread tsunami and then that a nuclear power plant was affected. From this time, the name Fukushima was burned in our memories. We knew a disaster had happened without daring to imagine the magnitude of its consequences. It was a very unusual weekend. In other years, we used to have fun when meeting each other, but this year the event was overshadowed with anxiety. In my opinion, we have to close nuclear plants in order to prevent another Fukushima!"

Aytac Tolga Timur

Aytac Tolga Timur is a passionate ecology activist, living in Istanbul in Turkey.

"When the Chernobyl plant exploded, I was 16 years old. I didn't know anything about nuclear power at that time. It was first when I came into my 20s and joined the environmental movement, when I started to understand how precious and delicate the environment is; my city, my country and my planet. I was following nuclear issues and whenever I read or saw news, I was anxious a nuclear accident could have happened. Then, one day I heard that Japanese people were threatened by radiation in Fukushima. I remember Chernobyl and the increased cancer rates after the accident. Agricultural lands and rivers were contaminated. After the Fukushima nuclear accident, the same issues had to be faced in different locations, by different people, animals and by the entire nature. Why? For What? In order to understand the value of life, you don't need to be a wise person. Unfortunately, decision makers were not able to see that."


Floran is from Bordeaux in France, he was a school student in 2011.

"When I heard about the disaster at Fukushima, I was still in High School. I watched the news on TV at home the day after the earthquake. I saw the tsunami sweeping away the boats and the bridges, but I still didn't really understand how powerful it was. I was concerned. Teachers were talking about a possible core meltdown of the reactor extending down to the center of the earth... I never believed in that, but I still wonder why there were nuclear reactors in Japan, in an area with such high level risks! I hope the growth of renewable energies will happen fast and people stop building vulnerable nuclear power plants in such hazard areas."

Wong Wing Fung

Wong Wing Fung is a Hong Kong based artist and curator, who uses her creativity and imagination to tell a story of a nuclear past, present and future.

"I was at the ferry pier watching the news report while waiting for the next ferry across the harbor in Hong Kong. It may seem that Hong Kong is very far from you, yet the world seems much smaller when disaster occurs. I was very shocked as I was already working on the Chernobyl anniversary art project at that time. After this disaster had happened, I was even more certain to connect stories of Chernobyl to Japan and Hong Kong. I am hoping these heartbreaking stories of Chernobyl might help us all to be courageous, face the nuclear crisis and fight for a clean energy future and positive living."

In Japan today, all the reactors have been offline for the last 18 months, but the Abe Government wants to restart the nuclear power plants, even though the overwhelming majority of Japanese people do not. Add your name today, to show the Japanese policy-makers and their industry allies, that we believe a #ZeroNuclear future is possible, for Japan and the world.

If you would like to share your own story and hope for our shared energy future in the comments, please feel welcome. (note: we may tweet items from the comments, we will ask you first)

Hisayo Takada is the Energy Campaign Leader at Greenpeace Japan.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Fukushima residents torn over nuclear waste storage plan

OKUMA, Japan (Reuters) - Norio Kimura lost his wife, father and 7-year-old daughter Yuna in the March 2011 tsunami.

Read more [Reuters]

Japan's Energy Source Dilemma 4 Yr After Fukushima

Economy Watch: Four years after the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, Japan's leaders and citizens still face many complex challenges. Among these, none is more complicated than the issue of nuclear power. Concerns remain about the containment of radioactive waste and the progress of decommissioning the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant. Periodic media reports of radioactive water spilling into the Pacific Ocean have not inspired confidence. Instead, they directly undermine Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's...

Sorry State: U.S.'s Nuclear Reactor Fleet Dwindles

Scientific American: The U.S.'s nuclear reactor fleet dipped below 100 for the first time in decades, when, at the tail end of 2014, Vermont Yankee shuttered its operations. The 604-megawatt power plant's termination did not come as a surprise: it had logged a slew of safety issues in recent years, including burst pipes, leaks and misplaced fuel rods. Nevertheless, it provided up to 4 percent of New England's power and one third of Vermont's. Its owner, Entergy, just did not have enough money to make the necessary upgrades,...

Nuclear waste, arsenic at SC coal plant raise concern

State: Just a few hundred yards from Lake Robinson lies an old waste pond that, until this year, was among the least of Duke Energy’s worries in the Carolinas. The pond had virtually dried up and, as coal ash basins go, didn’t appear to present the same threat to groundwater, rivers or lakes that other ash basins do, environmentalists say. But documents that have surfaced recently show the unlined 55-acre basin has leaked arsenic – and it has the unusual legacy of being a dump site for low-level nuclear...

Idaho ex-governors say U.S. wants state to be nuclear waste dump

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Former Idaho Governors Cecil Andrus and Phil Batt threatened on Thursday to sue the U.S. Energy Department to prevent what they said was its efforts to turn the state into "a nuclear waste dumping ground."

Read more [Reuters]

Germany says using tax money for nuclear power 'out of the question'

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Using taxpayers' money to fund nuclear power is "absolutely out of the question", German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Thursday, in an apparent swipe at British plans to finance new atomic generation.

Read more [Reuters]

Senate waters down French energy bill, committee to seek compromise

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government's energy bill was approved by the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament on Tuesday in a watered-down version that ditches key nuclear reduction targets and is likely to be changed again before its final adoption.

Read more [Reuters]

Leak Is Disclosed at Nuclear Plant

New York Times: The operator of the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said Tuesday that it had neglected to stop a leak of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean since last May. The operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., said it had first detected the flow of contaminated rainwater nine months ago, but did not explain why it had been so slow in responding. The company, known as Tepco, said it would place sandbags to block the leak of water, which it said was too small to change radiation levels in the...

Fukushima operator finds new source of radiation leak into sea

TOKYO (Reuters) - The operator of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant said on Tuesday it had found a pool of highly contaminated water on the roof of a plant building and that it had probably leaked into the sea through a gutter when it rained.

Read more [Reuters]

Thousands of cracks in Belgian reactors, potentially a global nuclear problem


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Thousands of cracks in Belgian reactors, potentially a global nuclear problem

Picture a 33 year-old asphalt road: weathered with time, bearing the cracks and crags of decades of harmless-seeming water trickling into its crevices, freezing, expanding, breaking up the road from within.

Most people wouldn’t want to trust their car to the safety of a road like this.

And it certainly isn’t the image anyone wants to invoke when talking about critical equipment in nuclear reactors.

Yet, on Friday the 13th, two leading materials scientists announced that the Belgian reactors, Doel 3 and Tihange 2, may be experiencing the nuclear equivalent in their reactor pressure vessels; essentially the piece of equipment that contains the highly radioactive nuclear fuel core being comparable to an old, busted up road.

Thousands of cracks have been discovered in the pressure vessels of both reactors. This component is required to be integrally sound, with no risk of failure, due to the potentially catastrophic nuclear disaster resulting from the failure of a pressure vessel.

As reactors age, the steel of the reactor pressure vessel is damaged – or embrittled – by radiation. According to the scientists, hydrogen from the water in the pressure vessel – which cools the nuclear fuel core – may be corroding the steel by injecting hydrogen atoms into the steel of the vessel itself, where it can accumulate and build up pressure, resulting in the steel blistering – effectively breaking up the pressure vessel from within.

Tests revealed a stunning 13 047 cracks in Doel 3; and 3 149 cracks in Tihange 2.

After first discovering the problem and shutting down the cracked reactors in 2012, the Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC), dismissed the issue as a manufacturing problem and okayed the reactor to be start up again in 2013. They did so while acknowledging that they did not to fully understand what was happening inside the reactor steel. However, further testing revealed unexplained and unexpected embrittlement of a test steel sample. Following these findings, both reactors were shut down again since March 24, 2014.

But, the announcement of the materials scientists now go one step further: they state that the problem may well be the result of normal reactor operations. This means the cracks may be growing in size, and furthermore, that this could be endemic to the global nuclear fleet. Simply put: the findings in Belgium have serious safety implications for every nuclear reactor on the planet.

In response, the Director General of the Belgian nuclear regulator, The Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC), admitted that, "This may be a global problem for the entire nuclear industry. The solution is to implement worldwide, accurate inspections of all 430 nuclear power plants.”

When the head of a federal nuclear regulator says that every reactor in the world needs to be inspected for a critical nuclear safety problem, the smart thing for national nuclear regulators to do is take immediate action. Certainly, every reactor needs to be inspected for such cracking at the earliest possible date, but no later than the next maintenance outage. 

Electrabel, operator of the Belgian reactors, has reacted to the latest news by saying that it may be willing to “sacrifice” one of its crippled reactors to scientific study; meaning they would permanently shut down the reactor and allow destructive testing in the hopes of learning more about this previously ignored or dismissed nuclear safety problem. 

Given that this phenomenon has not been sufficiently studied and is poorly understood, restarting any reactor in which cracking is found would not only constitute a nuclear experiment, it would place the public at unnecessary and unacceptable risk. There are 1.5 million people living within 30km from the Doel reactor, which is close to the Dutch border.

Every reactor needs to be inspected – and before the old, busted up nuclear road leads to yet another catastrophic nuclear disaster.

Kendra Ulrich is a Senior Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Japan.

Eloi Glorieux is an Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Belgium.



Read more [Greenpeace international]

Fossil fuel industry must take stranded assets seriously, says Tim Yeo

Guardian: The chairman of parliament’s energy and climate change committee has joined those warning the fossil fuel industry to take the threat of stranded assets seriously, and believes Shell is wrong to write off critics as naive. Tim Yeo, a veteran Conservative MP and nuclear enthusiast, also expressed alarm at the latest delays at the new Hinkley Point building project in Somerset, saying he hoped they would not lead to eventual cancellation. Shell’s chief executive, Ben van Beurden, told a dinner...

Risk Australian Uranium In Indian Nuclear Weapons Spark Worries

Business Times: Australian uranium might end up in the hands of India as part of the country’s nuclear weapons program. Two experts on nuclear power believe the concessions agreed between the two nations could lead to this scenario. Ronald Walker, a former Australian ambassador and chairman of the international Atomic Energy Agency, said the Abbott government’s deal to sell the country’s uranium to India has “drastically changed” Australia’s longstanding policy on safeguards. He added that the agreement has risked...

Nuclear Specter Returns: 'Threat of War Is Higher than in the Cold War'

The Ukraine crisis has dramatically worsened relations between NATO and Russia. With cooperation on nuclear security now suspended and the lack of a "red telephone," experts at the Munich Security Conference warn any escalation in tensions could grow deadly.
Read more [Spiegel Online]

Nuclear Taboo Under Review in Uranium-Rich Australia

Bloomberg: While Australia is home to the world’s largest uranium reserves, it has never had a nuclear power plant. Now, amid growing concerns over climate change, the government is weighing whether to reverse its long-held ban. The state of South Australia, where BHP Billiton Ltd. operates the Olympic Dam mine, is setting up a royal commission to evaluate nuclear power’s impact on both the region’s economy and its carbon emissions. At the same time, the federal government is set to release within months...

Forest fires may resurrect radioactive soil near Chernobyl

United Press International: When the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded in 1986, some 85 petabecquerels of radioactive cesium was released into the atmosphere and surrounding environs. Researchers believe somewhere between 2 and 8 PBq is still lingering in the soil and forest debris that surrounds the disaster site. Scientists have long feared that forest fires could send leftover radiation back into the atmosphere as radioactive leaves and other dead and dry plant material burn up -- traces of cesium wafting skyward...

Our addiction to fossil fuel is taking us on the road to nowhere

On Saturday I joined a panel at the Munich Security Conference in Germany and talked about global security and energy security. You might be surprised to see Greenpeace at a security conference. The room was full of members of the "strategic community", people who are not the crowd we normally engage with; they are the crowd we have historically challenged with our peace campaigns. However, I appreciated having the opportunity to be a dissenting voice and to talk about what I consider is the path towards true energy security.

What often dominates discussions about peace and security are questions about solutions – around how conflicts are to be addressed and solved, economic sanctions, peace missions, diplomatic negotiations – these are all the mechanisms we have become accustomed to which dominate the discourse.

I urge you however to think about this from a different perspective – prevention. How could conflicts have been prevented and even more importantly – how can the next conflicts be prevented, or at least how do we mitigate the risks.

When I look back at 2014 and consider the many conflicts that have plagued our planet, there is one fact that I cannot ignore and that is – our addiction to fossil fuel is taking us on the road to nowhere.

It must be made clear – conflict is always driven by a unique set of circumstances and it would be wrong to try to reduce a conflict to one dimension. However, if you look at some of the conflicts that have dominated our news screens this year you will see that fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – have often played a role. Sometimes in the background, sometimes taking center stage. The conflict in the Ukraine, which had partly been triggered by its ongoing energy crisis, has been making headlines. But there were several other conflicts around the world last year, also related to energy issues: in the South China Sea,  Iraq and South Sudan, to name just a few.

Energy security was high on the agenda of world leaders in 2014. Governments all over the world are now trying to come up with plans to ensure stable energy supply. I would urge you to consider that our quest for energy security must go hand in hand with the quest for true security. And when embarking on this quest we must insist on finding true solutions. Opt for a system change rather than tweak the existing broken system. For me, true energy security would mean freedom from the geopolitical instability and conflicts triggered by fossil fuels, from the risks to lives, health and the environment, and from some of the threats of climate change.

The conflict in Ukraine has brought the issue closer to home. Gas imports from Russia through Ukraine represent over 15% of Europe's gas supply and last year's threat by Russia to cut off this supply has caused EU leaders to urgently scramble for solutions. Let me be clear – replacing energy supplies from Russia with nuclear energy and fossil fuels from elsewhere, as has been suggested, such as the Middle East or North Africa, is not the answer. We should not be thinking about changing the dealer but instead kick the dirty energy addiction.

We must recognize that Ukraine is only part of the problem. The EU spends about €400 billion a year buying over half of its energy (53%) from abroad. That means Europe spends more than 1 billion euro every day importing more than half of its energy.

The only way forward is choosing energy efficiency and renewables. EU leaders should put greater emphasis on energy saving and renewable energy in order to reduce Europe's dependence on fossil fuel imports and to enhance its energy security. Greenpeace's 'Road Map for Europe' explains exactly how this could be done. The citizens of the EU have already made up their mind. According to polls, Europeans overwhelmingly support national targets for renewable energy and strong policies for energy efficiency

This is the only way the EU can set its own course now and forever.

Back in October EU leaders agreed on its 2030 targets for emission cuts, energy saving and clean energy. The bad news – the agreed targets are significantly weaker than those proposed by the European Parliament. And they will slow down clean energy investments. The result – the EU will still have to rely heavily on imported energy. EU leaders have failed to enter this road towards true energy security.

The choice is not between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The choice is between dirty and clean energy providers and between climate chaos and more sustainable living, it's a choice between the past and the future. Fundamentally it is a choice between peace and ongoing and intensifying conflicts. We can choose for a win-win-win for the climate, the economy and people.

Germany is an example: 15 years ago only 6% of Germany's electricity was generated by Renewable Energies. Today, 27% of Germany's electricity comes from renewables. In another 15 years according to the Government's projections it will be at least 50%. German Energiewende (energy transition) is the model for how an industrial country can move towards true energy security.

A report launched at the conference presented a poll according to which more than 80% of those asked, and more than 90% in some regions, thought there was a leadership crisis in the world today. As long as elected leaders hesitate to take those decisions they were elected for, this will remain the case. Masses of people want change for a just world, fuelled by clean energy sources. The year 2015 might be remembered as the year in which this leadership crisis was tackled, in which world leaders turned towards a global Energiewende. Four months from now, Chancellor Angela Merkel will welcome Barack Obama and the other Heads of G7 Governments to Germany to discuss future climate and energy policy. I call on Mrs. Merkel to use this unique opportunity. The G7 summit must give the world a vision for a future energy system without nuclear power, without coal power, based 100% on Renewable Energies.

Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

South Australia calls royal commission on nuclear power

Sydney Morning Herald: The South Australian government has called the nation's first ever royal commission on nuclear fuel, raising the prospect of generating nuclear power in Australia and enriching uranium for export. Calling for a "mature" debate about the uses of uranium and nuclear energy, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill announced on Sunday that the high-level probe would look at "mining, enrichment, energy and storage phases" of the nuclear fuel cycle. The move is significant, as it could open the door...

U.S. judge dismisses Marshall Islands' nuclear suit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Marshall Islands against the United States that accused Washington of failing in its obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament, campaigners said on Friday.

Read more [Reuters]

'Uncertain Radiological Threat': US Navy Sailors Search for Justice after Fukushima Mission

In March of 2011, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan rushed to Japan to help after the disastrous tsunami. Since then, many sailors from that ship have fallen ill, possibly as a result of exposure to radiation from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. They will soon have their day in court.
Read more [Spiegel Online]

Judge allows hearings on summer closings of New York nuclear plant

(Reuters) - A judge in New York has ruled Entergy Corp cannot stop hearings on the state's plan to shut the company's Indian Point nuclear power plant for part of the summer to protect fish in the Hudson River.

Read more [Reuters]

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