Nuclear Power news

German firms could pay less than feared for nuclear clean-up

BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German power firms will have to pay less for the storage of radioactive waste than investors had feared if the government accepts a recommendation from a panel that announced its decision on Wednesday after months of wrangling.
Read more [Reuters]

30 years on, Ukrainians remember victims of Chernobyl disaster

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine held memorial services on Tuesday to mark the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster which permanently poisoned swathes of eastern Europe and highlighted the shortcomings of the secretive Soviet system.
Read more [Reuters]

Touring Tragedy: A Day of Disaster Porn in Chernobyl

It is the site of the most devastating nuclear disaster in history, but the Chernobyl exclusion zone has also become a magnet for tourists seeking a thrill. Join us for a tour.
Read more [Spiegel Online]

Chernobyl's children of hope

The word nadeshda means hope in Russian. The Nadesha rehabilitation centre was founded to give hope to children living in towns and villages contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster.

Thousands of children across Belarus have been robbed of a healthy childhood. Their food and playgrounds are contaminated. Their health weakened by radiation.

At Nadeshda I meet Elena Solovyeva, a teacher from the heavily contaminated Mogilev region, who has brought her class to the centre. She tells me that around 40% of her students have health problems: asthma, diabetes and cancer or weak immune, respiratory and digestive systems.

"We explain to the kids where their problems come from. They get it. We breathe contaminated air, we eat contaminated food… You never get used to it, but it is almost impossible to get away from," she says. 

Nadeshda was founded not only to help care for the health of the children, and now grandchildren, of Chernobyl, but also to teach them how to live in a contaminated environment.  

Olga Sokolova, a doctor at Nadeshda, tells me: "We explain to them what they should do and what they shouldn't. What to eat and what not to eat, where to go and where not to go, how to take care of themselves."

I'm saddened talking to Olga. A great injustice has been done to the children who come here. Before they were even born, Chernobyl stole their ability to grow and to play without inhibition. It is now left to the children to protect themselves from radiation.

"Our aim is to help children to understand their responsibility for their own health," Nadeshda's director Vyacheslav Makushinsky tells me.

It's unfair, but it's the reality for millions of Chernobyl survivors. Teaching responsibility and living by example - those are the basic principles of Nadeshda. While governments and the nuclear industry walk away from their responsibilities, survivors come together at places like Nadeshda.

What's beautiful about the centre is that people are not only coming together to support each other, they've also taken it on themselves to show the world that there is no need for nuclear power.

As the Belarus government builds a new nuclear reactor just 80 kilometers away from here, Nadeshda is retrofitting its buildings so that it can be powered by 100% renewable energy.  

Nadeshda has the most powerful solar heating system in Belarus, and all its buildings and electrical devices are energy efficient.

The centre is now installing new solar photovoltaic systems on a nearby field to cover all their energy needs.

"We're showing how even a big institution like ours can operate without harming nature," Makushinsky says.

The director is enthusiastic: it will be the first project in Belarus of such a scale financed solely from donations. I'm proud that a Greenpeace-run foundation is part of it by donating 15,000 euros to help make it happen.

Makushinsky tells me why it's so important for the centre to go renewable: "The kids must learn to live in such a way that they preserve their health and make sure that a catastrophe like Chernobyl doesn't happen again."

Speaking to Makushinsky I realise how hope inspires action. The suffering caused by Chernobyl shows why we need to get rid of nuclear power for good. The persistence of Makushinsky and others at the Nadeshda centre shows that another way is possible, if we only try.

Nearby, a group of children are drawing pictures of the Chernobyl disaster and their dreams of non-nuclear future. Above them hangs a banner saying "We are the earth's hope." Indeed they are. And they should inspire all of us to support them and to speak up for a renewable future where disasters like Chernobyl or Fukushima would be a long forgotten nightmare.

Andrey Allakhverdov is a communications officer with Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

China to build nuclear power plants on artificial islands

Chicago Tribune: China's quest to fence off a big chunk of the South China Sea may have just gotten another, powerful boost: plans for a fleet of floating nuclear power plants that could provide huge amounts of electricity for the far-flung atolls and islets. While floating nuclear power plants are hardly a novel idea, their use in the South China Sea - a typhoon-wracked hotbed of territorial disputes and increasing military rivalries - would be worrisome both for environmental and security reasons. Chinese state...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Advances in extracting uranium from seawater

ScienceDaily: The oceans hold more than four billion tons of uranium--enough to meet global energy needs for the next 10,000 years if only we could capture the element from seawater to fuel nuclear power plants. Major advances in this area have been published by the American Chemical Society's (ACS) journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. For half a century, researchers worldwide have tried to mine uranium from the oceans with limited success. In the 1990s, Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) scientists...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

China to develop floating nuclear power plants

New York: All the radar systems, lighthouses, barracks, ports and airfields that China has set up on its newly built island chain in the South China Sea require tremendous amounts of electricity, hard to come by in a place hundreds of miles from the country’s power grid. Beijing may have come up with a solution: floating nuclear power plants. A state-owned company, China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, is planning to build a fleet of the vessels to provide electricity to remote locations including offshore...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Hanford Nuclear Leak Worsens Dramatically, Waste Elimination Needed

Nature World: Nuclear waste leak at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is said to have worsened dramatically, as proven by leaking between the two underground tanks which displayed an unusual amount of increase on Sunday. Union Bulletin reported that the amount of radioactive waste leak rose up eight inches more than usual and later decreased by one half. Jerry Holloway of Washington River Protection Solutions, a company managing the underground tanks for the U.S. Department of Energy said that they are checking...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Chernobyl and Fukushima: Illuminating the invisible

30 years after Chernobyl and five years after the triple meltdown at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the shadows of both disasters still loom large.

In the wake of Fukushima, I joined Greenpeace monitoring teams on the ground trying to quantify and communicate the impact of radiation on the population. Documenting environmental damage and injustice is something Greenpeace has been doing for more than 40 years, but one question has always bothered me. How do you shine a light on something that is invisible?

Mouse over image to reveal

We found our answer in a custom built LED light stick which, when connected to a Geiger counter, allows radiation levels to be measured and displayed in real-time. Take a long exposure photograph of a contaminated area and walk through it with this tool, and suddenly you have an undulating wall of light, exposing and visually mapping radiation in the environment.

White shows radiation levels that are "acceptable" according to the Japanese government's post-disaster decontamination target. Orange shows radiation exceeding these target levels, which pose greater risks without protection measures.  Red shows levels that the Russian government deems necessary for resettlement. 

Using this tool in areas affected by Chernobyl and Fukushima, we found that places which have been “decontaminated” by the authorities consistently exhibit radiation levels elevated above official limits. Radiation endures. In Russia’s Bryansk region, 30 years after the disaster, we found levels of contamination comparable to places in Fukushima today.

Whether it be five or thirty years later, environmental radiation risks remain, and communities continue to struggle and decline in an increasingly complicated new normal. In Starye Bobovichi, a few hundred kilometres from Chernobyl, principal Tatyana Dorokhova believes that contaminated materials may have ended up at her school. This could explain why we found patches of elevated radioactivity around its gardens and some playground equipment, but consistently low levels elsewhere.

Mouse over image to reveal

Ms Sadako Monma went to great lengths to clean her nursery school, Soramame, and eventually moved it to the outskirts of Fukushima city where radiation levels were lower as cleaning was simply not enough. Despite relocating her business, the number of children in her school has not recovered. In 2016 she will close the business, 20 years after it started.

   

The majority of houses in the village of Staryy Vyshkov in Russia are abandoned and in ruins. It is easy to see why, when we find radioactive contamination comparable to places like Iitate in Fukushima.

Occasionally a new resident moves into one of the abandoned houses.These are typically people too old to worry about radiation affecting their health or too poor to have other choices. Those that have remained since the disaster, such as shopkeeper Natalya Rueva, have nowhere else to go, and radiation has since touched every aspect of their lives.

Mouse over image to reveal

Once a community disintegrates under the transparent shadow of radioactivity, it is extremely difficult to rebuild. Iitate farmers Toru Anzai and Hiroshi Kanno know this firsthand. After living in temporary housing for years, neither believe they can return home as their communities and way of life are long gone.

Twenty-five years separates the victims of Fukushima and Chernobyl, but their struggles are intensely familiar, and as present as ever. Radioactivity accumulates and lingers in the environment in the long term, eventually permeating every aspect of affected communities’ lives.

Stand up for the survivors of nuclear disasters and add your voice to the Thunderclap calling for change.

Greg McNevin is a freelance photographer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Germany asks Belgium to switch off nuclear reactors

BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Germany has asked Belgium to take two nuclear reactors temporarily off the grid while questions about their safety are cleared up, an unusual diplomatic move that underscores German concerns about the plants.
Read more [Reuters]

Chernobyl disaster 30 years on: what do you remember?

Guardian: On 26 April 1986 one of the four reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded. It was the biggest accident of its kind in history – a human and environmental disaster that triggered a political storm that has lasted for decades. Acute radiation sickness killed 31 people in the first three months, but the leak was blamed for thousands of cancer cases that developed across swathes of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, with figures on predicted deaths ranging from 4,000 to half a million. Tens...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Germany asks Belgium to take two nuclear reactors offline

Reuters: Germany has asked Belgium to take two nuclear reactors temporarily offline while questions about their safety are cleared up, an unusual diplomatic move that underscores German concerns about the plants. Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said on Wednesday that she asked Belgium this week to shut down its Tihange 2 and Doel 3 reactors, after Germany's Reactor Safety Commission advised that it could not confirm the reactors would be safe in the event of a hazardous incident. The core tanks...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

UK carbon emission goals in jeopardy if Hinkley delayed: minister

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's carbon emission targets could be at risk if the Hinkley C nuclear power project is canceled or delayed beyond its planned 2025 start date, the country's energy and climate minister said on Tuesday.
Read more [Reuters]

Animals Rule Chernobyl 30 Years After Nuclear Disaster

National Geographic: Animals Rule Chernobyl 30 Years After Nuclear Disaster Three decades later, it's not certain how radiation is affecting wildlife-but it's clear that animals abound. The Przewalski's horse nearly went extinct, but in an effort to save the species it was introduced into the area around Chernobyl in 1998 and to other reserves worldwide. Without humans living in the area, the horse population has been increasing. Marina Shkvyria watches for animal tracks as she walks toward an abandoned village...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

War and Money

"Who is doing this? Who is killing us? This great evil. How did it steal into the world?
We were a family. How did it break up and come apart?"
– Private Witt's thoughts, The Thin Red Line, by Terrence Malick. 

Records from the first century portray Jewish peasants – men, women, and children – marching on the governor in Caesarea, protesting atrocities of the Roman army, prostrating on the ground, and offering their lives en masse. Since the dawn of warfare, there have been peace movements. World War I, a century ago, was supposed to be "The war to end war," but the world has since remained in the grip of almost perpetual warfare. In 1971, inspired by the Quakers, Greenpeace's first campaign confronted nuclear weapons testing in Alaska, but we certainly cannot claim to have abolished militarism.

Mother and son, bombed out home in Palestine, Ezz Zanoun, APA images

In Europe and Asia, over 100 million people perished in World War II, but the war never actually ended. The American and European victors partitioned the oil-rich Middle East, followed by continual war to this day. India broke apart into India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and escalated to war in 1967. The US, France, Russia, and China fought over Korea and Vietnam, leading to war that spilled into Cambodia and Laos, resulting in some ten million deaths. The Korean War has not ceased, and the nation remains divided, on constant military alert.

Indigenous people fought colonizers throughout history, and even after the world wars, in the 1950s, African communities fought liberation wars against European and American armies in Guinea, Mozambique, Senegal, Angola, Zambia, Zaire, South Africa, Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, and the Congo. War has raged in Iraq and Iran, Cyprus, Afghanistan, Central and South America, Chechnya, Kosovo, and now in North Africa, Syria, and Ukraine. Most often, the smaller wars erupt as surrogate wars among the superpowers: The US and NATO, Russia, and China.

The horrors of war in the industrial era feel almost unspeakable: The Nazi holocaust in Germany, the rape of Nanjing, the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the disappeared in Argentina and Guatemala, indigenous cultures devastated, starvation, homelessness, and floods of refugees.

The Thucydides Trap

In the fourth century BC, Sparta, the dominant Greek power, feared the rise of Athens. In his book, The Peloponnesian War, Greek historian Thucydides, pointed out that Sparta's actions to restrain Athens only increased Athenian fear, and the Athenian response increased Spartan fear. This cycle of hostility among competing superpowers became known to historians as the "Thucydides Trap," mutual fear escalating to war.

In the 1950s, British anthropologist and ecologist Gregory Bateson refined the Thucydides trap, which he called "schismogenesis," cycles of mutual fear and dysfunction. Bateson noticed in his work with the Iatmul people of New Guinea that rivalries could escalate, but that a ceremony called "Naven" – involving transvestism and comic theatre – would diffuse conflict and restore peace. He wondered if this lesson could be applied to modern nation-states. Diplomatic solutions depend on breaking the cycle of hostile feedback loops. Bateson advised western nations with some positive effect during the Russian-American nuclear arms race.

Nevertheless, today, the major imperial powers – the US, EU, China, and Russia – appear locked in the divisive, dysfunctional cycle of fear that Thucydides and Bateson described, although modern warfare has acquired some new twists. Today, smaller nations and rebel groups fight surrogate battles on behalf of imperial patrons. Modern warfare is also fought with computers, witnessed in cyber-attacks among Iran, the US, Russia, and China. War has always been about greed, acquiring land or resources, but modern warfare also appears as a currency conflict, fought for control of the entire global economy.

We can witness this financial warfare in the relationship between the US and China, the worlds two largest militaries. Both nations maintain fragile financial systems that show signs of impending collapse, propped up with fiat currencies, banking fraud, and increasingly tenuous monetary schemes.

Since the end of World War II, the US has been the dominant economic empire. The 1944 Breton Woods Conference hosted by the US, with 43 invited allies, established the US dollar as the global trade reserve currency, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and currency exchange rates based on gold. Since then, all large, international trade – in oil, gold, critical resources, and currencies – has been conducted in US dollars, forcing all participating nations to hold dollars, thus inflating the US dollar value.

In 1971, the US abandoned the gold standard, which allowed the bankers to create US currency out of thin air, further devaluing the dollar. These schemes have given the US unfair economic advantage over all other nations, but those nations are fighting back.

The currency war

The modern currency wars appear as a classic Thucydides trap. The US, fearing the rise of other nations, has used their economic advantage to restrict trade, destroy competing institutions, and overthrow weak nations. Other nations responded in 2009 in Yekaterinburg, Russia, the first BRIC meeting, when Brazil, Russia, India and China discussed trade among themselves without the US dollar.

China organized currency swaps, free of US dollars, among the BRIC nations, with the Asian Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and later with South Africa, Iran, Pakistan, and Mongolia. China also established an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to rival the IMF and World Bank. "The AIIB," said China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei, with diplomatic understatement, "is a milestone in the reform of global economic governance system."

The US and Japan declined to join the Asian bank, but some G8 members – France, Germany, Britain, Italy, and Russia – joined, along with Australia, India, South Korea, Indonesia, and Brazil. The member nations are now proposing a "basket of currencies" to replace the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

Since these economic moves threatened the US monopoly, the escalation of fear was underway. The US retaliated by claiming regulatory jurisdiction over the Bank of China because it had a branch in New York. The US coerced allies to join sanctions against Russia and Iran, and they blacklisted one of China's largest telecom companies, ZTE.

China responded by expanding its global pay network, UnionPay, competing with western banks, Maestro, Visa, and Mastercard. Then, in 2015, China began dumping billions in US Treasure bonds. China knows that the US dollar is artificially over-valued, and expects that US assets will eventually decline in value. The US debt has reached over $19 trillion dollars, the nation runs a $1 trillion annual deficit, and faces over $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. The US debt is growing faster than its economy, and although this enriches western bankers, the US is technically bankrupt, buttressed by the requirement that other nations hold their inflated currency. China, however, cannot dump all their US Treasury debt onto the world market at once without crashing the dollar too fast, and losing value themselves, so they are moving slowly.

However, the Asian Infrastructure bank, non-Dollar/Euro international bank machines, and the non-dollar trade in oil, disrupts the US petro-dollar monopoly. This makes the US bankers and elite even more nervous, and this currency war has spilled over into real war, in which people die, nations collapse, resources are squandered, and Earth's fragile ecosystems suffer.

The shooting war

The US invaded Iraq in 2003, based on the deceit about "weapons of mass destruction." Once this pretence proved false, people wondered about the real reason. The obvious answer is "oil," which is true, but not that simple. In looking for the cause of war, ask: "Who benefits?"

The underlying reason for the US invasion of Iraq appears now to be a response to the threats against their petro-dollar monopoly. In the 1990s, OPEC, Russia, Iran, and Iraq, began negotiating future oil contracts in Euros and Roubles. In 2003, the Financial Times reported, "Saddam Hussein in 2000 insisted Iraq's oil be sold for Euros." The ability to buy and sell oil in Euros, Roubles, or Yuan would reduce worldwide demand for US dollars, expose the inflated dollar, and begin the inevitable decline of value in US assets. US bankers and elite investors wanted to avoid this.

After the Iraq invasion, the western bankers and oil companies got what they wanted, for a while. They overturned the Iraq/Russia oil deal in Euros and retained their petro-dollar monopoly. The western banks got to finance another $2 trillion in war debt, the weapons and engineering companies – Lockheed, Boeing, Halliburton – got their fat multi-billion, no-bid contracts, and the private war-making outfits – Blackwater, Xe, Unity Resources, CACI International, L-3 Services – got fat contracts for doing the dirty work of killing civilians and torturing prisoners.

Citizen petitions for peace, Iraq War, Peter Nicholls, Times UK

Hundreds of thousands died, communities collapsed, children starved, trillions in resources were squandered, while the disintegration of Iraq and US financing of Syrian rebels has given us the charming spectacle of ISIS. Nevertheless, the corporations and banks profited, and the US dollar clung to its reserve monopoly.

The US, acting out the cycle of fear as Sparta did 2,400 years ago, now has 1,000 military bases around the world. Counting the off-book expenses, they spend some trillion-dollars annually on warfare to maintain their tenuous power.

Creating peace has always been left to the people. Here are some organizations that are helping:

Society of Friends, the "Quakers," who inspired the early Greenpeace campaigns: quaker.org

The Fellowship of Reconciliation, Interfaith Peace Organization in the US: forusa.org

Amnesty International, peace and human rights: amnesty.org

Doctors without Borders: doctorswithoutborders.org

Control Arms Campaign, to diminish the arms trade. controlarms.org

African Great Lakes Initiative: aglifpt.org with a great film about their Rwanda Healing Project.

Alternatives to Violence, peace and violence-response training: avp.international

Halo Trust, to eliminate land mines: halotrust.org

Human Rights Watch: hrw.org

Seeds of Peace, teaching conflict resolution: seedsofpeace.org

Orgnaization for World Peace: theowp.org

Millennium People's Assembly, advocating a permanent UN Global People's Assembly: ourvoices.org

Peace Boat, in Japan: peaceboat.org

See also, Military spending is going up. Don't let it take us down by Jen Maman.

And please add your local peace groups in the comment section below. Thank you.

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


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Radioactive Chernobyl forest fires: a ticking time bomb

For five years now I’ve been a member of the professional firefighting group of Greenpeace Russia staff members that is supported by well trained volunteers and I’ve travelled thousands of kilometres across Russia to extinguish fires. Firefighting is always dangerous, but when it happens in a radiation-contaminated area the stakes are much higher. 

Forest fires in the contaminated Bryansk region.

In areas contaminated by Chernobyl, wildfires are a common occurrence. Without good government management, these areas flame up every spring due to bonfires made by locals, and the fires can cover thousands of hectares. With the climate getting warmer and dryer, these fires have become more frequent and devastating in recent years.

Every spring, fires start in the forests and fields of the heavily contaminated area.

This house in Stary Vyshkov village was burnt because of grass fires started by locals.

Right now, I’m working near the village of Stary Vyshkov. Despite being declared an evacuation zone due to high contamination, it’s still home to 300 people. There are millions of people like these villagers, living in contaminated areas and always at risk. Our team, in cooperation with local emergency services and volunteers, prevents grassfires from hitting contaminated peatland at the edge of the village. 

Greenpeace firefighters work hard to stop the spreading of the fires.

I and the other firefighters do this work because the government fails to protect its citizens. While the authorities’ management of forests across Russia is weak, the problem here is worse because they ignore the high levels of contamination. These areas need a special regime of fire prevention and safety rules.

“Chernobyl-contaminated forests are ticking time bombs,” Ludmila Komogortseva tells me. A scientist and ex-deputy on Bryansk regional council - an area highly contaminated by Chernobyl - Ludmila knows the risks of Chernobyl’s fallout well.  

“Woods and peat accumulate radiation and every moment, every grass burning, every dropped cigarette or camp fire can spark a new disaster,” she says. 

A Greenpeace member wearing protective clothing holds a geiger counter. 

Peat in Bryansk marshes has collected enough radioactivity to be considered radioactive waste. During a fire, radionuclides like caesium-137, strontium-90 and plutonium rise into the air and travel with the wind. This is a health concern because when these unstable atoms are inhaled, people become internally exposed to radiation.

Geiger counter showing radiation levels.

These radiation risks make fighting wildfires all the more difficult. Some areas I’ve worked in are so contaminated that no protective outfit will fully block the radiation we’re exposed to. That is why fighting fires is sometimes not a sustainable option and prevention is much more valuable.

The reconnaissance plan is based on satellite data - but still we need to go out to the field to check. We usually start looking for fires in the mornings, but we rarely need our eyes to find any. You smell the smoke first. That leads you to burnt and smoldering fields.  

The government’s lax attitude also puts its own firefighters at risk - they aren’t even provided the same safety gear that volunteers crowdfund or buy for themselves.

The forest inspector and ranger Nikolay Makarenko told us that his department’s task is to only report on wildfires in Bryansk, but because it takes such a long time for the fire brigade to arrive, the inspectors try to combat the danger themselves, mostly protected only by their everyday jacket and boots. Once the fire was so big he worked for two days straight and was forced to sleep in the contaminated forest. 

A Zlynka town forestry officer at a picnic area in a highly contaminated forest.

Officials are often reluctant even to admit there is a fire that needs to be put out. Last year, it took us two months of campaigning to make them eliminate a big peat fire.

The government is reckless and does not give proper protection to people living in contaminated areas. They are cutting protection programmes that ensure much needed monitoring, health treatments and uncontaminated food and they do not have an adequate solution to peat fires in these areas. 

A Ministry of Emergency officer talks to a local woman to gather information. 

Please stand in solidarity with people like us trying to protect communities from the ongoing risk from Chernobyl. Tell the leaders of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia to give proper support and make sure another disaster like Chernobyl does not happen again. Nuclear energy should be buried in the past.

 

Anton Beneslavsky is a Forest campaigner and firefighter with Greenpeace Russia.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Strong quake in Japan kills at least nine, nuclear plants safe

TOKYO (Reuters) - A strong earthquake hit southwestern Japan on Thursday, bringing down some buildings, killing at least nine people and injuring hundreds, local media said, but the nuclear regulator reported no problems at power plants.
Read more [Reuters]

A rural retirement in Chernobyl's radioactive shadow

TULGOVICH, Belarus (Reuters) - Ninety-year-old Ivan Shamyanok says the secret to a long life is not leaving your birthplace, even when it is a Belarusian village poisoned with radioactive fallout from a nuclear disaster.
Read more [Reuters]

15 things you didn't know about Chernobyl

In the early morning of April 26th, 1986, reactor four of the Chernobyl nuclear station exploded. It caused what the United Nations has called "the greatest environmental catastrophe in the history of humanity."

Chernobyl was the accident that the nuclear industry said would never happen.

Twenty-five years later the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan reminded us that the risk of another Chernobyl remains wherever nuclear power is used.

The long-lived radionuclides released by Chernobyl means the disaster continues 30 years later. It still affects the lives of millions of people. Here are 15 facts you may not know about the disaster:

1. Exactly 30 years ago, Chernobyl's nuclear reactors, located in Ukraine, exploded. Nearly five million people still live in the areas considered contaminated.

2. The amount of radiation released is at least 100 times more powerful than the radiation released by the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

3. People in the nearest town, Pripyat, were evacuated only two days after the disaster. By that time many people were already exposed to high levels of radiation.

4. Radioactive rain fell as far away as Ireland. The Ukraine, Belarus and Russia were the most affected countries. They received 63% of the contamination from Chernobyl.

5. Since Pripyat was abandoned by people due to high radiation levels, wolves, wild horses, beavers, boars and other animals have populated the town.

6. Animals living within the 30km exclusion zone around Chernobyl have higher mortality rates, increased genetic mutations and decreased birth rate.

7. You'd think the other Chernobyl reactors would have been shut down right away, but the three other reactors at the site were restarted and operated for another 13 years!

8. Radioactive material still remains in a crumbling cement sarcophagus built over the reactor following the accident. A new massive shell is being built over the current sarcophagus, but will only last for 100 years.

9. The nearby forest close to the disaster is called the "red forest" as radiation gave it a bright ginger colour and left nothing but but death behind.

10. The nuclear industry and supporting governments in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus want to spend billions on other nuclear projects while ignoring their responsibility to support Chernobyl's survivors. They minimize the impacts of the disaster and hide the day-to-day reality of Chernobyl.

11. Now you can even book a trip to the Chernobyl exclusion zone! Tourist agencies organise day tours in the abandoned town of Pripyat.

12. Pripyat is highly contaminated and will remain abandoned as plutonium needs more than 24,000 years to reduce just half of its intensity.

13. Radiation was so strong that the eyes of firefighter Vladimir Pravik changed from brown to blue.

14. Sweden was the first country to inform the world about the disaster as the Ukrainian government decided to keep Chernobyl's explosion a secret at first.

15. In the contaminated areas, Chernobyl touches every aspect of people's lives. Chernobyl's radiation is in the food they eat, the milk and water they drink, in the schools, parks and playgrounds their children play in, and in the wood they burn to keep warm.


Please speak out in solidarity with Chernobyl survivors and join us for a twitter thunderclap.

Celine Mergan is a social media intern with Greenpeace Belgium.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

We’ve had enough of eating and breathing Chernobyl

I’m in the Bryansk region of Russia. Despite being over 180 kilometres from Chernobyl and thirty years after the disaster, my geiger counter still picks up elevated levels of radiation.  

This invisible radiation hazard is a day-to-day reality for the five million Chernobyl survivors that live in contaminated areas of the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. They eat contaminated berries and vegetables. And they breathe radioactive smoke from fires in nearby forests contaminated by Chernobyl.

Here in the Bryansk region many communities should have been evacuated, but never were.  

Worse, the Russian government is now cutting radiation protection measures and support programs for people here to save money. Last year, three hundred thousand people lost support when the government changed the status of several hundred settlements without any public consultation.

I met a surgeon, Dr. Victor Khanayev, in a nearby town of Novozybkov. With its old churches, it reminds me of many historic Russian towns, except in this town Chernobyl’s invisible radiation looms in the background.  

Dr. Khanayev worries about the local food his patients must eat because they lack the money to buy more expensive imported food. He told me: “It is impossible for rural people to refuse local produce from the land and their garden, especially with the official monetary compensation being so small.”

“Regional authorities are trying to do something, but little can be done without money. The budget is like a short blanket, being pulled to one side or another — some parts always remain naked”.

But these people are not going to give up.

Over 50 people from Bryansk region went to the Russian Supreme Court last week to overturn the government’s decision to eliminate social support programs and their right to resettle.

One of the plaintiffs Natalia Kandik told me: “We’re living people. It’s not acceptable to deal with us like that. They’ve provide no evidence our towns and villages are clean. We know they aren’t.”

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court sided with the government and not the Chernobyl survivors from Bryansk. The judges dismissed their case.

But when I talk to locals here they are determined to fight on.

“We are going to appeal this judgement,” says Maxim Shevtsov from the Chernobyl Union-Novozybkov, an organisation that supports Chernobyl survivors, “and we will go as far as the European Court of Human Rights to defend our health.”

And Natalia tells me: “We will go on struggling. We have nothing to lose."

But ultimately it is the government that should assume its responsibility to support and protect Chernobyl survivors.

In spite of all odds people are fighting for their rights and standing up to an irresponsible government bureaucracy.

We can support them by making sure they’re not forgotten. And by speaking out together we can remind their governments the world is watching.

Please join me and stand in solidarity with Chernobyl survivors.

Rashid Alimov is a nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace Russia. 


Read more [Greenpeace international]

GOP’s climate change minimizers are risk deniers

Washington Post: “I just think we have much bigger risks,” Donald Trump told us last week. We had asked the Republican presidential candidate about human-caused climate change, a phenomenon in which he said he is “not a big believer.” Don’t good business leaders hedge against risks, spending something now to avoid potentially negative outcomes later? “I think our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons,” he responded. Trump is not alone among Republicans in citing other scary problems...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

U.S., Japan finalize nuclear material transfer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Japan have completed the removal of all highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium fuels from Japan's Fast Critical Assembly research project that is due to be sent to South Carolina, the countries said on Friday.










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It's time to talk about Belgium’s nuclear problem

President Obama invited more than fifty heads of state and heads of government to a summit in Washington DC this week to discuss the risks of nuclear terrorism. While the official agenda is tackling proliferation of nuclear weapons, recent threats on nuclear power facilities in Belgium will also be discussed.

A few years ago, a report on the vulnerability of Belgium’s nuclear plants was drafted by Belgian authorities. Only a few copies were made and they were secured in a safe. Rightly so. Nobody wants technical nuclear reactor details to get into the wrong hands. But, at the same time, and particularly in the wake of last week’s attacks, the Belgian parliament, media and public want to know if their government is taking the measures needed to protect against a breach of nuclear installations. Avoiding the discussion is not an acceptable option.

Doel nuclear power plant, River Scheldt, Antwerp, Belgium.

The nuclear threat is now openly discussed in the media. The El Bakraoui brothers, who detonated explosions that took many innocent lives at Brussels airport, are reportedly linked to planning an attack against a nuclear target in Belgium. This is in addition to the 2014 sabotage of Doel4 nuclear power plant where neither the saboteurs nor the motives have yet been identified.  

Over the past years, several Greenpeace offices have commissioned several technical studies on threats to nuclear power plants which were handed to authorities in the relevant countries.

In 2014, Greenpeace in Belgium and France sent a report on the threat of commercial drones to national authorities, including to the Belgian Minister of Interior and nuclear authority, FANC. These drones are a serious threat, especially when combined with an infiltration of nuclear sites. Greenpeace did not receive any reaction from the Belgian authorities. In France, however, as a result of the report, the author was invited by the French Parliament to a hearing.

Another study focused on the threat from 3rd generation “Kornet” anti-tank missiles, based on the Russian model. Such missiles are capable of penetrating walls of a nuclear plant to cause serious damage.

Nuclear plants are not built to withstand today’s terrorist threats. More protection may help, but the vulnerabilities are so huge that heightened security can only serve as a deterrent. Russia has supplied Kornet missiles to Syrian troops. It can’t be ruled out that some of these weapons may now be in the hands of people with harmful agendas. This is highly concerning.

Greenpeace Belgium is calling for concrete steps to reduce the nuclear threat. A first step would be to close the two oldest and most vulnerable reactors Doel1 and Doel2. Their shutdown was planned for 2015, according to the 2003 nuclear phase-out law. Instead, the government decided to extend the lifetime of the reactors by another ten years until 2025. The decision was made without an environmental impact assessment or a public consultation, which is unlawful. And despite confirmation by the national grid operator that these relatively small reactors are not needed to ensure energy supply in Belgium. Greenpeace Belgium went to the supreme court last year to request that the decision be annulled. In the current climate, it would be wise for the government to take responsibility and act now, rather than await the outcome of the court.

As world leaders discuss nuclear security in Washington, let there be no doubt that the safest response they can make on nuclear power is to leave uranium in the ground. Responsible governments must refuse any extensions to the life of existing nuclear power plants and accelerate plans for their phase out. Leaders must also fast track safe renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

A Greenpeace Belgium activist erects a wind powered turbine in front of Doel nuclear plant.

Jan Vande Putte is an energy campaigner with Greenpeace Belgium.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

China still committed to nuclear reprocessing despite Asia stockpile fears

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China remains committed to its plans for nuclear reprocessing, its top nuclear industry official said on Thursday, despite concerns this could lead to a competitive buildup of plutonium stockpiles in Asia.

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Britain to ship record amount of nuclear waste to U.S.: UK government source

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will ship 700 kilograms of nuclear waste to the United States under a deal to be announced by Prime Minister David Cameron at a nuclear security summit in Washington on Thursday, a British government source said.

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Westinghouse expects to sign India reactor deal in June: CEO

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chief executive of Toshiba Corp's Westinghouse Electric said on Wednesday he expects to sign a deal in June to build six nuclear reactors in India after marathon negotiations that began more than a decade ago.










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Washington nuclear plant to restart this week after shutdown

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Washington state nuclear power plant is expected to be restarted this week after it was shut down to check an issue with a valve that was discovered during a maintenance test, a representative said on Wednesday.

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Japan's Shikoku Electric to scrap aging nuclear reactor

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese utility Shikoku Electric Power Co said on Friday it would scrap the ageing 566-megawatt No.1 reactor at its Ikata nuclear plant on May 10.

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Giant arch to block Chernobyl radiation for next 100 years

CHERNOBYL, Ukraine (Reuters) - In the middle of a vast exclusion zone in northern Ukraine, the world's largest land-based moving structure has been built to prevent deadly radiation spewing from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site for the next 100 years.










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China to build nuclear plant in polluted Hebei province

BEIJING (Reuters) - China aims to build a nuclear reactor in the heavily polluted province of Hebei, which surrounds the capital Beijing, in a bid to cut smog and promote cleaner energy, the head of the country's nuclear agency said on Friday.

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Marshall Islands vs big nuclear - will the tiny island get the justice they deserve?

In April 2014, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, a tiny island country part of Micronesia, filed groundbreaking lawsuits to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the world’s nine nuclear-armed countries. Now, almost two years later, the ICJ has heard preliminary oral arguments in three of the cases.

The Rainbow Warrior passing the island of Rongelap, Marshall Islands (1985).

Between 1946 and 1958, 67 nuclear tests were conducted by the US in the Marshalls, making it one of the most contaminated places in the world. With a population of less than 70,000, the Islanders suffered greatly from the impact of radiation; the land and sea poisoned as well. In 1985, the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior helped to relocate the residents of one of the most severely impacted islands, Rongelap, after it became clear that high levels of radioactive contamination made most of the island unfit for habitation.

Evacuation of Rongelap Islanders to Mejato by the Rainbow Warrior crew (1985).

Between 7-16 March 2016, the ICJ’s panel of 16 judges heard oral arguments by the Marshall Islands and three respondent nations - the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan. Tony de Brum, Co-Agent of the Marshall Islands and former Foreign Minister, reminded the Court why the Marshall Islands, a small nation with limited resources that is seriously threatened by climate change, would bring these lawsuits against some of the world’s most militarily powerful nations. During the second day of the hearings, he recalled one occasion in 1954 of the testing of a thermonuclear bomb that was 1,000 times the strength of the Hiroshima bomb. When the explosion occurred, it began to rain radioactive fallout at Rongelap. Within hours, the atoll was covered with a fine, white, powder-like substance.

“No one knew it was radioactive fallout,” said Mr de Brum. “The children thought it was snow. And the children played in the snow. And they ate it.”

Children on the deck of the Rainbow Warrior. The health of many adults and children has suffered as a result of fallout from US nuclear tests. Rainbow Warrior crew took adults, children and 100 tonnes of belongings onboard and ferried them to the island of Mejato (1985).

The other six nuclear-armed nations – the United States, Russia, France, China, Israel and North Korea – do not accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ and therefore, would not appear before the Court.

The Marshall Islands contends that the UK, India and Pakistan are in breach of existing international law, which requires good faith negotiations for an end to the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament.

Islanders with their belongings approach the Rainbow Warrior. Nuclear fallout made islanders living on Rongelap island hazardous for this community.

The Court is expected to deliver its decision in approximately six months from now. Greenpeace will continue to stand with the people of the Marshall Islands in their fight to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

To read more about the hearings just concluded at the ICJ, our friends at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation have been writing daily summaries, which you can find here. You can also access to all relevant court documents at the ICJ website for the cases against the UK, India and Pakistan.

Take action today to let the leaders of the Marshall Islands know that you support their courageous legal action. Sign the petition at www.nuclearzero.org.

Jen Maman is the Senior Peace Advisor at Greenpeace International


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Germany's top court starts hearing on nuclear shutdown

KARLSRUHE, Germany (Reuters) - Power firms brought a legal challenge on Tuesday against a German government decision to shut down the country's nuclear plants by 2022, a lawsuit that could allow them to claim 19 billion euros ($21 billion) in damages.










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German nuclear commission storage cost proposals due in April: minister

KARLSRUHE, Germany (Reuters) - A commission tasked with safeguarding funds for the shutdown of Germany's nuclear plants will present proposals at the end of April, the country's environment minister said on Tuesday.

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'Hearts are in pieces' five years after tsunami hits Japan

RIKUZENTAKATA, Japan (Reuters) - Japan on Friday mourned the thousands who lost their lives in a massive earthquake and tsunami five years ago that turned towns to matchwood and triggered the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.










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China to boost nuclear fuel reserves to feed new reactors

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will expand its strategic uranium reserve as part of its "five-year plan" for 2016-2020, with the aim of ensuring it has enough fuel to supply a massive program of new nuclear reactors.

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The butterfly effect of Fukushima

The consequences of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima five years ago surfaced in a terrible way in serious mutations in butterflies. This discovery is owing to the tireless work of the Japanese researcher Chiyo Nohara, who died a few months ago. The Japanese editorial team at swissinfo.ch met her at a conference in Switzerland in 2014. “I had nothing to do with Fukushima before that,” Nohara recalled in the below interview, which took place at a symposium on “Effects of Radiation on Genetics” in Geneva, when she was already seriously ill. “After the nuclear accident, I worried about it constantly, as if my daughter were living there. I wanted to go straight to Fukushima to see with my own eyes what happened there.” That desire was the catalyst for her decision to devote herself to researching butterflies. Nohara had little to do with sciences originally. At Aichi University, a few hundred kilometres south of Tokyo, she was a professor teaching public ...
Read more [Swissinfo.org: sci & tech]

Fukushima nuclear disaster: 5 years on and no end in sight

Last month I joined the magnificent crew of the Rainbow Warrior, a team of experts, and Greenpeace colleagues from around the world. For two days we sailed along Fukushima’s beautiful, rugged coast working under rough conditions as the ship swayed along one-meter swells, and doing our best not to succumb to seasickness.

Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior sailing past the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, five years after the accident.

For 14 years I’ve been with the environmental organisation and throughout my career have experienced the stereotypical life of a “Greenpeace-er” – I’ve been arrested for revealing corruption in the whale meat market, helped stop toxic plastics in infant toys, worked to stop ocean dumping of industrial waste, and of course have had many unique opportunities on the Rainbow Warrior. Now, as I prepare to leave my position as Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan, I realise that this could be my last time on this gorgeous ship.

Junichi Sato, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan

But this journey has specific significance.

I’ve joined the Rainbow Warrior crew and a research team to investigate the marine impacts of radioactive contamination from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

It was on this day, five years ago when a tsunami, triggered by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Japan. 15,894 people died and 2,561 still remain unaccounted for - a tragedy that we commemorate and will continue to mourn. Sadly, the disaster didn’t end there. More than 146,000 people living in nearby towns were forced to evacuate due to the nuclear disaster, of which 100,000 remain and have been unable to return. We know that levels of nuclear radiation are still high in some of the areas– figures that the Japanese government have not been telling us – and this is why we’re here. For the people, for the country, and to remind the world that a nuclear disaster is on-going and never-ending.

Greenpeace divers hold up banners reading “Never again” during sampling operations off the coast of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japan (March 2016)

Former Japanese Prime Minister Mr Naoto Kan was also on board and it’s been a privilege to be sailing with him. During our few days on the ship Mr Kan shared some personal stories: the stresses and strains of having to deal with a crisis of this magnitude; dealing with Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the owner of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant; and how he went through the very real decision of whether or not to evacuate Tokyo. The agony and the experience of witnessing the event up close has turned him from being a supporter of nuclear power, to a staunch opponent.

Former Prime Minister of Japan, Mr Naoto Kan, onboard the Rainbow Warrior. He has restated his opposition to nuclear power, and called for Japan’s energy policy to be based on renewable energy.

Not much has changed in five years. As we sailed within 2km of the Fukushima Nuclear Daiichi Plant, it looks in almost the same disastrous state that it was five years ago; and in abandoned towns like Iitate and Namie hundreds of thousands of bags of decontaminated waste pile up along the street and the roadside.

But with more awareness in the community and people power rising, the honest truth about what happened five years ago is beginning to emerge. Three former TEPCO bosses have been charged for allegedly failing to take proper safety measures on Fukushima Daiichi, despite being aware of the risk from a tsunami. And despite claims that TEPCO has been footing the cleanup costs, it has since been revealed that Japanese taxpayers have been footing the almost US$100bn bill.

Greenpeace nuclear expert takes radiation measurements with a Geiger counter around and inside the house of Hiroshi Kanno, a vegetable farmer evacuated from Iitate village after Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

But it’s not just Fukushima where this has happened. It’s been 30 years since Chernobyl and the nuclear costs are still ongoing.

The Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters remind us we need to bury nuclear energy in the past and transition to clean, safe renewables. Even today - five years after Fukushima and 30 years after Chernobyl - these disasters continue to cause immense human suffering. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to abandon their homes. Millions more live in contaminated areas.

For the thousands of  lives lost – not just from the Fukushima disaster but also from the earthquake – we need to shift to a renewable future. Together we can stop nuclear accidents like Fukushima or Chernobyl from ever happening again.  

Junichi Sato is the Executive Director at Greenpeace Japan.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Locals eating radioactive food 30 years after Chernobyl: Greenpeace tests

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Economic crises convulsing Russia, Ukraine and Belarus mean testing in areas contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster has been cut or restricted, Greenpeace said, and people continue to eat and drink foods with dangerously high radiation levels.

Read more [Reuters]

Fukushima's ground zero: No place for man or robot

(Reuters) - The robots sent in to find highly radioactive fuel at Fukushima's nuclear reactors have “died”; a subterranean "ice wall" around the crippled plant meant to stop groundwater from becoming contaminated has yet to be finished. And authorities still don’t know how to dispose of highly radioactive water stored in an ever mounting number of tanks around the site.










Read more [Reuters]

Japan court issues injunction to halt Takahama nuclear reactors

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese court on Wednesday issued an injunction to halt operations at Kansai Electric Power's Takahama No.3 and No.4 nuclear reactors, the operator said, siding with local residents worried about the safety of the plant.

Read more [Reuters]

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