Nuclear Power news

Japan nuclear power outlook bleak despite first reactor restart

TOKYO (Reuters) - The number of Japanese nuclear reactors likely to restart in the next few years has halved, hit by legal challenges and worries about meeting tougher safety standards imposed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, a Reuters analysis shows.

Read more [Reuters]

Japan nuclear power outlook bleak despite first reactor restart

TOKYO (Reuters) - The number of Japanese nuclear reactors likely to restart in the next few years has halved, hit by legal challenges and worries about meeting tougher safety standards imposed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, a Reuters analysis shows.

Read more [Reuters]

Ex Schröder Aide on 9/11: 'We Thought the Americans Would Overreact'

Michael Steiner was in Prague in 1989 and at Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's side on Sept. 11, 2001. In an interview, he tells SPIEGEL how the US considered a nuclear attack on Afghanistan and about finding a bug in his phone at the Chancellery.
Read more [Spiegel Online]

Back from golf course, Obama tees up renewable energy, Iran

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, fresh from vacation and nine rounds of golf in Martha’s Vineyard, launched into a busy two weeks promoting renewable energy and his nuclear deal with Iran.

Read more [Reuters]

Back from golf course, Obama tees up renewable energy, Iran

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, fresh from vacation and nine rounds of golf on Martha’s Vineyard, is launching into a busy two weeks promoting renewable energy and his nuclear deal with Iran.

Read more [Reuters]

Evacuation advisory lifted for Japan volcano near nuclear plant

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's southwestern city of Kagoshima on Saturday lifted an evacuation advisory on three areas within a 3-km (two-mile) radius of an active volcano 50 km (30 miles) from the Sendai nuclear plant that restarted operations last week.

Read more [Reuters]

Volcano poses no threat to the Sendai nuclear plant – yep, we’ve heard that one before

After being nuclear free for two years, Japan is restarting its reactors. But there’s a problem – they’re old, unsafe, and oh, did we tell you there’s an active volcano nearby?

At the southwestern tip of Japan in Kagoshima Prefecture, sea turtles swim to shore between May and August each year, and dig into the sandy beach to spawn their eggs. Out of hundreds, only a few will hatch, and the newly born turtles will climb onto the sand and swim into the ocean to begin their new life cycle.

Among the deep blue sea, rolling green hills and beautiful big sky, it’s one of nature’s most precious attractions. But there’s one unnatural, glaring sight placed on the shoreline – a giant nuclear power plant.

The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant is the first reactor to reopen since the devastating Fukushima Daiichi disaster in March 2011. Sitting on the southern coast with an “ocean view” its two massive cylindrical structures are painted with a blue and green wave – presumably to “match” the surrounding environment. But the locals are not impressed. After Fukushima, tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate, emptying entire villages. As a result, Japan closed all of its reactors and re-evaluated safety standards and procedures. Locals know the danger of having a nuclear facility right at their doorstep, and they want it shut down.

Having only been reopened on August 11 this year, the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant already poses a threat. Mount Sakurajima, one of Japan’s most active volcanoes situated 50 km near the Plant, is showing signs of an imminent large eruption. Residents have been warned to evacuate and the Meteorological Agency has raised the warning level from level 3 to 4. The highest is 5, which means necessary evacuation.

Sakurajima Volcano is 50km away from the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant (Photo: Masaya Noda)

Despite this, the government, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), and Kyushu Electric Power Co., which runs the Sendai nuclear facility have all ignored warnings and have said operations will be as normal. But with the majority of people in Japan being opposed to nuclear, the stories from those who have experienced a nuclear disaster exposes the truth.

At demonstrations opposing the opening of the Sendai Plant at the beginning of the month, I met Ms Masumi Kowata, a teacher from Okuma town in Fukushima. When the Great Tohoku Earthquake happened, the event that triggered the Fukushima disaster, she told me about how a large number of people died because of lung cancer, illness and even suicide.

 Ms Masumi Kowata speaking at the Sendai nuclear plant protests

An ex-student of hers, who was working at the Fukushima nuclear plant when the earthquake hit, said to Ms Kowata, “The pipes of the nuclear plant are becoming a mess. A friend got trapped and died. I couldn’t help.”

The former student was forced to leave behind his friend. Ms Kowata grappled with the student’s pain. How many people were living in the pain that the Fukushima disaster had caused? How many have lost their lives because of the Fukushima disaster? How many more lives will be lost because of nuclear disasters?

Standing with the 2000 or so protesters I join their calls; and from my work at Greenpeace I know the cold, hard truth: our analysis has shown that even without lava reaching the plant, volcanic ash from a large eruption could cause a major nuclear disaster at the site. What is very clear is that this risk is totally unnecessary, and completely unacceptable.

Greenpeace Japan campaigner, Mamoru Sekiguchi, protests with local people in front of the Sendai nuclear plant on 11 August, 2015

We have operated without a single reactor online for almost two years. Sendai should be shut down immediately in light of the increased volcanic activity. Rather than putting citizens at risk of yet another nuclear disaster, Japan’s Abe government should be leading the way to a safe, clean, renewable energy future.

By Mamoru Sekiguchi, Greenpeace Japan Energy Campaigner in Tokyo

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan nuclear utility says no special precautions over volcano

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese utility Kyushu Electric Power said on Monday that it was monitoring activity at a volcano near its Sendai nuclear plant, but did not need to take any special precautions after authorities warned of the risk of a larger-than-usual eruption.

Read more [Reuters]

Fukushima operator's mounting legal woes to fuel nuclear opposition

IWAKI, Japan (Reuters) - Four and a half years after the Fukushima disaster, and as Japan tentatively restarts nuclear power elsewhere, the legal challenges are mounting for the crippled plant's operator.

Read more [Reuters]

Japan raises warning level on volcano not far from nuclear plant

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan warned on Saturday that a volcano 50 km (31 miles) from a just-restarted nuclear reactor is showing signs of increased activity, and said nearby residents should prepare to evacuate.

Read more [Reuters]

Japan restarts reactor in test of Abe's nuclear policy

TOKYO/SATSUMASENDAI (Reuters) - Japan has restarted a nuclear reactor for the first time under new safety standards put in place since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to reassure a nervous public that the industry is now safe.

Read more [Reuters]

WWF-France is sad to announce the disappearance of Philippe Germa

Isabelle Autissier, Chairperson of WWF-France, the members of the Board as well as all our WWF family are deeply saddened by the announcement of Philippe Germa's sudden disappearance at sea.
In this difficult time, each and every member of our teams would like to issue their prayers and wishes to his family.

Philippe was passionate about oceans and the marine world, and was more than a leader from the environmental movement.  He was profoundly humanistic, passionate about his ecological vision and desire to leave a living planet to future generations.

Named Director General in February 2013, Philippe joined WWF-France originally in 2008 as a Board trustee, and then becoming Treasurer in 2012. During this time, he actively participated in the national debates in France on the energy transition, on behalf of WWF-France.

Early in his career in the 1970s, Philippe was already convinced that  environmental protection would be in the 21st century what the economy was in the previous century. 

He  joined the "Friends of the Earth".  In 1981, he actively participated in the presidential campaign of the green party.  He was the inspiration for the slogan "En vert et contre tous", and participated in the campaigns against nuclear power plants in France.

In May 1988, under the Michel Rocard government, Philippe Germa was  appointed Technical Advisor in the cabinet of the Minister of Environment.  He worked alongside the Minister for 5 years, where he was the communications advisor, as well as responsible for strategic dossiers including legislative reform to eliminate CFC, the elimination of phosphates from detergents, the decree on the creation of eco-organisms including "Eco-packaging", legislative reforms on water quality, and waste...

In 1993, he struck out into the world of green business and set up an environmental investment fund as part of the Dutch bank ABN Amro. The company, whose first managing director he was, was taken over by the Caisse des Dépôts, later renamed Natixis Environnement & Infrastructures and now manages €1.5 billion of investments across some 60 projects especially renewable energy and sustainable infrastructures.

In 1990, he participated in the creation of the « Ecology Generation » political party.  He was promoted to the rank of "Chevalier" of the French Legion of Honour in 2004.

As our friend and a friend of our Planet, we already miss Philippe terribly.

Read more [WWF]

Japan to restart reactor in test of Abe's nuclear policy

TOKYO/SATSUMASENDAI (Reuters) - Japan is due to switch on a nuclear reactor for the first time in nearly two years on Tuesday, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to reassure a nervous public that tougher standards mean the sector is now safe after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Read more [Reuters]

Japan's nuclear regulator says no repeat of Fukushima under new safety rules - media

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's nuclear regulator said an accident on the scale of the 2011 Fukushima disaster would not occur under new safety rules imposed on reactors such as Kyushu Electric Power's Sendai No.1, set to be the first to restart since Fukushima, Japan's Nikkei business daily reported on Saturday.

Read more [Reuters]

Israeli Defense Minister: 'We Can in No Way Tolerate an Iran with Nuclear Weapons'

In an interview, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon explains why he considers the nuclear deal with Iran to be an historical error. He also addresses recent crimes committed by extremist Israelis.
Read more [Spiegel Online]

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: remembering the power of peace

More than most, Japan is a nation whose modern history is tragically linked to the quest to use and tame nuclear power. This nuclear history is not noteworthy for its successes, but for how it reflects humanity's capacity for destruction – and peace.

It has been 70 years since the United States atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 400,000 people, and affecting generations more through nuclear radiation. The horror of these bombings has been imprinted on our consciousness, holding at bay the further use of nuclear weapons in warfare.

These humanitarian catastrophes sparked a powerful peace movement in Japan that has been influential worldwide. It also gave rise to the country's unique 1947 "Peace Constitution," which renounces war and armed forces to resolve conflicts, except in self-defense. This legacy of peace has served Japan well, but it is now under threat. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing for deeply unpopular legislation to allow Japan to fight in foreign conflicts, effectively rewriting a part of the constitution that has become ingrained in the nation's psyche.

The campaign towards achieving global nuclear disarmament meanwhile remains a long way off. At the start of 2015, some 15,850 nuclear weapons were held in stock by nine states: the USA, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Britain, France, and North Korea; roughly 1,800 of these weapons are on high operational alert, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. These nine states continue to upgrade their nuclear weapons and research new ones.

We only have to look to the political wrangling over the breakthrough nuclear deal with Iran last month to witness the intractable nature of debates over who gets to wield the threat of nuclear weapons. The lack of political will on achieving disarmament meant no real progress was made in the latest review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), held in May; the United Nations itself was forced to admit parties could not agree on substantive parts of the meeting's final document.

Greenpeace itself has a history that is intertwined with nuclear energy: Our organization's foundation campaign was the 1971 attempt by a small group of activists to stop US nuclear tests on the island of Amchitka, Alaska. Forty-four years later, our understanding of the dangers of nuclear weapons proliferation, and the attendant threats from nuclear energy, has only deepened, along with our core commitment to see it phased out. Nuclear energy, whether for military or civil purposes, is never peaceful. No nuclear program can ever be considered purely civil and always carries the threat of nuclear weapons development. And as the history of catastrophes in the nuclear energy sector proves, nuclear energy is neither safe, nor clean.

Nuclear energy, with its inherent environmental dangers and high costs, is increasingly unattractive as an alternative to fossil fuels. Instead, interest in renewable energy sources is surging in forward-looking economies and among investors, who know that continued fossil fuel dependence only drives conflict and distorts foreign policies.

But the threats are still there.

Nearly four and a half years ago, an earthquake sparked a triple-core reactor meltdown in a nuclear power plant in Japan, forcing tens of thousands of people to leave their homes. After investigations, Greenpeace Japan revealed last month that radiation in one of the most contaminated districts is still so widespread and at such a high level that those who were evacuated cannot return home safely, despite decontamination efforts.

Japan's operating reactors are currently shut pending safety checks, but the nation is planning to restart its first nuclear reactor this month. These plans have met overwhelming public opposition, with polls showing the majority of Japanese people are against restarting nuclear reactors. A Greenpeace petition opposing the nuclear restart has gathered tens of thousands of signatures.

At the core of Greenpeace is a conviction that conflict, and the ways it manifests in violent struggles over our natural resources, will destroy our planet, and all of us. So we have to find better ways to resolve these issues. Our non-proliferation campaign over the decades is part of a global peace movement that aspires to social justice and environmental sustainability. Even as we see setbacks to achieving peace in our time, we are convinced that non-violent resistance and protest will achieve this change. History shows that peaceful opposition is far more effective than violence will ever be.

It should be unthinkable that the horror in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years ago would ever be revisited upon anyone anywhere in our world today. Neither should the trauma felt by Japanese people after the Fukushima accident – and also by thousands of people affected by other nuclear disasters, such as Chernobyl – ever again be endured. Our remembrances for this occasion are also reminders to continue our journey towards peaceful change.

Kumi Naidoo is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

This story first appeared on The Diplomat.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Mikhail Gorbachev: US Military an 'Insurmountable Obstacle to a Nuclear-Free World'

In a SPIEGEL interview, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev discusses morals and politics in the nuclear age, the crisis in Russian-American relations and his fear that an atomic weapon will some day be used.
Read more [Spiegel Online]

Japan's nuclear history and the power of peace

The fight against nuclear is steeped in Greenpeace history. On the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombings we're reminded of the consequences of nuclear energy and the people's movement to campaign for nuclear disarmament to create a safer and sustainable future for the people of Japan and the world.

Greenpeace volunteer at the 60th Anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing in Japan, 2005.

Seventy years ago, the world's first atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, creating a "mushroom cloud" and killing more than 450,000 people. The horror of these bombings has been an eternal memory for survivors, imprinted on the consciousness of people around the world, and a reminder of holding the further use of nuclear weapons in warfare at bay.

A girl with her face painted with the words 'No war' during a protest in March 2003 against the impending US-led war against Iraq.

Fast-forward to 2011 when a tsunami, triggered by a magnitude earthquake measuring 9.0 rocked the northern part of Japan, resulting in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. As the largest nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, tens of thousands of people living within 20km of the zone were forced to evacuate, uprooting livelihoods and turning entire villages into ghost towns.

The Yokosuka peace fleet protest the presence of a nuclear armed US warships in Yokosuka harbour, Japan, in July 1990.

Despite government efforts to decontaminate the zone Greenpeace Japan investigations continue to find that radiation levels radiation levels are still far too high for former residents to safely return. In the Iitate district in the northeast of Fukushima prefecture, one of the worst affected and highly contaminated areas, radiation is still so widespread and at such a high level that those who were evacuated cannot return home safely. However, the Japanese government wants to bring them back, announcing a “forced return policy” by March 2017 and terminating compensation by 2018.

The Yokosuka Peace Fleet protest aginst the presence of the nuclear warship USS MIDWAY in Yokosuka, Japan, in April 1991.

The Abe administration seems determined to ignore the lessons of the past. It is doggedly pursuing the restart of nuclear reactors, in spite of the ongoing nuclear crisis in the Fukushima Daiichi impacted regions. In addition, the current Abe administration has changed Japan's long running peace constitution, which was adopted shortly after World War II, to enable Japanese troops to participate in armed combat.

Protest on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing in 1990, in Hiroshima, Japan.

We've seen the effects of war. We've seen the effects of nuclear. Greenpeace believes that peace is the best self-defence, and that war is the biggest threat to the environment. The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, should promise 'no war and lasting peace' to honour the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and more importantly to leave a peaceful world for generations to come.

Junichi Sato is the Executive Director at Greenpeace Japan.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Honeywell unit probed in toxic gas leak in Illinois

(Reuters) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it has begun a special inspection at Honeywell Metropolis Works in Illinois to assess a uranium hexafluoride leak that occurred during maintenance activity on Saturday evening.

Read more [Reuters]

U.S. nuclear operators try to save plants with carbon emission rule

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. nuclear industry has made a last-minute push to urge the Obama administration to protect the country's 100 nuclear units in its forthcoming carbon rule and prevent the early retirement of several plants.

Read more [Reuters]

12 photos that got the world's attention

The Quaker concept of bearing witness is one of the guiding principles of Greenpeace. Nowhere is this more manifest than in the images we produce.

One of the founders of Greenpeace, Bob Hunter, proposed the notion of 'Mind Bombs' – when an image is so powerful it is like a bomb going off in your head.

Today, in a world saturated by images, a photograph still has the power to move one to action. We take a look back through the lens at some of the Greenpeace images that have helped to change the world for the better.

In 1971, the environment movement became a modern cultural phenomenon with the formation of Greenpeace. Since then, the world has seen the environment become one of the planet's major concerns – never more so than today when we face catastrophic climate change.

This is a photographic record by Robert Keziere of the very first Greenpeace voyage, which departed Vancouver on 15 September, 1971. The aim of the trip was to halt nuclear tests in Amchitka Island by sailing into the restricted area.

The crew on board the ship formed the original group that became Greenpeace. Clockwise from top left, they are: Hunter, Moore, Cummings, Metcalfe, Birmingham, Cormack, Darnell, Simmons, Bohlen, Thurston, and Fineberg.

Non-Violent Direct Action was foundational to Greenpeace as it became a movement of people willing to put their lives on the line for a greater good.

In this photo, Greenpeace activists in inflatable boats protest against the dumping of nuclear waste by dumpship Rijnborg. Two barrels are dropped from the dump ship on top of a Greenpeace inflatable causing it to capsize and seriously injure Willem Groenier, the pilot of the inflatable.

The dumping of nuclear waste at sea is now illegal thanks to actions such as these.

In 1985, the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior was bombed by French secret service agents, tragically killing Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira. The ship and crew were in Auckland protesting nuclear testing in the Pacific.

The bombing of the Rainbow Warrior caused global headlines, making people around the world realise the powerful forces that groups like Greenpeace were up against.

After a long and seemingly impossible campaign, Antarctica was declared a World Park, proving that dedication and never giving up will deliver results. This photo captures the final day of establishing the World Park Base in 1992.

This photo depicts Greenpeace's second occupation of Shell's disused North Sea oil installation in two months in 1995.

With the campaign against the Brent Spar oil platform we saw how good strategies and determined action can change the world – the dumping of toxic materials in the North Sea is now banned.

Greenpeace brought the reality of whaling to the world – and photography was an incredibly powerful medium for this communication.

Here, a Greenpeace inflatable boat hooks onto a Japanese whaling boat while it is pulling a caught whale on board.

Here, a small Chinese child is sitting among cables and e-waste, in Guiyu, China. This photo helped bring the world's eyes to the impacts of electronic waste.

Much of modern electronic equipment contains toxic ingredients. Vast amounts are routinely and often illegally shipped as waste from Europe, the US and Japan to countries in Asia as it is easier and cheaper to dump the problem on poorer countries with lower environmental standards.

This practice exposes the workers and communities involved in dismantling e-waste to serious, environmental problems, danger and health hazards. Greenpeace is strongly urging major manufactures to exclude toxic materials from their products.

This activist, part of the 2007 Kingsnorth action in the UK, went through a lengthy and historic trial resulting in acquittal.

In the trial, the judge summated that the activists were taking action for the greater good of humanity by preventing CO2 emissions. The case has since been used as a precedent and shows a shift towards global climate justice.

In 2010, workers attempting to fix an underwater pump after a pipeline blast at the Dalian Port, China, ran into trouble. During oil spill cleanup operations, the workers struggled in thick oil slick, and tragically, one firefighter was killed.

This image travelled the world as a defining photo of the dangers faced by workers associated with extractive industry.

Diver Joel Gonzaga of the Philippine purse seiner 'Vergene' at work using only a single air compressor hose to the surface, in and around a skipjack tuna purse seine net, in the international waters of high seas pocket.

Fish stocks are plummeting around the world, especially tuna stocks. Photos like this help capture and communicate the impact of overfishing.

This powerful photograph shows adult brown pelicans waiting in a holding pen to be cleaned by volunteers at the Fort Jackson International Bird Rescue Research Center in Buras.

These birds were covered in oil from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead disaster. The BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded on 20 April, 2010 and sank after burning.

The photo which brought the world's attention to the extreme measures the Russian authorities would take to protect their Arctic oil interests: a member of the Russian coast guard points a gun at a Greenpeace International activist as peaceful protestors attempt to climb the Prirazlomnaya, an oil platform in Russia's Pechora Sea which is operated by Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom.

The activists were there to stop the Prirazlomnaya from becoming the first rig to produce oil from the ice-filled waters of the Arctic.

Greenpeace is a movement of people like you, standing up for our forests, oceans, and climate. Together, we're working towards a green and peaceful future where humans intellect results in sustainable innovation, not greed and destruction.

Your world needs you – get involved.
Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japanese Government – aided by the IAEA – puts nuclear victims at risk with forced resettlement scheme

The worst nuclear disaster in a generation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – which began in March 2011 – is still very much an ongoing crisis that will not be solved for the many many decades. Most of the massive radioactive releases were carried out to the Pacific Ocean by the prevailing winds at that time of year. But, on the nights of March 15th and 16th, the winds turned, carrying an enormous amount of radiation inland. Fukushima prefecture, especially to the northwest of the crippled reactor site, was heavily contaminated.

The Japanese government is undertaking decontamination efforts with the intention of lifting evacuation orders by Mach 2017. But Greenpeace investigations have made a shocking discovery: in Iitate – one of the priority targets of the Abe Government’s plan – radiation dose levels are comparable to those inside the 30km exclusion zone around Chernobyl. Even more surprising, this was true even around homes that had already been supposedly “decontaminated.”

What on earth would motivate the Japanese Government to do such a thing to the tens of thousands of nuclear victims and decontamination workers?

To answer that question, it is first important to understand a bit of background on Iitate:  – referred to as IitateVillage – is actually a 200 km2 area of heavily forested hills, mountains, and lakes, interspersed with farm fields, and homes. It lies 28 – 47 km to the northwest of the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, in the direct path of the heaviest on-land radioactive fallout.

Although the Abe Government has stated on its website that it is “decontaminating” Iitate – even going so far as to say on the Ministry of Environment website that 100% of the forest has already been decontaminated – you have to dig through several different pages to discover that they are only referring to about a ¼ of the land area of Iitate.

In other words, of the 200 km2 of Iitate Village only 56 km2 are targeted for decontamination. Of that fraction, most of the focus has been on fields, 10-20 m strips of forest either side of public roads, and in the small immediate area around people’s houses.

Even the limited amount of targeted forest isn’t finished and will continue for at least another year or longer.

And what strikes you when you see it is not just the swarms of workers raking away at the woodland floor and trimming blades of grasses by hand in these first 10-20m of forest along the roads, but the enormity of the vast mountains upon mountains of dense, lush forest stretching out behind them as far as the eye can see.

You feel sorry for them. You also admire their intensive effort, meticulous work, and commitment. They are working in sweltering heat, in protective clothing, boots, gloves masks and goggles; not even their eyes are visible. And they are doing intense physical labor for almost no impact. Many of these workers are the residents of other impacted areas, like Minamisoma, who lost their jobs in farming, forestry, fishing or services due to the nuclear disaster. So many are working on their former home areas which are now heavily contaminated with radioactivity..

It’s surreal. And it’s heartbreaking.

On March 27, 2011, Greenpeace radiation investigations in Iitate had revealed extremely high levels of contamination, which led our organisation to urgently recommend to the Japanese government the immediate evacuation of the more than 6000 residents.Until that point, the residents of Iitate had been told that evacuation was not required. Evacuation did not begin until April 22. And still, eight weeks after the start of the accident, in early June, over 1200 people remained in Iitate. As a result, the people of Iitate were the most exposed to radiation of all citizens of Fukushima prefecture.

Iitate has since become an iconic area within the story of Fukushima: a constant reminder to the Japanese public and the international community that a major nuclear disaster is not confined to a small “emergency planning” zone around the reactor site. The impacts are far reaching, destroy entire regions and communities, rip people from the fabric of their lives, and cannot be repaired.

Over four years after the triple reactor core meltdowns and exploded containment buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the majority of the Japanese public has remained opposed to any nuclear restart. The country has been completely nuclear-free for nearly two years, thanks in large part to significant public opposition, in spite of the massive pressure from nuclear utilities and the Abe government on local city governments.

However, these utilities are massively powerful and the Abe government is wholly in bed with them.

In an effort to reduce public opposition, Abe has been pushing forward the pro-nuclear agenda to 'normalize' a nuclear disaster. If the public can be convinced that less than five years after the worst nuclear disaster in a generation, citizens can go home and return to life the way it was before the disaster – with no additional health risks – then that is a powerful argument against the majority of Japanese citizens who oppose  nuclear reactor restarts.

The effort to minimize the impact of the disaster on the nuclear industry has been aided by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an agency charged with the promotion of nuclear energy in its charter. The IAEA has sought to downplay the radiological risks to the population since the early days in 2011.  In fact, it produced two documents that can be said to have laid the foundation and justification for Abe’s current policy of de facto forced resettlement.

The reality is this myth making requires that the people of Fukushima prefecture – especially the people of Iitate – be the sacrificial lambs for the nuclear industry. This is not only wholly unjust, but is a violation of their human rights. 

They have already been exposed to more radiation than any other population in the region.To deliberately force the people of Iitate, especially women and children, back to areas where dose rates reach up to 20 millisieverts per year puts them at significant, unacceptable, and unnecessary risk.

After all, this is not the confusion that ensues after a nuclear disaster. This is a thought-out plan of forcing people back into their heavily contaminated former homes, no matter what the cost – both in wasteful, ineffective decontamination of these areas and in human health risks.

Compounding the gross injustice of the Abe Government’s forced resettlement policy, by focusing on creating a myth of a return to normalcy – and therefore investing vast amounts in expensive and futile decontamination – it is therefore utterly neglecting the contaminated areas that were never evacuated. Rather than addressing this urgent need to reduce the radiation risks to these populations, whom are currently living in contaminated areas, the government is more interested in deceiving the public in Japan and globally by creating illusions in places like Iitate.

What is clear is that the damage done to the people of Fukushima prefecture, and especially Iitate, is irreversible and irreparable. Their entire communities and way of life were destroyed by the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi, with no prospect for a safe return in the foreseeable future.

At minimum, we as Greenpeace, demand: 1) no lifting of the evacuation order in Iitate; 2) Exemptions and Government support for those determined to return after having full and accurate information regarding the risks; and, 3) full compensation for their loss of livelihood, property, community, mental distress, and health risks incurred, so that they may fully support themselves to move forward to pursue whatever life they so choose.

To keep the victims of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in limbo, many crammed into tiny temporary housing cubicles, for nearly five years is inhumane. To force these citizens back into such heavily contaminated areas via the economic leverage the Government holds over them is a gross iniquity. And for the International Atomic Energy Agency to assist the Japanese Government in the propaganda war being waged on Fukushima victims not only undermines whatever credibility it may have, but amounts to it being an accomplice in a crime against the people of Japan.

Kendra Ulrich is Senior Global Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Japan.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

UK’s proposed Hinkley C nuclear power plant faces resistance on all sides

The plans for new nuclear reactors at Hinkley in the UK are too expensive, too late, won't help cut greenhouse gas emissions, violate EU competition law, and will distort Europe's energy markets.

On 6 July 2015, Greenpeace Energy, together with German and Austrian energy utilities, filed a legal challenge in the European Courts against the EU Commission's decision to rubberstamp billions of euros in state subsidies for new nuclear reactors at the Hinkley nuclear power plant in the UK.

The filing argues these massively subsidised reactors will influence energy prices in Europe and grossly distort competition.

In a similar filing, the Austrian government submitted a complaint to the European Court against the European Commission for failing to properly implement EU law when it approved the UK's nuclear welfare package. As Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said in a statement, nuclear power "is not an innovative technology and is therefore not worthy of subsidy."

In short, the Hinkley reactors threaten to block the road to a safe, clean renewable future. "The EU Commission's decision threatens to have negative consequences for our environmentally sound production plants," says Dr. Achim Kötzle, Managing Director of Stadtwerke Tübingen on behalf of the eight municipal utilities in the action.  

Here's the situation:

The price of the electricity generated by the new Hinkley C reactors has been guaranteed by the British government for 35 years. This means that, no matter the fluctuations in the price of electricity, Hinkley owner EDF will always get its money.

With renewable energy getting cheaper all the time, and the Hinkley reactors not expected to be in operation before the middle of the next decade, you can see why EDF wanted to fix its prices.

Figures commissioned by Greenpeace Energy (an organisation independent of Greenpeace) show that this is a gift to EDF of some 108 billion euros of public funds. In addition, the British government has made guarantees of more than 20 billion to investors in the construction of the new nuclear plant.

As Sönke Tanger, Managing Director of Greenpeace Energy says: "We are taking legal action against these exorbitant nuclear subsidies because they appear to be ecologically and economically senseless and signify serious disadvantages for other energy providers, for renewables, and for consumers."

The approval of this state funding of nuclear reactors also sets a bad example for the rest of Europe. If Hinkley succeeds, countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are likely to follow.

There are also huge doubts about the European Nuclear Reactor (EPR) technology EDF wishes to build at Hinkley C. The ones being built in Finland and France are massively over budget, years behind schedule, and have experienced huge technical problems.

Why wait ten years (at least) for new expensive and unsafe nuclear reactors when renewable energy projects are ready to go right now? Hinkley C must be stopped before it irreparably damages our future.

Justin McKeating is a nuclear blogger for Greenpeace International, based in the UK.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Amazon gets serious on wind power announced this week that it would purchase its electricity from a new 208 megawatt wind farm in North Carolina, the largest wind farm in the entire southeastern United States.

The deal confirms two things: First, that Amazon is serious about its goal to power its Amazon Web Services division with 100% renewable energy, and second, that utilities and state governments better get equally serious about providing renewable energy if they intend to win more business from the biggest companies of the internet economy.

Amazon deserves praise for helping to catalyze the first large-scale wind farm in the southeastern US, and Amazon Web Services customers should feel good knowing that AWS is listening to their requests for more renewable energy.

It's also encouraging that Amazon explicitly expressed that it would continue to push utilities for more renewable energy and that it would support renewable energy tax incentives from governments, as its advocacy for strong renewable energy policies will be a key component of how it reaches 100% renewable energy in the long run. From Amazon's press release:

"We're far from being done. We'll continue pursuing projects that deliver clean energy to the various energy grids that serve AWS data centers, we'll continue working with our power providers to increase their renewable energy quotient, and we'll continue to strongly encourage our partners in government to extend the tax incentives that make it more viable for renewable projects to get off the ground."

That statement should provoke serious questions of government and utility leaders in the southeast. For North Carolina's govenor Pat McCrory, who praised the new wind farm at a press conference: Will he support extending North Carolina's solar tax credits so that North Carolina can stay competitive at drawing large tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to the state?

For Dominion, Amazon's main utility provider in the state of Virginia: will they start providing more renewable energy to its customers that clearly are demanding it, and in this case, going elsewhere to purchase it since Dominion isn't responsive to those needs?

For Virginia's legislators: will they start enacting renewable energy friendly policies to keep hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investment from internet leaders like Amazon at home, instead of going across state borders to North Carolina?


Amazon's investment, plus its commitment to do more and to keep pushing utilities and US state officials, all puts it on the right path to becoming a green internet leader, but there is a catch: While Amazon is now competing with Apple, Facebook and Google in the race to build a 100% renewably powered internet, it still lags far behind those companies for its lack of transparency about its energy use with customers and the public. Given the progress that AWS has made with its new wind and solar farms, it's a wonder that Amazon still has yet to publish data to its customers or the public about its energy footprint.

Without publishing information about its energy usage, crucial questions remain unanswered about this deal, including:

  • How much of Amazon's electricity use will actually be covered by this new wind farm? Amazon still has yet to disclose the energy use of its data center regions or its total footprint, unlike many of its peers. Until Amazon's does so, customers will be unable to gauge just how much of a dent the wind or solar farms are making in its energy and carbon footprints.

  • How much coal, gas and nuclear power is Amazon still consuming to power its data centers in Virginia? More information is needed especially because Dominion is pursuing expansions of gas and nuclear power plants, justified by the growth of data centers like Amazon's.

Amazon can put those questions to rest by publishing information about its energy footprint, as its peers have done. Overall though, this is good news worth celebrating. Amazon, the company responsible for the fastest growing infrastructure underpinning our internet, is accelerating its pace toward 100% renewable energy, and now large-scale wind energy will finally come to a part of the country in desperate need of it because of that fact.

Greenpeace will update our scores of Amazon from our most recent Clicking Clean report later this year, and provide further analysis of how Amazon can embrace greater transparency and move faster toward its goal of 100% renewable energy.

David Pomerantz is a Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace USA.

This blog was originally published by Greenpeace USA.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Renewables outpace nuclear in economies making up 45 percent of world population: report

TOKYO (Reuters) - Solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy besides hydro-electric dams now supply more electricity than nuclear in Japan, China, India and five other major economies accounting for about half the world's population, an atomic industry report shows.

Read more [Reuters]

CERN discovers pentaquarks after 50-year hunt

Data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) outside Geneva appears to have proved the existence of particles made of five quarks, scientists said on Tuesday.  Quarks are the tiny ingredients of sub-atomic particles such as protons and neutrons, which are made of three quarks. The less common and more unstable mesons, particles found in cosmic rays, have four.  A five-quark version, or pentaquark, has been sought, but never found, ever since Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig theorised the existence of such sub-atomic particles in 1964.  Guy Wilkinson, spokesman for the LHCb experiment based at CERN, the physics research centre that houses the LHC, said a tell-tale “bump” seen in a graph of billions of particle collisions could only be explained by a five-quark particle.  “From the point of view of our experiment, we think it has fulfilled all criteria of discovery. We have no other way of explaining what we have ...
Read more [ sci & tech]

The unstoppable power of contagious courage

Thirty years ago, groups of individuals in New Zealand were preparing to leave their families, their jobs and their homes to set off in small boats across the Pacific Ocean into a nuclear weapons testing zone. They hoped that their presence there would be enough to stop nuclear bomb tests.

The French Government conducting the tests must have known it could not win against such a show of people power. So a few minutes before midnight on 10 July 1985, French secret service agents struck in Auckland harbour, New Zealand. They bombed and sank the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, one of the ships that was due to lead the flotilla into the nuclear test zone. The French agents murdered Fernando Pereira, a photographer and crew member.

Rainbow Warrior, sunk by two underwater mines placed by agents of the French Government in Marsden Wharf, New Zealand. 11 Jul, 1985 © Greenpeace / Miller

The government was mistaken if it believed that this would knock the courage out of a movement of millions. One of our supporters said it best: you can't sink a rainbow.

Thanks to public protest, nuclear tests in the Pacific were abandoned. People power made history. Not all of those people clambered into boats. But they all took a stand. Some by writing, some by marching, some by signing a petition. Some volunteered, some donated, some challenged their friends and family. Others changed minds simply by telling people where they stood. Each one of those single acts, by people just like you and me, reached into hearts and minds and ultimately brought an end to nuclear weapons testing.

Rainbow Warrior Memorial at Matauri Bay.

Today, we all face a different threat: climate change. Just as nuclear weapons threatened global catastrophe 30 years ago, so climate change threatens all of us now. Global warming means more flooding and bigger storms. We see severe weather events hitting the news with greater regularity. Millions of people suffer them at first hand, some losing their homes, livelihoods and even their lives.

It is already undermining security and is set to further exacerbate scarcities and tensions that fuel conflict.

But even as the world's seas are rising, the tide is turning. The ranks of the clean energy revolution are swelling. Between January and May this year, around three-quarters of new electricity capacity in the US was solar and wind. In Norway, the country's politicians voted unanimously to sell off coal investments from the US$900 billion Government Pension Fund, the largest sovereign wealth fund on the planet. Just last month, the Pope called on the world's rich nations to tackle climate change, in a 180-page call for action. And, in the Netherlands, 900 Dutch citizens won a stunning legal victory in which the court ordered the Dutch state to cut more carbon pollution in the next five years.

Increasingly, people are standing up to the coal, oil and gas companies whose polluting products are fouling the air we breathe, the seas we fish and swim in, and the habitats on which we depend. It's partly due to the events of 30 years ago, where a wide and diverse group of people showed courage in standing up to the nuclear threat in the Pacific, that we know that people power can win.

Protest against Shell at Fredericia in Denmark.

In a few days' time Shell could start drilling for oil in the Arctic. Millions of people are taking a stand to protect this beautiful place and to say ‘no' to yet more fossil fuels and yet more global warming. Some people have shown courage by climbing Arctic-bound oil drilling rigs, or by clambering into kayaks and daring to paddle in front of these huge vessels; others by joining marches, writing letters and signing petitions - just as people did 30 years ago to stop Pacific nuclear weapons testing.

People in the Pacific region are also standing up against climate change and the polluters. Filipinos are calling on the country's Commission on Human Rights to investigate the big carbon polluters for human rights violations linked to the impacts of climate change. In Australia people are standing up to protect the Great Barrier Reef. On the 30th anniversary of the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, the third Rainbow Warrior will be campaigning to protect the Reef - the largest living thing on the planet - from the coal industry.

The French Government didn't realise the strength of a people-powered movement. They thought two bombs could blow the movement away. They were wrong.

There are small and large acts that each of us can take to make the world a safer, cleaner, healthier, better place. To end the era of dependence on dirty fossil fuels and usher in the age of renewables, where all the world has access to clean energy. Stand up for what you believe in, in whatever way you can; celebrate those who do the same. It makes us all stronger.

Children in Dharnai Village in India.

As we remember Fernando Pereira, and dedicate this anniversary to the courage of the crew of that first Rainbow Warrior, we are asking everyone to share their own story of courage to this site:

Read about people just like you and me who oppose injustice and environmental abuse, and who are seized with infectious optimism for change, and a better future. 

Being courageous is not always easy. But courage is contagious. #CourageWorks and the world has never needed all of us to find the courage to take action as it does now.

Kumi Naidoo is Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Count on the nuclear industry to have strange things happen

It has been said often on the Nuclear Reaction blog but bears repeating: the nuclear industry really can't be trusted.

A good case in point is the bizarre antics in Finland right now. On June 30th, Fennovoima, a Finnish utility, submitted an application to the government to build a nuclear plant. One of the utility's partners is Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear corporation.

To apply for a license, the government requires the project to be 60% owned by companies from the European Union or the European Trade Association. The 60% criterion was put in place by the Finnish government in order to control Russian influence over the country's energy policy. And that means that Rosatom can't be the biggest player in this game.

But, a strange thing happened on the filing deadline of June 30. Out of the blue, a new financing partner was found so that the project could meet the 60% rule and could go ahead. At least, that's the claim.

Greenpeace Nordic decided to take a closer look at this strangely fortuitous development for Rosatom's Finnish nuclear project. We uncovered what appears to be quite a different story, from a serendipitous turn of events in the form of a new nuclear investment partner.

Instead of a viable European company with a track record that would suggest it is a credible business partner, Greenpeace found a Croatian company, Migrit Solarna Energija, that operates out of an apartment block in Zagreb. It has no employees, capital stock of only 26,000 Euros, and absolutely no income in 2012-2013. And yet, this company is supposedly going to be able to contribute 150 million Euros to the project?

More importantly, Greenpeace found what appear to be strong ties between this tiny company holed up in an apartment complex, and Russia's nuclear giant, Rosatom. The company, established by Russian Mikhail Zhukov, is closely linked to Titan enterprises. Migrit Solarna Energija and Titan enterprises share an office and a fax number. The owners of Migrit Solarna Energija are related to Titan Energija's director and a businessman with a background with Inteco. This raises the concern that this company, Migrit Solarna Energija, a subsidiary of Migrit Energija, does not fulfill the 60% criterion for the project to move forward.

There's more. Mikhail Zhukov heads up Inteco, which used to be owned by the richest woman in Russia, Yelena Baturina. She happens to be married to Yuri Lužkov, the former mayor of Moscow. Baturina sold Inteco to 50% state-owned Sberbank and to billionaire Mihail Shishkanov. Sberbank is an essential financier of Rosatom.

Given these unsettling findings, Greenpeace warned the Finnish government to carefully examine the license application by Fennovoima to ensure it meets ownership criteria and is in best interests of the country. But the concerns are bigger than Finland. As our Finnish program manager, Sini Harkki, said: "This game that Fennovoima and Rosatom appear to be playing should be a concern to any country that is in discussions with Rosatom regarding building nuclear reactors. If the state corporation is ready to play a game with something as simple as ownership rules, what else will it play games with in building a dangerous reactor?"

Rosatom is actively pursuing nuclear contracts around the world. And this warning is something many other countries should heed. In October 2014, Greenpeace released a report on the problems with Rosatom and the Russian nuclear industry. This ownership game appears to be consistent with the kinds of problems that plague Rosatom and should be required reading for politicians in any country thinking of cutting a deal with Rosatom.

Fennovoima and Rosatom looked for years for investors. Yet it only took a few days to expose what appears to be a hoax, and a front for Russian capital.

That's not the end of nuclear problems in Finland. The country is suffering through a protracted mess with Areva, the French nuclear company, over the building the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear plant. The project is years late and billions over budget with no end to the problems in sight.

With lessons like those from Rosatom and Areva's Finnish nuclear projects, it is no wonder that in Finland the public majority is against nuclear. In spite of the people's will, Finland's current energy strategy relies on nuclear. But with ample renewable resources to be developed and the usual mess with nuclear projects, it is time to reconsider that strategy, listen to the will of the Finnish citizens, and move into the nuclear-free clean-energy future.

Brian Blomme is a Communications Manager with Greenpeace International.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Austria files legal complaint against UK Hinkley Point C nuclear plant

Guardian: Austria has filed a legal challenge at the European court of justice against EU-granted state subsidies for a new nuclear power plant in Britain, government officials have said. “Subsidies are there to support modern technologies that lie in the general interest of all EU member states. This is not the case with nuclear power,” the Austrian chancellor, Werner Faymann, said. The country argues that the Hinkley Point C project is in breach of European law and risks distorting the energy market....

Austria files lawsuit against EU Commission over UK nuclear plant

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria launched legal action on Monday against the European Commission over its backing of British plans for the 16 billion pound ($24.9 billion) development of the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, Chancellor Werner Faymann said.

Read more [Reuters]

Austria files lawsuit against EU Commission over UK nuclear plant

Reuters: Austria launched legal action on Monday against the European Commission over its backing of British plans for the 16 billion pound ($24.9 billion) development of the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, Chancellor Werner Faymann said. The project, to be built by French utility EDF at Hinkley Point in southwest England, is crucial for Britain's plan to replace a fifth of its aging nuclear power and coal plants over the coming decade while reducing carbon emissions. France sees Hinkley Point as a major...

It’s too late to save our world, so enjoy the spectacle of doom

Guardian: In the middle of a week of record temperatures, as if unaware of the irony, the business community celebrated the consolidation of its attempts to force the government’s hand to agree to a third filth-generating runway at Heathrow, tipping all species on Earth towards extinction. Everything will die soon, except for cockroaches, and Glastonbury favourite the Fall, who will survive even a nuclear holocaust, though they will still refuse to play their 80s chart hits. In Norfolk on Thursday, the...

White House goes quiet on role of nuclear power in Brazil climate deal

Washington Examiner: A new nuclear energy deal between the U.S. and Brazil got lost in the shuffle this week, as the White House sought instead to play up a pledge between the two countries to increase renewable energy. Nevertheless, the two countries did also agree to collaborate on nuclear energy development as part of a broad plan to address global warming agreed to earlier this week in Washington. The new agreement between the two nations comes as nations prepare for international negotiations on climate change...

Berlin says utilities can't dodge responsibility for nuclear waste

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Friday that if the provisions by utilities for shutting down nuclear power plants were not sufficient, the government needed to discuss asking the companies to make further payments.

Read more [Reuters]

Japan power group aims for 35 percent CO2 emissions cut by 2030: Nikkei

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's major power firms are seeking to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than a third by 2030 compared with 2013 levels by relying on nuclear power, the Nikkei business daily reported.

Read more [Reuters]

Pew survey: Most young Americans oppose offshore drilling, nuclear power

Associated Press: Age divides Americans on science issues just as much as political ideology, a new analysis of recent polling shows. There are dramatic generation gaps in opinions on global warming, offshore drilling, nuclear power, childhood vaccines, gene modification to reduce a baby’s disease risk, untested medicine use, lab tests on animals, and evolution, according to the Pew Research Center. Pew analyzed 22 different science issues in a survey of 2,002 people nationwide last August and a few later polls...

Joni Mitchell: A tribute to the artist

On 31 March, 2015, Joni Mitchell – who helped launch Greenpeace with a 1970 benefit concert, and emerged as one of the greatest songwriters and performers of the last 50 years – experienced a brain aneurysm. Friends found her unconscious at her home in Los Angeles. She regained consciousness in the ambulance and entered intensive care at UCLA Medical Center. She was alert and communicating before and after treatment.

"Joni is a strong-willed woman," her friend Leslie Morris said, "and is nowhere near giving up the fight." The public may send messages to Mitchell at We Love You, Joni!. Joni is now at home in Los Angeles and undergoing daily therapies. Although her condition is serious, a recovery is expected.

Vulnerable young artist

I first heard Joni Mitchell's music in the summer of 1969, when Stephen Stills introduced her at the Big Sur Folk Festival in California. A year later, I saw her at the Isle of Wight festival in England, with some 600,000 other music fans drawn by stars of 1960s music: The Doors, The Who, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Donovan, Joan Baez, and Joni Mitchell.

By Saturday, when Mitchell played, fans outside the fence – who could not afford the £3 (about £30 or €40 today) weekend ticket – had grown restless. They stormed the corrugated iron barriers and broke through, as Mitchell sang her new song "Woodstock … we are stardust, we are golden…"

Joni Mitchell, Isle of Wight Pop Festival Britain, 1970. © Brian Moody/Rex

A young man rushed onto the stage shouting that the festival should be free. A visibly shaken Mitchell – 26, and just beginning her career – stopped her performance. "Look, I've got feelings, too," she pleaded in a trembling voice. "It's very difficult to lay something down before an audience like this. Please be respectful." The vulnerable young artist broke down into tears and left the stage, but returned to perform her current radio hit, "Big Yellow Taxi," singing, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." She then left the stage, weeping in her manager's arms. The scene felt heartbreaking.

A year later, Mitchell headlined the concert in Vancouver, Canada that launched Greenpeace.

Canadian Prairie Girl

Joni Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson, on 7 November, 1943, in Fort Macleod, Alberta, where her Norwegian father instructed young World War II pilots at the Canadian airbase. Her Scots/Irish mother inspired a love for literature, her father urged her to study piano, and she taught herself guitar from a Pete Seeger instructional record.

Joni Mitchell youth in Saskatoon, Canada. ©

Polio struck her at the age of nine, and in the hospital, she performed songs for other patients. She recovered, but the polio limited her dexterity, and she found normal guitar fingerings difficult. She devised alternative tunings to make complex chords easier to play. By 1961, she was performing in Saskatchewan nightclubs and attending art school. In 1962, Joni played her first paid gig at the Louis Riel folk/jazz club in Saskatoon.

In 1964, at the age of 20, she left home to become a folk singer in Toronto, and wrote her first song, "Day After Day," on the train ride east. She became a well-loved phenomenon in Toronto clubs, met Michigan folk-singer Chuck Mitchell, married him, and began touring with him in Michigan, at the Rathskeller in Detroit and the The Folk Cellar in Port Huron. She appeared on the CBC folk music show, "Let's Sing Out."

By 1967, her marriage had dissolved, and Joni moved to New York City, performing as a solo artist at Cafe Au Go Go, the Gaslight, and other clubs. She learned more sophisticated guitar tunings from American musician Eric Andersen, and other artists began performing and recording Joni's songs. Tom Rush recorded "Urge For Going," Buffy Sainte-Marie covered "The Circle Game," and Judy Collins had a top ten hit with "Both Sides Now."

Joni Mitchell became known for her wide-ranging contralto voice; her use of modal, chromatic, and pedal tone harmonies; exotic guitar tunings; and extraordinary, lyrical songs. Throughout her career, Mitchell wrote songs in over fifty different guitar tunings that supported her unique harmonies.

As Mitchell's fame spread, Joan Baez attended her show in New York, and at a Florida club, she met David Crosby, who invited her to Los Angeles and convinced Reprise Records to record her first album, Song to a Seagull, produced by Crosby, with Stephen Stills, playing bass.

A year later, in 1969, she released her second album, Clouds, which earned her first Grammy Award. The collection includes hit songs "Chelsea Morning" and "Both Sides Now," the haunting chromatic "Songs to Aging Children Come," and the anti-Vietnam-War anthem "The Fiddle and the Drum." Later that year, she sang harmony vocals on David Crosby's first solo album and on James Taylor's inaugural album, Mud Slide Slim. She would help launch Taylor's career at the Greenpeace concert.

Stop the bombs

In Vancouver, Canada, in June 1970, the fledgling Greenpeace organization made plans to sail a boat into the US nuclear test zone in the Aleutian Islands. To raise money, co-founder Irving Stowe decided to stage a benefit concert, and wrote a letter to Joan Baez. Although Baez could not attend, she sent a check for $1,000, recommended he call Joni Mitchell and stalwart anti-war activist Phil Ochs, and gave Stowe their phone numbers. Both agreed to perform, and the date was set for 16 October, 1970 at the Vancouver Coliseum.

A week before the concert, Mitchell phoned Stowe at his home and asked if she could bring a guest. Stowe covered the phone and whispered to his family, "She wants to bring James Taylor. Who's James Taylor?" His fourteen year-old daughter Barbara thought he meant James Brown. "He's that black blues singer!" she said. Stowe nodded, and spoke into the phone, "Yeah, sure. Bring him."

The next day, they visited a record store and discovered that James Taylor had just released his second album, Sweet Baby James, already at the top of the charts, with hit song "Fire and Rain." The local producer added British Columbia band Chilliwack, with a hit single of their own, "Lydia Purple." There was no public advance notice of the mystery guest, James Taylor, but tickets sold out quickly.

Phil Ochs, opened the show and spoke directly to the raison d'etre of the evening with his song "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore." Chilliwack got the crowd into a rock-'n'-roll frenzy. James Taylor stunned the crowd with his cryptic "Carolina On My Mind" and "Fire and Rain." Joni Mitchell appeared visibly nervous, still uncertain about her headline status, but her popular songs "Chelsea Morning" and "Big Yellow Taxi" brought shrieks of joy from the audience. James Taylor joined her for an encore, singing Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." Irving Stowe raising the peace sign and delivered flowers to Mitchell on stage. After expenses, the event netted $17,000. This money, and the attention from the concert, lifted the nascent Greenpeace to a new stature. Attendance at the meetings swelled, and money poured in.

Joni Mitchell, Amchitka benefit, 1970. © George Diack, Vancouver Sun

In 1973, after the first two Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigns, Joni Mitchell returned to Vancouver and appeared at an opening of her photographs, with Graham Nash, at the Gallery of Photography in North Vancouver. Greenpeace was still a modest group, planning the first whale campaign. We told Mitchell about our plans, and she promised to help if she could. Three years later, in 1976, after two successful whale campaigns confronting Russian whalers, Joni appeared at the "California Celebrates the Whale" benefit concert in Sacramento, with legendary jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius, and world music percussionist Bobbye Hall, signalling a new direction in her extraordinary musical career.

Beyond folk-rock

At the time of the Sacramento whale concert, Mitchell was recording the spectacular Hejira album with Pastorius on bass and Hall on percussion. The innovative artist was blazing a new musical trail, inspired by classical and chamber jazz and rock-inspired jazz-fusion, driven with Latin and African rhythms.

She had recently released three jazz-inspired albums. For the Roses included Hall on percussion, Tom Scott from the jazz-fusion band L.A. Express on woodwinds and reeds, and Wilton Felder from Jazz Crusaders on bass. Some of these same musicians played on Court and Spark, with rock musicians David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Robbie Robertson, plus famed flamenco and bolero guitarist José Feliciano. The album sold over 2 million copies, earned "Best Album of the Year" from Village Voice, reached #1 on the Cashbox Album Charts, and won her second Grammy Award. The following album, Hissing of Summer Lawns, released in 1975, featured jazz pianist/percussionist Victor Feldman on congas and vibes, with John Guerin on the new Moog synthesizer.

Joni toured with L.A. Express, and released a live double album from their shows at the Los Angeles Universal Amphitheater. The eighteen songs included jazz-influenced re-workings of her popular hits, "Big Yellow Taxi," "Woodstock," "Carey," and "Both Sides Now."

She appear on the Bob Dylan Rolling Thunder Review with Joan Baez, and then in 1976 performed at the Band's famous The Last Waltz concert, singing a version of "Coyote" in an unusual C9 tuning with extended chords, pushing the musicians, and raising the energy of the star-studded event.

Roger McGuinn, Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Rolling Thunder tour. © AP 1975

In 1977, Mitchell released the spacey, improvisational, Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, again mixing rock forms with jazz, accompanied by Pastorius, legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and percussionists Manolo Badrena and Alex Acuña.

Upon hearing this recent work, jazz legend Charles Mingus (right, photo by Sue Mingus, 1978.) asked Mitchell to work with him. Mingus died during the recordings, but Mitchell completed the album, Mingus, released in June 1979, which rose to #17 on Billboard album charts. She then toured the Mingus material, accompanied by Pastorius, Shorter, jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Herbie Hancock, and percussionists Peter Erskine, Don Alias, and Emil Richards. The tour included a duet with the Persuasions on Motown classic, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?".

In 1982, Joni married Larry Klein, bassist on the album Wild Things Run Fast, who co-produced five albums with her and won Grammys for his work on Turbulent Indigo (1994) and Both Sides Now (2000). In 1983, they toured Japan, Australia, Ireland, UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, and the US, producing the live video/DVD, Refuge of the Roads. Mitchell and Klein divorced in 1994, after 12 years of marriage, but continued to work together musically.

I last saw Joni in Vancouver, in 1998, when she toured with Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, a stunning show by perhaps the three greatest songwriters of the rock era. Mitchell played with a jazz-based band, including Klein, sang "Black Crow" and "Amelia" from Hejira, an adaptation of the William Butler Yeats poem "The Second Coming," and performed an encore of "Big Yellow Taxi" (with a Dylan impersonation) and "Woodstock." The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Mitchell in 1997. In 2005, she released Songs of a Prairie Girl, a compilation of her songs that referenced Saskatchewan, and in 2007 she released her last studio album, Shine, with James Taylor playing guitar on the title track.

As of this writing, she remains at home in Los Angeles. She is not yet walking, but appears to be improving daily. Since her hospitalization, musical performers around the world have offered tributes to Joni Mitchell, one of the seminal musicians of our age, and an enduring advocate for the natural world.

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

Read more [Greenpeace international]

California greenhouse gas emissions fall - but not by much

San Francisco Chronicle: Despite California’s many efforts to fight global warming, the state’s greenhouse gas emissions rose in 2012, as a nuclear power plant shut down and the drought hit hydroelectric dams hard. But the increase, it turns out, didn’t last. Data released by the state on Tuesday show that California’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases started falling again in 2013. The drop wasn’t much, just 0.3 percent. The state’s economy still pumped almost 460 million metric tons of greenhouse...

French nuclear waste will triple after decommissioning: agency

PARIS (Reuters) - The amount of nuclear waste stored in France will triple once all its nuclear installations have been decommissioned, which will boost the need for storage facilities, French nuclear waste agency Andra said.

Read more [Reuters]

Why French are losing enthusiasm for nuclear

ClimateWire: The host nation for this year's climate talks is pumping the brakes on one of its most successful ways of controlling carbon. France, one of the world's leaders in low-emissions nuclear energy production, may soon diverge from the path that brought it there. The French get more than three-quarters of their electricity from nuclear power, the largest share of any country in the world. This atomic largesse from its 58 reactors -- second only to the United States' 100 reactors -- has made France...

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