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Au revoir, nuclear power? France eyes an energy shift of its own via The Christian Science Monitor

France is looking to undo decades of nuclear power growth and instead boost energy sources like wind, solar, and small hydro projects.

French President Francois Hollande has promised to limit the growth of the country’s nuclear power, many older reactors have been targeted for decommissioning, and Greenpeace and other environmental groups have been relentless in their anti-nuclear campaigning. But until now, it seemed unlikely that France would ever truly rethink its love affair with nuclear power.

Last week, it did. On Oct. 10, France’s parliament voted to begin moving to undo decades of nuclear growth and to reduce its importance to the country’s energy mix. Over the next 11 years, France will reduce the amount of electricity coming from nuclear by one-quarter — from 75 percent to 50 percent. To do that, estimates are that as many as 20 of France’s 58 reactors would have to be closed.

The vote was part of a package of legal reforms in France’s long-awaited energy transition law, a main pillar of which was slowing nuclear power production and then maintaining it at the new lower level before progressively lowering it over the next 10 years. (Related: Is Fusion Power Closer Than We Thought?)

The second pillar was removing bureaucratic hurdles that prevented renewable energy projects from getting off the ground. A trial period will see wind, solar, bio-gas and small hydro projects receive streamlined authorization in seven French regions.

Continue reading at Au revoir, nuclear power? France eyes an energy shift of its own

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Fukushima film shows reality sinking in for ‘nuclear refugees’ via Reuters

[...]

Funahashi’s “Nuclear Nation” films follow the residents of Futaba, who were evacuated after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, dousing their town with radiation and turning it into a “no-go zone”.

In the broader region, tens of thousands were forced to flee.

He filmed the first installment, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival less than a year after the disaster, at an abandoned high school in a Tokyo suburb where 1,400 Futaba evacuees were living in classrooms.

“Nuclear Nation 2″, produced by Documentary Japan and Big River Films, picks up from New Year 2012 and covers a two-year period. Evacuees at the school wish each other well for the coming year, admire New Year cards and chat over “bento”, single-portion takeout meals, trying to maintain a semblance of normal life.

Funahashi’s lens deftly captures a television news program in the background reporting on the nuclear regulator and the problem of decontamination, underlining the issue at hand and foreshadowing discontent to come.

[...]

The government is keen to restart the country’s reactors once they pass tougher security checks imposed after the Fukushima disaster, to reduce reliance on expensive imported fuel. Last month, the nuclear regulator approved the restart of a nuclear plant in southwestern Japan.

Public mistrust of atomic power remains high, however, and Funahashi says he will keep making “Nuclear Nation” films to show the human side of the nuclear equation.

“We are the ones who used the power from Fukushima Daiichi. I feel, as a filmmaker, responsible to keep making this film as long as the Futaba people’s refugee life continues,” he said.

Read more at Fukushima film shows reality sinking in for ‘nuclear refugees’

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宮沢経産相:「原発再稼働進める」就任会見 via 毎日新聞

宮沢洋一経済産業相(64)が21日、就任記者会見に臨み「原発は大事なベースロード電源。安全が確認された原発の再稼働を進めていく」と述べ、政 府方針に沿って再稼働を進める考えを示した。法人税減税については、これまで財務省寄りの慎重な立場だったが、就任を機に「攻守交代」と表現した。

九州電力川内原発では再稼働に向けた地元同意の手続きに入っている。宮沢氏は「なるべく早い時期に鹿児島に行きたい」と述べ、自ら現地を訪問し再稼働の必要性を説明する考えを示した。

続きは宮沢経産相:「原発再稼働進める」就任会見

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South Korean Court Ruling Could Spur Nuclear-Power Plant Suits via The Wall Street Journal

Court Rules for Plaintiff Claiming Link Between Nuclear-Power Plant Radiation, Cancer

SEOUL–A South Korean court for the first time has ruled in favor of a plaintiff claiming a link between radiation from a nuclear power plant and cancer—a verdict that could trigger similar lawsuits in a country that depends heavily on nuclear power.

The Busan District Court ruled Friday in favor of a claim by Park Geum-sun, age 48, that her thyroid cancer was caused by radiation from six nuclear power plants located 7.7 kilometers from her house in Ichon-ri, Kijang County on the nation’s southeastern coast.

“She has lived within 10 kilometers of the plants for over 20 years and has thus been exposed to radiation for a long time. Other than the radiation from the nuclear reactors, there’s no clear reason for her cancer,” the court said in a written ruling.

The court ordered the operator of the nuclear plant, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., to pay Ms. Park 15 million won ($14,150) in compensation.

[...]

The decision is Korea’s first ruling on whether there is a relation between the location of nuclear plants and cancer in nearby residents, according to a court spokesman and Leem Jong-han, a professor of occupational medicine at Inha University.

Mr. Leem, who advised the judges in the case, said there is a high possibility that radiation from nuclear power plants caused an increase in the number of thyroid cancer patients in nearby Korean communities.

In its ruling, the court cited a government-commissioned study in 2011 that showed women living within five kilometers of nuclear plants had 2.5 times higher incidences of thyroid cancer than women living 30 kilometers or further from the plants.

The court also cited a study by Kijang County and a state-funded nuclear-power research institute which showed that of 3,031 Kijang County residents who had a medical checkup between July 2010 and December 2013, about 1.4%, or a total of 41 men and women, were found to have thyroid cancer. That compared with a 1.06% diagnosis rate for thyroid and other cancers among tens of thousands of citizens examined in Gangnam, Seoul, by Seoul National University Hospital in the same period, the documents said.

According to the Ministry of Health & Welfare, thyroid cancer topped the list of cancers found in South Korean women in 2011, with 114 cases out of 100,000 females surveyed. That compares with 12 cases in the same size survey in 1999, when the cancer was rated as the seventh most common malignant tumor among women. The ministry said the increase is partly due to increased detection from more-frequent medical checkups among women.

[...]

Public concerns over nuclear power have risen since Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, though there has been no fatal nuclear accident in South Korea since the country built its first commercial nuclear plant in 1978. In a nonbinding referendum earlier this month, for example, residents of the port city of Samcheok, north of Seoul, overwhelmingly voted against a government plan to build a nuclear-power plant in the area.

While the court ruled in favor of Ms. Park’s thyroid-cancer claim, it rejected a claim by her husband, Lee Jin-sup, that his rectal cancer and his 22-year-old son’s autism were also caused by long exposure to radiation from the nearby nuclear plant.

Read more at South Korean Court Ruling Could Spur Nuclear-Power Plant Suits

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Nuclear weapons deal with US renewed in secret, UK confirms via The Guardian

The British government has just published amendments updating a treaty that goes to the heart of the UK’s special relationship with the US.

They relate to the Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA) first signed in 1958, which, according to the government, enables the UK and the US “nuclear warhead communities to collaborate on all aspects of nuclear deterrence including nuclear warhead design and manufacture”.

One amendment refers to potential threats from “state or non-state actors”. But the amendments are for the most part arcane and their significance cannot be understood in the absence of information which is kept secret.

The MDA does not have to be debated or voted on in parliament, as I have remarked before. Though the agreement is incorporated in US law, it has no legal status in Britain.

Yet the matters covered by the treaty, which is renewed only at 10 year intervals, are hugely important. Successive British governments have made clear a proper debate on the issues involved would not be welcome.

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小渕氏辞任:福島避難者「経産相は仮設で1週間は過ごせ」via 毎日新聞

◇「期待してないから失望なし」「期待してた…正直がっかり」

 「大臣になる人は、1週間でいいから仮設住宅で過ごしてほしい」。廃炉作業を担う経済産業省トップ、小渕優子氏の辞任に、福島県内の原発事故の避難者たちは不信を募らせている。

 小渕氏は9月3日の経産相就任時、「原発事故への対応や、被災地の復興にしっかり取り組んでいきたい」と語った。だが、なにもできずに終わった。

 福島市笹谷の仮設住宅。福島第1原発事故の避難区域・浪江町から避難する志賀ヨシエさん(68)は「政治家はカネの問題が多い。でも失望はない。最初から期待していないから」と突き放した。大臣になる前に仮設住宅で過ごせ、と言う。「そうしないと、私たちの苦しみは分からない。危機感を持って汚染水対策や廃炉作業に力を入れないと、時間がいくらあっても足りません」

 同じく浪江町から来た事務職の女性(51)は「小渕さんだけは私たちの苦しみも分かってくれるのでは、と期待していた。正直がっかりした。もう政治家は信じられない」。

もっと読む。

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【出産回復傾向】地道な取り組み継続を(10月20日)via 福島民報

東京電力福島第一原発事故後に落ち込んだ県内での出産の回復傾向が続いている。県内15医療機関の平成25年度の全出産件数は5970件と事故前の水準に戻りつつある。県内外から実家に戻って子どもを産む「里帰り出産」も1050件と大台を超えた。調査を続けている県産婦人科医会は「放射線に対する理解が広がり、妊婦らの不安が和らいだのが要因」とみている。事故後から続く官民を挙げた地道な取り組みの成果といえるだろう。
[...]
東京電力福島第一原発事故後に落ち込んだ県内での出産の回復傾向が続いている。県内15医療機関の平成25年度の全出産件数は5970件と事故前の水準に戻りつつある。県内外から実家に戻って子どもを産む「里帰り出産」も1050件と大台を超えた。調査を続けている県産婦人科医会は「放射線に対する理解が広がり、妊婦らの不安が和らいだのが要因」とみている。事故後から続く官民を挙げた地道な取り組みの成果といえるだろう。

もっと読む。

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4号機使用済み燃料搬出終了へ via 新潟日報モア

破損3体は次回取り出し

福島第1原発4号機の使用済み核燃料プールからの燃料取り出し作業で、東京電力 は20日、使用済み燃料1331体のうち1320体の移送を終了したと発表した。次回作業で破損燃料3体を含む使用済み燃料すべての移送作業が終わり、 プールに残るのはリスクの低い未使用燃料だけとなる。

4号機プールには原発事故の発生前から、「く」の字に曲がった燃料が1体、過去に 放射性物質漏えいが検知された燃料が2体入っていた。次回の作業では、変形した燃料が入るように収納スペースを一部広げた輸送容器で、残る使用済み燃料 11体を一遍に別棟の共用プールに運ぶ。

続きは4号機使用済み燃料搬出終了へ

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In Tennessee, Time Comes for a Nuclear Plant Four Decades in the Making via The New York Times

SPRING CITY, Tenn. — When the Tennessee Valley Authority first ordered Watts Bar 2, the nuclear reactor now approaching completion here, demand for electricity was growing at 7 percent a year and coal supplies were uncertain. The mercury, soot and acid rain that coal produced were simply accepted as the way things were, and many of the people who now worry about global warming had not yet been born.

[...]

The agency started Watts Bar as part of a campaign to build 17 reactors, but dropped the project in 1988 after spending about $1.7 billion, when it was supposedly 80 percent complete. In 2007, with electricity demand growing again, the T.V.A. board voted to restart work because, consultants said, it could be finished for $2 billion. But by the end of next year, when commercial operation is now expected, the T.V.A. will have spent more than $4 billion.

[...]

When work resumed in 2007, engineers decided that the mechanical switches in the control room, although they had never been used, were too old. But nobody manufactured mechanical switches of that type anymore, so the T.V.A. sent them back to the manufacturer for reconditioning.

The 500-foot-tall cooling tower, narrow at the middle to create a draft, is intended to handle 410,000 gallons of water a minute. It is still sturdy, but dark and weathered and streaked with yellow-green moss.

Other parts are more modern. The turbines, which convert steam from the reactor to mechanical energy that is turned into electricity, were replaced before they were ever used because newer designs are more efficient and durable.

Not everyone is convinced that finishing the job is a good idea.

The underlying difficulty, according to S. David Freeman, whom President Jimmy Carter appointed to chair the T.V.A. in 1977, and who tried to shut many of the nuclear projects, is that the agency’s executives are “nuke-aholics.”

“They’re addicted to nuclear power,” said Mr. Freeman, the author of a book that argues that renewable energy can meet nearly all electricity needs. He said that when he joined the T.V.A. board, “they were telling me Watts Bar was 90 percent finished, but a few years later it was 84 percent finished.”

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Power Plants Seek to Extend Life of Nuclear Reactors for Decades via The New York Times

The prospects for building new nuclear reactors may be sharply limited, but the owners of seven old ones, in Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina, are preparing to ask for permission to run them until they are 80 years old.

Nuclear proponents say that extending plants’ lifetimes is more economical — and a better way to hold down carbon dioxide emissions — than building new plants, although it will require extensive monitoring of steel, concrete, cable insulation and other components. But the idea is striking even to some members of the nuclear establishment.

At a meeting of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in May, George Apostolakis, a risk expert who was then one of the five commissioners, pointed out that if operation were allowed until age 80, some reactors would be using designs substantially older than that.

“I don’t know how we would explain to the public that these designs, 90-year-old designs, 100-year-old designs, are still safe to operate,” he said. “Don’t we need more convincing arguments than just ‘We’re managing aging effects’?”

“I mean, will you buy a car that was designed in ’64?” he asked.

[...]

The 100 operating power reactors, most of them completed by the late 1980s, were licensed for 40 years. In that era, new generating stations were expected to replace old ones within a few decades, but that turned out to be wrong for nuclear plants and coal-fired power stations as well. The nuclear industry now describes that 40-year period as an early estimate of the plants’ economic life, not physical viability.

As construction of new reactors tailed off to nearly nothing in the late 1980s, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission established a procedure in 1991 for 20-year license extensions, and it has now granted more than 70. Thus far it has not rejected any applications, although many are still under review.

[...]

Jim Riccio, a nuclear policy analyst at Greenpeace, said: “This isn’t about running reactors until they are 80. It’s amortizing the large capital additions that the industry can’t afford right now.” The reactors, he noted, have been required to buy new hardware after the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011.

“The track record of this industry is a meltdown once a decade,” he said. “We have a concern that running reactors well beyond their economic lifetime and well into embrittlement is not sound.”

Read more at Power Plants Seek to Extend Life of Nuclear Reactors for Decades

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