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Supreme Court blocks air pollution rules for power plants via the Chicago Tribune

[…]
The decision is a win for Michigan and several other Republican-led states that joined the power industry in challenging the rules.
The so-called “mercury and air toxins” rule has been 25 years in the making. Congress in 1990 strengthened the Clean Air Act and told the EPA to identify the major sources for more than 180 hazardous air pollutants, including mercury and arsenic. And once the agency decided coal and oil-fired power plants were a major source of these pollutants, the EPA was told to adopt regulations that were “appropriate and necessary” to limit these emissions.

Mercury is highly toxic in the air and the water, and it builds up through the food chain. It is particularly dangerous for a pregnant woman and her developing baby. Other toxic pollutants are believed to trigger asthma attacks.

But the rules took far longer than lawmakers had anticipated. The Clinton administration completed the study and prepared the rules, but they were blocked during the George W. Bush administration. Under President Obama, the EPA issued proposed regulations in 2012 that were to take full effect this summer.

The EPA called this a false comparison. The agency said the rules would save 11,000 lives per year. And if all the impact of all the hazardous pollutants were considered, the EPA said the cleaner air would yield public health benefits of more than $37 billion a year.

Last year, a U.S. appeals court here upheld the regulations as justified under the law. But to the surprise of environmentalists, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the legal challenge brought by the affected industries and by Michigan and a coalition of states that rely on coal-fired power plants.

The case of Michigan vs. EPA posed a major test of whether the conservative-leaning high court would uphold the far-reaching regulations of a liberal administration.

An even bigger legal fight lies ahead on whether Obama and the EPA can impose climate-change regulations that would force a 30% reduction in carbon pollution by 2030.
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校庭を再び芝生に 原発事故で除去 児童ら苗植え付けvia 福島民報

■桑折の伊達崎小

 桑折町の伊達崎小で27日、校庭を芝生化する伊達崎グリーンプロジェクトが繰り広げられた。
 平成22年6月、県のうつくしまグリーンプロジェクト事業を活用して校庭に芝生を整備した。しかし、翌年の東京電力福島第一原発事故に伴い、校庭の放射線量が上昇。刈り取りや洗浄などの対策を施したが効果がなく、芝を剥がした。
 地域住民や保護者から再び芝生を整備してほしいとの声を受けて今年1月、伊達崎グリーンプロジェクト事務局が活動を始めた。苗は日本サッカー協会が提供した。
 植え付け作業には児童と保護者、地域住民、教職員ら約350人が参加した。開会セレモニーで、高橋宣博町長が放射線対策の経緯を説明し、「皆さんの力で芝生化したい」と呼び掛けた。この後、一列に並んで校庭約50アールに苗を植えた。雨が降るあいにくの空模様の中、青々とした校庭の再現を目指して作業に励んでいた。

[…]

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【福島の外国人旅行客 】震災前の半数以下 訪日ブーム陰で苦闘 via 47ニュース

東京電力福島第1原発事故の影響が残る福島県に、外国人旅行者が戻らない。訪日客数が全体として順調に増加を続けるのとは対照的に、福島県を訪問する外国人旅行者は震災前の半数以下にとどまったまま。事態打開の特効薬も見当たらず、県は危機感を募らせる。

[…]
 この「厚遇」ぶりには訳がある。今年4月以降、福島空港に着陸した国際便はチャーターの4便のみ。それも全てベトナムからだ。震災から4年以上経過しても、外国人旅行者の足は福島に向いていない。
 ▽0・1%
 観光庁によると、福島県に宿泊した外国人観光客は震災前の2010年で延べ約8万7千人。11年に震災の影響で約2万8千人まで急減した後、回復は鈍く、14年でも約4万2千人にとどまる。
 円安などを背景に、訪日する外国人旅行者数が急増している全体状況とは対照的だ。14年に訪日した外国人のうち、福島県に宿泊した旅行客は全体の約0・1%と、危機的な状況に陥っている。
 主な要因は、訪日客の上位を占める中国や韓国からの観光客が戻っていないことだ。
[…]

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Holtec President says HI-STORM dry storage casks can last 300 years via enformable

Holtec International President Kris Singh told the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel on Friday that the HI-STORM (Holtec International Storage Module) spent nuclear fuel storage casks constructed by his company can withstand cold weather and even being flooded.

Singh asserted that the HI-STORM casks were the best and safest in the world and claimed that each cask would last 300 years — even though the longest a HI-STORM cask has been used in the field is only 15 years.

Each cask is constructed out of stainless steel and high-density concrete. One of the features of the casks is that they don’t have welds, which are prone to leaking. They are designed to withstand high-impact crashes, high temperatures and bullets.
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Tepco touts Fukushima Daiichi cleanup, but long road ahead via Asia.nikkei.com

TOKYO — Progress has been slow in decommissioning the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, four years after the devastating the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami led to a meltdown at the power station in northern Japan.

The government has drawn up a road map, published June 12, for mothballing the plant over the next 30-40 years. But the cleanup faces mounting challenges, particularly the removal of radioactive water from the site.
[…]
The battle to contain and purify the radioactive water is far from over — and is just one step in a long cleanup and decommissioning process.

On the morning of May 29, workers at the plant discovered water leaking from a ruptured hose. The incident occurred as the workers were pumping highly radioactive water from a storage tank. In fact, Tepco’s progress report refers to only a portion of the water used to cool the nuclear fuel in reactors 1 through 3, and groundwater that has seeped into the reactor buildings.

The power company continues to pour more water onto the still-hot fuel, and groundwater keeps flowing in. In other words, the radioactive soup is receding very slowly. The government road map calls for all the contaminated water to be removed from the reactor building and surrounding areas by 2020.
[…]
Only 70% of the total, or 440,000 tons, has been run through the ALPS system. The remaining 180,000 tons has only had cesium and strontium filtered out; other contaminants remain. This water must be run through ALPS. That is the first step in the three-step plan for mopping up the contaminated water.

The second step is to halt the inflow of new water into the contaminated area. At the moment, about 300 tons flow into the area every day. A barrier of frozen soil will be created near reactor buildings 1 through 4 to cut the inflow to less than 100 tons a day by the end of March 2017.
[…]
Only 70% of the total, or 440,000 tons, has been run through the ALPS system. The remaining 180,000 tons has only had cesium and strontium filtered out; other contaminants remain. This water must be run through ALPS. That is the first step in the three-step plan for mopping up the contaminated water.

The second step is to halt the inflow of new water into the contaminated area. At the moment, about 300 tons flow into the area every day. A barrier of frozen soil will be created near reactor buildings 1 through 4 to cut the inflow to less than 100 tons a day by the end of March 2017.
[…]

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福島原発補償相談室 派遣オペレーターに時給の大幅ダウン提示 via News ポストセブン

福島第一原発事故に伴い、避難を余儀なくされた住民や損害を受けた企業への補償は、期間の延長が繰り返され、今なお続いている。6月17日には商工業者への新たな賠償の仕組みが決まり、賠償総額の見通しが6兆5000億円に達したばかりだ。

そうした補償に関する問い合わせ先になっているのが「福島原子力補償相談室」のフリーダイヤルだ。電話口で対応するのは東電社員ではない。2011年4 月28日付で相談室が設置された当初は東電社員が外部スタッフとともに電話対応にあたったが、現在ではコールセンターの運営は外部に業務委託され、派遣社 員のオペレーターが電話を受けている。都内にある原発補償コールセンターで働く女性派遣社員Tさんが証言する。

「私たちの業務は精神的にかなりハードです。被災者の方から1~2時間にわたって罵声を浴び続けるのはよくあること。通話時間が5時間にも及び、ずっと謝 り続けていた人もいました。しかも、補償内容は東電側の方針で日々変わります。毎日のように申し送り事項が配られ、内容を理解しておかなければなりませ ん。

それでも被災者の方々と向き合う重要な仕事だと思っていたから、やりがいを持って頑張ってきました。にもかかわらず会社側は今年1月、いきなり時給の大幅ダウンを突きつけてきたのです」

(略)

東電から仕事をもらい続けるために、人件費削減が必要だとする内容だ。改定後の制度を説明する別紙には〈ベース時給〉として、〈サポート業務担当者 1750円〉〈現場責任者1700円〉などとあり、勤怠状況などの〈変動項目〉を満たすかで額の増減があることが示されている。

「これまで役職に応じて1800~2200円程度だった時給を、1600~1750円にカットする内容です。“皆様の雇用を守るため”との説明ですが、賃下げに応じなければ雇用を継続しないといっているように読めます」(Tさん)

通知を受けて派遣社員たちは4月、連合ユニオン東京を上部団体とする労働組合を結成した。連合ユニオン東京の古山修・執行委員長はこう話す。

「この時給改定では、“時給評価制度”といいながら、評価の判断基準が明確に示されていない。『同意しなければ継続雇用しない』というのであれば、労働契 約法に違反する行為です。組合ではこれまでに2度、団体交渉を行ないましたが、評価の明確な判断基準は『企業秘密だ』として開示されなかった。不誠実な対 応であり、労働委員会への申し立ても検討しています」

全文は福島原発補償相談室 派遣オペレーターに時給の大幅ダウン提示

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独エネ最大手エーオン、南部の原発停止 稼働は残り8基に via 日本経済新聞

【フランクフルト=加藤貴行】ドイツのエネルギー最大手エーオンは28日、同国南部バイエルン州の原子力発電所の稼働を27日深夜に停止したと発表 した。ドイツ政府は2011年の東京電力福島第1原発事故を受け、22年末までの国内の脱原発方針を決めている。原発停止は事故直後の11年に旧式など8 基を停止して以来で、ドイツ国内で稼働中の原発は残り8基となった。

今回停止したグラーフェンラインフェルト原発は1981年に運転を始め、稼働している原発では最も古かった。エーオンは当初、15年末までに停止する方針だったが、核燃料税の支払いで経済性も低下しているとして半年ほど前倒しした。

続きは独エネ最大手エーオン、南部の原発停止 稼働は残り8基に

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<福島復興指針>営業賠償方針を事業者に説明 via 河北新聞

[…]
商工団体の幹部ら約160人が出席。避難区域の事業者に対しては、減収率を100%と計算し、ことし3月以降2年分の逸失利益をまとめて支払い、その後は個々の事情を踏まえて対応とするといった賠償方針が説明された。
 出席者からは、従来の賠償支払いで、対象者を絞り込んだり、賠償範囲を狭めようとしたりする東電の姿勢に不満が噴出。「東電が言う真摯(しんし)な対応が担保されるのか」「集中支援期間後も賠償が継続される具体的な事例を示してほしい」などと注文が相次いだ。

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Hayao Miyazaki Gives 300 Million Yen to Build Kids’ Area in Park via Animenewsnetwork

Anime director and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki donated 300 million yen (around US$2.4 million) to the town of Kumejima, Okinawa for the construction of an “Interaction Center for Children” in the town’s Zenda Forest Park. The project’s supervisor and Miyazaki’s friend Tomohiro Horino expects the project to take around two years to complete.

The facility will include a two-story, 1,000-square-meter building. The town has allotted 10,000 square meters of the Zenda Forest Park for the project. The project will solicit opinions and suggestions for the project from the town’s citizens on a regular basis.

[…]
Miyazaki was also asked by a friend last year to draw a logo for the new facility on Kumejima. The facility is intended for families and children, who were displaced from Fukushima, to be outdoors; due to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station leak after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, there are areas in Fukushima that are no longer safe for children to play.

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Japan in Depth / Japanese robots aren’t much help in disasters via The Japan News

By Tatsuo Nakajima and Sho Funakoshi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers
Japanese teams were badly beaten at a recent competition for robots that work at disaster sites people cannot approach, such as the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Immediately after the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima plant, Japan did not have robots capable of working at sites full of debris. Those mobilized at the nuclear plant were all foreign-made, mainly from the United States.

The results of the international robot competition indicated that Japan still faces significant challenges in developing robots for work at disaster sites, even though more than four years have passed since the crisis began.

The Robotics Challenge Finals 2015 was held early this month on the outskirts of Los Angeles, organized by a research division of the U.S. Defense Department.

Among the 24 participating teams, 12 were from the United States, five from Japan and three from South Korea. The competition was conducted under severe conditions — wireless telecommunication lines to remote-control the robots were intentionally cut off, for example.

The Japanese teams’ robots often fell down or became unable to move. The top-finishing Japanese team, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, came in 10th.

First prize was won by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), a South Korean university, which defeated the powerful U.S. teams.

The KAIST team has participated in the event since its preliminary rounds 1½ years ago and remodeled its robot repeatedly. Its robot cleared all eight tasks without falling down once.

Prof. Oh Jun Ho of KAIST said, “We aimed to make a robot that would not break down, fall down or die.”

Japanese robots come up short in practical capabilities.
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