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Six years later, some workers at Fukushima nuclear plant say they can do without protective gear via The Japan Times

At the facility on the Pacific Coast, people in casual clothes stroll under cherry trees in full bloom.

Hot meals made with local ingredients are served for ¥380 at a cafeteria. Cold drinks, snacks and sweets are available at a convenience store.

This scene is not unfolding at a popular tourist site, but at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which was rocked by a magnitude-9 earthquake and the ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011.

Accompanied by officials from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., a group of reporters was given access to the power station earlier this month.

Six years have passed since the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Efforts to remove radioactive debris and to cover tainted soil with materials like mortar have helped decrease the radiation at the plant, allowing workers to wear regular uniforms at about 95 percent of the site.

Tainted water has been moved to more secure welded tanks, replacing weaker ones made of steel sheets and bolts, reducing leaks.

Visitors can overlook the four reactor buildings from a hill about 80 meters from the facility, where core meltdowns hit reactors 1, 2 and 3. Hydrogen explosions heavily damaged the buildings for units 1, 3 and 4, which have since received new facades.

On the hill, the radiation in the air was 150 microsieverts per hour, less than the amount received during a round-trip flight between Tokyo and New York. Tepco says there is no health hazard here as long as you wear masks and helmets and keep your stay short. Workers once needed to change into tightly woven clothing at the J-Village soccer training center about 20 km away before entering the Fukushima complex. But that burden has been lifted.

About 7,000 workers — 6,000 from construction, electronics and machinery companies and 1,000 from Tepco — work at the power station to deal with the aftermath of the meltdown and decommission the reactors.

[…]

Since the radiation has dropped sharply at the facility, about 10,000 people per year, including journalists from the United States, Europe and Asian countries, have visited. Last year, high school students dropped by.

After the two-hour tour, a dosimeter carried by a reporter showed she was exposed to only 40 microsieverts, less than the amount from a chest X-ray.

Although the working environment has certainly improved, the fate of the plant is far from clear.

Decommissioning the crippled reactors is expected to take 30 to 40 years. The utility is aiming to begin removing fuel debris from one reactor by the end of 2021, but so far it has failed to even ascertain the condition inside the reactors.

A lot of rubble remains in many of the buildings on the seaside, keeping alive fears of a quake-tsunami catastrophe like the one that struck six years ago.

A frozen underground wall has seen only limited success in preventing groundwater from flowing into the reactor and turbine buildings, regulators have said, acknowledging that the facility is still a perpetual generator of tainted water.

Tepco is also struggling to dispose of tainted waste, such as used protective garments, gloves and socks. It has burned 1,500 tons of such waste while monitoring the radiation in the smoke. It still had 70,000 cu. meters of garbage as of the end of February.

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反原発の街頭アピール、福井県が自粛要請 実行側は反発 via 朝日新聞

 福井市福井県庁前の交差点でアピール活動をしている反原発の市民団体に対し、県が活動を自粛するよう文書で要請し、市民団体のメンバー4人が21日に県庁を訪れて抗議した。

県と団体によると、市民団体は5年ほど前から、県公安委員会の許可を得て、平日昼に拡声機などを使い、県庁前の歩道で反原発などを訴えるアピール活動をしてきた。庁舎管理担当の県財産活用推進課長らは3月31日、活動後のメンバーに文書を手渡した。

文書では「活動の音量が大きくて不快」「横断幕やのぼりは美観上好ましくない」「通行の妨げ」といった苦情が寄せられているとし、活動を控えるよう要請した。団体側は「警察から許可を得ているのにおかしい」と抗議。メンバーの一人は「市民活動の自由を制限する内容。行政としておかしい」と話した。(影山遼)

 

 

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Paying Nuclear Losers for ‘Clean’ Power Upends U.S. Markets via Bloomberg

Some U.S. states are trying to save money-losing nuclear plants — and disrupting America’s electricity markets in the process.

New York and Illinois have cleared the way for nuclear power to be subsidized with higher fees on buyers — aid normally reserved for renewable energy like solar and wind. One reason policy makers gave was to protect jobs at aging plants teetering on closure. Another was nuclear’s emission-free electricity, because states are trying to address climate change by relying less on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. Connecticut and Ohio are considering similar moves, and pressure is mounting in New Jersey.

But federal regulators and gas-fueled generators including Dynegy Inc. and Calpine Corp. say the states are fundamentally altering the way wholesale power markets work. Armed with billions of dollars in new clean-energy benefits, higher-cost nuclear generators can now compete with companies that get no aid. The first test comes next month when PJM Interconnection LLC, the biggest grid, takes bids to supply power from Chicago to Washington.

[…]

While nuclear power has kept its share of U.S. electricity at around 20 percent over the past decade, it’s become a high-cost supplier with the emergence of gas-fired turbines burning cheap shale fuel, as well as more-efficient wind farms and solar panels. The country now gets more electricity from gas than from coal, which has seen its market share plunge.

[…]

The federal agency that regulates power markets is so concerned that the acting chairman called for both sides to meet and figure out a compromise.

“The markets weren’t designed to” compensate nuclear resources for carbon-free power, “and that’s something those state programs are seeking to do,” said Cheryl LaFleur, acting chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “That’s something that we have to work out.”

 

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Nuclear War Is Not Good For Your Health via The Huffington Post

Peter Gorman, Contributor

As we’ve seen recently, President Trump seems quite comfortable responding to world problems with military force. So far this has not involved using nuclear weapons. But President Trump has a history with these weapons. A few weeks before his inauguration, he called for a renewed arms race, tweeting that the United States should “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability.” He told one journalist that he would welcome an arms race, and has said that he wants to be “unpredictable” with these weapons. These statements come after more than three decades of bipartisan efforts to decrease the threat from nuclear weapons.

Not surprisingly, a week into the new administration, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday Clock half a minute closer toward catastrophe – the closest the clock has been to “midnight” since 1953. And of course, at the moment, our country is engaged in a risky game of brinksmanship with North Korea.

Before the U.S. begins expanding its nuclear arsenal, setting off an arms race and heightening tensions with other nuclear-capable countries, we should be very clear about the medical consequences of nuclear war.  It’s been more than two decades since the end of the Cold War, and many people may not know what such a conflagration would look like. As a physician and a scientist who grew up during that era, I remember.

[…]

When a nuclear bomb explodes, it unleashes a cascade of five massively destructive effects: an initial blast wave, an electromagnetic pulse, a thermal wave, a radiation burst, and radioactive fallout. The blast wave creates an enormous wind that travels at supersonic speeds outward in all directions from ground zero, destroying all people, animals and buildings for miles. Those who aren’t killed by the initial blast will be in mortal danger from flying debris. The electromagnetic pulse can damage electronic devices over an enormous area, possibly hundreds of miles; this may disrupt all electrical power and all forms of modern communication. The explosion also causes a thermal wave that has a temperature of 10 million degrees Centigrade or higher; this completely incinerates anything close to ground zero, causes severe burns to anyone within several miles, and has the potential to trigger enormous fires. The intense light from this thermal blast causes retinal burns in anyone looking directly at it, even those who are miles away.

Finally, fallout, radioactive dust and particles from the explosion, floats downwind of ground zero; wherever the wind takes the fallout, people suffer damaged immune systems and an increased cancer risk. If there are multiple bombs, with multiple fallouts, the food supply around the world could be contaminated. In areas further from the blast, contamination of the water supply and disruption of sanitation systems would raise the risk of infectious disease outbreaks.

What could the health care system do after a nuclear explosion? Very little. In the immediate area, hospitals would be destroyed, and doctors and other health care workers would be dead. There would be little or no remaining equipment, supplies, or medicine, even morphine for the victims suffering unspeakable pain. Movement of casualties would be extremely difficult.

There is an even darker scenario, one that makes questions about medical care superfluous. If as few as 100 bombs were to explode over densely-populated cities, soot from the resulting fires would enter the upper atmosphere and lead to global cooling for a decade or more—resulting in a nuclear winter. If the United States and Russia use their several thousand weapons, the planet will cool dramatically, likely leading to a mass extinction and the end of civilization and life as we know it.

All of this information is well-known and scientifically validated. It is not controversial. The severity of effects differs depending on the particular scenario, but the undeniable fact is that nuclear war poses a grave and present danger to our planet.

In the United States, the president has sole authority to order a nuclear strike. Within a few minutes of that order, missiles could be launched. This policy must be changed. Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Ted Lieu of California have introduced a bill that would prohibit the president from launching a first strike without a prior declaration of war by Congress. The Constitution gives Congress alone the power to declare war; a nuclear first strike is undoubtedly an act of war. This change in our nuclear policy is long overdue, and makes sense no matter who is in the White House. It is especially urgent now, though, given the current president’s apparent attitude toward the issue. This change would represent a small but crucial first step toward the ultimate elimination of these weapons from the world.

 

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Shut down school near nuke plants becomes place to experience renewable energy via The Hankyoreh

As the student began forcefully pedaling the bicycle in the first-floor hallway of the former Hangni branch school of Ilgwang Elementary School in Busan on Apr. 5, the blender went into motion. Nineteen on-looking Ilgwang fourth graders gasped in astonishment. They nodded along as it was explained to them that the kinetic energy from the bicycle was being converted into electrical energy to power the blender.The Hangni branch school was shut down in 2006 after the number of students dropped so low that both first and second graders were left sharing the same classroom. After debating what to do with the building, the Busan Metropolitan Office of Education (BMOE) decided to turn it into a center aimed at sharing experiences and instilling lifestyle habits of using alternative and renewable energy sources like solar and wind power rather than relying on the fossil fuels, which are a major cause of global warming.

Another factor was the branch school‘s location – about 8 km from the Kori Nuclear Power Plant complex, home of the world’s densest concentration of nuclear power plants. The decision was that with South Korea’s dependence on nuclear power among total energy consumption growing by the day, it might be more effective for the future generation of elementary, middle, and high school students to visit a school nearby the complex and experience for themselves how they could live full lives without relying on nuclear power.On Apr. 21, the building is set to reopen as the Hangni Climate Change Education Center. The opening comes 10 years after the branch school was closed down. One feature of the center is that the building runs entirely on solar energy. Indoor energy is produced with a solar energy generator on the structure’s roof, while 15 kilowatts of energy produced by a solar heat generator are used for water heating. The center also has solar-powered streetlights. The building was remodeled with a carbon-reducing environmentally friendly structure using recycled resources. It’s a “passive house” designed to prevent indoor energy from leaking outside. The over 500 million won (US$438,000) in project costs were paid by the BMOE from a 2015 metropolitan and provincial office of education assessment prize fund awarded by the Ministry of Education.

[…]

 

 

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Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant begins tests, but when will it get its uranium? via Bellona

St Petersburg’s Baltic Shipyard has announced it will begin a series of tests on Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant in a move that could include fueling its two reactors with uranium in the middle of a city of 5 million people.

[…]

The prospective fueling operation has drawn the ire of environmental groups and some politicians who say the procedure should be postponed until officials can inform the public about potential dangers. For its part, the city government has not been keen to press Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom or the Baltic Shipyard over the perceived safety issues.

The Akademic Lomonosov, as the floating plant is called, has been under fitful construction for the last 13 years. Its keel was laid at the Sevmash shipyard near Severodvinsk in 2006 in, but the vessel was moved under hints of scandal to the Baltic Shipyard in 2008.

[…]

When it arrives, it will replace the nuclear power supplied to the remote Chukotka Autonomous Republic by the Bilibino Nuclear Power Plant, which Rosatom plans subsequently to decommission.

Rosenergoatom, Russia’s nuclear utility, announced in May that Akademic Lomonosov would be fueled by December. That hasn’t happened, and the utility has since remained stubbornly silent about when, exactly, the fueling operation will begin.

[…]

But the thought of an accident during fueling isn’t what bothers Andrey Zolotkov, a nuclear advisor with Bellona in Murmansk. He pointed again to Russia’s nuclear icebreakers – both their construction at the Baltic Shipyard, and their frequent refueling in icy seasons at Atomflot, their port, which itself is only four kilometers from Murmansk and its population of 300,000.

“Of course, its better to fuel away from populated areas, but let’s look at what we really have – all of the icebreakers besides the Lenin and Sevmorput left the Baltic Shipyard with functioning nuclear energy installations,” he said, and added that none of Atomflot’s refuelings have ever resulted in an accident.

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広島・原爆資料館 「被爆再現人形」25日に幕 via 毎日新聞

広島市の原爆資料館で40年以上、来館者にインパクトを与えてきた等身大の展示物「被爆再現人形」が今月25日を最後に、改装に伴う本館閉鎖で姿を消す。撤去は2013年に決まったが、来館者らから「被害が分かりやすいのに」と惜しむ声が上がり、賛否の意見がある。資料館は改装後、被爆者の遺品など実物資料の展示を重視する方針で「原爆で運命を変えられた人々の人生を浮かび上がらせたい」と強調している。【山田尚弘、竹下理子】
 
(略)

 インドから訪れた女性は「実際はもっとひどいことが起きたはずだと子どもに伝えた。撤去は残念」と話す。広島県廿日市市の女子高校生は「小学4年の時に見て怖いというトラウマがあり、見られない」と顔を背けた。

 人形づくりは、当時の山田節男市長がロンドンのろう人形館をヒントに提案。初代人形を置いた第4代館長の浜崎一治さん(88)=広島県呉市=は、被爆者治療をした医者を人形職人と訪ね、更に実際に被爆者が着ていたもんぺや防空ずきんを人形に着せた。浜崎さんは「職人は被爆直後の人の皮膚がどんな状態だったかに気を配り、微に入り細に入り熱意を持って再現を試みていた」と振り返る。

 市は10年から展示更新について議論をしてきた。検討会議委員で広島県原爆被害者団体協議会理事長の坪井直(すなお)さん(91)は「被爆者から見れば(実相を反映しておらず)人形はおもちゃだ」と指摘。他にも「人形は実物ではなく事実でない」との意見もあり、撤去が決まった。

 これに対し、「子どもが怖がるからといって撤去するのはおかしい」などの声がインターネット上で上がった。撤去の撤回を求める活動も起き、約1万人分の署名が広島市議会に提出された。呼びかけた同市佐伯区の会社員、勝部晶博さん(46)は「被爆者に近い人の意見を取り入れた人形は、今後作ることができず価値がある。撤去で展示に抜け落ちる部分がないのか、改装後に検証すべきだ」と訴える。

 資料館は「怖いから撤去するというのは誤解」とし、ホームページ上で人形の写真公開を続けている。特別展などで展示する可能性もあるという。

全文は広島・原爆資料館 「被爆再現人形」25日に幕

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原発事故 チェルノブイリ31年、福島6年 帰れぬ街カメラで追う 「人々を分断」 中筋さん、原爆資料館で講演 /広島 via 毎日新聞

旧ソ連で起きたチェルノブイリ原発事故から26日で31年。チェルノブイリと東京電力福島第1原発の事故があった福島を撮り続ける写真家、中筋純さん(50)=東京都八王子市=による講演会がこのほど、中区の原爆資料館であった。通常は立ち入り禁止のエリアで撮影した写真を紹介しながら、「福島でもチェルノブイリでも罪なき人々が分断されていくのを感じ、とても心苦しかった」と率直な言葉で語った。【竹内麻子】

 中筋さんは2007年から計6回、チェルノブイリを訪れた。原発の中で撮影した写真に写る「十字架」は、放射線量が高い場所で今も遺体を捜せない作業員のために作られたもので、毎日花が手向けられているという。廃炉の予定について担当者に尋ねると、「100年くらいかかる。(遅れたら)その後はわからない」と言われた。中筋さんは「福島は楽観的な計画を立てているが、核が破綻すると人間の手に負えないと感じた」と振り返る。

(略)

 チェルノブイリと福島を訪れ、「普通の人々の暮らしが一瞬で消え去り自然が領域を広げる。同じような風景にたびたび出会った」。一方で、違いも感じる。チェルノブイリは町ごと移動して除染を諦めたが、福島では今も除染作業が進められ、海岸や野球場に汚染土などを詰めたフレコンバッグが並ぶ。

 3月末にも多くの地域で避難指示が解除され帰還可能となったが、「賠償を打ち切ったというだけ。それより前に解除された所も帰還は全然進んでいない」と、事故から6年がたつ福島の現状を語った。

 「原発事故の影響は見えにくい。事故後の時間を何とか写真に写し込み、記憶の風化をとどまらせたいと思った」と、写真を撮り続ける理由を語る。

 今秋まで埼玉や静岡など全国各地で、巡回写真展「流転 福島&チェルノブイリ」を開催している。

全文は原発事故 チェルノブイリ31年、福島6年 帰れぬ街カメラで追う 「人々を分断」 中筋さん、原爆資料館で講演 /広島

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The Children of Fukushima Return, Six Years After the Nuclear Disaster via The New York Times

NARAHA, Japan — The children returned to Naraha this spring.

[…]

Reopening the school “is very, very meaningful,” said Sachiko Araki, the principal of the junior high school. “A town without a school is not really a town.”

The new, $18 million two-story building has shiny blond wood floors, spacious classrooms, two science labs, a library filled with new books and a large basketball gymnasium. A balcony at the back of the building overlooks the sea.

Many emotions fueled the decisions of the families who returned to Naraha. It was always a small town, with just over 8,000 people before the disaster. So far, only one in five former residents has come home.

[…]

With thousands of bags of contaminated soil piled high in fields around town and radiation meters posted in parking lots, the memory of the nuclear disaster is never distant.

At the Naraha school, which was being constructed when the disaster hit, workers destroyed a foundation that had just been laid and started over, removing mounds of dirt in an effort to decontaminate the site.

Today, radiation is regularly monitored on the school grounds as well as along routes to the building. The central government, based on recommendations from the International Commission on Radiological Protection, set a maximum exposure of 0.23 microsieverts an hour, a level at which there is no concrete scientific evidence of increased cancer risk. (Microsieverts measure the health effects of low levels of radiation.)

Still, some teachers say they are extra careful. Aya Kitahara, a fifth-grade teacher, said she and her colleagues had decided it was not safe to allow children to collect acorns or pine cones in the neighborhood for art projects, for fear that they would pick up small doses of radiation.

Nearby, a nursery school and day care center was built mostly with money from the nuclear plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, in 2007 and reopened this month. Keiko Hayakawa, the principal, said she was surprised that the city had pushed to bring back children before all bags of contaminated soil had been cleared from town.

[…]

Calculations of radiation exposure are imprecise at best. They may not detect contaminated soil from rain runoff that can collect in gutters or other low-lying crevices. Risk of illness depends on many variables, including age, activities and underlying health conditions.

“I don’t want to accuse anyone of being consciously disingenuous,” said Kyle Cleveland, associate professor of sociology at Temple University in Tokyo, who has written about the psychological effects of the Fukushima disaster. But government officials “have every incentive to downplay the level of risk and to put a positive spin on it.”

Reviving the towns of Fukushima is also a priority for the central government. With the 2020 Olympics to be held in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to deliver on his promise that the Fukushima cleanup effort is “under control.”

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Activists Plead With Local, State Officials To Prevent Radioactive Waste From Being Buried At San Onofre via CBS Local

SAN CLEMENTE (CBSLA) — Southern Orange County residents pleaded with the San Clemente City Council Tuesday night to urge the California Coastal Commission to stop Southern California Edison from burying 3.6 million pounds of radioactive waste on the beach.

Activists were begging the commission to cancel a permit that allows Edison to store spent nuclear fuel rods from the closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station at the beach.

“Just tell the Coastal Commission to take the conditions that they put 20 years out and move them up to today where they belong,” said activist Gary Headrick.

It’s one of the last battles those living close to the nuclear power plant have to fight.

[…]

If the Coastal Commission doesn’t rescind the permit to bury the spent fuel rods, neighbors said Edison will start loading canisters with radioactive waste early next year.

“This is a paramount and critical moment in history of our lives and the future lives of our children and grandchildren,” said San Clemente resident Tom Gudauskas.

CThe City Council will not vote on whether to even draft a letter to the Coastal Commission until the next meeting in May.

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