Nuclear Power news

Renewables Outpace Nuclear All Over the World

EcoWatch: As flagship nuclear projects run into long delays and huge cost overruns, solar and wind power are falling in price. Renewables already supply twice as much power as nuclear. It’s just too bad the nuclear-fixated UK government hasn’t noticed. Renewables are winning out just about everywhere. They now supply over 19 percent of global primary energy and 22 percent of global electricity. Nuclear is at 11 percent and falling. With many of the UK’s old nuclear power plants off-line due to faults and...

Sweden doubles waste fee for nuclear power plant operators

(Reuters) - Sweden's government has decided to almost double a fee nuclear power plant operators pay to the nuclear waste fund, in order to help it cover the rising costs of decommissioning, the environment ministry said on Thursday.

Read more [Reuters]

#Cofrentes17 acquitted of nuclear protest charges

In a victory for the freedom to engage in peaceful protest, 16 activists from Greenpeace Spain, along with a freelance photojournalist – together known as the #Cofrentes17 – were yesterday acquitted by a court in Valencia of causing public disorder and injury for calling attention to the dangers of nuclear power, during a protest in February 2011.

Nearly four years ago, the activists entered the 30-year old Cofrentes nuclear power plant, some 60 km from Valencia, and painted "Peligro Nuclear" (Nuclear Danger) on one of the plant's cooling towers.

Their argument rested in part on Article 45 of the Spanish Constitution that, "Everyone has the right to enjoy an environment suitable for the development of the person, as well as the duty to preserve it".

This didn't stop prosecutors from demanding prison sentences of two years and eight months for each of the #Cofrentes17. And Greenpeace Spain risked being saddled with a fine, and paying compensation to the operator of the plant, Iberdrola, that would have amounted to nearly €360,000.

Rejecting this, the court ordered the 16 activists to pay costs of €2,232 for damaging a fence around the plant, along with a daily fine of €6 over a six-month period, amounting in total to €17,280.

The freelance journalist who was reporting on the protest faces no costs or fines.

This is a welcome outcome that underlines the essential freedom of journalists to pursue their legitimate news gathering activities without fear of prosecution. Any other result would have had a 'chilling effect' on journalistic freedom in Spain.

Mario Rodriguez, Greenpeace Spain's director, was delighted by the verdict.

"The ruling shows that the protest at Cofrentes was peaceful and did not result in any injuries. It's an important blow against attempts to criminalise peaceful protest and environmental activism. Greenpeace Spain has a 40-year history of peaceful activism and this verdict only serves to strengthen our resolve to continue our work of protecting the environment."

The court's verdict makes it clear that the activists were justified in protesting against nuclear power and drawing public attention to plans to extend the life of the ageing nuclear plant.

The judgement is not yet final, however. Appeals against the verdict may be lodged with the provincial court during the coming 10 days.

In the meantime, Greenpeace Spain wishes to extend its grateful thanks to the thousands of supporters from around the world who took to social media to support the #Cofrentes17, as well as the nearly 200 organisations and individuals who publicly supported the activists and the photojournalist.

Andrew Kerr works on Greenpeace International's press desk.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan nuclear regulator ignores its duty to protect the people

With today's draft decision to approve the safety measures of two currently closed nuclear reactors, Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) is ignoring public concerns and the major nuclear risks in the Kansai region.

The decision to give backing to two reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant puts millions of people at risk. Any severe accident at Takahama would be devastating for Kansai's people and economy – there are no effective emergency plans existing that could protect the people in the region from radiation exposure.

But Kansai Electric Power Co (KEPCO) is keen to restart its reactors and the regulator is doing all it can to help them.

The thing is, KEPCO's reactors have been offline for years which shows that they are completely unnecessary for Japan's energy future.

The thirty-year-old Takahama 3 and 4 reactors in Fukui prefecture have been shut down for 34 and 41 months respectively. Seven of KEPCO's eleven reactors are nearly or over 40 years old with decisions on the horizon on whether they should be closed permanently.

The Shiga Prefectural Government undertook risk analyses on nuclear accidents at KEPCO'S Ohi plant near Takahama in November 2011. They showed that the neighbouring Kyoto prefecture would be severely contaminated in the event of an accident. The area includes Lake Biwa, Japan's largest sea and the source of drinking water for 15 million people.

This decision doesn't mean the Takahama reactors will be restarting immediately, however. The NRA's draft decision is merely the start of a multi-step process that will reach far into 2015.

The next step will be a month-long consultation to collect public comments on the NRA's draft decision. Also, the NRA still needs to review tens of thousands of documents from KEPCO as there are many outstanding safety issues.

One of them, the risk of an earthquake, is the main point of a legal injunction brought by citizens in the region. Another is the highly dangerous plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel which will be installed at the Takahama reactors. Scientists, citizens groups and politicians have long opposed its use.

There is both public and political resistance against the restart of the two Takahama reactors. It comes from within the Kansai region as well as the three prefectures neighbouring Fukui.

The governor of Shiga wants the right to have a say over any restart decision. The governor of Kyoto disapproves of a restart. However, a decision on a local level is likely to be delayed as the Abe government is facing regional elections in April 2015, including for the governorship of Fukui.

At this stage, the NRA draft approval will only increase public and political opposition to any nuclear restart in Takahama.

All of Japan's 48 reactors have remained shut down, with no nuclear plants operating since September 2013. By embracing energy efficiency and renewables, the people of Japan have shown that nuclear power is unnecessary and belongs to the past.

So why isn't the Nuclear Regulation Authority listening to them, the people they are supposed to serve, instead of doing the bidding of the nuclear industry?

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

(Image: Military ship and MV 'Pacific Pintail' in front of Takahama Nuclear Power Plant in Uchirua Bay, Japan. Surrounded by Japanese police and coastguard, Greenpeace activists in inflatables protested in Uchiura Bay. The protest addressed the BNFL ship 'Pacific Pintail' departing after being loaded with rejected weapons-usable Plutonium Mox fuel being shipped back to the UK. 07/04/2002 © Greenpeace/Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert)

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Large Hadron Collider set to go at double power in 2015

After a two-year break the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is located on the outskirts of Geneva, is on target to re-start in March 2015. It’ll be turned back on at nearly double its previous power level and should be ready for atom-smashing experiments by May. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) said on Friday that all of its teams are hard at work ensuring that the LHC will be set to go again next year as planned. The 27km-long particle accelerator is close to being cooled to the necessary temperature of “1.9 degrees above absolute zero”. The CERN Control Centre has a number of tests it has to carry out before the LHC can be said to be fully set to go. Once the machine has been restarted it will run for three years while scientists use it to try and unravel many of the universe’s unsolved mysteries. In its last run the LHC operated at an energy level of 8 TeV (tera electron volts), the overall level for the 2015-2018 run will be 13 TeV. It ... Show more
Read more [ sci & tech]

As Japan burns more coal, climate policies under pressure

TOKYO (Reuters) - Once at the forefront of the fight against global warming, Japan is now facing calls from other big economies such as China to set fresh emissions targets as Tokyo increases its use of dirty coal energy to replace nuclear.

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Anti-Nuke Activists Fight to Close Diablo Canyon

EcoWatch: California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors are surrounded by earthquake faults they were never designed to withstand. They are riddled with design flaws and can’t meet basic fire safety standards. They dump huge quantities of hot water into the ocean in defiance of state water quality standards, killing billions of sea creatures. Their operating costs are soaring beyond renewables, an energy source transforming the California ecology and economy. They continue to pile up huge quantities of deadly...

As Japan burns more coal, climate policies under pressure

TOKYO (Reuters) - Once at the forefront of the fight again global warming, Japan is now facing calls from other big economies such as China to set fresh emissions targets as Tokyo increases its use of dirty coal energy to replace nuclear.

Read more [Reuters]

This generation will ban nuclear weapons

Nearly 25 years after the end of the Cold War there are still estimated to be 16,300 nuclear weapons at 98 sites in 14 countries.  Rather than disarm, nuclear armed states continue to spend a fortune maintaining and modernising their arsenals – an international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons learned this week.

More than 150 governments were represented at the conference in Vienna on December 8 and 9, including, for the first time, delegations from four of the nine countries with nuclear weapons: the US, UK, India and Pakistan.  They heard Pope Francis condemn in a statement that the money spent on nuclear weapons was "squandering the wealth of nations".

Delegates from 44 of the countries called at the event's end for a prohibition on nuclear weapons. The Austrian government pledged to work to “fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons".

This could set the stage for the start of a diplomatic process towards a new treaty with input crucial from civil society organisations, and individuals around the world.

Delegates heard chilling stories of suffering from survivors of nuclear bombs and tests in Japan, Australia, the US and the Marshall Islands.

The speakers, all children at the time, described how their lives changed forever.

Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow told the conference: "Miraculously, I was rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building, about 1.8 km from ground zero.  Most of my classmates in the same room were burned alive.  I can still hear their voices calling their mothers and God for help". 

Michelle Thomas from Utah, recounted her childhood memories of living downwind of the Nevada test site, where 100 atmospheric nuclear tests were carried out by the US in the 1950s.

At the time the government told the community they were part of history. She  remembered feeling embarrassed by her mother  protesting against the tests. Only later did she realise that, "Our own country was bombing the hell out of us".

Many living in those rural areas, including Michelle suffered severe illnesses associated with radiation. The children used to recite:

"A is for atom, B is for bomb". Some added "C is for cancer, D is for death".

Abacca Anjain-Maddison, from Rongelap, the Marshall Islands, described how the children played in the radioactive dust falling from the sky, fallout from the 'bravo' nuclear test, conducted by the US in 1954.

They thought it was snow.  The Marshall Islanders had no word for "bomb" or for "contamination" and yet many had suffered catastrophic health impacts as a result of the testing.

A total of 67 nuclear tests were carried out in the Marshall Islands from 1946-58. Earlier this year the islanders lodged a historic series of cases in the International Court of Justice, The Hague against nuclear armed states for their failure to disarm.

Greenpeace strongly supports the suits and calls on everyone to join the petition and stand in solidarity with the islanders.

Sadly, the tragic legacy of nuclear weapons still lives on and continues to threaten our present and future. As long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of accidental or deliberate use will be present.

Participants of a civil society forum organised by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) before the conference, called on governments to urgently start negotiating a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

The US and other nuclear-armed states may remain strongly opposed, but they can no longer ignore the emerging momentum to jump-start the efforts to reduce, nuclear dangers so the world can live safely.

A powerful video shown at the conference by ICAN on behalf of civil society concluded:

"Every generation has a chance to change the world. This generation will ban nuclear weapons."

Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We cannot live with this threat to life any longer as Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor told the conference in a heartfelt plea for global support.

Jen Maman is a Peace Advisor at Greenpeace International.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

New Mexico slaps federal energy agency with $54 million in fines

(Reuters) - New Mexico regulators on Saturday hit the U.S. government with more than $54 million in fines for violations at a nuclear waste facility where a fire broke out and radiation was released in two mishaps earlier this year.

Read more [Reuters]

Locally-Controlled, Renewable Energy Championed as Key to Climate Justice

Common Dreams: As progress at the UN climate summit in Lima, Peru has been reported as "slow" by many observers so far, green campaigners on Friday called on world governments participating in the talks to end their continued dependence on outdated fossil fuel- and nuclear-powered energy systems and urged investment and policies geared toward building clean, sustainable, community-based energy solutions. "We urgently need to decrease our energy consumption and push for a just transition to community-controlled...

GOP gains put nuclear power back on the table

Hill: Republicans and the nuclear power sector are hopeful that GOP control of the Senate will improve the political landscape for an industry that hasn’t opened a new generator in nearly two decades. As Senate Democrats this week held their tenth hearing on nuclear safety since Japan’s Fukushima Daichii meltdown three years ago, Republicans and observers looked forward to a future with a more business-friendly approach to the industry. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), long a champion of nuclear power and...

#Cofrentes17: why Spain's Constitution Day is important to us all

Right now, 16 Greenpeace activists and an independent photojournalist are standing trial in Valencia for a peaceful protest they staged against the risks posed by the 30-year old Cofrentes nuclear power plant, near Valencia.

They are the #Cofrentes17.

As they worry about the verdict, people all over Spain are today celebrating the anniversary of a referendum held in 1978 that helped to transform their country from a dictatorship to a constitutional monarchy and democracy. Dictator Franco ruled the roost for 36 years, from April 1939 until his death in late 1975.

Spain's new constitution can hardly have a more pro-environmental wording.

Article 45 of the constitution states:

  1. Everyone has the right to enjoy an environment suitable for the development of the person, as well as the duty to preserve it.

  2. The public authorities shall watch over a rational use of all natural resources with a view to protecting and improving the quality of life and preserving and restoring the environment, by relying on an indispensable collective solidarity.

  3. For those who break the provisions contained in the foregoing paragraph, criminal or, where applicable, administrative sanctions shall be imposed, under the terms established by the law, and they shall be obliged to repair the damage caused.

Yes, nobody expects the Spanish Constitution.

All good in Spain, then? Well, not any longer.

Although the anniversary is celebrated with a national holiday, dark clouds are gathering over the freedom to protest and to stand up for the environment.

Four years ago, the #Cofrentes17 entered the Cofrentes nuclear power plant and painted "Peligro Nuclear" (Nuclear Danger) on one of its cooling towers.

They believe that it was their duty and right under Spain's constitution to stand up for the environment.

In a trial that is scheduled to run through to 11 December the #Cofrentes17 are each facing prison sentences of nearly three years. And Greenpeace Spain could be fined nearly €360,000.

The #Cofrentes17 face the harshest punishment that any activists with Greenpeace Spain have encountered in 30 years' of peaceful protest.

Is this part of a pattern of the Spanish government clamping down on peaceful protest?

Just over two weeks ago, a separate group of Greenpeace activists in Spain made the international news when Spanish Navy boats rammed one of our inflatable boats during a peaceful protest against oil exploration in the Canary Islands.

One activist was hospitalised following the Navy's highly aggressive response to Greenpeace Spain's attempt to hang a banner on the drill ship saying, 'no to oil exploration, yes to renewable energy'. These activists, too, believed that they had a duty and a right to stand up for the environment.

What the Cofrentes and Canary Islands protests have in common is that these entirely legitimate and peaceful activities met with disproportionate reactions from the Spanish authorities.

Surely it's the Spanish government that should be on trial for both trying to block the constitutional right and duty of Spanish citizens to preserve the environment, and for its own failings in not doing enough.

What were the #Cofrentes17 doing if not exercising their constitutional duty to preserve the environment?

And, in the Canary Islands, we believe that in allowing irresponsible oil exploration – which is opposed by 75% of the islands' citizens – the Spanish government is failing in its duty to ensure, "rational use of natural resources with a view to protecting and improving the quality of life and preserving and restoring the environment".

After all, Spain has abundant untapped resources of clean renewable energy.

How you can help

In five simple steps you can add your support to thousands of others who are connecting with the #Cofrentes17, and also support the right to peaceful protest in a democratic society.

Here's how:

  1. Pick up a pen

  2. Draw "17" on your hand

  3. Take a selfie or a group pic

  4. Upload the photo onto social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, with the tag #Cofrentes17, or #Misión45 (to do with Article 45 of Spain's constitution)

  5. Invite your friends to support this campaign

How hard is that? Surely not as hard as climbing a power station cooling tower to warn the world about nuclear risks!

The #Cofrentes17 would very much welcome your support.

Thank you, from Helena, Sonia, Amanda Luna, Nacho, Rakel, Virginia, Hernán, Nacho, Marcelí, Sonia, Vicenç, Maite, Araceli, Nelia, Auba, Fausto and Pedro. The #Cofrentes17

Andrew Kerr works on Greenpeace International's press desk.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan's CO2 emissions hit record as fossil fuel consumption rises

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's greenhouse-gas emissions rose to a record in the year ended March as the closure of nuclear power plants increased fossil fuel consumption.

Read more [Reuters]

#Cofrentes17: Renewable bravery!

There are moments to talk and moments to act. Almost four years ago, sixteen Greenpeace activists agreed that the huge risk posed by the Cofrentes nuclear station near Valencia, Spain, required concrete and public action.

On 15 February 2011, they entered the nuclear power plant and painted "Peligro Nuclear" (Nuclear Danger) on one of its cooling towers.

Tomorrow, the sixteen activists and an independent journalist who was documenting the action are facing trial for their actions that could sentence them to almost three years in jail. Moreover, Greenpeace Spain may have to pay a fine of about €360,000.  It will be the harshest trial in 30 years of peaceful activism in Spain‎.

I repeat. There is a time for talking and a time for action. Yesterday afternoon, the Greenpeace delegation at the Conference of the Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru, decided to take a stand in solidarity. We want to believe that climate negotiations are a place of action! This is why we call for your support – media included – by holding up and spreading the message "#Cofrentes17" in solidarity with our 17 activists. Anyhow, the Spanish Constitution is on our side. Article 45 explicitly says, "Everyone has the right to enjoy an environment suitable for the development of the person, as well as the duty to preserve it".

That said, we ask the negotiators present in Lima to take this message back home and guarantee the right to protest everywhere in the world. In the 21st century we cannot allow any country, not Spain, not Peru or any other country, to disrespect the right to protest as a means of influence and transformation. The biggest revolutionary tipping points have been as the result of protest – from the abolition of slavery to the recent uprising for more democracy in Europe and around the world.

At COP20, world leaders must identify and commit to actions that will avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The #Cofrentes17 – as thousands of supporters know them in social media – acted to bring attention to the dangers of nuclear power: the most expensive, risky and centralized energy source. It cannot be considered a solution to climate change or an option to fulfill the global goal of universalizing energy access.

We are confident that the court in Valencia will hold up Article 45 of the Spanish Constitution and we expect the activists to be acquitted from all charges. We hope that this trial will reinforce the right to peaceful protest in Spain and everywhere, while putting a spotlight on the high risks associated with nuclear power.

Spain needs to undertake a transition from nuclear energy and fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil to safe and clean renewable energy. If we want to avert the worst effects of climate change and prevent environmental disasters, e.g. the one close to the Mediterranean coast near Tarragona, Catalonia, a few days ago, we have to phase out dirty energies and phase in solar and wind energy.

To protect the environment, and boost the economy, we need to start a just transition towards a system based on 100% renewable energy for all in 2050. It should be made a priority in Spain and is one of Greenpeace's main demands during COP20 in Lima.

We hope to build on the #Cofrentes17 legacy and abandon the era of fossil and fissile fuels.

We look to a future that is fair and sustainable and supports freedom of speech and democracy. A future in which citizens benefit from an energy community unified by renewable energy.

The dream of a green and peaceful future gives us the strength and courage to take action and keep the future of humanity in our hands.

Mauro Fernández is a climate campaigner with Greenpeace Argentina and is based in Buenos Aires. He is following Latin American perspectives during the limate talks in Lima.

Note: This blog was updated on 5 December 2014 to clarify the text extract from Article 25 of the Spanish Constitution.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

German gov't announces further cut in emissions

APA: The German federal government approved a climate action package on Wednesday to cut more carbon emissions in a bid to meet its previously pledged climate target, APA reports quoting Xinhua. Germany pledged to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels. The target is more ambitious than that of the whole European Union which is only willing to reach the same reduction level by 2030. However, Germany faces challenges in meeting the target as the country abandoned nuclear power and still...

Belgian nuclear crisis continues with fire at Tihange

Belgium's nuclear crisis continued this week with a fire and explosion at the Tihange nuclear power plant. The fire began in the electrical substation transformer building at approximately 10.30am on Sunday, December 1 and led to an emergency shutdown of reactor unit 3. The 29 year old Tihange nuclear reactor is located near Liege and is 70 kilometers west of the city of Aachen. The fire was put out by the local fire service. The reactor restarted at 5.00am on December 2.

Fires at nuclear power plants pose significant risks to reactor safety due to the potential disruption of the electrical supply to vital reactor safety functions. (In 2008, Jack Grobe, Associate Director for Engineering and Safety Systems, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulatory, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said: "Approximately one-half of the core damage risk at operating reactors results from accident sequences that initiate with fire events.")

The transformer at a power plant converts the electricity current generated before it enters the main electrical grid. There have been numerous fires at nuclear power plants in recent years, including at the Krummel plant in Germany and at the Arkansas reactor in the United States. A fire of an oil-cooled transformer that contains several thousand litres of combustible insulating oil can result in severe damage to nearby power plant structural components such as concrete walls, and damage or destroy electrical components.

Tihange's operator Electrabel stressed that the cause of the fire was a technical failure rather than sabotage. The Belgium nuclear industry was shaken in August 2014 when it was revealed that sabotage had caused major damage at the Doel nuclear power plant. Doel's reactor 4 remains shutdown and is undergoing repairs.

The nuclear industry is in crisis in Belgium. The Tihange reactor 2 and Doel reactor 3 have been shutdown since March 2014 due to the discovery of thousands of serious cracks in their reactor core pressure vessels. Investigations are on-going into the extent and cause of the cracks, while Greenpeace has been demanding the release of research tests results on the reactors.

The remaining operating reactors are the oldest in Belgium. In July 2013, Belgium's Council of Ministers made an agreement to close the twin Doel 1 and 2 reactors in 2015, but the nuclear industry is pushing to have their lives extended due in part to the crisis with their newer reactors.

Action at Tihange Nuclear Power Plant in Belgium (03/05/2014 © Nick Hannes / Greenpeace)

Greenpeace has been demanding a complete phase out of nuclear power in Belgium due to the accident risks from their ageing reactors, including protests at Tihange earlier this year.

Shaun Burnie is a senior nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace Germany.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

United Kingdom: E.On’s switch to renewables is a sign of things to come, say experts

Guardian: More companies are likely to follow the German utility giant E.ON and shift their energy generation away from coal and nuclear to renewable power, the president of Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has told the Guardian. E.ON’s surprise announcement on Monday, that it would split its operations to focus on clean energy, power grids and energy efficiency services, also increased the prospect of success for Germany’s ambitious Energiewende [Energy Transition] project, Maria Krautzberger...

Belgian nuclear reactor to return to full capacity on Tuesday

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian utility group Electrabel, part of GDF Suez, said its nuclear reactor Tihange 3 should return to full capacity later on Tuesday, after a fire at a transformer outside the power station caused it to shut down on Sunday.

Read more [Reuters]

The #Cofrentes17 are part of Spain's great tradition of nuclear resistance

A month before the Fukushima catastrophe began in 2011, Greenpeace activists occupied one of Cofrentes' cooling towers and painted "Peligro Nuclear" on its side: Nuclear Danger.

On 28 November, dozens of academics and people from Spain's environmental movement gathered for a seminar at the University of Valencia. They were there to discuss the background to the 2011 protest against the life-time extension of the aging Spanish Cofrentes nuclear power station.

Greenpeace activists climb one of the cooling towers at the Cofrentes Nuclear Power Plant (02/15/2011 © Mario Gomez / Greenpeace)

This week, those activists and one independent photographer will stand trial in Valencia and face charges which could lead to heavy prison sentences and crippling financial penalties.

During the seminar, maybe the most interesting stories came from people who were involved in the critical movement against General Franco's nuclear programme in the 1970s which formed the basis for Spain's current nuclear activities.

The Cofrentes 17 are part of one of the strongest and most successful anti-nuclear movements in Europe. The main themes have remained scarily the same over the four decades of Spain's nuclear programme: a lack of transparency, heavy suppression of criticism, corruption, the cutting of corners in nuclear safety, and confusion around the issue of nuclear waste.

Nevertheless, the Spanish people were able to shut down, or cancel plans for, 27 nuclear reactors. Only seven remain in operation today.

At the seminar, nuclear consultant Yves Marignac commented:

Compare that with the one nuclear reactor out of 60 that the French anti-nuclear movement was able to prevent.

Three of these 27 were operational reactors, five of them were reactors under construction and 19 were at serious planning stages. Even more astonishing is that most of these projects were cancelled before 1975 when General Franco was still in power.

It is in this tradition that the Cofrentes 17 brought attention to the risks of Spain's ageing nuclear fleet. One of its reactors at Garoña is the second oldest reactor in Europe and already shut down, but the current government wants to restart it.

Four of the seven remaining reactors are older than 30 years and face an increasing number of small incidents like leakages of cooling water which indicate the progression of their ageing and their increasing risk. On the other hand, Spain’s seemingly unstoppable renewable energy growth is currently under attack because the main operators of these reactors fear for their market share and want to continue to squeeze profits out of obsolete nuclear power.

Why would you want to stick with these ageing nuclear reactors, with all the attached risks and a growing nuclear waste problem, when the reality on the ground has already shown that Spain can easily and affordably run an electricity system with 100% renewables?

It was brave and prophetic of the Cofrentes 17 to show the threat that Spain's ageing nuclear fleet is posing to its Energy [R]evolution. The Fukushima catastrophe a month later illustrated the urgency of their pledge. The stress tests the European Union conducted on its reactors in the aftermath of the disaster confirmed a list of flaws including crucial ones like missing filtering of vents and insufficient flooding protection. The lack of urgency from Spain's Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) in demanding safety upgrades shows the lack of priority for nuclear safety in the system.

To bring attention to this worrying situation is not a crime, it is a civil duty.

Jan Haverkamp is nuclear expert consultant at Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe

Read more [Greenpeace international]

A rainbow from Machu Picchu to Düsseldorf

Peru! What comes to mind when you think of Peru? Right! The mysterious Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, which attract and inspire so many people from around the world, and still have scientists puzzling over their origin.

Last night, Greenpeace paid tribute to the old Inca culture, also sometimes referred to as the enlightened ones. They believed in the positive energy of the sun, and so do we.

Act for the Climate! Go Solar!

"Act for the Climate! Go Solar" was the message we projected onto Huayna Picchu, the mountain that overlooks the ancient city. Why here and why now?

Today, the twentieth UN climate conference (COP20) begins in the Peruvian capital, Lima.

This is the last major round of negotiations before a new climate treaty is expected to be agreed in Paris in a year's time – a treaty that could pave the way to a global energy transition away from fossil fuels and towards 100% renewable energy. 

What’s giving this conference and the energy transition an added boost is that the costs of wind and solar energy have fallen considerably over the past few years. In many countries renewable power plants are now cheaper and produce energy at a lower cost that fossil power plants. Nuclear energy is losing its allure as it proves to be expensive, dangerous and unsustainable. 

The lowest-cost strategy to ensure a carbon-free energy supply is to increase the share of renewables in the energy mix.

"This must be a good sign"

But back to Machu Picchu, where our team of activist projectionists from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Germany and Spain waited for the last tourists to leave the area. Mosquitos were finding their way through our jackets and pants, making the wait for nightfall feel even longer.

Just before sunset I looked up and saw that a rainbow had appeared above Machu Picchu. "This must be a good sign," I thought to myself.

That sentiment applies equally to today’s fantastic news from 10,418 kilometres away, in Düsseldorf, Germany. There, the CEO of E.ON – one of the largest power companies in Europe – has announced that the company plans to get out of nuclear, coal and gas and instead concentrate on renewables and smart grid management services.

This wise and timely decision by E.ON underlines how more and more organisations understand that renewables really are the best choice in terms of cost effectiveness for a carbon-free energy supply.

It’s not only Brazil, China, India and South Africa that are seeing their energy demand surge due to economic growth; Germany, too, is feeling the strain on its well-established power supply system.

An end to the 'climate circus'?

As a prelude to the talks in Lima, the United States and China - the two leading carbon polluters - recently agreed to reduce their emissions. And governments have pledged more than US$9 billion to the Green Climate Fund.

With initiatives like that of E.ON coming on top, we could see the climate talks cast off their reputation of being a 'climate circus' where nothing is decided. These talks could be the stepping stone to saving our climate with the phase-in of sustainable energy, such as solar power.

The growing importance and competitiveness of the renewable industry brings a new dimension to the climate talks. Renewable energy can be relied upon to replace the large coal-fired power plants that are the main carbon dioxide emitters. With this in mind, governments should feel more comfortable about taking on the tough emissions commitments that are required to combat climate change.

Keep up to date with how we are pushing for action in Lima, here:

Sven Teske is a senior energy expert with Greenpeace International. Since 2005 he has been the project leader for the global energy scenario "Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook".

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Australian PM Abbott says he's open idea of using nuclear energy

Straits Times: Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday opened the door to the use of nuclear energy as Australia faces growing pressure to bring down its greenhouse gas emissions. Australia is the world's third-ranking uranium producer behind Kazakhstan and Canada but does not use nuclear power, largely due to its abundance of low-cost coal and natural gas reserves, and community sentiment. But with demands growing for Canberra to announce its climate targets for beyond 2020 at global talks in France late next...

Forest fires around Chernobyl could release radiation, scientists warn

Guardian: A consortium of Ukrainian and international scientists is making an urgent call for a $13.5m (£8.28m) programme to prevent potentially catastrophic wildfires inside the exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl's ruined nuclear power plant. The fear is that fires in the zone could release clouds of radioactive particles that are, at the moment, locked up in trees, held mainly in the needles and bark of Scots pines. The consortium says an automated fire detection and monitoring system and new firefighting...

United Kingdom: Chernobyl lessons missed because research gaps

Guardian: The long-term health effects of Chernobyl remain unclear 25 years after the most serious nuclear accident in history, according to a former World Health Organisation (WHO) official. A full assessment of the public health impact has been thwarted by poorly co-ordinated research on residents in areas close to the plant, and should be carried out with funding from the European commission, said Keith Baverstock, a former health and radiation adviser to the WHO. He said research had been frustrated...

Chernobyl’s eerie desolation revealed by camera mounted on drone

Guardian: A camera mounted on a drone has revealed the eerie post-apocalyptic landscape of a town abandoned after the nuclear power station at Chernobyl exploded nearly three decades ago. The British documentary maker Danny Cooke has travelled to Pripyat, just a few miles from the power plant, which was once home to 50,000 people. It was evacuated soon after the disaster on 26 April 1986 that killed 31 people and sent large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere over the western part of...

IAEA recommends France raises funds, workforce for nuclear safety

PARIS (Reuters) - French nuclear watchdog ASN got a clean bill of health from an International Atomic Energy Agency-led peer review on Friday, although the report highlighted the need for more staff and money in the future.

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China, US diverge on approaches to nuclear energy

China Daily: China and the US are taking different approaches to nuclear energy, as both nations map out a strategy for their recent agreement to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. The US is still basically keeping nuclear power at arm's length, while China is embracing the technology. On Monday, China's largest nuclear power producer, CGN Power Co Ltd, said it would have an initial public offering in Hong Kong in December valued at up to HK$24.52 billion (US$3.16 billion) to raise funds to expand generating capacity....

17 nuclear headaches

"It was my duty to do this and I did it." These are the words of one of our Greenpeace activists when he was prosecuted last September for the peaceful protest at the nuclear power plant of Fessenheim in France. These thoughts are shared by the 17 people who participated in the action at Cofrentes nuclear power plant in Spain in 2011 to expose its dangers, for which they will be tried in the coming days. The Cofrentes 17 face a possible sentence of almost three years in prison.

Greenpeace activists climb one of the cooling towers at the Cofrentes Nuclear Power Plant (02/15/2011 © Mario Gomez / Greenpeace)

Many nuclear reactors share dangerous similarities - they age, exceed operating life, and are often situated close to places with high population density. Have a look at 17 nuclear reactors from around the world that must be shut down TODAY.

1. Fessenheim, like Cofrentes, has exceeded its 30-year operating life. Despite improvements and repairs, the aging of nuclear reactors is a fact; certain components can't be replaced, including the pressure vessel and the containment structure.

About 60 Greenpeace activists from 14 countries protest at Fessenheim (03/18/2014 © Daniel Mueller / Greenpeace)

2, 3. In Belgium, reactor 3 of the Doel nuclear power plant was also designed for 30 years of operating life and its pressure vessel was built by the same Dutch company as Cofrentes, Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij (RDM). At present, Doel 3 is out of operation due to severe safety issues stemming from more than 8,000 cracks found in its pressure vessel. Reactor 2 at Belgium's Tihange nuclear power plant is affected by the same problem.

Greenpeace activists protest at the aging Tihange nuclear power plant in Belgium. (03/05/2014 © Philip Reynaers / Greenpeace)

4. And close by, in the Netherlands, Greenpeace has reported safety issues on several occasions at the Borssele nuclear plant which has been functioning for more than 40 years.  

5, 6. Germany's Gundremmingen B and C reactors are also more than 30 years old and have suffered emergency shutdowns due to problems with valves and pipes. The difference is that Gundremmingen B will be shut down in 2017 and C in 2021 while Cofrentes has a licence to operate at least until 2022.

7, 8. The Tarapur 1 and 2 reactors in India are of a similar design and age as those that went into meltdown at Fukushima after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Warnings were given as long ago as 1995 that the Tarapur reactors should be shut down.

9. In the Czech Republic, we find the nuclear power plant of Dukovany. This plant's operator wants to extend the four reactors' operating lifetimes to up to 50. These reactors have had their power output increased like the Cofrentes reactors. Increasing the power output of a reactor can compromise its safety limits. For example, increased thermal energy production means more vapor and cooling water which causes greater tensions in the pipes and heat exchange systems, and therefore aggravates the aging processes.

10. Paks 2 in Hungary is also more than 30 years old. In 2003, it suffered a level 2 accident (INES scale). The cause was a fracture of the used fuel rods in its cooling storage pool, where there is no secondary safety containment. In 2009, Cofrentes also suffered an accident classified as level 1 when a fuel sub-element came loose and fell while it was being moved inside the storage pool for inspection.

And it continues…

11. Slovenia's nuclear power plant at Krsko is also older than 30 years. Just like in the other plants, the physical aging of systems, structures and components run in parallel to aging technology. The design of the reactors only allows a limited implementation of new technology and safety concepts. Protection against earthquakes is insufficient, as is the case with Cofrentes.

12. Further to the north, in Sweden Forsmark 1 with a design similar to all these others, is older than 30 years In 2006 there was a level 2 incident when the emergency backup diesel generators failed and a catastrophic Chernobyl-style meltdown was only narrowly avoided. As at Cofrentes, Greenpeace activists exposed the lack of security of the plant.

Greenpeace activists 'stress testing' at Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant. facility. (10/09/2012 © Greenpeace)

13. Valencia is just 100 kilometres away from Cofrentes, with a population of almost 800,000. Requena is 36 kilometres away with 21,000 inhabitants. Just like the Hartlepool nuclear plant in the UK which is also more than 30 years old and has highly populated towns in the vicinity.

14, 15. In Ukraine, the Rivne 1 and 2 reactors are older than 30 years. Their operators  breached the Espoo Convention by not carrying out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) before finalising a periodic safety review that allows them to operate another 10 years. At Cofrentes, its lifetime extension plan was published on the same day as the Fukushima disaster began and without any public consultation.

16. Three years ago, when the Greenpeace action took place at Cofrentes, nobody could imagine what would happen just a month later in Fukushima - a nuclear disaster which is very far from over. Some of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors were supplied by General Electric just like Cofrentes. These reactors lacked filtered ventilation systems to help prevent radioactivity escaping in the event of an accident. Cofrentes is exactly the same.

At Fukushima, the institutions responsible failed because they were unable to recognize the risks, unable to reinforce safety measures when deficiencies were acknowledged, and unable to protect the population and the environment. Just like at Cofrentes.

17. Without doubt, the Santa María de Garoña nuclear power plant is Spain's biggest headache. Not only is it - like Cofrentes - operated by the company Iberdrola, at 43 years old it is also the oldest in the European Union Like the containment vessel in Cofrentes it was built by the same Dutch company as those in Belgium's damaged Doel and Thiange reactors. It is now closed, but the Spanish government is looking to reopen it by modifying laws without public or environmental consultations.

Greenpeace activists are sprayed with a power hose at the Garoña Nuclear Plant (11/20/2008 © Greenpeace / Pedro Armestre)

So there we have it – 17 nuclear headaches, one for each of the 17 Cofrentes activists who are being prosecuted for doing their civil duty. When it comes to nuclear power, public participation and consent is essential. Peaceful protest is a right.

Will you stand with the Cofrentes 17?

Raquel Montón is a nuclear and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Spain

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Bear back in Chernobyl after century

BBC: Scientists have captured what is believed to be the first photographic evidence of brown bears within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ). Camera traps, used by a project assessing radioactive exposure impacts on wildlife, recorded the images. Brown bears had not been seen in the area for more than a century, although there had been signs of their presence. The exclusion zone was set up after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in April 1986. "Our Ukrainian colleague,...

Security and safety risks at French nuclear reactors exposed by drones

For the past two months, French nuclear facilities have been subjected to a new threat – the overflight of unidentified drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). As of 20th November, drones of various sizes have made 32 flights above and around 14 nuclear reactor sites.

Sites operated by Electricite de France (EdF), together with the plutonium nuclear fuel facilities at la Hague and Marcoule, the shutdown fast breeder reactor at Superphenix, and the research centre headquarters of the Atomic Energy Commission just outside Paris have all had visits from drones.

In just one evening on 31st October, seven separate nuclear sites across northern France were flown over by nine drones. Despite the deployment of radar systems with jamming technology, military pursuit helicopters and instructions from the Government to bring them down with shotguns, to date the drones have evaded all efforts to stop them.

Those responsible for the drone flights have yet to be identified. And it’s not Greenpeace.

For weeks, the French public have been exposed to daily media reports of yet another drone flight at yet another nuclear plant – and with 58 nuclear reactors they have been visually reminded that France does indeed have a lot of nuclear power. Bugey, Fessenheim, Cattenom, St Laurent, and the other nuclear reactor sites across the country have been given a media profile unheard of in decades.

The response from EdF has been almost complete silence, other than to file police complaints. The response from the Government has been to state that the drones don't present a threat.

The silence and assurances are unacceptable, complacent and wrong.

In the last few days Greenpeace has begun the process of providing evidence of the new threats posed by drones and the need for urgent action. Two reports commissioned by us, and based on publicly available information, have investigated the security and safety implications of drone technology and nuclear power plants.

Yesterday, Greenpeace presented evidence to the French National Assembly Committee on Science and Technology (OPCEST) that shows the drone flights have exposed a major failure in nuclear plant security and safety.

A report commissioned by Greenpeace France from independent nuclear engineering consultancy Large & Associates has been sent to the head of France's nuclear safety agency (ASN), and senior members of the government responsible for security. The research reveals that vital safety functions of a nuclear power plant are vulnerable to direct drone attack. Due to the detailed analysis in this report and the highly sensitive nature of the debate in France at present, Greenpeace has chosen not to release it.

Today, Greenpeace Germany has released a report by nuclear physicist Oda Becker from Bremen, that provides a broader overview of the role drones could play in supporting an armed attack against nuclear reactors, with a specific focus on those reactors on the French border with Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Germany.

The analysis shows that drones could play a critical role in assisting with a deliberate armed attack that could lead to a major accident and release of radioactivity.

Of particular concern are the reactor spent fuel pools that hold hundreds of tons of highly radioactive waste removed from the nuclear reactor core. For reactors of the same design and vintage as at Fessenheim, designed in the 1960s and operating since 1977, the spent fuel building is particularly vulnerable, being little more than the equivalent of a commercial warehouse.

The buildings contain the equivalent of many nuclear reactors worth of radioactivity. The average nuclear reactor contains 80-100 tons of irradiated nuclear fuel – currently France has around 4000 tons of spent fuel in its reactor pools and 10,000 tons in the la Hague storage pools.

As the Fukushima accident showed, and as the then Prime Minister Naoto Kan warned and plant manager Yoshida believed – a major accident at a spent fuel pool threatens the very future of your nation.

The fact that Fessenheim is on the German border and a resulting accident could contaminate large swathes of German cities and countryside is one reason that there have been longstanding demands from across the border for the plant to be shutdown. The drone flights over Fessenheim will only intensify those demands.

Its worth noting that the first German Atomic Law, adopted in 2002, that initiated the phase out of nuclear power, was in part based on evidence that nuclear plants are vulnerable to terrorist attack.

Clearly the French government have yet to reach that point of understanding.

One problem when you have a lot of nuclear reactors is that you also have a lot of highly radioactive spent fuel – in the case of France, thousands of tons. The drone flights have worsened an already existing safety crisis at French nuclear plants. Only this last summer, and before the drone flights began, ASN instructed EdF to present plans on the construction of hardened bunkers over their vulnerable spent fuel pools.

As with many required improvements in the safety EdF reactors, they have yet to respond. New requirements to take account of the lessons of Fukushima are similarly being resisted by EdF, with plans already years behind schedule.

One of the first duties of a government is surely to protect the safety and well being of its citizens. Successive French governments have mistakenly chosen to prioritise the interests of the nuclear industry instead. Where has that got them?

Today, the French nuclear industry is in crisis: AREVA, the state owned plutonium and reactor vendor, is near bankrupt. EdF, already loaded with billions of euros in debt is confronted with having to find tens of billions more to invest in its reactor fleet that is rapidly ageing. And now drones.

For decades Greenpeace has warned that the safety and security risks posed by French reactors and nuclear spent fuel should not be ignored. Will the drone issue finally force some action? Clearly, reassurances that everything is fine and there is no threat, is taking the head in the sand approach to nuclear safety to a new level of farce.

In submitting its evidence to the French authorities, Greenpeace has also issued a series of demands and recommendations, including:

  • Closing the gaps in regulation, where the nuclear safety regulator has no responsibility for security despite the fact that it relates directly to safety.
  • That EdF should be required to construct hardened bunkers over its spent fuel pools as a matter of urgency, and in the meantime should move as much fuel as possible from the pools into dry cask storage reducing the risks of loss of cooling function at the site.

The broader context of the new Energy Law for reducing the share of nuclear generated electricity from 76% to 50% by 2025, provides further rationale for reducing safety and security risks by shutting down its older reactors as soon as possible.

Of course the implications go way beyond France. Nuclear power technology, conceived, designed and developed from the mid-20th century onwards has run slap bang into a 21st century technology that is capable of inflicting serious damage and potentially causing a major nuclear accident.

While French authorities have been scrambling and failing to find answers, we are pretty sure that their equivalents in the rest of Europe, at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and beyond are scratching their heads and wondering what is to be done. That they never planned for this is obvious but no excuse.

Nuclear power was not safe and secure before the age of drones, but it’s even less so now. Where German society understood and accepted that the risks were just not worth it, the rest of the nuclear world needs to urgently play catch up. In terms of the future? “Drones pose safety and security threat to solar energy” is a headline you are unlikely ever to read.

Shaun Burnie is a senior nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace Germany

[Images: Protest at Nuclear Power Station Fessenheim. 03/18/2014 © Daniel Mueller / Greenpeace. Aerial shot of Cogema nuclear reprocessing plant. 10/02/1997 © Greenpeace / Pierre Gleizes. Superphenix nuclear Fast Breeder reactor, Creys-Malville, France. 01/01/1996 © Greenpeace]

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Can Green Bonds Bankroll A Clean Energy Revolution?

Yale Environment 360: Looked at from one angle, climate change is an infrastructure problem. To limit global warming to 2 degrees C and avoid the worst effects of climate change, about $44 trillion will need to be invested in low-carbon projects like wind farms, solar panels, nuclear power, carbon capture, and smart buildings by 2050, the International Energy Agency estimates. That’s more than $1 trillion a year -- roughly a four-fold jump from current investment levels. Where’s the money going to come from? Maybe...

Renewables Help Push Nuclear Giants to Brink of Collapse

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Torness nuclear reactor has 'unplanned outage'

BBC: A nuclear reactor at the Torness power station in East Lothian has gone offline in an unplanned outage, its operator has said. EDF Energy said the 640MW Torness 2 reactor went offline at 01:16 on Friday. The unit was expected to remain unavailable for seven days, the firm said. It means nearly 5GW of British nuclear capacity is offline. The reactor normally has a capacity of 640 megawatts. Paul Winkle, Torness Power Station director, said: "The reactor shutdown safely and cooling to the...

U.S. Can Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions 80 Percent by 2050, Study Says

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Washington state to sue federal government over nuclear site vapors

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CERN scientists discover two new subatomic particles

Scientists at the world’s largest atom smasher on the outskirts of Geneva say they have discovered two new subatomic particles that could widen our understanding of the universe.  An experiment using the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) found the new particles, which were predicted to exist, and are both baryons made from three quarks (elementary particles) bound together by a strong force.  In a statement on Wednesday, CERN officials said the discovery could shed more light on how things work beyond the “Standard Model” physics theory which explains the basic building blocks of matter. The results were also submitted to the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.  “Nature was kind and gave us two particles for the price of one,” said one of the CERN collaborators, Matthew Charles at Paris VI University.  ‘Exciting result’  The new particles are more than six times the size of the protons that scientists have been ... Show more
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We are all the Cofrentes 17

Seventeen people are facing trial in Spain on charges of public disorder, damage and injury. The punishment being demanded is nearly three years in prison. In addition, Greenpeace may have to pay a fine of 360,000 euros.

Why? Because on February 15, 2011, 16 Greenpeace activists and a freelance photojournalist entered Spain’s Cofrentes nuclear power plant's premises, climbed one of the cooling towers and painted "Nuclear Danger" on it. Greenpeace’s message is nuclear power is an obsolete, dangerous and expensive energy source. We advocate a 100% renewable energy model which is not only sustainable but also create jobs.

Greenpeace’s protests are peaceful actions. Our activists are people like you and me, who believe there is only one planet which must be defended. They are people - not heroes or heroines – who are afraid, nervous and suffer. They have families, friends and want the best, not just for themselves but for everyone: a healthy planet. When you are an activist participating in a peaceful protest, it’s because you have a dream and believe that we must defend the planet. Is punishing the painting of a cooling tower with jail fair and proportionate? Defending the environment should not carry a cost that is higher than for destroying it.

In a time when peaceful protest is being questioned, Greenpeace points to Article 45 of Spain’s constitution that establishes the right of everyone to "enjoy an environment suitable for the development of the individual as well as the duty to preserve it ". That is what Greenpeace does and it is a right our people exercised on February 15, 2011.

So this week we launch a campaign:

Mission Cofrentes17: Saving the environment is our duty and our right  

Because when you have exhausted all other avenues, all you have left is peaceful protest.

We know that inside you, there is an activist who struggles for a better world. We believe in the little things that make great people and help defend the planet. From India to Africa, we must continue to protest against social and environmental injustice. Defending the environment is a duty and our right.

There is only one planet and we have to cherish it. There is simply nowhere else to go. Think of the men and women who put themselves between the harpoon and the whale. The people who reported the drums of nuclear waste being thrown into the sea. And countless others who defend the environment and our lives. If it wasn’t for all those people who have made the planet a better place, where would we be?

Three years ago we expected this trial to be held on 4 December, 2014. This campaign will last 17 days. During these days we are proposing 17 missions to bring attention to the injustice the Cofrentes 17 are facing. Please follow us on Twitter and tweet the hashtag #Cofrentes17.

What can you do?

- MISSION 1: Tweet this blog post, share it on Facebook, email it to your friends. Let’s stand with the 17 people facing prison for defending the environment.

- Meet the 16 activists and photojournalist who took our message to Cofrentes to defend our planet.

Celia Ojeda is a campaigner for Greenpeace Spain.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Marshall Islands takes on the nuclear-armed states, for all our sakes

“The day the sun rose twice”. That's how 1 March 1954 was recorded in the history of Rongelap, a tiny atoll in the Pacific Ocean, part of the Marshall Islands. Early that morning, shortly after the sun rose in the east, a second sun appeared in the west. A bright, blinding glow engulfed the Island.

Unknown to the islanders on Rongelap, some 150 kilometers away, at Bikini Atoll, the United States had just set off a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb. Codenamed “Bravo”, its destructive force was a thousand times greater than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

 For years after the test, many of the women who were exposed to the radiation suffered reproductive problems. Many others since have developed thyroid and other cancers. In 1985, the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior helped to relocate the islanders to another home.

 This was to become the Rainbow Warrior’s last mission. From Rongelap, the Warrior continued to New Zealand where it was bombed by the French secret service in an attempt to prevent Greenpeace from protesting against a French nuclear test at Moruroa.

 While atmospheric nuclear testing has since been stopped, a number of governments are still maintaining and modernising extensive nuclear arsenals. There have been numerous nuclear near-misses in several countries, and instances where nuclear weapons were almost launched based on false information, or misjudgment.

 As long as nuclear weapons exist, there is a risk of their accidental or deliberate use. With over 17,000 nuclear weapons in existence, that risk is a lot bigger than many people imagine.

 “Never Again”

 The Republic of the Marshall Islands recently launched a bold legal action against the nine nuclear-armed states before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). They’re taking the nuclear weapons states to task for failing to eliminate this danger that threatens us all.

 Between 1946 and 1958, the US conducted 67 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshalls – described as ‘by far the most contaminated place in the world’. Having seen their land, sea and people poisoned by radiation, the islanders are now standing up to the nine nuclear giants to say, “Never again.”

 The Marshall Islanders argue that the nine states are required under international law to enter into serious negotiations towards total nuclear disarmament but that, to date, they have failed to do so.

 Five of the states (China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA) are Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Article VI of this treaty states that Parties must, "pursue negotiations in good faith … on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control".  

 It is obvious that this is a promise that they have not kept. Over 40 years after the NPT entered into force, negotiations on complete nuclear disarmament are yet to begin.

 The other four states - India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan - are known to possess nuclear weapons, but haven't ratified the NPT. The Republic of the Marshall Islands says that this is no excuse. It argues that the duty to negotiate disarmament is part of customary (unwritten) international law, which is just as binding as a treaty.

 A quick glance at the website of the ICJ shows that many legal cases between states are related to narrow-minded bickering about territory or respect for each other's sovereignty. It is sadly rare for a country to bring a case that aims to further humanity's common interest.

 As several legal commentators have pointed out, the Marshall Islands faces an uphill battle in getting its case heard, let alone securing a win, however reasonable and important its arguments are.

 The ICJ can only decide cases against countries that have agreed to be judged, and few countries are willing to face the judicial music. Out of the nine nuclear-armed states, only India, Pakistan and the UK have previously accepted (with some reservations) the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction.

 Nevertheless, the Republic of the Marshall Islands deserves to be commended for taking a stand.

 Over 40 years after they signed up to the NPT and committed to disarm, nuclear-armed states are still clinging to their weapons as hard as ever and making a mockery of the promise of a ‘nuclear-free world’.

 The ‘Nuclear Zero law suits’ highlight that, in the interest of all nations and all their citizens, states must be held accountable for their promises. And to again remind us that zero is the only safe number of nuclear weapons on the planet.


Greenpeace stands with the people of the Marshall Islands in their fight to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Please support the Islanders and sign up to the #NuclearZero petition calling on nuclear weapons nations to urgently fulfill their moral duty and legal obligation to begin negotiations for complete nuclear disarmament.  


 Daniel Simons is Legal Counsel for Campaigns and Actions at Greenpeace International. Jen Maman is a Peace Advisor at Greenpeace International.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

South Korea to store low radioactive waste next month at the earliest

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea hopes to win sufficient community support to open a long-delayed storage facility for low and medium level radioactive waste next month at the earliest, the head of the country's nuclear safety body said on Tuesday.

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Raw Data: Sobering Relics of a Nuclear Threat That Has Spread

New York Times: In the late 1970s amateur radio operators began hearing raucous bursts of electronic chatter flooding the airwaves and interfering with normal operations. Cutting across the high-frequency bands, the staccato signals resembled a rapidly chopping helicopter blade or the steady fire of a machine gun. Some thought the sound was more like a woodpecker, and that was the name that stuck. The Russian Woodpecker, as the transmitter came to be called, was pinpointed by triangulation to an area in the Soviet...

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