Nuclear Power news

Austria ready to sue over subsidized nuclear plants: minister

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria will take legal action to block any subsidized nuclear power plants in an effort to discourage use of the technology in Europe and scare off investors, the country's environment minister, Andrae Rupprechter, said in a newspaper interview.

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Japan nuclear regulator clears first reactors after safety checks

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan cleared the way on Wednesday for a resumption of nuclear power, four years after the world's worst atomic disaster in two-and-a-half decades led to the shutdown of all the country's reactors and fueled public opposition to the industry.

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Japan coalition wants to end most Fukushima evacuations by 2017: draft

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's ruling coalition will recommend lifting evacuation orders for most people forced from their homes by the Fukushima nuclear disaster within two years in a bid to speed up reconstruction, a draft proposal shows.

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Record-breaking particle collisions at CERN

CERN researchers have made scientific history by using the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), to run proton beam collisions at an energy level of 13 TeV (tera-electronvolts).  The collisions on Wednesday were a crucial step in the final preparations for the long-awaited LHC season 2 experiments at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) on the French-Swiss border, north of Geneva. These are expected to commence in early June following two years of machine maintenance and upgrading. The 13 TeV collisions are designed to ensure that systems designed to protect the LHC from stray particles are in good working order. Tests will continue today, and their successful completion will indicate that experiments on four detectors – known as ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb – can safely proceed. For comparison, collisions during the LHC’s initial three-year run topped out at an energy level of 8 TeV. Collisions made at ...
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Put Climate Change on the Agenda for India-Pakistan Relations

Foreign Policy: In late April, earlier than expected monsoon-type rain caused the deaths of at least 37 people in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. A similar bout of unseasonably heavy rains ruined a large part of the wheat crop in India’s Punjab, Harayana, and Uttar Pradesh states. These events, while superficially isolated instances of extreme weather, may be harbingers of growing climatic uncertainty throughout South Asia. Unlike the other transnational challenges including terrorism and nuclear proliferation...

Climate change could be a threat to electricity supply in Western US

Verge: Droughts and high temperatures caused by climate change could play havoc with the electricity supply of the Western United States, say engineers in a study published in Nature Climate Change. As of 2010, more than 90 percent of America's electricity is generated by thermoelectric power stations -- facilities that use heat to create electricity, from burning coal to nuclear power. Many plant like this, however, rely on water for cooling, with these facilities accounting for 45 percent of water withdrawals...

An Eye To Iran: European Businesses Prepare for Life After Sanctions

In Germany, officials believe Iran has investment needs of $100 billion per year. German companies are eager to rebuild ties and business in a lucrative market once a nuclear deal is reached and sanctions lifted.
Read more [Spiegel Online]

7 Facts That Prove the Renewable Energy Revolution Has Arrived

EcoWatch: The global transition to clean, renewable energy and away from nuclear and fossil fuels is well under way with remarkable developments happening every day. The Great Transition by Lester Brown, Janet Larsen, Matt Roney and Emily Adams of Earth Policy Institute lays out a tremendous range of these developments. Here are seven that may surprise you:

Interview with Iranian Foreign Minister: 'We Will Have Differences with US No Matter What'

In an interview with SPIEGEL, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discusses his optimism that a deal will be reached over Tehran's nuclear program. But he warns this does not mean the country is seeking rapprochment with the West.
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Handling radioactive waste at Fukushima plant could be improved: IAEA

VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog said the management of radioactive waste and contaminated water at Japan's tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant could be improved despite good progress in cleaning up the site.

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Meet Chernobyl's Wild Residents

Environmental News Network: It seems like a strange place to call a wildlife park: Nearly 30 years after the most catastrophic nuclear incident in global history, Chernobyl’s exclusion zone has turned into a paradise for animals of all species and sizes. A variety of raptors, deer, big cats, foxes, bears and birds have moved into the region, taking advantage of a vast habitat with almost no humans. That habitat, though, is contaminated with radioactive materials, and scientists still hotly debate the potential costs of radiation...

Former German NFL Player: 'American Football Is Like a Nuclear Explosion'

Patrick Venzke was the first German national in the NFL, but he says he paid a high price both physically and psychologically. His case raises questions not only about the neurological problems linked with American football but also about a culture he describes as Darwinism run riot.
Read more [Spiegel Online]

New chapter in Earth history: Fallout from nuclear weapons tests marks dawn Anthropocene?

ScienceDaily: An international group of scientists has proposed that fallout from hundreds of nuclear weapons tests in the late 1940s to early 1960s could be used to mark the dawn of a new geological age in Earth history -- the Anthropocene. The study, led by Dr Colin Waters of the British Geological Survey, published new research in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The research involved 10 members of the Anthropocene Working Group that is chaired by Professor Jan Zalasiewicz of the Department of Geology...

Cuomo says New York nuclear plant fire caused oil spill Hudson River

Guardian: Part of a nuclear power plant remained offline on Sunday after a transformer fire created another problem: thousands of gallons of oil leaking into the Hudson River. At an afternoon briefing, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said emergency crews were out on the water near Buchanan, trying to contain and clean up transformer fluid that leaked from Indian Point 3. “There’s no doubt that oil was discharged into the Hudson River,” Cuomo said. “Exactly how much, we don’t know.” The transformer...

Oil leaked into Hudson River after fire at nuclear reactor near NYC

(Reuters) - Oil leaked into the Hudson River on Sunday after a transformer fire and explosion a day earlier at the Indian Point nuclear plant north of New York City, and Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was concerned about environmental damage.

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Oil leaked into Hudson River after fire at nuclear reactor near NYC

Reuters: Oil leaked into the Hudson River on Sunday after a transformer fire and explosion a day earlier at the Indian Point nuclear plant north of New York City, and Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was concerned about environmental damage. Cuomo visited the plant for a briefing on Sunday. The governor, who in the past has called for the plant to be shut down because of its proximity to densely populated New York City, also visited the plant on Saturday. When the transformer exploded, it released oil...

Transformer fire causes shut-down of nuclear reactor north of New York City

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A nuclear power reactor 40 miles (65 km) north of New York City was shut down on Saturday after a transformer fire, but officials said the Indian Point plant was stable and there was no threat to residents nearby.

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Transformer fire causes shut-down of nuclear reactor north of New York City

Reuters: A nuclear power reactor 40 miles (65 km) north of New York City was shut down on Saturday after a transformer fire, but officials said the Indian Point plant was stable and there was no threat to residents nearby. People in the area reported an explosion and smoke coming from the plant at Buchanan in New York state. But the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the fire had been quickly extinguished. "These events happen occasionally. They are not unheard of and the plant responded as designed,"...

Crisis for Areva's La Hague plant as clients shun nuclear

BEAUMONT-HAGUE, France (Reuters) - Areva's nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in La Hague needs to cut costs as its international customers disappear following the Fukushima disaster, and its sole remaining big customer, fellow state-owned French utility EDF, pressures it to cut prices.

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Coal-shunning China explores solar power, alternative energy solutions to beat pollution

South China Morning Post: With solar energy production costs continuing to fall, the market is experiencing what many analysts are calling a boom. In many parts of the world, solar power is now cheaper than diesel oil, gas, coal or nuclear energy. China, as it rallies to clean up its increasingly polluted air, has raised its solar energy target for this year, declaring it will add almost 2.5 times the capacity that the United States added last year. China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) recently said more than...

How the Fukushima Disaster Crippled Japan’s Climate Plans

ClimateDesk: Japan used to have a pretty good reputation on climate change. Thanks to its robust industrial economy, it has the fourth-largest carbon footprint in the G20 nations. But it gets a sizable chunk of its power from zero-carbon sources like hydro dams and, at least until the 2011 disaster at Fukushima, nuclear plants. And in 2009, the country agreed, along with the other G8 nations, to reduce its carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. Back in 1992, Japan played host to the negotiations that led to...

U.S. government to pay New Mexico $73 million over radiation leak

(Reuters) - The U.S. Energy Department will pay New Mexico $73 million in road and other infrastructure projects for violations by an underground nuclear waste dump and nuclear research lab that led to a radiation leak last year, officials said on Thursday.

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U.S. government to pay New Mexico $73 million over radiation leak

(Reuters) - The U.S. Energy Department will pay New Mexico $73 million in road and other infrastructure projects for violations by an underground nuclear waste dump and nuclear research lab that led to a radiation leak last year, officials said on Thursday.

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Chernobyl fires threaten release of radioactivity equivalent to major nuclear accident

The fires first reported in the Chernobyl region on April 26th (the anniversary of the 1986 accident) threaten a major release of radioactivity, warns Greenpeace.

If the fires spread to the heavily contaminated forests and land areas around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the release of radioactive material into the atmosphere is certain. The amount of radioactivity potentially released could be the equivalent of a major nuclear accident.

Since the 1986 accident a massive amount of dangerous radioactive substances has been deposited on the forests including cesium-137, strontium-90 and plutonium-239. These forests, plants and soil are a major source of radioactivity, some of which was released from the fires of 2010.

Based on specialist satellite data, analysts at Greenpeace estimate that the fire has spread over an area covering 13,300 hectares, of which 4,100 are actually on fire. The fires have not yet reached the highest contaminated zones around the Chernobyl plant but are currently within 15-20 km of the site.

In a major analysis of the risks from fires around Chernobyl, scientists earlier this year concluded that worst case would be the release of radioactivity which could be the equivalent of a Level 6 nuclear accident on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). The 1986 accident at Chernobyl and the Fukushima Daiichi accident were level 7 INES events.

Radioactivity enters the atmosphere via the smoke plumes and is dispersed depending on wind direction, height and other weather factors. During previous forest fires, radioactivity has been dispersed as far as Turkey.

The international community is building a shelter around the destroyed reactor at Chernobyl, but it is impossible to build a sarcophagus over the vast contaminated forests in the region. Even after 29 years, the risks from Chernobyl-area radiation have not been controlled and could result in further dispersion of radioactivity over Europe.

As in Ukraine, vast amounts of radioactivity have been deposited in the forests in Japan around the Fukushima Daiichi NPP. Despite massive efforts by the Japanese authorities to decontaminate villages and farm land, the forest cannot be decontaminated and will remain a massive stock of radioactivity for a very long time. This presents a risk not only in the event of a forest fire, but also it will continue to leak radioactivity to populated areas, especially after winter melting or during heavy rains which can carry the radioactivity to neighbouring lands, rivers and lakes.

[Image: In the Exclusion zone of Chernobyl. After the nuclear accident all people had to leave and there are special controls and permissions needed to enter this area. 03/03/2011 © Jan Grarup / Noor / Greenpeace]

Read more [Greenpeace international]

G7 says Chernobyl shelter to be completed by Nov 2017

LONDON (Reuters) - The world's leading powers said on Wednesday a protective cover over the collapsed Chernobyl nuclear power plant would be completed by November 2017, although they were still short of funds to finish the project.

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Inhofe staff quashes rumors of senator's change of heart

ClimateWire: An editorial that the Oklahoma Republican penned last week for CNN titled "Obama should embrace nuclear energy" has sparked rumors that he's going soft on his infamous disbelief in human-caused global warming. The White House is promoting its work "to fend off climate change, while strategically ignoring its largest tool to cut carbon emissions -- nuclear energy," Inhofe wrote in the April 22 editorial, adding that the administration's Clean Power Plan is "biased against" nuclear power. "While...

Forest fire near Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear zone under control: Prime Minister

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian fire fighters have contained a large forest fire that threatened to spread toward the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant and radiation levels in the area are normal, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Wednesday.

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Forest fire threatens Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear zone

KIEV (Reuters) - Emergency services were battling on Tuesday to prevent Ukraine's largest forest fire since 1992 from spreading towards the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said.

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Chernobyl, 29 years on: a race against time

Today, 26 April 2015, marks the 29th anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster in world history – the Chernobyl catastrophe. And unfortunately, preventing further major releases of radioactivity into the environment seems to be a race against time. As a new Greenpeace report detailing the efforts at the sight shows, there are no real solutions in sight.

Nearly three decades after the start of the Chernobyl disaster, its atomic legacy is a stark and ominous reminder that nuclear power can never be a safe energy source.

In 1986, two explosions destroyed Chernobyl reactor unit 4, located in the Ukraine. Its graphite core burned for ten days. The radioactive releases heavily contaminated what became a 2600 km2 exclusion zone – which included 76 cities, towns, and villages. Due to the power of the explosion, fire, and reactor core meltdown, radioactivity was projected to high enough altitudes that the plume was carried thousands kilometers away, sweeping across the whole of Europe and contaminating vast tracts of land. In terms of radioactive caesium (Cs137), a total of at least 1.3 million km2 of land was contaminated to varying degrees – an area roughly twice the size of France. And this contamination will last for many generations, given the 30-year half-life of Cs137.

Hundreds of thousands of citizens and cleanup workers were exposed to significant levels of radiation – at least 300,000 of these workers received radiation doses that were 500 times the limit for the public over one year.

Twenty-nine years later, people continue to suffer from the affects of the accident, with well-founded scientific estimations in the range of many tens of thousands of cancers and deaths.

One of the increasing concerns at the site is the integrity of the building structures. The explosion in 1986 caused serious damage. And, due to the high radiation levels, work on the damaged building after the accident had to be scrapped. Ageing and corrosion have only further deteriorated these structures. In addition, some that were damaged in the accident, for example by cracking, are only now being discovered due to the inaccessibility of the site.

A collapse of the sarcophagus, leading to a release of radioactive substances into the environment around the site, cannot be ruled out. And this could pose serious problems.

There are more than 1.5 million tonnes of radioactive dust inside the ruins. If the sarcophagus were to collapse, a high volume of radioactive material would be released, and could lead to an exposure to radiation as far as 50 kilometers away. There are also nearly 2,000 tonnes of flammable materials inside the sarcophagus. In the event of a fire, even without a collapse, heat from the fire could cause the release of a high level of radioactive dust particles.

In order to help minimize this risk, the Shelter Implementation Plan was agreed to in 1997. The cornerstone of this medium-term proposal is the New Safety Confinement (NSC) – a massive, self-supporting, domed, hall-like steel structure: 257 metres wide, 165 metres long, and 110 metres high. It cannot be assembled directly above the destroyed reactor due to high radiation levels. However, it is currently being assembled in two parts to the side of the damaged reactor. These will be joined together, and then slide over the reactor on a hydraulic lifting system – a process that will take three days to complete.  When it is completed, it will be the largest movable structure on earth.

The total cost of the Shelter Implementation Plan is currently estimated at €2.15 billion. Due to delays and significant cost increases, there is now a shortfall of hundreds of millions of euros. Later this week, an international conference hosted by the German government will focus on the on-going threats from Chernobyl. The nations who have funded this project will discuss how to fill these enormous deficits.

The shelter itself is designed with the exceedingly limited goals of preventing further water leaking into the destroyed reactor and becoming contaminated – as has happened as the current sarcophagus has deteriorated – and to contain radioactive material in the event of the total collapse of the existing reactor sarcophagus.  It is projected to last for only 100 years.

As the author of the new Greenpeace report concludes, a major drawback of the SIP, however, is that recovering the fuel-containing material is not part of the project, although the greatest threat to the environment and people comes precisely from these fuel-containing, highly radioactive substances. While the protective shell is designed to make it possible for this fuel-containing material to be recovered at a later point in time, the financial means to actually implement fuel containing material recovery are not provided by the SIP. Thus, the long-term threat posed by the destroyed reactor block will not have been averted by the current efforts underway. In short, it must be stated that 29 years after the worst nuclear disaster the world has yet seen, the damaged reactor is still a danger. A real solution to the situation is nowhere in sight.”

 As with the more recent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, there is no foreseeable solution for Chernobyl. Despite the continuing decline of the nuclear power industry worldwide, hundreds of ageing nuclear reactors continue to operate, while new reactors are being built – which increases nuclear risks significantly. Almost certainly whenever the next accident happens in the 21st century, efforts will still be underway to contain and manage the Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi sites.

What Chernobyl, Fukushima, and hundreds of smaller nuclear accidents have clearly shown is the inherent risk of the nuclear technology: there will always be an unforeseen combination of human failure, technology error, and natural disaster that could lead to a major reactor accident and massive release of radiation. The lessons are clear – there is by definition no such thing as "nuclear safety." The only way to make sure that the next Chernobyl and Fukushima does not happen is to phase nuclear out.

Kendra Ulrich is a senior global energy campaigner with Greenpeace Japan.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Chernobyl, 29 Years On: a race against time


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End Nuclear Power Now, Says World Uranium Symposium

EcoWatch: Uranium mining across the world should cease, nuclear power stations be closed and nuclear weapons be banned, according to a group of scientists, environmentalists and representatives of indigenous peoples. Three hundred delegates from 20 countries that produce uranium for nuclear power, weapons and medical uses called for an end to all uranium mining in a declaration launched on Earth Day this week at a meeting in Quebec, Canada. The venue for the World Uranium Symposium was chosen because...

Tokyo finds high levels of radiation in children's park

TOKYO (Reuters) - Authorities in the Japanese capital have cordoned off a playground where high levels of radiation were detected this week, reviving concerns about nuclear contamination four years after the Fukushima disaster.

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How do systems get unstuck?

Human enterprise appears stuck, like an addict, in habitual behaviour. We have plenty of data alerting us to global heating, declining species, disappearing forests, and rising toxins in our ecosystems. Yet, after decades of efforts to reverse these trends and some notable achievements — whaling moratorium, ocean dumping ban, renewable energy projects — the key trends appear evermore troubling. [1]

In December, 2014, I attended a gathering hosted by the International Bateson Institute (IBI) and Centro Studi Riabilitzione Neurocognitiva Villa Miari, a clinic for paralysis patients in Schio, Italy. We observed therapeutic methods employed at Centro Studi to help us consider links between these methods and a efforts to address the ecological paralysis apparent in our social systems. "How Do Systems Get Unstuck" is a long-term, collaberative research project of the Bateson Institute.

The Institute is named after genetics pioneer William Bateson and his son, anthropologist and systems theorist Gregory Bateson. Gregory once famously remarked in Steps to an Ecology of Mind that "The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think." He suggests that if we are going to resolve our ecological challenges, we must rethink, not only our social systems, but our habitual ways of thinking.

At Schio, we asked: Can the healing of paralysis in the body, a healing that requires a full-systemic reformation, provide us with ideas about how to approach the challenge of changing human society?

Clinic founder Dr. Carlo Perfetti has developed paralysis rehabilitation therapies based on systems theory, particularly on the ecological and physiological work of Gregory Bateson [2] and Pyotr Anokhin [3]. Dr. Perfetti devised systemic therapies that treat the whole person, consider the patient's mental context, memory, physical environment, setting, language, and other factors.

Healing takes place with active patients, fully involved in the process, with mental states and an environment that will influence the outcome. We now know that the actual actions of organisms follow continuous internal feedback, analysis, comparison to goal, response to environment, and readjustment. Most of this process remains subconscious.

Living beings appear comprised of co-evolving systems, sub-systems, and super-systems that interact, adjust to conditions, and reach states of dynamic homeostasis that endure over time through internal feedbacks and self-regulation. Biological and social evolution are not linear processes, but rather co-evolving, self-referencing processes. Knowing this may help us understand how to influence social transformation.

A real, living system — including a society at risk — must coordinate and integrate a range of inputs from interacting components. This feature of systemic change, Integration, matches Gregory Bateson's first criterion of mind and nature: They are both an aggregate of interacting components. [4] Contrary to the traditional Cartesian assumption that these components could be isolated and analyzed in linear sequence, we understand now that living organisms, ecosystems, or societies, operate as an integrated whole. How can this help us change society?

One characteristic of system integration reveals that no single component can control the system. A ruling dictator can dominate a society, but cannot control the outcome of that dominance, which may be revolution. Humans can influence global weather with geo-engineering, but cannot control the weather system's response to that interference. Likewise, an activist may protest against injustice, but cannot control the society's response to that protest. Smart protesting, then, would take this integration of systems into account.

This sort of analysis may seem a bit too intellectual for serious activists. Why not simply confront the system and let the chips fall where they may? Well, we've tried that. Being right does not guarantee success. We may need to think more deeply about how systems actually change.

Action in a system — as pointed out by Bateson — is triggered by recognizing a significant difference. Furthermore, the message of this difference is sent by code through the system. [5] When Greenpeace boards a Shell Oil ship heading for the Arctic, this is a coded message. Simply reciting global heating data would not be as effective. Speaking in dramatic code, delivering the "mind bomb," has been the core of Greenpeace strategy from the beginning and dates back to Gandhi and civil rights activism. If the coded message is clever enough, no explanation is necessary. Boarding an oil drilling rig or blocking a whaling ship speaks for itself.

The "significant difference" communicated to the system by these actions might be: Peace vs. War or a sustainable human future vs. an overheated planet. This difference must be clear or the system will not respond. Systems change because the whole system recognizes the "significant difference," which creates what health science calls a "motivation" for change. However systems experience multiple and often contradictory motivations. I may want to lose weight, but I love almond croissants! We want a sustainable world, but we don't want to give up private cars. To change, all systems must confront contradictory motivations.

The system has to chose an action, among countless options, that will help it achieve a new dynamic equilibrium. In physical and social systems, many of these choices remain subconscious and the effects will be complex and non-linear. The system undergoes continuous feedback to measure behaviour against a goal, which itself may undergo change during this process.

Memory and expectation also impact this complex process. One of the patients undergoing treatment at Centro Studi had been a former basketball player. While the patient recalled the memory of a sports movement from his youth, the practitioner moved the patient's arm, connecting memory to current action. The system's own memory can serve as a model or visualization of action. Components of the system can respond to this visualization at both conscious and subconscious levels. Similarly, we might see that understanding culture is critical in social change, because culture carries the images from these social memories.

The dark side of memory, of course, is that habitual action may hinder change. Habitual memory may keep a society stuck, but deep within our social memory, there may exist experiences that can serve as models of genuine change. We may witness this in modern social change movements that learn from ancient, indigenous, pre-industrial societies.

Exploratory adaption

In a 2015 study, at McGill University in Canada, M. Szyf and E Abouheif [6] manipulated an environmental factor (DNA methylation) to achieve size variations in ants with identical gene sequences. The study shows that genes may not directly determine a physical characteristic, but rather express tendencies in response to environmental conditions.

Recent studies in "social genomics" show that gene expression also responds to social environments. According to a review paper by S. W. Cole at the UCLA School of Medicine, the human genome possesses "social programs to adapt molecular physiology to the changing patterns of threat and opportunity ancestrally associated with changing social conditions." [7] The larger environment of a system provides a framework for integrating responses to stress.

Change in nature is neither random, nor determined, but remains dynamic and exploratory. Under environmental stress, a cell explores new ways to shape physiology. A 2014 study by Erez Braun [8] at the Network Biology Research Laboratories, in Haifa, Israel, found that biological cells allow for flexibility of response, redesigning for new environments using "exploratory adaption."

Braun exposed cell populations to environmental stress that they had not encountered during their evolutionary history. Rather than selecting from random mutations, new cell states emerged, not strictly determined by the genome, but through an exploratory process to discover alternatives. We might want to compare his findings with the case of a successful human species that finds itself in a world so altered by its own success that its survival appears at risk.

We may realize, for example, that the goals of a society, as a semi-bounded system, are not necessarily the goals of any individual. A society, similar to a body, may be compelled to survive, and thrive in ways that remain unconscious to individuals and groups. Under stress, the internal language of the system may explore for alternatives that are not "chosen" by individuals. Different components may experience the stress signals differently, and may have divergent and contradictory goals. Any number of these contradictions could be a source of paralysis in a social system.

Although we we may not be able to precisely match the functions of cells, organisms, and societies, we may observe patterns that connect intention to outcome, and we may glimpse some explanations for social "stuckness." The systemic perspective suggests that isolated efforts of piecemeal ecology — segregated sanctuaries, local bans on toxins, carbon taxes, and so forth — may not slow the large-scale overshoot of human activity.

It is possible that to influence the path of the larger society, an individual or group may find it useful to speak in metaphors, parables, stories, legends, and archetypes that aid the adaptive explorations of that society. This may help explain why reciting data about global warming, or posting millions of social media rants, fails to move society at a deep enough level to inspire genuine change. If we understand how living systems actually change, we may avoid well-intentioned but insufficient and counter-productive actions.

In 2009, for example, the popular Avatar film may have had more impact than environmental groups in helping turn society toward sustainability. Boycotting climate conferences may say more than going and protesting. Agents of change in society could benefit from re-examining their strategies to address the systemic nature of change.

Change agents have to play a role as teacher or guide, helping the whole system — person or society — play creatively with their potential to reorganize the system to a new state, which may be a return to a remembered state. A body, or a society, is not a machine and cannot be "fixed" as a machine. The "patient" including a society in distress, experiences change as a whole, integrated system.


We are attempting to discover new ways of thinking, new language and actions that might help society free itself from habitual behaviour. When the context changes, and a learned trait no longer serves the system, how does the system discover a new context? Can we learn lessons from healing modalities that will inform us about ways to influence modern, industrial societies facing ecological crisis?

In the spirit of "exploratory adaption," we may certainly attempt to make these sorts of comparisons. The environmental movement, frustrated by the pace of genuine ecological progress, after a half century of environmental action, may at times appear somewhat like the family of an alcoholic, gazing upon the limits of its habitual strategies.

Integration of components stands out as an obvious, initial feature of an effective change agent's method, learning to amalgamate, blend, and employ all potentials of the system. Treat the whole system, not the symptoms. Accept the fact that the system-in-full will have to participate, and that the system's worldview, sensations, feelings, memory, stories, and expectations will influence the effectiveness of any action.

In systems, relationships comprise the change, not individuals. Relationships are what endure in nature, not individuals or components. Our language, as Gregory Bateson observed, is biased toward things, against relationships. We say "the table is hard," conferring "hardness" upon the table, but this "hardness" can only be experienced when the table stops some momentum. Hardness is only one half of a relationship. Likewise, our language and thinking about change, has to be a language of relationships, not things. A river is not a thing. A river is a process. Likewise, a body, a forest, or a society is a process, not a thing.

Society does not necessarily transform in the course of single human lifetime any more than a body transforms in a single cell's lifetime. Agents of change must influence the context and then let that context find its new state of dynamic homeostasis. No one controls the outcome of an action.

In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the term karma means action. The response to actions are not isolated in time, but reverberate throughout the entire system. Karma does not mean that my ego will be reborn as a new version of me, but rather that every action is a participation in a living, dynamic system, and that action will influence the system in ways not intended by the actor, including feedback on the actor. In modern politics and media theory, we call this "blowback." This is system feedback, helping the system analyze and redirect its actions.

Feedback means that we are engaged, at every step of transformation, in two-way storytelling, in messages coded and launched into the system, which then get variously interpreted and fed back as messages that influence actions of other components. Thus, the effective change agent works with metaphor, and we hear this in the parables of sages and poets. Gandhi didn't recite poverty-line statistics or the Gini coefficient; he went into the poorest communities and helped, encouraged the poor to help others, and staged public events that exposed injustice.

When a cell encounters a novel change in its environment, it responds with "exploratory adaption." When an adaption succeeds, it sends it's new coding into the pool of information that represents its new culture. Metaphor is the storytelling version of this exploration.

Data won't change things. Sensations change process. A new story is the context that initiates change. The effective information — by a rehabilitation practitioner or change agent — is coded for a deeper reading by the system.

If the change agent, however, presumes control, he or she becomes a dictator and ultimately fails. Absolute power does not exist. To work, the agent of change must play in the field of possibility, in the larger mystery that represents the complex forces that will result in a successful future state.

Humility and modesty are the means to show respect for this mystery. Theory or vision without humility, becomes doctrine, and rigid doctrine always collapses under change. We may benefit as change agents if we acknowledge our humble place in the network of co-evolving systems.

Thus, in healing, with genomes under stress, or with effective activism, one may witness a modest guidance, gentle touch, probing questions, a compassion that respects the entire system. The change agent takes an appropriate role, improvising, seeking a way to help the larger cause. We witness in these circumstances a sort of common decency.

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


[1] Johan Rockström, et. al., "Planetary Boundaries," Nature, v. 461, September 23, 2009. Anthony D. Barnosky, et. al., "Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere," Nature, v. 486, June 7, 2012. William Rees, "the Way Forward: Survival 2100," in Solutions, v. 3, #3, June 2012.

[2] Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature, E.P. Dutton, New York,1979; and Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Jason Aronson Inc., New Jersey, London, 1972.

[3] "La Teoria del Sistema Funzionale Nella Psicofisiologia di P. K. Anochin" (The Theory of Functional System in the Psychophysiology of P. K. Anokhin) M.G. Imperiali, et. al., Catterdra di psicologia, Universita di Roma.

[4] Gregory Bateson, "Criteria of Mental Process," Mind and Nature, Bantam, New York, 1980, p. 102.

[5] Bateson, Mind and Nature, p. 102.

[6] S. Alvarado,R.Rajakumar, E.Abouheif, M. Szyf, "Epigenetic variation in the ​Egfr gene generates quantitative variation in a complex trait in ants," Nature Communications 6, Article n.6513, March 11, 2015.

[7] S. W. Cole, "Social Regulation of Human Gene Expression,"Am J Public Health, 103:S84–S92. doi:10.2105/ AJPH.2012.301183; 2013.

[8] Erez Braun, "The unforeseen challenge: from genotype-to-phenotype in cell populations," Rep. Prog. Phys. 78.

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Japan court approves restart of reactors in boost for Abe's nuclear policy

KAGOSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - A Japanese court has rejected a legal bid to block the reopening of the Sendai nuclear power station on safety grounds, removing one of the last big hurdles to switching reactors back on after the 2011 Fukushima crisis paralyzed the industry.

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Japan nuclear ruling to show whether legal fight emboldened

Reuters: A Japanese court will rule on Wednesday on an injunction to block the restart of two more nuclear reactors, a decision that could determine whether a legal drive by citizens to prevent the reopening of the sector on safety grounds will gather steam. The ruling on the Sendai plant could show whether last week's halting of reopening the Takahama plant over safety concerns was an aberration by an anti-nuclear judge or whether the judiciary has become bolder in supporting the rights of citizens over...

Japan nuclear ruling to show whether legal fight emboldened

KAGOSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - A Japanese court will rule on Wednesday on an injunction to block the restart of two more nuclear reactors, a decision that could determine whether a legal drive by citizens to prevent the reopening of the sector on safety grounds will gather steam.

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Japan CO2 Emissions Reach Near-Record High After Nuclear Plant Closings

Yale Environment 360: Japan's carbon dioxide emissions reached their highest levels since 2007 last year, according to a government analysis of data for the year ending in March 2014. Greenhouse gas emissions had been on a downward trend as the country replaced coal and natural gas power stations with nuclear plants. However, all 48 of Japan's nuclear power reactors have been offline since September 2013 — the result of rigorous safety checks enacted after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Reuters reports. The country has...

Convention on Supplementary Compensation on Nuclear Safety does not protect you

The Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) is an international nuclear liability regime governed by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The convention, signed in 1997, but so far not in force for lack of interest, channels and pins absolute liability onto the operators of the nuclear power plant. In addition, it also acts as a pool from where signatory countries can draw funds if necessary in case of a nuclear accident. With Japan signing and ratifying CSC in January this year, it came into force on 15 April.

Many nuclear reactor and equipment supplying companies would want you to believe that the sole purpose of CSC is to help you receive your compensation quickly and speedily after you are hit by a nuclear accident. However, this is not true. The CSC was not created to protect your interest and your rights, but in fact it was created to shield multibillion dollar nuclear reactor manufactures and suppliers from their responsibilities. These companies don't want to be held liable for damages caused due to an accident at any of their inherently dangerous nuclear plants and hence hide behind the protective shield of CSC.

In the 1980s, India did not have any law to deal with liability and damages caused by industrial accidents and then was hit by the Bhopal catastrophe. Many countries around the world including the US, did not have such a law either. However immediately after the gas leak tragedy in Bhopal, Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California, ordered an inquiry. As a direct consequence of Mr. Waxman's actions, there is a law in place that protects citizens of the US from such chemical leaks.

India's Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) bill was tabled in the parliament in 2010, the same year in which a Bhopal court convicted 7 union carbide officials for causing death due to negligence. Since the verdict came more than 25 years after the gas tragedy, it aroused national and international interest. 2010 was also the same year when an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused the world's largest oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Needless to say that these events influenced the CLND to a great deal and this is how clause 17 was incorporated in the Act.

Clause 17, in simple language, states that the operator shall have the right to sue the supplier if the accident was the fault of a manufacturing defect. In other words, it states that if a GE Hitachi plant in India were to explode due to manufacturing or design defect, the Indian nuclear operator would have the right to sue GE Hitachi for damages. Wouldn't you agree that this clause is a fair one to have?

Companies such as French Areva and EdF, US's Westinghouse, Japan's GE Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi, Canada's SNC Lavalle / AECL and Russia's Rosatom don't think it's fair to allow operators this right to recourse. They say that India should change its law in accordance with CSC. These companies have been pressurizing the Indian Government since the time Indian Parliament enacted the law. Foreign diplomats and dignitaries such as Canadian Consul General Richard Bale openly criticised India and asked the Government to "tweak the liability law". Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Former French President Sarkozy asked India to follow the international liability regimes. A senior official from the Obama administration asked "India to ensure that its nuclear liability regime conforms with the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage".

Just few months after India passed its nuclear liability law, on 11th of March 2011, Japan suffered a triple meltdown nuclear disaster at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. A Japanese Government's investigation report stated that negligence as well as fault in design was what caused Fukushima nuclear disaster and not the earthquake or the tsunami. The cost of Fukushima crossed $100 billion but since Japan did not have a nuclear liability law, it was the taxpayers who've had to pay, and many of the victims still suffer under inadequate compensation. Whereas GE, Hitachi and Toshiba, the companies that designed and built the Fukushima reactors have not had to stand up and pay for their responsibility.

Just over a year after the Fukushima nuclear accident, the President & CEO of GE Hitachi Canada wrote to the Canadian authority reviewing consultations for a new nuclear liability law in Canada, making arguments why nuclear suppliers should be indemnified from liability. In his letter dated May 28 2012, he wrote, "In the event of a nuclear accident involving one of Canada's reactors – all of which are along the US border – there would likely be a flurry of legal actions against several parties, particularly those with deep pockets like GEH Canada". Notice the use of word "deep pockets" here.

He further wrote, "That is exactly what happened in 1984 when an accident at a chemical plant in Bhopal, India, resulted in multiple lawsuits in US courts against Union Carbide, the parent of the Indian company where the accident occurred".

Mr. Mason used Bhopal as an example to enforce his statement about companies with "deep pockets". In just a few words, Mr. Mason discredited the legitimate demands of the victims of Bhopal gas tragedy. Being one of the worst industrial disasters of our time, Bhopal is the very reason why we should have supplier liability. To date, GE Hitachi also has to apologize yet for its role in the Fukushima catastrophe.

After having witnessed the aftermath of Bhopal gas tragedy rather closely, I find Mr. Mason's statement very offensive. But when the stakes are so high, decisions can't be emotionally driven. It has to be logical and fair. If the fault is theirs then the responsibility should be theirs too. The only fair thing to do is to protect supplier liability in India and ensure other countries follow suit.

(Greenpeace Condemns the New International Nuclear Liability Convention)

Hozefa Merchant works as nuclear analyst for Greenpeace India.

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