Nuclear Power news

Japan to cut emphasis on nuclear in next energy plan: sources

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will cut reliance on nuclear power when it releases an updated energy plan as early as next year, reflecting public opposition and a recognition that current policy is unrealistic, three sources familiar with official thinking told Reuters.
Read more [Reuters]

What my grandmother would say about President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima

World leaders are meeting in Japan for the G7, but on a side trip, President Obama is doing something no sitting US president has done before: visit Hiroshima. The city was flattened during World War II by the first nuclear weapon used in warfare. Now more than ever, we need leadership to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself. We need to go nuclear-free.

The people of Hiroshima have waited nearly 71 years for a sitting US president to visit their city, and witness the scars from the first nuclear bomb ever used in war.

My grandmother won’t be there to welcome Mr Obama as she no longer lives in the city.  She is a Hibakusha, one of the survivors of the bomb who was exposed to its radiation. For the past few years, I’ve been listening to the stories of the Hibakusha after attending a peace ceremony in Hiroshima in 2013 and hearing one of the survivors tell her story. She begged me: “Please, listen to my story while I am still alive”.

There were nearly 16,000 children in Hiroshima when the bomb dropped. Thousands of others had been evacuated to the surrounding countryside. But they were all affected. Some died instantly, others days or weeks later from radiation poisoning. Many of those who were spared the bombing lost their families. They became known as the A-bomb orphans, and there were 6,500 in Hiroshima alone after the war.

Peace Memorial Museum testimonies

If you go to the museum of the bombing in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, you can listen to the voices of those who were there.

“The world was dark. There was nothing. People lay dying in the streets, their heads soaked in water because of the burning. There were dead horses. Dogs, cats and birds had all disappeared. After the bombing, people kept dying. A smell like fish filled the town.”

Photo provided by Mr. Noboru Katayama

The people in this photo lived in Nakajima-honmachi, the place that is now the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park. They all died in the bombing.

When you examine the photo, you see only women and young children, those who could not be evacuated to the countryside. Most of the men were enlisted as soldiers. About 90% of the people remaining in Hiroshima were women, children and the elderly.

The people in this photo were at Ground Zero when the bomb dropped. The flash from the blast sent temperatures as high as 3,000 degrees C, completely obliterating them. There were no bodies to recover.  

The suffering of survivors

A survivor of the bombing, Tadamichi Hirata remembers his mother’s words: "I want this war to finish. I want us to live together as a family.”

This wish was never granted. The mother and her younger child died in the bombing.

Some of the survivors, even now, do not want to talk about what happened to them. Their suffering didn’t end with the bombing. Thousands died of radiation sickness after the war. Others faced years of discrimination in employment and marriage because of fears of the radiation they had suffered.

My grandmother also didn’t talk much about those terrible moments. But when she did, her words were very simple "Everything collapsed. Every living creature perished. We should never make such a big mistake again.”

If she had been able to be at Hiroshima for Mr Obama’s visit, I think that is what she would have told him.  And I hope it is what other survivors tell him.

There has been a lot of talk about an apology.  But stronger than an apology, I think, would be the words “Never again”.

President Obama has made a courageous step to come to Hiroshima. But the US, which still has 4,700 operational nuclear warheads, is not learning from the mistakes of the past. Rather than rid the world of nuclear weapons, President Obama’s administration has proposed a US$1 trillion plan to update and expand his country’s nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years. That’s at the same time the US is cutting funding for nonproliferation efforts.

No more. It’s time we reimagine global security not around war, but on peace. As my grandmother told me: “We should never make such a big mistake again”.

No more Hiroshimas, no more Nagasakis, no more war.

Daisuke Miyachi, is a former staff member at Greenpeace Japan. Shortly after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, he was part of  Greenpeace Japan's radiation team checking radiation levels in Fukushima. He is originally from Hiroshima and has been working as a storyteller - remembering and recounting the stories of victims of the atomic bombs.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Cloud discovery could soften forecasts for global warming

Associated Press: A discovery about how clouds form may scale back some of the more dire predictions about temperature increases caused by man-made global warming. That is because it implies that a key assumption for making such predictions is a bit off. "What this will do is slightly reduce and sharpen the projections for temperature during the 21st century," said researcher Jasper Kirkby. Nonetheless, he added, "We are definitely warming the planet." Kirkby works at the European Organization for Nuclear...

Japan: 600 tons of melted radioactive Fukushima fuel still not found, clean-up chief reveals

RT: The Fukushima clean-up team remains in the dark about the exact locations of 600 tons of melted radioactive fuel from three devastated nuclear reactors, the chief of decommissioning told the ABC's Foreign Correspondent program in an exclusive interview. The company hopes to locate and start removing the missing fuel from 2021, the Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) chief of decommissioning at Fukushima, Naohiro Masuda, revealed. The fuel extraction technology is yet to be elaborated upon,...

UK renewables cuts 'risk slowing shift to clean energy'

Guardian: The UK government risks slowing the shift to clean energy sources by cutting support for renewable energy and strongly backing gas as a transitional fuel, according to the UN’s environment chief. Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), told the Guardian that he thought the UK’s push for nuclear and gas over renewables could be more costly in the long term. His warning came as North Yorkshire council gave the go ahead for the first fracking tests in the UK for...

Why there's no place I'd rather be than on a Greenpeace ship in the North Sea

Everything is different on a ship. Walls are bulkheads, ceilings are deckheads, floors are decks, right is starboard, left is port, back is stern and front is bow. At sea, the ground wobbles beneath our feet, rocking us to sleep in our bunks, knocking us around the mess, which is a dining room, the galley, which is a kitchen, or the lower hold, which is a storeroom. I've been working as a volunteer deckhand on the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, for just over a week.

We're sailing in the Sylt Outer Reef, off the coast of Germany. Thilo Maack, our German deep-sea diving campaigner onboard, explained that this area is actually a marine sanctuary, where dumping and drilling are banned in an effort to set limits on the relentless exploitation of our world’s oceans. The problem is, industrial fishing has not been banned. Bottom trawlers continue to gouge the seabed, giant walls of net catching brown shrimp and everything else in their path, including endangered harbor porpoises. Unbelievably wasteful, up to 80% of the catch in this industry is "bycatch", the innocent bystanders of the ocean, thrown back dead and dying into the sea. And that’s just one of the many fishing industries still allowed to operate in a "sanctuary" where already a third of species are at risk. 

Disappearing worlds

It was nearly six years ago that it really sunk in for me what we humans were doing to the sea. I was working for Greenpeace on the Frontline team as a canvasser, stopping people in the streets of Los Angeles to tell them about the campaigns and sign them up as members of the organization. I remember being blown away when I learned that 90% of big fish are already gone, eaten by us in the last 60 years alone. Since then I've learned about what’s so incredible about our seas and worth protecting. Through reading books, watching documentaries and finally, this year getting my Open Water certification for scuba diving, I've fallen in love with life under the sea in all it's strangeness, vivid colors, and alien intelligence.

Over lunch, I asked Thilo about his favorite North Sea creatures. His eyes lit up as he told me about the spiny dogfish, a kind of shark that lives up to 70 years, rears only three offspring, and is commonly killed for a small piece of it's belly. Like many places in the world, whole populations have been eradicated from the North Sea, like the incredible bluefin tuna, with unparalleled swimming abilities, able to go 100 kilometres an hour and turn on a dime, unmatched by any human construct. They're all gone, taken for granted and literally chopped up for pet food.

Things add up

Being on a Greenpeace ship is not all high-speed boat chases and confrontational direct actions. Whether you're volunteering to make calls at a phone bank to organize your community to go to a rally or cooking a vegan meal for a group of activists, whether you're standing bundled in the streets of Chicago in the winter, canvassing to raise money and get petitions signed, or scrubbing the toilets with vinegar on the lower deck of a protest ship, it's the little mundane tasks that add up, collect, and finally tip the balance of power in favor of, to paraphrase Irving Stowe at the first Greenpeace benefit concert, a culture of life.

As I tie my bowline knots, mop the decks, or inventory gear lockers, I think, this is what activism looks like. I may not always know what I'm doing, I'm still learning a lot about life on a ship, but I do know exactly why I'm doing it.

The sun sparkles over the undulating fabric of the North Sea as our green rainbow flag flies on the mast. I think of the Phyllis Cormack and the Vega, the first Greenpeace protest boats that sailed into nuclear test zones and kickstarted a global organization, and wonder what beautiful things will spiral out of our actions today, your actions today.

Paloma Henriques, 28, from Los Angeles, California, USA, is a Volunteer Deckhand onboard the Arctic Sunrise.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Renewables cannot replace nuclear in France yet : EDF exec

PARIS (Reuters) - Renewable energy is far from being able to replace nuclear energy in France's electricity mix, utility EDF's head of nuclear said on Thursday.
Read more [Reuters]

Australian inquiry backs nuclear power after decades-long aversion

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian royal commission on Monday recommended building a nuclear industry, including a waste dump, in the uranium-rich state of South Australia, propelling the case for overturning long-held opposition to nuclear power.
Read more [Reuters]

Ecological bankruptcy

There may not be a single large-scale industry or multi-national corporation on Earth that is genuinely profitable if they had to account for their ecological impact. A recent UN-supported report shows that the world's 3,000 largest publicly-traded companies alone caused US$2.15 trillion (€2 trillion) of environmental damage in 2008, that the total cost is much higher, and that companies and communities downstream in the global supply chain are at risk from the environmental impacts.

For centuries, businesses have cheated on this accounting by calling ecological impacts "externalities," presumably not effecting the business. Thus, air and water pollution, toxins in the environment, or eradicated species were deemed "external" and not worth accounting for.

We now know that these ecological costs are not "external," and that if businesses were obliged to account for ecological liabilities, almost no business on Earth would be profitable without dramatically raising prices for consumers.

Industrial disasters

Part of these costs are the almost daily industrial disasters, toxic leaks, spills, waste dumping, and mechanical breakdowns. In certain industrial areas of China, for example, virtually every inhabitant of "cancer villages" suffers from cancer, birth defects, or other diseases from toxic waste.

For four decades, prior to the 1960s, the Chisso Chemical Corporation in Minimata, Japan dumped mercury into the bay, killing 1,784 people and leaving over 10,000 people suffering birth defects and disabilities. During that same era, Hooker Chemical Company in the US dumped dioxins on land that they sold to the School Board, causing birth defects, miscarriages, and a general health disaster zone.

In 1984, in Bhopal, India, Union Carbide Chemical Company leaked lethal methyl-isocyanate gas, killing some 8,000 people within weeks. Industrial disasters include Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy ("mad cow disease,") from overcrowded feed lots in the UK; the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion; Exxon Valdez and other massive oil spills, the 1996 Marcopper Mining toxic dump in Calancan Bay, Philippines, that killed virtually all life in the Boac River system; the Baia Mare cyanide spill into the Someş River, killing fish in the Tisza and Danube rivers from Hungary to Yugoslavia; the 2011, Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown; and the ongoing disaster of the Canadian Tar Sands, poisoning indigenous communities, who have lived in the region for centuries. The unpaid costs of modern industry include the honey bee collapse that effects global pollination, the massive health effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals from the hydrocarbon chemical industry, and of course, global warming that will impact humanity and all of nature into the future.

Bhopal victim, Noori Bi, who lost home and family. © Greenpeace / Raghu Rai

These incidents have been dramatic, and the costs obvious, but, we now know that almost every enterprise in the modern, globalised economy is leaving behind an unpaid ecological cost.

Natural Capital At Risk

Three years ago, the United Nations Environment Programme, TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and Trucost consulting firm produced the Natural Capital at Risk Report, showing that the world's greatest ecological impacts are costing the global economy about US$4.7 trillion (€4.1 trillion) per year in health costs, social costs, lost ecosystem services, and pollution.

The research measured industrial impact on natural capital and suggested ways that companies could internalise these costs. The report concludes that many business activities do not generate sufficient profit to cover the costs of their own natural resource use, pollution, and destructive impact costs.

Even so, the report limits impact to the monetary value on resource depletion and the loss of ecosystem services, but does not necessarily consider the impact on other species or the systemic impacts on the ecosystem itself. Still, the report shows that most international business sectors are not profitable if they had to pay these costs.

Ocean acidification, overfishing, and dead zones have undermined the fishing economy. © Alex Hofford / Greenpeace

The study investigated agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mining, utilities, and the production of hydrocarbons, cement, steel, paper, and petrochemicals. Each sector was further defined by region and by key environmental indicators. The data revealed region-sectors with high impacts, none of which generate sufficient profit to pay their environmental debts. In total, they represent an unpaid cost to natural capital equal to US$7.3 trillion (€6.2 trillion) per year, 13% of global economic output in 2009.

We will not be surprised by the most common environmental impacts: greenhouse gas emissions (38% of total), water use (25%), land use (24%), air pollution (7%), land and water pollution (5%) and waste (1%).

However, we might be surprised by the most ecologically destructive sectors. Hydrocarbon production appears obvious to ecologists, but food production for 7.4 billion humans is equally destructive. Cattle, wheat, and rice production all produce massive unpaid ecological impact.

Highest impact region-sectors (Tables 1, 2 in the report):

    1. Coal power generation, East Asia, N. America

    2. Cattle ranching, South America, S. Asia

    3. Iron, steel mills, E. Asia

    4. Wheat farming, Southern Asia

    5. Coal power generation, N. America

    6. Rice farming, S. Asia

The largest land use impacts come from agriculture and cattle ranching, in which high value, pristine ecosystems that supply the biosphere with services, are converted to single-purpose human food production. Modern agriculture depends heavily on hydrocarbons, fertilisers, and pesticides. These contribute to global warming, nutrient cycle disruption, and ecosystem toxicity, while soils are left depleted and polluted.

Depleted soils, toxins, and disruption of nutrient cycles reduce crop yields. © Martin Jehnichen / Greenpeace

Agriculture, cattle raising, and industry also deplete water resources. Water use from surface or groundwater is rarely paid for, and water is further depleted by distribution losses. Rivers, lakes, and aquifers have been depleted world wide.

As we know, greenhouse gas emissions represent a massive impact on every ecosystem on Earth, and the report estimates that this damage already costs our global economies US$2.7 trillion (€2.5 trillion) annually. We also know the sources of these emissions: The production of thermal power, steel, and cement. Coal power is particularly destructive, but the report points out that every consumer item purchased includes an embedded and unpaid carbon cost. There is, for example, a considerable carbon cost to supply and treat water. Livestock methane emissions also prove significant.

The climate change costs include reduced crop yields, flooding, disease, ocean acidification, and biodiversity loss. According to the 2006 UK Stern report, adjusted for inflation, the social cost of global warming is now over US$100 per metric ton of CO2.

Industrial pollution of the air, land, and water, add another annual $800 billion in environmental and human health costs from sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates, and ocean dead zones that reduce biodiversity and undermine fisheries.

Consumption and Natural Asset Costs

Environmental costs are passed through supply chains to everything that we consume. Every item one buys leaves behind unpaid environmental costs. This is why reducing consumption is part of every genuine plan for sustainability.

The report shows that consumers in rich nations purchase goods and services from developing nations that endure the highest impacts of these ecological costs, and food processing produces some of the highest impacts along the supply chain, as this table shows:

Highest supply chain impacts, (Table 3 in Trucost report)

    1. Soybean, oilseed processing

    2. Animal slaughter, processing

    3. Poultry processing

    4. Corn milling

    5. Beet sugar manufacture

Consumers in rich nations enjoy "low" food costs only because, all along the supply chain, companies are not paying the full costs of production, leaving the environmental costs behind in poorer nations.

The report recommended that governments identify these natural capital costs and create policies that help businesses internalise them. They also warn governments and businesses to prepare for a resource-constrained world, in which all nations will face increasingly scarce natural capital, and environmental costs associated with harvesting those resources. Although often renewable, all resources are finite, and their consumption creates ecological costs.

According to a Munich Re insurance risk report, the recent US drought, for example, aggravated by global warming, led to corn and soybean crop losses of over $20 billion. In 2012, a two-day power outage in India was caused in part by drought which forced farmers to pump water for irrigation. The Trucost/UN report estimates an increased annual world cost to grain and soybean consumers of over $50 billion, plus secondary social impacts.

The alleged "profits" of modern industrial capitalism appear now as an illusion, conjured up by avoiding fundamental accounting principles. For centuries, humanity spent the assets, Earth's bounty, and called it income. The industrial model of human enterprise may now be ecologically bankrupt. Fortunately, we possess a rich history of ecological economists – Herman Daly, Hazel Henderson, John Stuart Mill, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Donella Meadows, Mark Anielski, and many others (see some links below) – who have already described the future economic system that recognises and pays its ecological costs.

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

Ecological Economics links:

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), proposed a "stationary state" economy: J.S. Mill.

Thomas Malthus: An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798; often dismissed but correct about ecological limits. If Malthus Was So Wrong, Why Is Our World In Trouble? William Catton, 1998; Malthus marginalized, Albert A. Bartlett, 1998.

Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, (1971)

Frederick Soddy: Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt (1926)

Donella Meadows, et. al., Limits to Growth (D. H. Meadows, D. L. Meadows, J. Randers, W. Behrens, 1972; New American Library, 1977)

Herman Daly, Steady-State Economics (1977, 1991); Essay by Daly: From a Failed Growth Economy to a Steady-State Economy

Mark Anielski: Genuine Wealth website and book The Economics of Happiness.

Hazel Henderson, Paradigms in Progress, (1995)

Solutions magazine, Ida Kubiszewski, editor, forum for biophysical economics.

Gail Tverberg: Our Finite World

Degrowth economics, Serge Latouche, Le Monde diplomatique

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Weasel causes shutdown at Cern

The Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator at Cern, just outside Geneva, has been immobilised temporarily after a short circuit - caused by a weasel. “The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is on standby mode, following technical issues in the last 24 hours, including a power cut due to the passage of a weasel on a 66 kV/18kV electrical transformer,” European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) spokesman Arnaud Marsollier told on Friday. He said the affected part of the LHC stopped immediately and safely, though some connections were slightly damaged due to an electrical arc. The incident took place in the early hours of Friday morning. The weasel did not survive the encounter. Marsollier said it may take a few days to repair the damage, but that such events had happened a few times in the past and were part of the life of such a large installation. “Operators and technicians are at work to resume the LHC operation commissioning and start the ...
Read more [ sci & tech]

Berlin: German nuclear commission has shown way for sustainable solution

BERLIN (Reuters) - A report on allotting the costs of atomic waste storage by a commission overseeing Germany's nuclear exit lays the foundations for a sustainable solution, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Friday.
Read more [Reuters]

German firms could pay less than feared for nuclear clean-up

BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German power firms will have to pay less for the storage of radioactive waste than investors had feared if the government accepts a recommendation from a panel that announced its decision on Wednesday after months of wrangling.
Read more [Reuters]

30 years on, Ukrainians remember victims of Chernobyl disaster

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine held memorial services on Tuesday to mark the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster which permanently poisoned swathes of eastern Europe and highlighted the shortcomings of the secretive Soviet system.
Read more [Reuters]

Touring Tragedy: A Day of Disaster Porn in Chernobyl

It is the site of the most devastating nuclear disaster in history, but the Chernobyl exclusion zone has also become a magnet for tourists seeking a thrill. Join us for a tour.
Read more [Spiegel Online]

Chernobyl's children of hope

The word nadeshda means hope in Russian. The Nadesha rehabilitation centre was founded to give hope to children living in towns and villages contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster.

Thousands of children across Belarus have been robbed of a healthy childhood. Their food and playgrounds are contaminated. Their health weakened by radiation.

At Nadeshda I meet Elena Solovyeva, a teacher from the heavily contaminated Mogilev region, who has brought her class to the centre. She tells me that around 40% of her students have health problems: asthma, diabetes and cancer or weak immune, respiratory and digestive systems.

"We explain to the kids where their problems come from. They get it. We breathe contaminated air, we eat contaminated food… You never get used to it, but it is almost impossible to get away from," she says. 

Nadeshda was founded not only to help care for the health of the children, and now grandchildren, of Chernobyl, but also to teach them how to live in a contaminated environment.  

Olga Sokolova, a doctor at Nadeshda, tells me: "We explain to them what they should do and what they shouldn't. What to eat and what not to eat, where to go and where not to go, how to take care of themselves."

I'm saddened talking to Olga. A great injustice has been done to the children who come here. Before they were even born, Chernobyl stole their ability to grow and to play without inhibition. It is now left to the children to protect themselves from radiation.

"Our aim is to help children to understand their responsibility for their own health," Nadeshda's director Vyacheslav Makushinsky tells me.

It's unfair, but it's the reality for millions of Chernobyl survivors. Teaching responsibility and living by example - those are the basic principles of Nadeshda. While governments and the nuclear industry walk away from their responsibilities, survivors come together at places like Nadeshda.

What's beautiful about the centre is that people are not only coming together to support each other, they've also taken it on themselves to show the world that there is no need for nuclear power.

As the Belarus government builds a new nuclear reactor just 80 kilometers away from here, Nadeshda is retrofitting its buildings so that it can be powered by 100% renewable energy.  

Nadeshda has the most powerful solar heating system in Belarus, and all its buildings and electrical devices are energy efficient.

The centre is now installing new solar photovoltaic systems on a nearby field to cover all their energy needs.

"We're showing how even a big institution like ours can operate without harming nature," Makushinsky says.

The director is enthusiastic: it will be the first project in Belarus of such a scale financed solely from donations. I'm proud that a Greenpeace-run foundation is part of it by donating 15,000 euros to help make it happen.

Makushinsky tells me why it's so important for the centre to go renewable: "The kids must learn to live in such a way that they preserve their health and make sure that a catastrophe like Chernobyl doesn't happen again."

Speaking to Makushinsky I realise how hope inspires action. The suffering caused by Chernobyl shows why we need to get rid of nuclear power for good. The persistence of Makushinsky and others at the Nadeshda centre shows that another way is possible, if we only try.

Nearby, a group of children are drawing pictures of the Chernobyl disaster and their dreams of non-nuclear future. Above them hangs a banner saying "We are the earth's hope." Indeed they are. And they should inspire all of us to support them and to speak up for a renewable future where disasters like Chernobyl or Fukushima would be a long forgotten nightmare.

Andrey Allakhverdov is a communications officer with Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

China to build nuclear power plants on artificial islands

Chicago Tribune: China's quest to fence off a big chunk of the South China Sea may have just gotten another, powerful boost: plans for a fleet of floating nuclear power plants that could provide huge amounts of electricity for the far-flung atolls and islets. While floating nuclear power plants are hardly a novel idea, their use in the South China Sea - a typhoon-wracked hotbed of territorial disputes and increasing military rivalries - would be worrisome both for environmental and security reasons. Chinese state...

Advances in extracting uranium from seawater

ScienceDaily: The oceans hold more than four billion tons of uranium--enough to meet global energy needs for the next 10,000 years if only we could capture the element from seawater to fuel nuclear power plants. Major advances in this area have been published by the American Chemical Society's (ACS) journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. For half a century, researchers worldwide have tried to mine uranium from the oceans with limited success. In the 1990s, Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) scientists...

China to develop floating nuclear power plants

New York: All the radar systems, lighthouses, barracks, ports and airfields that China has set up on its newly built island chain in the South China Sea require tremendous amounts of electricity, hard to come by in a place hundreds of miles from the country’s power grid. Beijing may have come up with a solution: floating nuclear power plants. A state-owned company, China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, is planning to build a fleet of the vessels to provide electricity to remote locations including offshore...

Hanford Nuclear Leak Worsens Dramatically, Waste Elimination Needed

Nature World: Nuclear waste leak at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is said to have worsened dramatically, as proven by leaking between the two underground tanks which displayed an unusual amount of increase on Sunday. Union Bulletin reported that the amount of radioactive waste leak rose up eight inches more than usual and later decreased by one half. Jerry Holloway of Washington River Protection Solutions, a company managing the underground tanks for the U.S. Department of Energy said that they are checking...

Chernobyl and Fukushima: Illuminating the invisible

30 years after Chernobyl and five years after the triple meltdown at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the shadows of both disasters still loom large.

In the wake of Fukushima, I joined Greenpeace monitoring teams on the ground trying to quantify and communicate the impact of radiation on the population. Documenting environmental damage and injustice is something Greenpeace has been doing for more than 40 years, but one question has always bothered me. How do you shine a light on something that is invisible?

Mouse over image to reveal

We found our answer in a custom built LED light stick which, when connected to a Geiger counter, allows radiation levels to be measured and displayed in real-time. Take a long exposure photograph of a contaminated area and walk through it with this tool, and suddenly you have an undulating wall of light, exposing and visually mapping radiation in the environment.

White shows radiation levels that are "acceptable" according to the Japanese government's post-disaster decontamination target. Orange shows radiation exceeding these target levels, which pose greater risks without protection measures.  Red shows levels that the Russian government deems necessary for resettlement. 

Using this tool in areas affected by Chernobyl and Fukushima, we found that places which have been “decontaminated” by the authorities consistently exhibit radiation levels elevated above official limits. Radiation endures. In Russia’s Bryansk region, 30 years after the disaster, we found levels of contamination comparable to places in Fukushima today.

Whether it be five or thirty years later, environmental radiation risks remain, and communities continue to struggle and decline in an increasingly complicated new normal. In Starye Bobovichi, a few hundred kilometres from Chernobyl, principal Tatyana Dorokhova believes that contaminated materials may have ended up at her school. This could explain why we found patches of elevated radioactivity around its gardens and some playground equipment, but consistently low levels elsewhere.

Mouse over image to reveal

Ms Sadako Monma went to great lengths to clean her nursery school, Soramame, and eventually moved it to the outskirts of Fukushima city where radiation levels were lower as cleaning was simply not enough. Despite relocating her business, the number of children in her school has not recovered. In 2016 she will close the business, 20 years after it started.


The majority of houses in the village of Staryy Vyshkov in Russia are abandoned and in ruins. It is easy to see why, when we find radioactive contamination comparable to places like Iitate in Fukushima.

Occasionally a new resident moves into one of the abandoned houses.These are typically people too old to worry about radiation affecting their health or too poor to have other choices. Those that have remained since the disaster, such as shopkeeper Natalya Rueva, have nowhere else to go, and radiation has since touched every aspect of their lives.

Mouse over image to reveal

Once a community disintegrates under the transparent shadow of radioactivity, it is extremely difficult to rebuild. Iitate farmers Toru Anzai and Hiroshi Kanno know this firsthand. After living in temporary housing for years, neither believe they can return home as their communities and way of life are long gone.

Twenty-five years separates the victims of Fukushima and Chernobyl, but their struggles are intensely familiar, and as present as ever. Radioactivity accumulates and lingers in the environment in the long term, eventually permeating every aspect of affected communities’ lives.

Stand up for the survivors of nuclear disasters and add your voice to the Thunderclap calling for change.

Greg McNevin is a freelance photographer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Germany asks Belgium to switch off nuclear reactors

BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Germany has asked Belgium to take two nuclear reactors temporarily off the grid while questions about their safety are cleared up, an unusual diplomatic move that underscores German concerns about the plants.
Read more [Reuters]

Chernobyl disaster 30 years on: what do you remember?

Guardian: On 26 April 1986 one of the four reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded. It was the biggest accident of its kind in history – a human and environmental disaster that triggered a political storm that has lasted for decades. Acute radiation sickness killed 31 people in the first three months, but the leak was blamed for thousands of cancer cases that developed across swathes of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, with figures on predicted deaths ranging from 4,000 to half a million. Tens...

Germany asks Belgium to take two nuclear reactors offline

Reuters: Germany has asked Belgium to take two nuclear reactors temporarily offline while questions about their safety are cleared up, an unusual diplomatic move that underscores German concerns about the plants. Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said on Wednesday that she asked Belgium this week to shut down its Tihange 2 and Doel 3 reactors, after Germany's Reactor Safety Commission advised that it could not confirm the reactors would be safe in the event of a hazardous incident. The core tanks...

UK carbon emission goals in jeopardy if Hinkley delayed: minister

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's carbon emission targets could be at risk if the Hinkley C nuclear power project is canceled or delayed beyond its planned 2025 start date, the country's energy and climate minister said on Tuesday.
Read more [Reuters]

Animals Rule Chernobyl 30 Years After Nuclear Disaster

National Geographic: Animals Rule Chernobyl 30 Years After Nuclear Disaster Three decades later, it's not certain how radiation is affecting wildlife-but it's clear that animals abound. The Przewalski's horse nearly went extinct, but in an effort to save the species it was introduced into the area around Chernobyl in 1998 and to other reserves worldwide. Without humans living in the area, the horse population has been increasing. Marina Shkvyria watches for animal tracks as she walks toward an abandoned village...

War and Money

"Who is doing this? Who is killing us? This great evil. How did it steal into the world?
We were a family. How did it break up and come apart?"
– Private Witt's thoughts, The Thin Red Line, by Terrence Malick. 

Records from the first century portray Jewish peasants – men, women, and children – marching on the governor in Caesarea, protesting atrocities of the Roman army, prostrating on the ground, and offering their lives en masse. Since the dawn of warfare, there have been peace movements. World War I, a century ago, was supposed to be "The war to end war," but the world has since remained in the grip of almost perpetual warfare. In 1971, inspired by the Quakers, Greenpeace's first campaign confronted nuclear weapons testing in Alaska, but we certainly cannot claim to have abolished militarism.

Mother and son, bombed out home in Palestine, Ezz Zanoun, APA images

In Europe and Asia, over 100 million people perished in World War II, but the war never actually ended. The American and European victors partitioned the oil-rich Middle East, followed by continual war to this day. India broke apart into India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and escalated to war in 1967. The US, France, Russia, and China fought over Korea and Vietnam, leading to war that spilled into Cambodia and Laos, resulting in some ten million deaths. The Korean War has not ceased, and the nation remains divided, on constant military alert.

Indigenous people fought colonizers throughout history, and even after the world wars, in the 1950s, African communities fought liberation wars against European and American armies in Guinea, Mozambique, Senegal, Angola, Zambia, Zaire, South Africa, Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, and the Congo. War has raged in Iraq and Iran, Cyprus, Afghanistan, Central and South America, Chechnya, Kosovo, and now in North Africa, Syria, and Ukraine. Most often, the smaller wars erupt as surrogate wars among the superpowers: The US and NATO, Russia, and China.

The horrors of war in the industrial era feel almost unspeakable: The Nazi holocaust in Germany, the rape of Nanjing, the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the disappeared in Argentina and Guatemala, indigenous cultures devastated, starvation, homelessness, and floods of refugees.

The Thucydides Trap

In the fourth century BC, Sparta, the dominant Greek power, feared the rise of Athens. In his book, The Peloponnesian War, Greek historian Thucydides, pointed out that Sparta's actions to restrain Athens only increased Athenian fear, and the Athenian response increased Spartan fear. This cycle of hostility among competing superpowers became known to historians as the "Thucydides Trap," mutual fear escalating to war.

In the 1950s, British anthropologist and ecologist Gregory Bateson refined the Thucydides trap, which he called "schismogenesis," cycles of mutual fear and dysfunction. Bateson noticed in his work with the Iatmul people of New Guinea that rivalries could escalate, but that a ceremony called "Naven" – involving transvestism and comic theatre – would diffuse conflict and restore peace. He wondered if this lesson could be applied to modern nation-states. Diplomatic solutions depend on breaking the cycle of hostile feedback loops. Bateson advised western nations with some positive effect during the Russian-American nuclear arms race.

Nevertheless, today, the major imperial powers – the US, EU, China, and Russia – appear locked in the divisive, dysfunctional cycle of fear that Thucydides and Bateson described, although modern warfare has acquired some new twists. Today, smaller nations and rebel groups fight surrogate battles on behalf of imperial patrons. Modern warfare is also fought with computers, witnessed in cyber-attacks among Iran, the US, Russia, and China. War has always been about greed, acquiring land or resources, but modern warfare also appears as a currency conflict, fought for control of the entire global economy.

We can witness this financial warfare in the relationship between the US and China, the worlds two largest militaries. Both nations maintain fragile financial systems that show signs of impending collapse, propped up with fiat currencies, banking fraud, and increasingly tenuous monetary schemes.

Since the end of World War II, the US has been the dominant economic empire. The 1944 Breton Woods Conference hosted by the US, with 43 invited allies, established the US dollar as the global trade reserve currency, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and currency exchange rates based on gold. Since then, all large, international trade – in oil, gold, critical resources, and currencies – has been conducted in US dollars, forcing all participating nations to hold dollars, thus inflating the US dollar value.

In 1971, the US abandoned the gold standard, which allowed the bankers to create US currency out of thin air, further devaluing the dollar. These schemes have given the US unfair economic advantage over all other nations, but those nations are fighting back.

The currency war

The modern currency wars appear as a classic Thucydides trap. The US, fearing the rise of other nations, has used their economic advantage to restrict trade, destroy competing institutions, and overthrow weak nations. Other nations responded in 2009 in Yekaterinburg, Russia, the first BRIC meeting, when Brazil, Russia, India and China discussed trade among themselves without the US dollar.

China organized currency swaps, free of US dollars, among the BRIC nations, with the Asian Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and later with South Africa, Iran, Pakistan, and Mongolia. China also established an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to rival the IMF and World Bank. "The AIIB," said China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei, with diplomatic understatement, "is a milestone in the reform of global economic governance system."

The US and Japan declined to join the Asian bank, but some G8 members – France, Germany, Britain, Italy, and Russia – joined, along with Australia, India, South Korea, Indonesia, and Brazil. The member nations are now proposing a "basket of currencies" to replace the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

Since these economic moves threatened the US monopoly, the escalation of fear was underway. The US retaliated by claiming regulatory jurisdiction over the Bank of China because it had a branch in New York. The US coerced allies to join sanctions against Russia and Iran, and they blacklisted one of China's largest telecom companies, ZTE.

China responded by expanding its global pay network, UnionPay, competing with western banks, Maestro, Visa, and Mastercard. Then, in 2015, China began dumping billions in US Treasure bonds. China knows that the US dollar is artificially over-valued, and expects that US assets will eventually decline in value. The US debt has reached over $19 trillion dollars, the nation runs a $1 trillion annual deficit, and faces over $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. The US debt is growing faster than its economy, and although this enriches western bankers, the US is technically bankrupt, buttressed by the requirement that other nations hold their inflated currency. China, however, cannot dump all their US Treasury debt onto the world market at once without crashing the dollar too fast, and losing value themselves, so they are moving slowly.

However, the Asian Infrastructure bank, non-Dollar/Euro international bank machines, and the non-dollar trade in oil, disrupts the US petro-dollar monopoly. This makes the US bankers and elite even more nervous, and this currency war has spilled over into real war, in which people die, nations collapse, resources are squandered, and Earth's fragile ecosystems suffer.

The shooting war

The US invaded Iraq in 2003, based on the deceit about "weapons of mass destruction." Once this pretence proved false, people wondered about the real reason. The obvious answer is "oil," which is true, but not that simple. In looking for the cause of war, ask: "Who benefits?"

The underlying reason for the US invasion of Iraq appears now to be a response to the threats against their petro-dollar monopoly. In the 1990s, OPEC, Russia, Iran, and Iraq, began negotiating future oil contracts in Euros and Roubles. In 2003, the Financial Times reported, "Saddam Hussein in 2000 insisted Iraq's oil be sold for Euros." The ability to buy and sell oil in Euros, Roubles, or Yuan would reduce worldwide demand for US dollars, expose the inflated dollar, and begin the inevitable decline of value in US assets. US bankers and elite investors wanted to avoid this.

After the Iraq invasion, the western bankers and oil companies got what they wanted, for a while. They overturned the Iraq/Russia oil deal in Euros and retained their petro-dollar monopoly. The western banks got to finance another $2 trillion in war debt, the weapons and engineering companies – Lockheed, Boeing, Halliburton – got their fat multi-billion, no-bid contracts, and the private war-making outfits – Blackwater, Xe, Unity Resources, CACI International, L-3 Services – got fat contracts for doing the dirty work of killing civilians and torturing prisoners.

Citizen petitions for peace, Iraq War, Peter Nicholls, Times UK

Hundreds of thousands died, communities collapsed, children starved, trillions in resources were squandered, while the disintegration of Iraq and US financing of Syrian rebels has given us the charming spectacle of ISIS. Nevertheless, the corporations and banks profited, and the US dollar clung to its reserve monopoly.

The US, acting out the cycle of fear as Sparta did 2,400 years ago, now has 1,000 military bases around the world. Counting the off-book expenses, they spend some trillion-dollars annually on warfare to maintain their tenuous power.

Creating peace has always been left to the people. Here are some organizations that are helping:

Society of Friends, the "Quakers," who inspired the early Greenpeace campaigns:

The Fellowship of Reconciliation, Interfaith Peace Organization in the US:

Amnesty International, peace and human rights:

Doctors without Borders:

Control Arms Campaign, to diminish the arms trade.

African Great Lakes Initiative: with a great film about their Rwanda Healing Project.

Alternatives to Violence, peace and violence-response training:

Halo Trust, to eliminate land mines:

Human Rights Watch:

Seeds of Peace, teaching conflict resolution:

Orgnaization for World Peace:

Millennium People's Assembly, advocating a permanent UN Global People's Assembly:

Peace Boat, in Japan:

See also, Military spending is going up. Don't let it take us down by Jen Maman.

And please add your local peace groups in the comment section below. Thank you.

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

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Radioactive Chernobyl forest fires: a ticking time bomb

For five years now I’ve been a member of the professional firefighting group of Greenpeace Russia staff members that is supported by well trained volunteers and I’ve travelled thousands of kilometres across Russia to extinguish fires. Firefighting is always dangerous, but when it happens in a radiation-contaminated area the stakes are much higher. 

Forest fires in the contaminated Bryansk region.

In areas contaminated by Chernobyl, wildfires are a common occurrence. Without good government management, these areas flame up every spring due to bonfires made by locals, and the fires can cover thousands of hectares. With the climate getting warmer and dryer, these fires have become more frequent and devastating in recent years.

Every spring, fires start in the forests and fields of the heavily contaminated area.

This house in Stary Vyshkov village was burnt because of grass fires started by locals.

Right now, I’m working near the village of Stary Vyshkov. Despite being declared an evacuation zone due to high contamination, it’s still home to 300 people. There are millions of people like these villagers, living in contaminated areas and always at risk. Our team, in cooperation with local emergency services and volunteers, prevents grassfires from hitting contaminated peatland at the edge of the village. 

Greenpeace firefighters work hard to stop the spreading of the fires.

I and the other firefighters do this work because the government fails to protect its citizens. While the authorities’ management of forests across Russia is weak, the problem here is worse because they ignore the high levels of contamination. These areas need a special regime of fire prevention and safety rules.

“Chernobyl-contaminated forests are ticking time bombs,” Ludmila Komogortseva tells me. A scientist and ex-deputy on Bryansk regional council - an area highly contaminated by Chernobyl - Ludmila knows the risks of Chernobyl’s fallout well.  

“Woods and peat accumulate radiation and every moment, every grass burning, every dropped cigarette or camp fire can spark a new disaster,” she says. 

A Greenpeace member wearing protective clothing holds a geiger counter. 

Peat in Bryansk marshes has collected enough radioactivity to be considered radioactive waste. During a fire, radionuclides like caesium-137, strontium-90 and plutonium rise into the air and travel with the wind. This is a health concern because when these unstable atoms are inhaled, people become internally exposed to radiation.

Geiger counter showing radiation levels.

These radiation risks make fighting wildfires all the more difficult. Some areas I’ve worked in are so contaminated that no protective outfit will fully block the radiation we’re exposed to. That is why fighting fires is sometimes not a sustainable option and prevention is much more valuable.

The reconnaissance plan is based on satellite data - but still we need to go out to the field to check. We usually start looking for fires in the mornings, but we rarely need our eyes to find any. You smell the smoke first. That leads you to burnt and smoldering fields.  

The government’s lax attitude also puts its own firefighters at risk - they aren’t even provided the same safety gear that volunteers crowdfund or buy for themselves.

The forest inspector and ranger Nikolay Makarenko told us that his department’s task is to only report on wildfires in Bryansk, but because it takes such a long time for the fire brigade to arrive, the inspectors try to combat the danger themselves, mostly protected only by their everyday jacket and boots. Once the fire was so big he worked for two days straight and was forced to sleep in the contaminated forest. 

A Zlynka town forestry officer at a picnic area in a highly contaminated forest.

Officials are often reluctant even to admit there is a fire that needs to be put out. Last year, it took us two months of campaigning to make them eliminate a big peat fire.

The government is reckless and does not give proper protection to people living in contaminated areas. They are cutting protection programmes that ensure much needed monitoring, health treatments and uncontaminated food and they do not have an adequate solution to peat fires in these areas. 

A Ministry of Emergency officer talks to a local woman to gather information. 

Please stand in solidarity with people like us trying to protect communities from the ongoing risk from Chernobyl. Tell the leaders of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia to give proper support and make sure another disaster like Chernobyl does not happen again. Nuclear energy should be buried in the past.


Anton Beneslavsky is a Forest campaigner and firefighter with Greenpeace Russia.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Strong quake in Japan kills at least nine, nuclear plants safe

TOKYO (Reuters) - A strong earthquake hit southwestern Japan on Thursday, bringing down some buildings, killing at least nine people and injuring hundreds, local media said, but the nuclear regulator reported no problems at power plants.
Read more [Reuters]

A rural retirement in Chernobyl's radioactive shadow

TULGOVICH, Belarus (Reuters) - Ninety-year-old Ivan Shamyanok says the secret to a long life is not leaving your birthplace, even when it is a Belarusian village poisoned with radioactive fallout from a nuclear disaster.
Read more [Reuters]

15 things you didn't know about Chernobyl

In the early morning of April 26th, 1986, reactor four of the Chernobyl nuclear station exploded. It caused what the United Nations has called "the greatest environmental catastrophe in the history of humanity."

Chernobyl was the accident that the nuclear industry said would never happen.

Twenty-five years later the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan reminded us that the risk of another Chernobyl remains wherever nuclear power is used.

The long-lived radionuclides released by Chernobyl means the disaster continues 30 years later. It still affects the lives of millions of people. Here are 15 facts you may not know about the disaster:

1. Exactly 30 years ago, Chernobyl's nuclear reactors, located in Ukraine, exploded. Nearly five million people still live in the areas considered contaminated.

2. The amount of radiation released is at least 100 times more powerful than the radiation released by the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

3. People in the nearest town, Pripyat, were evacuated only two days after the disaster. By that time many people were already exposed to high levels of radiation.

4. Radioactive rain fell as far away as Ireland. The Ukraine, Belarus and Russia were the most affected countries. They received 63% of the contamination from Chernobyl.

5. Since Pripyat was abandoned by people due to high radiation levels, wolves, wild horses, beavers, boars and other animals have populated the town.

6. Animals living within the 30km exclusion zone around Chernobyl have higher mortality rates, increased genetic mutations and decreased birth rate.

7. You'd think the other Chernobyl reactors would have been shut down right away, but the three other reactors at the site were restarted and operated for another 13 years!

8. Radioactive material still remains in a crumbling cement sarcophagus built over the reactor following the accident. A new massive shell is being built over the current sarcophagus, but will only last for 100 years.

9. The nearby forest close to the disaster is called the "red forest" as radiation gave it a bright ginger colour and left nothing but but death behind.

10. The nuclear industry and supporting governments in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus want to spend billions on other nuclear projects while ignoring their responsibility to support Chernobyl's survivors. They minimize the impacts of the disaster and hide the day-to-day reality of Chernobyl.

11. Now you can even book a trip to the Chernobyl exclusion zone! Tourist agencies organise day tours in the abandoned town of Pripyat.

12. Pripyat is highly contaminated and will remain abandoned as plutonium needs more than 24,000 years to reduce just half of its intensity.

13. Radiation was so strong that the eyes of firefighter Vladimir Pravik changed from brown to blue.

14. Sweden was the first country to inform the world about the disaster as the Ukrainian government decided to keep Chernobyl's explosion a secret at first.

15. In the contaminated areas, Chernobyl touches every aspect of people's lives. Chernobyl's radiation is in the food they eat, the milk and water they drink, in the schools, parks and playgrounds their children play in, and in the wood they burn to keep warm.

Please speak out in solidarity with Chernobyl survivors and join us for a twitter thunderclap.

Celine Mergan is a social media intern with Greenpeace Belgium.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

We’ve had enough of eating and breathing Chernobyl

I’m in the Bryansk region of Russia. Despite being over 180 kilometres from Chernobyl and thirty years after the disaster, my geiger counter still picks up elevated levels of radiation.  

This invisible radiation hazard is a day-to-day reality for the five million Chernobyl survivors that live in contaminated areas of the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. They eat contaminated berries and vegetables. And they breathe radioactive smoke from fires in nearby forests contaminated by Chernobyl.

Here in the Bryansk region many communities should have been evacuated, but never were.  

Worse, the Russian government is now cutting radiation protection measures and support programs for people here to save money. Last year, three hundred thousand people lost support when the government changed the status of several hundred settlements without any public consultation.

I met a surgeon, Dr. Victor Khanayev, in a nearby town of Novozybkov. With its old churches, it reminds me of many historic Russian towns, except in this town Chernobyl’s invisible radiation looms in the background.  

Dr. Khanayev worries about the local food his patients must eat because they lack the money to buy more expensive imported food. He told me: “It is impossible for rural people to refuse local produce from the land and their garden, especially with the official monetary compensation being so small.”

“Regional authorities are trying to do something, but little can be done without money. The budget is like a short blanket, being pulled to one side or another — some parts always remain naked”.

But these people are not going to give up.

Over 50 people from Bryansk region went to the Russian Supreme Court last week to overturn the government’s decision to eliminate social support programs and their right to resettle.

One of the plaintiffs Natalia Kandik told me: “We’re living people. It’s not acceptable to deal with us like that. They’ve provide no evidence our towns and villages are clean. We know they aren’t.”

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court sided with the government and not the Chernobyl survivors from Bryansk. The judges dismissed their case.

But when I talk to locals here they are determined to fight on.

“We are going to appeal this judgement,” says Maxim Shevtsov from the Chernobyl Union-Novozybkov, an organisation that supports Chernobyl survivors, “and we will go as far as the European Court of Human Rights to defend our health.”

And Natalia tells me: “We will go on struggling. We have nothing to lose."

But ultimately it is the government that should assume its responsibility to support and protect Chernobyl survivors.

In spite of all odds people are fighting for their rights and standing up to an irresponsible government bureaucracy.

We can support them by making sure they’re not forgotten. And by speaking out together we can remind their governments the world is watching.

Please join me and stand in solidarity with Chernobyl survivors.

Rashid Alimov is a nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace Russia. 

Read more [Greenpeace international]

GOP’s climate change minimizers are risk deniers

Washington Post: “I just think we have much bigger risks,” Donald Trump told us last week. We had asked the Republican presidential candidate about human-caused climate change, a phenomenon in which he said he is “not a big believer.” Don’t good business leaders hedge against risks, spending something now to avoid potentially negative outcomes later? “I think our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons,” he responded. Trump is not alone among Republicans in citing other scary problems...

U.S., Japan finalize nuclear material transfer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Japan have completed the removal of all highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium fuels from Japan's Fast Critical Assembly research project that is due to be sent to South Carolina, the countries said on Friday.

Read more [Reuters]

It's time to talk about Belgium’s nuclear problem

President Obama invited more than fifty heads of state and heads of government to a summit in Washington DC this week to discuss the risks of nuclear terrorism. While the official agenda is tackling proliferation of nuclear weapons, recent threats on nuclear power facilities in Belgium will also be discussed.

A few years ago, a report on the vulnerability of Belgium’s nuclear plants was drafted by Belgian authorities. Only a few copies were made and they were secured in a safe. Rightly so. Nobody wants technical nuclear reactor details to get into the wrong hands. But, at the same time, and particularly in the wake of last week’s attacks, the Belgian parliament, media and public want to know if their government is taking the measures needed to protect against a breach of nuclear installations. Avoiding the discussion is not an acceptable option.

Doel nuclear power plant, River Scheldt, Antwerp, Belgium.

The nuclear threat is now openly discussed in the media. The El Bakraoui brothers, who detonated explosions that took many innocent lives at Brussels airport, are reportedly linked to planning an attack against a nuclear target in Belgium. This is in addition to the 2014 sabotage of Doel4 nuclear power plant where neither the saboteurs nor the motives have yet been identified.  

Over the past years, several Greenpeace offices have commissioned several technical studies on threats to nuclear power plants which were handed to authorities in the relevant countries.

In 2014, Greenpeace in Belgium and France sent a report on the threat of commercial drones to national authorities, including to the Belgian Minister of Interior and nuclear authority, FANC. These drones are a serious threat, especially when combined with an infiltration of nuclear sites. Greenpeace did not receive any reaction from the Belgian authorities. In France, however, as a result of the report, the author was invited by the French Parliament to a hearing.

Another study focused on the threat from 3rd generation “Kornet” anti-tank missiles, based on the Russian model. Such missiles are capable of penetrating walls of a nuclear plant to cause serious damage.

Nuclear plants are not built to withstand today’s terrorist threats. More protection may help, but the vulnerabilities are so huge that heightened security can only serve as a deterrent. Russia has supplied Kornet missiles to Syrian troops. It can’t be ruled out that some of these weapons may now be in the hands of people with harmful agendas. This is highly concerning.

Greenpeace Belgium is calling for concrete steps to reduce the nuclear threat. A first step would be to close the two oldest and most vulnerable reactors Doel1 and Doel2. Their shutdown was planned for 2015, according to the 2003 nuclear phase-out law. Instead, the government decided to extend the lifetime of the reactors by another ten years until 2025. The decision was made without an environmental impact assessment or a public consultation, which is unlawful. And despite confirmation by the national grid operator that these relatively small reactors are not needed to ensure energy supply in Belgium. Greenpeace Belgium went to the supreme court last year to request that the decision be annulled. In the current climate, it would be wise for the government to take responsibility and act now, rather than await the outcome of the court.

As world leaders discuss nuclear security in Washington, let there be no doubt that the safest response they can make on nuclear power is to leave uranium in the ground. Responsible governments must refuse any extensions to the life of existing nuclear power plants and accelerate plans for their phase out. Leaders must also fast track safe renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

A Greenpeace Belgium activist erects a wind powered turbine in front of Doel nuclear plant.

Jan Vande Putte is an energy campaigner with Greenpeace Belgium.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

China still committed to nuclear reprocessing despite Asia stockpile fears

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China remains committed to its plans for nuclear reprocessing, its top nuclear industry official said on Thursday, despite concerns this could lead to a competitive buildup of plutonium stockpiles in Asia.

Read more [Reuters]

Britain to ship record amount of nuclear waste to U.S.: UK government source

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will ship 700 kilograms of nuclear waste to the United States under a deal to be announced by Prime Minister David Cameron at a nuclear security summit in Washington on Thursday, a British government source said.

Read more [Reuters]

Westinghouse expects to sign India reactor deal in June: CEO

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chief executive of Toshiba Corp's Westinghouse Electric said on Wednesday he expects to sign a deal in June to build six nuclear reactors in India after marathon negotiations that began more than a decade ago.

Read more [Reuters]

Washington nuclear plant to restart this week after shutdown

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Washington state nuclear power plant is expected to be restarted this week after it was shut down to check an issue with a valve that was discovered during a maintenance test, a representative said on Wednesday.

Read more [Reuters]

Japan's Shikoku Electric to scrap aging nuclear reactor

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese utility Shikoku Electric Power Co said on Friday it would scrap the ageing 566-megawatt No.1 reactor at its Ikata nuclear plant on May 10.

Read more [Reuters]

Giant arch to block Chernobyl radiation for next 100 years

CHERNOBYL, Ukraine (Reuters) - In the middle of a vast exclusion zone in northern Ukraine, the world's largest land-based moving structure has been built to prevent deadly radiation spewing from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site for the next 100 years.

Read more [Reuters]

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