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China and Japan step up drone race as tension builds over disputed islands
Both countries claim drones will be used for surveillance, but experts warn of future skirmishes in region’s airspace
Drones have taken centre stage in an escalating arms race betweenChina and Japan as they struggle to assert their dominance over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
China is rapidly expanding its nascent drone programme, while Japan has begun preparations to purchase an advanced model from the US. Both sides claim the drones will be used for surveillance, but experts warn the possibility of future drone skirmishes in the region’s airspace is “very high”.
Tensions over the islands – called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan – have ratcheted up in past weeks. Chinese surveillance planes flew near the islands four times in the second half of December, according to Chinese state media, but were chased away each time by Japanese F-15 fighter jets. Neither side has shown any signs of backing down.
Japan’s new conservative administration of Shinzo Abe has placed a priority on countering the perceived Chinese threat to the Senkakus since it won a landslide victory in last month’s general election. Soon after becoming prime minister, Abe ordered a review of Japan’s 2011-16 mid-term defence programme, apparently to speed up the acquisition of between one and three US drones.
Under Abe, a nationalist who wants a bigger international role for the armed forces, Japan is expected to increase defence spending for the first time in 11 years in 2013. The extra cash will be used to increase the number of military personnel and upgrade equipment. The country’s deputy foreign minister, Akitaka Saiki, summoned the Chinese ambassador to Japan on Tuesday to discuss recent “incursions” of Chinese ships into the disputed territory.
China appears unbowed. “Japan has continued to ignore our warnings that their vessels and aircraft have infringed our sovereignty,” top-level marine surveillance official Sun Shuxian said in an interview posted to the State Oceanic Administration’s website, according to Reuters. “This behaviour may result in the further escalation of the situation at sea and has prompted China to pay great attention and vigilance.”
Pictured: The row between China and Japan over the disputed islands – called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan – has escalated recently. Photograph: AP

China and Japan step up drone race as tension builds over disputed islands

Both countries claim drones will be used for surveillance, but experts warn of future skirmishes in region’s airspace

Drones have taken centre stage in an escalating arms race betweenChina and Japan as they struggle to assert their dominance over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

China is rapidly expanding its nascent drone programme, while Japan has begun preparations to purchase an advanced model from the US. Both sides claim the drones will be used for surveillance, but experts warn the possibility of future drone skirmishes in the region’s airspace is “very high”.

Tensions over the islands – called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan – have ratcheted up in past weeks. Chinese surveillance planes flew near the islands four times in the second half of December, according to Chinese state media, but were chased away each time by Japanese F-15 fighter jets. Neither side has shown any signs of backing down.

Japan’s new conservative administration of Shinzo Abe has placed a priority on countering the perceived Chinese threat to the Senkakus since it won a landslide victory in last month’s general election. Soon after becoming prime minister, Abe ordered a review of Japan’s 2011-16 mid-term defence programme, apparently to speed up the acquisition of between one and three US drones.

Under Abe, a nationalist who wants a bigger international role for the armed forces, Japan is expected to increase defence spending for the first time in 11 years in 2013. The extra cash will be used to increase the number of military personnel and upgrade equipment. The country’s deputy foreign minister, Akitaka Saiki, summoned the Chinese ambassador to Japan on Tuesday to discuss recent “incursions” of Chinese ships into the disputed territory.

China appears unbowed. “Japan has continued to ignore our warnings that their vessels and aircraft have infringed our sovereignty,” top-level marine surveillance official Sun Shuxian said in an interview posted to the State Oceanic Administration’s website, according to Reuters. “This behaviour may result in the further escalation of the situation at sea and has prompted China to pay great attention and vigilance.”

Pictured: The row between China and Japan over the disputed islands – called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan – has escalated recently. Photograph: AP

(Source: BBC)

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Japan’s PM Yoshihiko Noda in party leadership vote
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is facing a party leadership vote against three challengers, just over a year after assuming office.
Mr Noda, Japan’s sixth prime minister in six years, is expected to win the vote and hang on to power.
He became head of the Democratic Party of Japan after Naoto Kan resigned, following criticism over the handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Mr Noda faced pressure over a controversial sales tax rise this year.
The candidates going up against Mr Noda in the race for DPJ chief include two former farm ministers, Michihiko Kano and Hirotaka Akamatsu, and a former internal affairs minister, Kazuhiro Haraguchi.
Analysts expect Mr Noda to easily win the vote as key figures such as former PM Kan and policy chief Seiji Maehara said that they would back him.
The controversial tax rise saw bitter disagreement and gridlock among Japan’s lawmakers and caused a rift in the ruling DPJ.
Mr Noda said that doubling the tax from 5% to 10% by 2015 was key to cutting Japan’s high public debt and funding rising welfare costs.
Pictured: Mr Noda (centre) is expected to win the party leadership vote over the other candidates

Japan’s PM Yoshihiko Noda in party leadership vote

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is facing a party leadership vote against three challengers, just over a year after assuming office.

Mr Noda, Japan’s sixth prime minister in six years, is expected to win the vote and hang on to power.

He became head of the Democratic Party of Japan after Naoto Kan resigned, following criticism over the handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Mr Noda faced pressure over a controversial sales tax rise this year.

The candidates going up against Mr Noda in the race for DPJ chief include two former farm ministers, Michihiko Kano and Hirotaka Akamatsu, and a former internal affairs minister, Kazuhiro Haraguchi.

Analysts expect Mr Noda to easily win the vote as key figures such as former PM Kan and policy chief Seiji Maehara said that they would back him.

The controversial tax rise saw bitter disagreement and gridlock among Japan’s lawmakers and caused a rift in the ruling DPJ.

Mr Noda said that doubling the tax from 5% to 10% by 2015 was key to cutting Japan’s high public debt and funding rising welfare costs.

Pictured: Mr Noda (centre) is expected to win the party leadership vote over the other candidates

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Little Islands Are Big Trouble In The South China Sea

A storm has been brewing for decades in the South China Sea, and it has nothing to do with the weather.

Instead, it’s a virtual typhoon of competing claims over tiny, uninhabited island chains that ring the South China Sea and reach even farther north. They all have one thing in common: China has claimed control of them.

During a trip to Asia this week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stepped into the middle of the latest row — this one between China and the Philippines over a small archipelago of wind- and wave-swept rocks and coral called the Scarborough Shoal (or the Huangyan Islands, as China prefers to call them).

In the past month or so, China has literally roped off access to Scarborough by stretching a line across the horseshoe-shaped lagoon to prevent fishermen from the Philippines, located just 120 miles to the east, from entering.

And this week, Japan announced it had struck a deal with private owners to buy the five Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, whose sovereignty China has never recognized. Beijing was quick to blast the move as “illegal and invalid.”

Robert Kaplan, chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor and author of the upcoming book The Revenge of Geography, says China’s claims are rooted in economic and national prestige.

"It’s a historic belief that is very similar to that which motivated the United States in the Caribbean basin throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries," he adds.

Claims, Counterclaims And The ‘Cow’s Tongue’

China sees the islands, and more broadly control over the adjacent seas, as a historical right, dovetailing with its newly reclaimed role of East Asia’s dominant power. Also at stake: a strategic waterway with massive oil and gas reserves that potentially could help fuel China’s energy-hungry industries and towns.

Speaking in Indonesia ahead of her arrival in Beijing, Clinton reiterated the U.S. position that the various island disputes — which have put China at odds with nearly every one of its maritime neighbors — should be resolved “collaboratively … without coercion, without intimidation, without threats and without the use of force.”

But coercion, intimidation, threats and even occasional violence have all been part of these disputes, many dating to the end of World War II.

The claims and counterclaims can be confusing. It’s China vs. the Philippines and Taiwan for control of Scarborough Shoal; Taiwan also claims the Pratas Islands and (along with Vietnam) the Paracel Islands and the Macclesfield Bank, which the Philippines also claims; the Spratly Islands are claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and even the tiny sultanate of Brunei. These disputes involve an area known as the “cow’s tongue,” which is roughly equivalent to the entire South China Sea.

Farther north, Beijing and Tokyo are at loggerheads over the Senkaku, or Diaoyu Islands, as the Chinese call them.

Pictured: Last month, Japanese police officers arrested activists holding Chinese and Taiwanese flags who landed on Uotsuri Island, one of the islands of Senkaku (in Japanese), which is known as Diaoyu in Chinese.Masataka Morita/AP

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South Korea and Japan face off over disputed islands
President Lee Myung-bak visits Takeshima/Dokdo chain, centre of territorial rankles for decades, despite Tokyo protests
Japan and South Korea were heading for a diplomatic showdown on Friday, after Lee Myung-bak became the first sitting South Korean president to visit a group of islands at the centre of a decades-old territorial dispute.
Lee, who will step down as president later this year, ignored calls from Japanese leaders to cancel the trip to one of the islands that make up the Takeshima chain, known as Dokdo among Koreans.
After arriving by helicopter from the nearby island of Ulleungdo, Lee said that South Korea “must continue to protect its territory”. He left the island later in the afternoon and was due to speak to reporters on his return to Seoul.
Lee’s visit drew an angry response from Japan, which insists the islands, which lie roughly equidistant between the two countries in the Japan Sea – or the East Sea according to Koreans – are an integral part of its territory. In Tokyo, the government’s chief spokesman, Osamu Fujimura, described Lee’s visit as “extremely regrettable”. Later, the government said it was ordering its ambassador in Seoul, Masatoshi Muto, to return to Tokyo to discuss the dispute.
Japan’s foreign minister, Koichiro Gemba, said the visit would have a big impact on bilateral ties, but did not specify what, if any, countermeasures were being considered.
Officials in Seoul said Lee’s visit was not designed to provoke Japan, with which South Korea enjoys close tourism and economic ties, albeit against a backdrop of resentment over Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula. An unnamed official said the trip was intended only to highlight the island’s importance as a natural reserve. “There shouldn’t be anything unusual in a national leader visiting a place that is our territory,” the official told Reuters.
A freshwater lagoon helps sustain about 80 species of plants, and dozens of birds and insects. The meeting of cold and warm water currents has led to a profusion of fish and other marine life. The islands sit amid rich fishing grounds and, according to some reports, near frozen natural gas deposits that could be worth billions of dollars.
A coastguard garrison has been stationed on Takeshima since 1954, and their only known civilian residents are Kim Seong-do, an elderly fisherman, and his wife, Shin-yeol.
Lee’s visit comes soon after Japan renewed its claim over Takeshima in its annual defence paper, and days before South Korea marks the anniversary of its liberation from Japanese rule at the end of the second world war.
Some interpreted the move as an attempt by Lee to appeal to nationalist sentiment in the south and improve the chances of his party’s candidate, Park Geun-hye, in December’s presidential election. South Korea’s constitution bans sitting presidents from seeking a second term.
Pictured: South Korea’s President Lee Myung-Bak (r) visits one of the disputed islands. Photograph: Yonhap/AFP/Getty Images

South Korea and Japan face off over disputed islands

President Lee Myung-bak visits Takeshima/Dokdo chain, centre of territorial rankles for decades, despite Tokyo protests

Japan and South Korea were heading for a diplomatic showdown on Friday, after Lee Myung-bak became the first sitting South Korean president to visit a group of islands at the centre of a decades-old territorial dispute.

Lee, who will step down as president later this year, ignored calls from Japanese leaders to cancel the trip to one of the islands that make up the Takeshima chain, known as Dokdo among Koreans.

After arriving by helicopter from the nearby island of Ulleungdo, Lee said that South Korea “must continue to protect its territory”. He left the island later in the afternoon and was due to speak to reporters on his return to Seoul.

Lee’s visit drew an angry response from Japan, which insists the islands, which lie roughly equidistant between the two countries in the Japan Sea – or the East Sea according to Koreans – are an integral part of its territory. In Tokyo, the government’s chief spokesman, Osamu Fujimura, described Lee’s visit as “extremely regrettable”. Later, the government said it was ordering its ambassador in Seoul, Masatoshi Muto, to return to Tokyo to discuss the dispute.

Japan’s foreign minister, Koichiro Gemba, said the visit would have a big impact on bilateral ties, but did not specify what, if any, countermeasures were being considered.

Officials in Seoul said Lee’s visit was not designed to provoke Japan, with which South Korea enjoys close tourism and economic ties, albeit against a backdrop of resentment over Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula. An unnamed official said the trip was intended only to highlight the island’s importance as a natural reserve. “There shouldn’t be anything unusual in a national leader visiting a place that is our territory,” the official told Reuters.

A freshwater lagoon helps sustain about 80 species of plants, and dozens of birds and insects. The meeting of cold and warm water currents has led to a profusion of fish and other marine life. The islands sit amid rich fishing grounds and, according to some reports, near frozen natural gas deposits that could be worth billions of dollars.

A coastguard garrison has been stationed on Takeshima since 1954, and their only known civilian residents are Kim Seong-do, an elderly fisherman, and his wife, Shin-yeol.

Lee’s visit comes soon after Japan renewed its claim over Takeshima in its annual defence paper, and days before South Korea marks the anniversary of its liberation from Japanese rule at the end of the second world war.

Some interpreted the move as an attempt by Lee to appeal to nationalist sentiment in the south and improve the chances of his party’s candidate, Park Geun-hye, in December’s presidential election. South Korea’s constitution bans sitting presidents from seeking a second term.

Pictured: South Korea’s President Lee Myung-Bak (r) visits one of the disputed islands. Photograph: Yonhap/AFP/Getty Images

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Anti-nuclear campaigners launch Japan’s first green party
Greens Japan promises voters to put environment first and abolish nuclear power plants
Anti-nuclear campaigners in Japan have launched the country’s first green party, more than a year after the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi power plant created a groundswell of opposition to atomic energy.
Greens Japan, created by local politicians and activists, hopes to satisfy the legal requirements to become an officially recognised political party in time for the general election, which must be held by next summer but could come much earlier.
The party said it would offer voters a viable alternative to the two main parties, both of which have retained their support for nuclear power, particularly after the recent decision to restart two nuclear reactors in western Japan.
The ruling Democratic party of Japan and the minority opposition Liberal democratic party [LDP] both supported the nuclear restart, which came after Japan was briefly left without nuclear power for the first time in more than 40 years.
Akira Miyabe, Greens Japan’s deputy leader, said voters had been deprived of the chance to support a party that puts nuclear abolition and other green policies at the top of its agenda. “We need a party that puts the environment first,” he said at a launch event in Tokyo.
The 1,000-member party is still a gathering of disparate groups and local politicians, but believes it can emulate green parties in Germany and other parts of Europe and influence the national debate over energy policy.
Nao Suguro, a co-leader of the party who sits on a local assembly in Tokyo, said the aim was “to create a broad network to accommodate calls for the abolition of nuclear power plants.”
The party will struggle to field any candidates if, as some predict, the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, calls a snap lower house election. But it said it was prepared to put up about 10 candidates in next summer’s upper house elections.
Pictured: Members of Greens Japan during their inaugural party meeting. The party wants to emulate other green parties of Europe and influence Japan’s energy policy. Photograph: Greens Japan

Anti-nuclear campaigners launch Japan’s first green party

Greens Japan promises voters to put environment first and abolish nuclear power plants

Anti-nuclear campaigners in Japan have launched the country’s first green party, more than a year after the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi power plant created a groundswell of opposition to atomic energy.

Greens Japan, created by local politicians and activists, hopes to satisfy the legal requirements to become an officially recognised political party in time for the general election, which must be held by next summer but could come much earlier.

The party said it would offer voters a viable alternative to the two main parties, both of which have retained their support for nuclear power, particularly after the recent decision to restart two nuclear reactors in western Japan.

The ruling Democratic party of Japan and the minority opposition Liberal democratic party [LDP] both supported the nuclear restart, which came after Japan was briefly left without nuclear power for the first time in more than 40 years.

Akira Miyabe, Greens Japan’s deputy leader, said voters had been deprived of the chance to support a party that puts nuclear abolition and other green policies at the top of its agenda. “We need a party that puts the environment first,” he said at a launch event in Tokyo.

The 1,000-member party is still a gathering of disparate groups and local politicians, but believes it can emulate green parties in Germany and other parts of Europe and influence the national debate over energy policy.

Nao Suguro, a co-leader of the party who sits on a local assembly in Tokyo, said the aim was “to create a broad network to accommodate calls for the abolition of nuclear power plants.”

The party will struggle to field any candidates if, as some predict, the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, calls a snap lower house election. But it said it was prepared to put up about 10 candidates in next summer’s upper house elections.

Pictured: Members of Greens Japan during their inaugural party meeting. The party wants to emulate other green parties of Europe and influence Japan’s energy policy. Photograph: Greens Japan

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Japan, Norway and allies vote down South Atlantic whale sanctuary
An idea raised by several South American countries to create a haven for whales in the South Atlantic was shot down Monday at the International Whaling Commission.
Though little whaling takes place in the zone, the plan was rejected by Japan, China, Norway, Russia and Iceland, plus several smaller countries that environmentalists accuse of pandering to Japan to keep aid.
"You can’t really believe that Nauru or Tuvalu has an interest or has studied the sanctuary. They are voting because Japan tells them to," Jose Truda Palazzo, who spearheaded the proposal and now works at the Cetacean Conservation Center in Brazil, told the Agence France-Presse.
Japan and its allies contended that the move was simply unnecessary. The protected zone would have spanned the waters between South America and Africa south of the equator, touching the edges of an existing sanctuary in the Antarctic. If approved, it would have been the third active sanctuary created by the international commission since its founding, covering breeding grounds for all large whales in the South Atlantic. Activists argued that it would create a seamless safe zone for migrating whales.
The South Atlantic sanctuary was first suggested in 1999 but has been repeatedly blocked by whaling countries. Japan led other countries in a walkout over the proposed sanctuary last year, leaving the International Whaling Commission short of the quorum needed to even hold a vote.
Under commission rules, three-fourths of the countries represented in it had to agree to create the sanctuary. Thirty-nine voted in favor, but 21 votes against and two abstained.
The commission vote, taken at its annual meeting in Panama City, frustrated environmental groups.
Pictured: A Franca Austral whale is spotted in the New Gulf near Puerto Piramides in Argentina in 2006. Credit: Juan Mabromata / Agence France-Presse

Japan, Norway and allies vote down South Atlantic whale sanctuary

An idea raised by several South American countries to create a haven for whales in the South Atlantic was shot down Monday at the International Whaling Commission.

Though little whaling takes place in the zone, the plan was rejected by Japan, China, Norway, Russia and Iceland, plus several smaller countries that environmentalists accuse of pandering to Japan to keep aid.

"You can’t really believe that Nauru or Tuvalu has an interest or has studied the sanctuary. They are voting because Japan tells them to," Jose Truda Palazzo, who spearheaded the proposal and now works at the Cetacean Conservation Center in Brazil, told the Agence France-Presse.

Japan and its allies contended that the move was simply unnecessary. The protected zone would have spanned the waters between South America and Africa south of the equator, touching the edges of an existing sanctuary in the Antarctic. If approved, it would have been the third active sanctuary created by the international commission since its founding, covering breeding grounds for all large whales in the South Atlantic. Activists argued that it would create a seamless safe zone for migrating whales.

The South Atlantic sanctuary was first suggested in 1999 but has been repeatedly blocked by whaling countries. Japan led other countries in a walkout over the proposed sanctuary last year, leaving the International Whaling Commission short of the quorum needed to even hold a vote.

Under commission rules, three-fourths of the countries represented in it had to agree to create the sanctuary. Thirty-nine voted in favor, but 21 votes against and two abstained.

The commission vote, taken at its annual meeting in Panama City, frustrated environmental groups.

Pictured: A Franca Austral whale is spotted in the New Gulf near Puerto Piramides in Argentina in 2006. Credit: Juan Mabromata / Agence France-Presse

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Japan ‘must restart’ two nuclear reactors, Noda warns
Japan must restart two nuclear reactors to protect the country’s economy and livelihoods, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has said in a televised broadcast.
Measures to ensure the safety of two reactors at western Japan’s Ohi nuclear plant have been undertaken, he said.
Since last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan’s 50 reactors have been shut down for routine maintenance.
The crisis fuelled immense public opposition to nuclear power, but Japan is facing a summer of power shortages.
Japan’s last nuclear shut down for routine maintenance was in May. When the third reactor at the Tomari plant in Hokkaido prefecture was switched off, Japan was left without energy from atomic power for the first time in more than 40 years.
Public confidence in nuclear safety was shaken by the meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant, triggered by last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.
"Cheap and stable electricity is vital. If all the reactors that previously provided 30% of Japan’s electricity supply are halted, or kept idle, Japanese society cannot survive," Mr Noda said.
He added that some companies could possibly move production out of Japan, losing vital jobs as a result.
"It is my decision that Ohi reactors No 3 and No 4 should be restarted to protect the people’s livelihoods," he said.
Pictured: Mr Noda is trying to convince the public that nuclear power is vital

Japan ‘must restart’ two nuclear reactors, Noda warns

Japan must restart two nuclear reactors to protect the country’s economy and livelihoods, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has said in a televised broadcast.

Measures to ensure the safety of two reactors at western Japan’s Ohi nuclear plant have been undertaken, he said.

Since last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan’s 50 reactors have been shut down for routine maintenance.

The crisis fuelled immense public opposition to nuclear power, but Japan is facing a summer of power shortages.

Japan’s last nuclear shut down for routine maintenance was in May. When the third reactor at the Tomari plant in Hokkaido prefecture was switched off, Japan was left without energy from atomic power for the first time in more than 40 years.

Public confidence in nuclear safety was shaken by the meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant, triggered by last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

"Cheap and stable electricity is vital. If all the reactors that previously provided 30% of Japan’s electricity supply are halted, or kept idle, Japanese society cannot survive," Mr Noda said.

He added that some companies could possibly move production out of Japan, losing vital jobs as a result.

"It is my decision that Ohi reactors No 3 and No 4 should be restarted to protect the people’s livelihoods," he said.

Pictured: Mr Noda is trying to convince the public that nuclear power is vital

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Thousands Rejoice As Japan Shuts Off Nuclear Power

Thousands of Japanese marched to celebrate the switching off of the last of their nation’s 50 nuclear reactors Saturday, waving banners shaped as giant fish that have become a potent anti-nuclear symbol.

Japan will be without electricity from nuclear power for the first time in four decades when the reactor at Tomari nuclear plant on the northern island of Hokkaido goes offline for routine maintenance.

After last year’s March 11 quake and tsunami set off meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, no reactor halted for checkups has been restarted amid public worries about the safety of nuclear technology.

"Today is a historical day," Masashi Ishikawa shouted to a crowd gathered at a Tokyo park, some holding traditional "koinobori" carp-shaped banners for Children’s Day that have become a symbol of the anti-nuclear movement.

"There are so many nuclear plants, but not a single one will be up and running today, and that’s because of our efforts," Ishikawa said.

The activists said it is fitting that the day Japan is stopping nuclear power coincides with Children’s Day because of their concerns about protecting children from radiation, which Fukushima Dai-ichi is still spewing into the air and water.

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Japan plans to restart reactors at Ohi nuclear plant
Two of Japan’s nuclear reactors have been declared safe and should be restarted to combat looming power shortages, the government says.
Since a tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima plant in 2011, residents have demanded reactors not be turned back on after routine maintenance.
The sole nuclear reactor still in action will be switched off in May.
Regional authorities need to give their approval before the two reactors at the Ohi plant in western Japan can restart.
The plant is about 100km (60 miles) north of the city of Osaka, Japan’s second biggest city. It is operated by Kansai Electric Power.
'Severe power shortages'
Industry Minister Yukio Edano said inspectors had “finally confirmed” that Ohi’s Number 3 and Number 4 reactors were safe and that the government “deemed it necessary” to restart them.
But Mr Edano warned that Japan still faced a summer of “very severe power shortages”.
Pictured: The government wants to restart reactors three and four at the Ohi nuclear power plant

Japan plans to restart reactors at Ohi nuclear plant

Two of Japan’s nuclear reactors have been declared safe and should be restarted to combat looming power shortages, the government says.

Since a tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima plant in 2011, residents have demanded reactors not be turned back on after routine maintenance.

The sole nuclear reactor still in action will be switched off in May.

Regional authorities need to give their approval before the two reactors at the Ohi plant in western Japan can restart.

The plant is about 100km (60 miles) north of the city of Osaka, Japan’s second biggest city. It is operated by Kansai Electric Power.

'Severe power shortages'

Industry Minister Yukio Edano said inspectors had “finally confirmed” that Ohi’s Number 3 and Number 4 reactors were safe and that the government “deemed it necessary” to restart them.

But Mr Edano warned that Japan still faced a summer of “very severe power shortages”.

Pictured: The government wants to restart reactors three and four at the Ohi nuclear power plant

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Japan’s Tepco shuts its last nuclear facility
One nuclear reactor left operating as country debates future of nuclear energy after tsunami-triggered nuclear crisis.
Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company [Tepco], the operator of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima power plant, has shut its last operating nuclear reactor, leaving the country with only one nuclear facility still operating.
Tepco said on Sunday it shut down the number 6 reactor at its Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, the world’s biggest nuclear power plant, raising concerns about a power shortage this summer.
"We are currently closely studying the summer power supply situation. We will do our utmost to operate in a stable way and maintain our facilities," Toshio Nishizawa, Tepco president, said in a statement.
Japan has 54 reactors, but since the quake and tsunami last March triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years at the Fukushima plant, it has been unable to restart any reactors that have undergone maintenance due to public safety concerns.
Out of the 17 reactors owned by Tepco, which provides electricity to about 45 million people in the Tokyo area, all six at its devastated Fukushima Daiichi plant are off line, as well as four at its neighbouring Fukushima Daini plant.
At its Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, 230km northwest of Tokyo, three remain offline after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck the area in July 2007 and small fires followed. Four others are under maintenance.
Japan’s last running reactor, Hokkaido Electric’s Tomari number 3, is set to go off line on May 5 for maintenance.
Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan’s executive director, said that the country could survive without rushing to restart its nuclear sector.
"Japan is practically nuclear free, and the impact on daily life is invisible," Sato said in a statement.
To avoid blackouts, utilities have restarted old fossil fuel plants and have called for power conservation.
Japan’s nuclear safety watchdog and another experts’ panel are currently reviewing stress test results submitted by utilities that gauge how reactors can withstand extreme events such as a huge tsunami.
Once they give approval, ministers including Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda can give the green-light for the restarts, but only after they deem there is enough local and public support, but surveys show this may not be easy.
Pictured: After the nuclear crisis at Fukushima nuclear facility, Japanese public opinion has gone against nuclear power [Reuters]

Japan’s Tepco shuts its last nuclear facility

One nuclear reactor left operating as country debates future of nuclear energy after tsunami-triggered nuclear crisis.

Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company [Tepco], the operator of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima power plant, has shut its last operating nuclear reactor, leaving the country with only one nuclear facility still operating.

Tepco said on Sunday it shut down the number 6 reactor at its Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, the world’s biggest nuclear power plant, raising concerns about a power shortage this summer.

"We are currently closely studying the summer power supply situation. We will do our utmost to operate in a stable way and maintain our facilities," Toshio Nishizawa, Tepco president, said in a statement.

Japan has 54 reactors, but since the quake and tsunami last March triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years at the Fukushima plant, it has been unable to restart any reactors that have undergone maintenance due to public safety concerns.

Out of the 17 reactors owned by Tepco, which provides electricity to about 45 million people in the Tokyo area, all six at its devastated Fukushima Daiichi plant are off line, as well as four at its neighbouring Fukushima Daini plant.

At its Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, 230km northwest of Tokyo, three remain offline after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck the area in July 2007 and small fires followed. Four others are under maintenance.

Japan’s last running reactor, Hokkaido Electric’s Tomari number 3, is set to go off line on May 5 for maintenance.

Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan’s executive director, said that the country could survive without rushing to restart its nuclear sector.

"Japan is practically nuclear free, and the impact on daily life is invisible," Sato said in a statement.

To avoid blackouts, utilities have restarted old fossil fuel plants and have called for power conservation.

Japan’s nuclear safety watchdog and another experts’ panel are currently reviewing stress test results submitted by utilities that gauge how reactors can withstand extreme events such as a huge tsunami.

Once they give approval, ministers including Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda can give the green-light for the restarts, but only after they deem there is enough local and public support, but surveys show this may not be easy.

Pictured: After the nuclear crisis at Fukushima nuclear facility, Japanese public opinion has gone against nuclear power [Reuters]

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Fukushima, a year on: 3,000 workers take on the twisted steel and radiation
Out in the evacuation zone, cars lie abandoned and groceries sit untouched – but the mangled nuclear plant is alive with activity
The remains of the shattered reactors are still some distance away when you first notice the sheer destruction of Japan’s nuclear disaster. The journey into the heart of the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl 26 years ago begins much earlier, in the towns and villages that exist in name only, their residents having been sent fleeing a year ago.
Homes and shops lie empty, the roads are deserted. In the town of Naraha, groceries sit untouched on the shelves of a convenience store; a handful of cars punctuate a supermarket carpark, abandoned by their owners amid the panic that followed the first explosion at one of the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s reactor buildings.
Most of the buildings that lie just inside the 12-mile (20km) nuclear evacuation zone – even the grand wooden homes – withstood the violent seismic shifts unleashed by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake on the afternoon of 11 March. But, as the Guardian witnessed on a rare trip to the nuclear plant, the destruction is more insidious than collapsed roofs and ruptured tarmac, but no less shocking. Almost everywhere, beeping monitors alert visitors to the invisible foe that has befouled entire communities: radiation.
Further into the evacuation zone, near a disused public relations office belonging to the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), radiation levels rise to 2 microsieverts/hour (the normal background level is 0.2-0.3). The readings soar to 35 microsieverts/hour in Okuma, a town near the plant’s perimeter, where residents have been told their former homes could remain uninhabitable for decades.
Pictured: Workers keep well protected inside the Fukushima nuclear plant’s emergency operation centre. Photograph: Reuters

Fukushima, a year on: 3,000 workers take on the twisted steel and radiation

Out in the evacuation zone, cars lie abandoned and groceries sit untouched – but the mangled nuclear plant is alive with activity

The remains of the shattered reactors are still some distance away when you first notice the sheer destruction of Japan’s nuclear disaster. The journey into the heart of the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl 26 years ago begins much earlier, in the towns and villages that exist in name only, their residents having been sent fleeing a year ago.

Homes and shops lie empty, the roads are deserted. In the town of Naraha, groceries sit untouched on the shelves of a convenience store; a handful of cars punctuate a supermarket carpark, abandoned by their owners amid the panic that followed the first explosion at one of the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s reactor buildings.

Most of the buildings that lie just inside the 12-mile (20km) nuclear evacuation zone – even the grand wooden homes – withstood the violent seismic shifts unleashed by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake on the afternoon of 11 March. But, as the Guardian witnessed on a rare trip to the nuclear plant, the destruction is more insidious than collapsed roofs and ruptured tarmac, but no less shocking. Almost everywhere, beeping monitors alert visitors to the invisible foe that has befouled entire communities: radiation.

Further into the evacuation zone, near a disused public relations office belonging to the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), radiation levels rise to 2 microsieverts/hour (the normal background level is 0.2-0.3). The readings soar to 35 microsieverts/hour in Okuma, a town near the plant’s perimeter, where residents have been told their former homes could remain uninhabitable for decades.

Pictured: Workers keep well protected inside the Fukushima nuclear plant’s emergency operation centre. Photograph: Reuters

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Experts cast doubt on Japan nuclear plant tests
Tests were ordered on all Japanese nuclear plants after the Fukushima disaster. Photograph: Kyodo/Reuters
Japanese government ordered tests on all reactors after Fukushima meltdown, but advisers say they do not prove a plant is safe.
Advisers to Japan’s nuclear safety agency have said power plant stress tests do not prove that a nuclear plant is safe, as the country faces the prospect of a summer without a single nuclear reactor in operation.
Last year, the Japanese government ordered the nuclear authorities to conduct tests on all Japan’s reactors after the 11 March meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi raised questions about the safety of nuclear power, particularly in a country prone to earthquakes and tsunami.
Earlier this week, a team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began a review of the safety tests but said it was up to the Japanese government whether or not to approve the restart of idle reactors.

Experts cast doubt on Japan nuclear plant tests

Tests were ordered on all Japanese nuclear plants after the Fukushima disaster. Photograph: Kyodo/Reuters

Japanese government ordered tests on all reactors after Fukushima meltdown, but advisers say they do not prove a plant is safe.

Advisers to Japan’s nuclear safety agency have said power plant stress tests do not prove that a nuclear plant is safe, as the country faces the prospect of a summer without a single nuclear reactor in operation.

Last year, the Japanese government ordered the nuclear authorities to conduct tests on all Japan’s reactors after the 11 March meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi raised questions about the safety of nuclear power, particularly in a country prone to earthquakes and tsunami.

Earlier this week, a team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began a review of the safety tests but said it was up to the Japanese government whether or not to approve the restart of idle reactors.

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