Posts tagged nuclear power
Posts tagged nuclear power
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
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
World powers including US and China present package to Iran and call for halt to uranium production at underground site
World powers presented Iran with a package of proposals at talks in Baghdad on Wednesday, aimed at defusing tensions over its nuclear programme and fending off the threat of a new Middle East war.
The package was presented by a six-nation group of negotiators, from the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, and called on Iran to stop the production of 20%-enriched uranium and halt enrichment at an underground site at Fordow. In return, Iran would receive reactor fuel for making medical isotopes at a research reactor in Tehran, safety guidance and equipment for the Tehran reactor and a nuclear power station at Bushehr, and access to spare parts for its civil airliners, the safety of which has been put in jeopardy as a result of sanctions.
Iranian media reported that the chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, had put forward a counter-proposal but gave no details. Sources at the talks said that Jalili had talked generally about Iran’s rights and responsibilities under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but did not go into specifics in an initial three-hour session of talks before a late lunch break. The discussions resumed on Wednesday evening, and Iranian media were predicting they would continue on Thursday, although there was no confirmation of that from western diplomats in Baghdad.
A western diplomat said: “We had a detailed exchange this morning. The E3+3 [a collective name used by the six-nation negotiating group] presented our package. The atmosphere was businesslike and meetings will continue this afternoon.”
The talks are taking place at Iraqi government offices in the highly fortified “green zone” in Baghdad, amid high security across the city. The aim of the six-nation group, chaired by the EU high representative for foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, is to begin detailed negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme that will yield sufficient results to dissuade Israel from launching military strikes against Iranian nuclear sites.
Pictured: Representatives of the five permanent members of the security council (US, Russia, China, Britain, and France) plus Germany were in Baghdad seeking concessions from Iran over its disputed nuclear enrichment activities. Photograph: Iraqi government/handout/EPA
Sanctions have succeeded in bringing Tehran back to the negotiating table, but they are a tactic, not a strategy. Any long-term policy has to aim for a democratic Iran.
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.
Officials: US could agree to limited Iranian uranium enrichment
WASHINGTON – In a major concession, Obama administration officials say they could support allowing Iran to continue a crucial element of its disputed nuclear program if the government in Tehran took other major steps to curb its ability to develop a nuclear bomb.
The officials told the Los Angeles Times they might agree to let Tehran continue enriching uranium up to concentrations of 5% if the Iranian government agreed to unrestricted inspections, and strict oversight and safeguards that the United Nations long has demanded.
Iran has begun enriching small amounts of uranium to 20% purity in February 2010 for what it contends are peaceful purposes, although most of its stockpile is purified at lower levels. Uranium can be used as bomb fuel at about 90% enrichment.
The question of whether to approve even low-level enrichment is highly controversial within the U.S. government and among its allies because of the risk that Iranian scientists still might be able to gain the knowledge and experience to someday build a bomb.
But a consensus has gradually emerged among U.S. and foreign officials that the Iranians are unlikely to accede to a complete halt to enrichment, and that pushing this demand could make it impossible to reach a negotiated deal to stop Iran’s program short of a military attack.
The United States and five other world powers began talks with Iran on April 14 in Istanbul to try to finally broker a deal, amid threats from Israel that it will bomb Iranian nuclear installations if the program isn’t dismantled soon. The talks are scheduled to resume in Baghdad on May 23.
Pictured: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, listens to a technician during his visit of the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility some 200 miles south of Tehran on April 8, 2008. Credit: Iranian’s President’s Office / Associated Press
Germany’s nuclear power phaseout turns off environmentalists
After Germany last year committed to closing its nuclear reactors, it’s relying more on coal and importing power from neighbors that use nuclear energy.
KLEINENSIEL, Germany — When the German government shut down half the country’s nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster in Japan, followed two months later by a pledge to abandon nuclear power within a decade, environmentalists cheered.
A year later, however, criticism of the nuclear shutdown is emerging from a surprising source: some of the very activists who pushed for the phaseout.
They say poor planning of the shutdown and political opportunism by the government have actually worsened the toll on the environment in Germany, and Europe, at least in the short term.
To make up for the lost nuclear power, which supplied 22% of Germany’s electricity before the phaseout began, the country has increased its reliance on brown coal, a particularly high emitter of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and a major contributor to global warming. Brown coal now supplies 25% of Germany’s electricity, up from 23% a year ago.
Previously a net exporter of electricity, Germany now imports as much electricity as it sells abroad. Removing so much German electricity from the market has benefited power companies in neighboring countries that rely heavily on coal and nuclear power, thereby undermining Germany’s environmental goals and its nuclear safety concerns.
Although abandoning nuclear power is expected to eventually clear the way for the development of renewable energy, in which Germany is already a world leader, the environmental effect so far has been problematic.
Last year’s shuttering of eight of the country’s 17 reactors has led to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions of 25 million tons annually in Europe, said Laszlo Varro of the International Energy Agency, a European intergovernmental organization.
Pictured: Demonstrators at the nuclear power plant Gundremmingen in southern Germany in March. Now that the government is planning to shut down nuclear plants, some activisits say poor planning and political opportunism have actually increased the toll on the environment. (Timm Schamberger, Associated Press / March 11, 2012)
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
Iran nuclear talks set to begin in Istanbul
Six world powers are to begin talks with Iran aimed at ending the deadlock over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Officials from the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany hope the talks, in the Turkish city of Istanbul, halt rising tensions in the region.
Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful, but critics suspect it of seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
Israel has hinted in recent months that it could carry out a pre-emptive strike on Iran to prevent that happening.
On Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country was “standing firm on its fundamental rights and under the harshest pressure will not retreat an iota from its undeniable right”.
Pictured: Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu welcomed Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalil, on Friday
Bulgaria abandons Belene nuclear plant proposal
Bulgaria has abandoned plans to build a new nuclear power station at Belene, close to the Romanian border.
The country’s deputy finance minister says the cabinet wants to build a gas-powered plant on the site instead.
A Russian-built reactor, which had been ordered for the facility, could now be installed at an existing nuclear plant at Kozloduy.
Environmentalists had opposed the plant, which had first been proposed when Bulgaria was under communist rule.
Bulgaria and Russia have been locked in a long-running dispute over rising costs, and the project’s future was thrown into doubt when the German company RWE pulled out in 2009.
Originally two reactors were to have been built for the site by Russian company Atomstroyexport, and one of them has already been completed.
Bulgaria’s Economy and Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev will travel to Moscow on Thursday in an attempt to persuade the Russian company not to take legal action.
The Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov discussed the scheme with the Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin on Monday.
Pictured: Work on the Belene power plant is already well under way
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]
Barack Obama visits the demilitarised zone, a heavily fortified 2.5 mile-wide stretch of land that has separated North and South Korea since 1953. The US president was seen peering over the border through binoculars and his visit will be followed by an international summit to discuss ways to prevent nuclear terrorism amid ongoing concerns over nuclear activity in North Korea
Seoul, South Korea (CNN) — It may not be on the official agenda, but North Korea’s ears will be burning during the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.
Over 50 heads of state will be meeting in South Korea on March 26 and 27 to discuss nuclear security, just 50 kilometers from a state that is secretive and striving for nuclear weapons.
New Sanction Severely Limits Iran’s Global Commerce
Iran has faced international sanctions for more than three decades, which have hurt, but never crippled its economy.
Now, a new move by a relatively obscure financial institution in Europe could make it much more difficult for Iran to do basic things crucial to its economy, such as selling oil and obtaining hard currency.
As of Saturday, many Iranian banks, including the Central Bank, have been refused access to a worldwide financial messaging system that’s used to arrange transfers of money.
The system is called SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which is run by a company based in Belgium. A message sent through SWIFT contains all the codes and other information needed to move sums of money from one bank to another.
To comply with the latest financial sanctions imposed on Iran by the European Union, SWIFT said it would have to disconnect about 30 Iranian banks from its services.
“It’s a big deal,” says Iran sanctions expert Mark Dubowitz, “because it complicates Iran’s ability to move billions of dollars through the international financial system.”
Iran needs those transfers for all its international trade, from selling tanker loads of crude oil to India to buying South Korean steel for construction projects.
The move is designed to tighten the pressure on Iran to open its nuclear program to international scrutiny.
The U.S. and its allies say Iran is aiming for the capacity to build a nuclear bomb. Iran says that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Pictured: Iran has been denied access to the worldwide messaging system used to arrange money transfers, a move that is expected to affect Iran’s oil exports and economy. The South Pars gas field in Assalouyeh, Iran, is shown here in 2010.
India government responds bluntly to anti-nuclear push
In response to villagers’ concerns about the Kudankulam nuclear plant project, Indian officials have deported a sympathizer and cracked down on charities they accuse of aiding anti-nuclear efforts.
Reporting from Idinthakarai, India— The fishermen, farmers and cigarette rollers sitting on mats in front of the St. Lourdes Church had a few demands: Halt work on the nearby Kudankulam nuclear power plant. Answer our questions. Convince us the technology is safe.
Their concern was hardly unusual: Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster a year ago this month stirred up safety worries worldwide.
A bit more unusual, though, has been the Indian government’s response to villagers in this hot, dusty southern fishing hamlet.
Late last month in an American science journal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accused U.S. and Scandinavian civic groups of funding the protests to hold back India’s development.
That accusation was an apparent cue for the Indian security establishment, which then arrested and deported a German visitor traveling in the area on a tourist visa, accusing him of funding the Kudankulam protests.
Government officials also initiated an investigation of the finances of church and rural charities, alleging that the groups were illegally diverting to protests funds meant for orphans and anti-leprosy programs. Three of the groups’ operating licenses were canceled, bank accounts were frozen, and the visa was revoked for a Fukushima-area resident invited to India by Greenpeace to speak about Japan’s nuclear disaster.
In the latest move last week, a ruling party lawmaker demanded full surveillance and monitoring of all foreign money going to about 65,500 Indian charities — which amounted to about $6.5 billion between 2007 and 2010 — in what some critics are calling a “witch hunt.”
The dramatic reaction, political analysts say, points to the growing frustration of a government battered by corruption scandals, a weakening economy, high inflation and setbacks in state elections.
Pictured: Villagers from Idinthakarai, India, gather to protest against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant being built nearby. (Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times / March 17, 2012)