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Older nuclear plants pose safety challenge: IAEA

Fredrik Dahl, Reuters
Eighty percent of the world’s nuclear power plants are more than 20 years old, raising safety concerns, a draft U.N. report says a year after Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

Many operators have begun programs, or expressed their intention, to run reactors beyond their planned design lifetimes, said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) document which has not yet been made public.

“There are growing expectations that older nuclear reactors should meet enhanced safety objectives, closer to that of recent or future reactor designs,” the Vienna-based U.N. agency’s annual Nuclear Safety Review said.

“There is a concern about the ability of the ageing nuclear fleet to fulfill these expectations.”

The Fukushima tragedy was triggered on March 11, 2011, when an earthquake unleashed a tsunami that left 19,000 people dead or missing. It also smashed into the coastal power plant causing a series of catastrophic failures at the facility.

Images of the stricken plant shook public confidence in nuclear power and forced the nuclear industry to launch a campaign to defend its safety record.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told Reuters last week that nuclear power is now safer than it was a year ago. The report said the “operational level of NPP (nuclear power plant) safety around the world remains high”…
(13 March 2012)

Protesters link arms around the world to decry nuclear power

Tens of thousands of anti-nuclear protesters across the globe called for an end to nuclear power as they marked the first anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami at Japan’s Fukushima power plant.

In Japan, tens of thousands rallied near the crippled plant, demanding an end to nuclear power as the nation held memorial ceremonies for a disaaster that claimed almost 20,000 lives.

The tsunami swamped cooling systems at Fukushima and sent three reactors into meltdown, spewing radiation into the environment.

Around 16,000 people gathered at a baseball stadium in Koriyama, some 60 kilometres (40 miles) from the plant.
Participants called for an end to nuclear energy in Japan and compensation for victims from operator Tokyo Electric Power…
(12 March 2012)

The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster – One Year Later

Alex Smith, Radio Ecoshock
On the anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in Fukushima Japan, I am taking you with me to a heart-breaking conference organized by physicians, to assess the on-going damage.

You will hear the latest from nuclear engineer Arnold Gundersen, just back from Japan. He’ll tell us about continuing dangers, spreading waste throughout the country, and radiation in North America, from trees to seafood.

More important still, two Japanese activists tell us how citizens in Fukushima Prefecture are coping. How, in the face of organized denial by governments and universities, they are acting to protect their children.

This story goes well beyond the melt-down of three reactors still out of control in Japan. Listen closely, and you hear how governments fail their citizens in emergencies. How they lied after the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island nuclear accidents. And why you must be prepared to organize your local community when any kind of disaster strikes.

Whether it’s a hurricane like Katrina, big floods or tornados, governments cannot, and will not, save us.

Listen to the podcast
(14 March 2012)

No Primrose Path

George Monbiot, m.onbiot,com
Had I wondered, ten years ago, what I would be doing in 2012, signing a letter to the Prime Minister urging him not to heed four former directors of Friends of the Earth would not have appeared on the list.

I still see Friends of the Earth as a force for good. I will remain a member, as I have been for 20 years or more. But the letter that Jonathon Porritt, Tom Burke, Charles Secrett and Tony Juniper have sent to David Cameron with the support of the current director, suggesting he abandons new nuclear power plants, demands a response.

If Cameron were to act on it, he would set back the UK’s efforts to meet its international commitments on climate change, and help to make runaway global warming a more likely prospect. The four former directors’ narrowness of vision, and their readiness to appeal to jingoistic and xenophobic sentiments, appal me…

If there were quick, cheap, easy and effective means of reducing the UK’s carbon emissions to 5 or 10% of current levels, I too would continue to oppose nuclear power. But every one of our options entails great difficulty. We do not possess an abundance of good choices, and cannot afford to start throwing options away.

It is not a question of nuclear or renewables or efficiency. To prevent very dangerous levels of climate change, we will need all three. This was made clear by the Committee on Climate Change, which showed that the maximum likely contribution to our electricity supply from renewables by 2030 is 45%, and the maximum likely contribution from carbon capture and storage is 15%. If nuclear power does not make up most of the remainder, the gap will be filled by fossil fuel…
(15 March 2012)

Australia passes controversial nuclear waste bill

Oliver Milman, The Guardian
The Australian government has passed legislation that will create the country’s first nuclear waste dump, despite fierce opposition from environmental and Aboriginal groups.

The passage of the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010 through the Senate paves the way for a highly controversial plan to store nuclear waste in Muckaty Station, a remote Aboriginal community in the arid central region of the Northern Territory.

The ruling Labor party received support from the conservative coalition opposition to approve the bill, despite an ongoing federal court case over the legality of using the Muckaty site to store radioactive material.

Currently, nuclear waste from the medical and mining industries is stored in more than 100 “temporary” sites in universities, hospitals, offices and laboratories across Australia.

Anti-nuclear protesters disrupted proceedings in the Senate as the legislation was debated earlier on Tuesday, with the group heckling lawmakers from the public gallery over their support for the bill…
(13 March 2012)

IAEA: “significant” nuclear growth despite Fukushima

Fredrik Dahl, Reuters
Global use of nuclear energy could increase by as much as 100 percent in the next two decades on the back of growth in Asia, even though groundbreakings for new reactors fell last year after the Fukushima disaster, a U.N. report says.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has not yet been made public but has been seen by Reuters, said a somewhat slower capacity expansion than previously forecast is likely after the world’s worst nuclear accident in a quarter of a century.

But, it said: “Significant growth in the use of nuclear energy worldwide is still anticipated — between 35 percent and 100 percent by 2030 — although the Agency projections for 2030 are 7-8 percent lower than projections made in 2010.”

Japan’s reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant triggered by a deadly earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year shook the nuclear world and raised a question mark over whether atomic energy is safe.

Germany, Switzerland and Belgium decided to move away from nuclear power to grow reliance on renewable energy instead.

The IAEA document, obtained by Reuters on Friday, said the number of new reactor construction starts fell to only three last year – two in Pakistan and one in India – from 16 in 2010…
(16 March 2012)