Entries in Nuclear Power (11)


On Eve of Quake Anniversary, Thousands Demand End to Nuclear Power

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(TOKYO) -- Thousands rallied against a government plan to restart idle nuclear reactors in Japan on Sunday.

The protests come as the country marks the second anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Two years later, 160,000 people remain displaced, and the 12 mile area around the plant remains off limits, though radiation levels have dropped 40 percent.

At the plant, 3,000 thousand workers continue to lay the groundwork to decommission the reactors, which is a process that is expected to take 40 years.

But new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already reversed a plan to phase out nuclear power angering the public, which remains largely opposed to atomic energy.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Japan to Phase Out Nuclear Power

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The Japanese government unveiled a plan Friday to phase out nuclear power over the next three decades, signaling a dramatic shift in energy policy 18 months after the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

The proposed policy calls for more reliance on renewable energy, greater conservation and sustainable use of fossil fuels -- a move business leaders have argued would do more harm than good to Asia’s second largest economy.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the nuclear-free decision finally put Japan “at the starting line.”

“This is a difficult issue, but we can no longer afford to postpone our decision,” Noda said in a cabinet meeting.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster last year prompted a review of Japan’s long-standing energy policy.  The reactor meltdowns, triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami, forced power companies to shut down all 50 of Japan’s reactors, an unprecedented move for a country that relied on nuclear power for one-third of its energy supply.  Noda approved the restart of two reactors in July to avoid power outages during the summer.

Restarting those two reactors prompted mass rallies by anti-nuclear activists, who demanded an end to Japan’s current policy.

“Based on facing the reality of this grave incident and by learning lessons from the accident, the government has decided to review the national energy strategy from scratch,” the policy document said.  “One of the key pillars of the new strategy is to achieve a society that does not depend on nuclear energy as soon as possible.”

The government plans to reach that goal by retiring aging reactors after 40 years and not replacing them.  The proposal does not rule out the possibility of restarting the reactors if they pass strict safety tests and if they can win approval from a newly formed regulatory commission.

Japan’s powerful business lobbies have staunchly opposed a nuclear-free policy, saying it would hurt an already struggling economy, boost electricity prices and complicate efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Oil and gas imports have already surged since the reactors went offline, swinging Japan’s trade balance into deficit, and the government has yet to decide how to cover the cost of expanding renewable energy, which accounts for just 1 percent of Japan’s current electricity supply.

To spur investment, Tokyo introduced a feed-in-tariff system this summer, requiring utility companies to purchase renewable energy at a higher cost, and pass that cost onto consumers.  The government has also eased restrictions on land use for solar and wind power.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Thousands Demand End to Nuclear Power in Japan

YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/GettyImages(TOKYO) -- Tens of thousands of protesters brought central Tokyo to a halt Monday, marching through busy streets to demand the government abandon nuclear power. 

Demonstrators, bused in from all across Japan, gathered at the capital city’s Yoyogi Park holding “No nukes” signs amid sweltering temperatures, in the largest anti-nuclear rally since the Fukushima disaster triggered three reactor meltdowns 16 months ago.

Monday’s event, led by Nobel-winning author Kenzaburo Oe and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, was the latest in a string of protests that have ignited the anti-nuclear movement in Japan. Protest organizers said nearly 170,000 rallied on the national holiday, though the Tokyo Metropolitan police said the number was closer to 75,000.

Japan relied on nuclear reactors for a third of its energy supply prior to the Fukushima disaster. But the public has largely turned against atomic power since, saying the reactors are not safe in such an earthquake prone country.  The massive March 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami killed more than 19,000 and damaged or destroyed more than a million buildings.

“Life is more important than money,” Sakamoto told the crowd gathered at Yoyogi Park. “Keeping silent after Fukushima is barbaric.”

Large demonstrations are rare in Japan, a country better known for political apathy than activism. But the rallies have gained steam since Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered the Oi nuclear reactors in western Japan back online earlier this month. That decision ended the country’s temporary freeze on nuclear power, implemented after the Fukushima disaster. Noda has aggressively pushed to bring some of Japan’s other 50 reactors back online since, saying they are critical to avoiding blackouts during the summer when power usage is at its peak.

Anti-nuclear activists regularly protest outside the prime minister’s residence every Friday night now. The gathering that began with just a few hundred in March has swelled to thousands.

Noda has brushed off the protests so far, rarely acknowledging the crowds outside his residence, but the rallies have clearly become a huge headache – and to some extent an embarrassment.

Police have closed off some of the subway exits near the prime minister’s residence, and limited the staging area for protestors to discourage them from gathering. But that’s done little to keep them away. Organizers estimate more than 100,000 showed up to their last demonstration on the 13th.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Japanese Prime Minister Promotes Nuclear Power

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- All of Japan's nuclear power plants remain offline, but that could change soon. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda made his case in a live primetime address, telling the public Japan could not operate without nuclear power.

One-third of Japan's power used to come from nuclear. But that changed last March, after a powerful earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and caused three reactor meltdowns. Radioactive material spewed into the air, forcing more than 80,000 people from their homes.

All 54 of Japan's reactors have been taken offline for safety checks since, but Noda wants to restart two of them. The reactors at the Oi power plants have undergone safety tests implemented after the Fukushima disaster. Noda says they're safe enough to withstand another powerful earthquake and tsunami, but opponents say there is no guarantee.

The lobbying comes as Japan faces yet another summer with a limited power supply. A power shortage last summer forced offices to dial up their thermostats and cut their energy usage by 15 percent.

Noda says Japan can't continue to rely on oil imports to keep the power on this summer. He's already received the support of local leaders to restart those two reactors in western Japan. Now he needs the public's approval.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iran Officially Opens Nation's First Nuclear Power Plant

IIPA via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Iran celebrated the official opening of the nation's first nuclear power plant Monday, a worrisome milestone for Western critics of the Iranian nuclear program.

Iranian and Russian officials came together in a ceremony for the formal launch of the long-delayed facility, the first nuclear plant in the Middle East, in the southern port city of Bushehr on Monday, Iranian state news said. The plant has been under construction by a Russian company for nearly two decades.

"The launch of Iran's first nuclear plant is a demonstration of self-belief and perseverance to defend sovereignty," Iran's Atomic Energy Organization chief Fereydounn Abbasi said, according to a report by Iran Press TV.

Abbasi said that the facility is currently running at 40 percent of its capacity and won't reach full capacity – 1,000 megawatts – until December.

Though the U.S. has publicly supported Iran's quest for a peaceful nuclear power program at Bushehr, some U.S. officials have said the civilian program could be used as a cover for a nuclear weapons program at other sites.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the official opening of the Bushehr plant was still "troubling" since Iran is now the only country in the world with an operating nuclear reactor that has not ratified the international Convention on Nuclear Safety.

The head of the International Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, said at the start of a five-day U.N. meeting that the organization is "increasingly concerned" about Iran's nuclear program and that Iran was still not providing the agency "necessary cooperation" with its nuclear program.

Iran has maintained its nuclear ambitions are limited to strictly peaceful power plants.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


South Korea and India Sign Nuclear Deal

Tom Brakefield/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- South Korea and India signed a civil nuclear deal that will allow South Korea to export its nuclear energy technology to help fuel India’s rapidly expanding -- and increasingly energy hungry -- economy.

The BBC reports South Korea is the ninth country to jump on board in signing a nuclear deal with India.

India's atomic energy market is valued around $150 billion and the country is planning to set up nearly 30 reactors -- aiming to harness 25 percent of its energy from nuclear power by 2050.

One-third of South Korea’s energy comes from nuclear plants, according to the BBC. 

The deal is anticipated to be a huge opportunity for both parties, as it will give India the power its booming economy needs, and will provide South Korea the opportunity to lend its innovative energy infrastructure to a key future market.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japan Drops Plans for Additional Nuclear Plants

Sankei via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Prime Minister Naoto Kan has announced that Japan will scrap plans to build new nuclear reactors, following the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Plant. The country’s energy policy called for 14 new reactors to be built by 2030 and increasing to 50 percent, the share of nuclear power in Japan’s electricity supply. Now Kan says the country needs to “start from scratch.”

His announcement comes days after cabinet officials said they were “sticking to nuclear power,” and just one day after the operator of another nuclear plant, Hamaoka, announced they would halt operations amid concerns about the plant’s ability to withstand a large earthquake and tsunami. Hamaoka sits on a major fault line, where seismologists predict a magnitude 8.0 quake will hit in the next 30 years.

Kan’s latest decision comes as he faces mounting criticism over his handling of the Fukushima crises.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Russian Armed Forces on High Alert Over North Korea

Photo Courtesy - Yonhap News Agency(MOSCOW) -- Russia announced Tuesday that its armed forces in the east are on high alert.  This comes in light of what it calls an "inadequate situation" on the Korean peninsula as tensions have increased in recent weeks between the North and South.

The head of Russia's military said they continue to follow what is happening and have taken measures to raise the forces' combat readiness.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed his North Korean counterpart to Moscow.  In the meeting, Lavrov expressed concern with North Korea's ongoing uranium enrichment activities.  He also condemned North Korea's attack on the South's Yeonpyeong Island, which has been the source of the recent increased tension.

South Korea's top nuclear official is on his way to Moscow to discuss the disclosure of North Korea's newest uranium enrichment facility and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.

Russia joined the U.S. and others in condemning the November attack, which killed four people and brought about the highest tension on the peninsula in years.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


US, Five Other World Powers Renew Talks with Iran

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GENEVA) -- Talks have resumed after a year-long hiatus between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S.  Representatives from the seven countries met in Geneva Monday to mainly discuss Tehran’s nuclear program, even as Iranian officials insisted beforehand that the subject was not on the agenda.

However, several diplomats said following the long meeting that Iran’s nuclear program dominated most of the talks, which were mostly kept confidential.

There was general agreement that the mood was both constructive and positive about a most contentious topic: Iran’s clandestine nuclear facilities, which the West has alleged are being used to build nuclear weapons, despite Tehran’s denials.

At the very least, the U.S. and its allies want full transparency about Iran’s nuclear program, and inspectors to view its facilities.  They’re also calling for the Iranians to suspend their enrichment of uranium until their claims of using nuclear power for peaceful purposes can be independently verified.

Iran has ignored four rounds of United Nations sanctions while continuing to go about its business and announced on the eve of the talks that it has developed yellowcake uranium, the raw material for enrichment.

Iranian officials will again meet Tuesday with their counterparts from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Iran Begins Injecting Fuel into First Nuclear Reactor

Photo Courtesy - Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images(BUSHEHR, Iran) -- Iran began injecting fuel into its first nuclear reactor Tuesday, according to the country's state-run Press TV.  The fuel rods are being transferred into the core of the Bushehr nuclear plant located in the southern city of Bushehr.  Once all 163 fuel rods are in place, the plant will become operational.

The fuel is coming from Russia, who has been helping Iran build the power plant since the 1995, when both countries signed a deal.  The plant was originally scheduled for completion in 1999, but a series of delays postponed the project three decades after construction began on it in 1975.

The reactor will be used exclusively for power generation.  Iranian officials predict it will be fully functional by early 2011.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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