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U.N. nuclear chief to convene high-level safety meeting

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukio Amano gives a press conference after a Board of Governors Conference at agency headquarters in Vienna on March 21, 2011. Amano said he had "no doubt" that the current nuclear crisis in Japan would be "effectively overcome". The IAEA has come under heavy fire for its response to the disaster, with critics accusing it of being too slow and not providing timely or accurate information about the unfolding catastrophe. (Photo by SAMUEL KUBANI/AFP/Getty Images)

 

 

Vienna, March 29, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM) — The U.N. nuclear chief said Monday he is convening a high-level conference to examine safety procedures at nuclear plants worldwide in the wake of the Japan disaster, Japan Today reported on Tuesday.

Yukiya Amano said his International Atomic Energy Agency will hold the meeting possibly in late June. He said the meeting will focus on assessments of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, lessons that need to be learned and ways of strengthening the international response to such accidents.

He said that—beyond experts—the IAEA’s 151 members will be sending government representatives, saying presence at a “political level” is necessary due to the seriousness of the crisis.

‘‘The critical situation in Fukushima Daiichi has still not been overcome and it takes some time to stabilize the reactors,’’ Amano said at a press conference.

Amano also repeatedly emphasized that the situation at the plant in Fukushima Prefecture ‘‘continues to be very serious,’’ while adding that he believes that the problem will be solved through the efforts of those at the site.

Thanks to ‘‘the heroic efforts by the emergency workers, some progress have been made,’’ he said.   (*)

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in World News

 

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More radioactive water spills at Japan nuke plant

People work in the control room of reactor No. 2 with restored lighting at the earthquake and tsunami affected Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima in this March 26, 2011 photo

TOKYO, March 29. 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP ) – Workers have discovered new pools of radioactive water leaking from Japan’s crippled nuclear complex that officials believe are behind soaring levels of radiation spreading to soil and seawater, AP reported.

Crews also detected plutonium — a key ingredient in nuclear weapons — in the soil outside the complex, though officials insisted Monday the finding posed no threat to public health.

Plutonium is present in the fuel at the complex, which has been leaking radiation for more than two weeks, so experts had expected to find traces once crews began searching for evidence of it this week.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant was crippled March 11 when a tsunami spawned by a powerful earthquake slammed into Japan’s northeastern coast. The huge wave destroyed the power systems needed to cool the nuclear fuel rods in the complex, 140 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

Since then, three of the complex’s six reactors are believed to have partially melted down, and emergency crews have struggled with everything from malfunctioning pumps to dangerous spikes in radiation that have forced temporary evacuations.

Confusion at the plant has intensified fears that the nuclear crisis will continue for months or even years amid alarms over radiation making its way into produce, raw milk and even tap water as far away as Tokyo.

The troubles have eclipsed Pennsylvania’s 1979 crisis at Three Mile Island, when a partial meltdown raised fears of widespread radiation release. But it is still well short of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which killed at least 31 people with radiation sickness, raised long-term cancer rates and spewed radiation across much of the northern hemisphere.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs the complex, said plutonium was found in soil at five locations at the nuclear plant, but that only two samples appeared to be plutonium from the leaking reactors. The rest came from years of nuclear tests that left trace amounts of plutonium in many places around the world.

Plutonium is a heavy element that doesn’t readily combine with other elements, so it is less likely to spread than some of the lighter, more volatile radioactive materials detected around the site, such as the radioactive forms of cesium and iodine.

“The relative toxicity of plutonium is much higher than that of iodine or cesium but the chance of people getting a dose of it is much lower,” says Robert Henkin, professor emeritus of radiology at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine. “Plutonium just sits there and is a nasty actor.”

The trouble comes if plutonium finds a way into the human body. The fear in Japan is that water containing plutonium at the station turns to steam and is breathed in, or that the contaminated water from the station migrates into drinking water.

When plutonium decays it emits what is known as an alpha particle, a relatively big particle that carries a lot of energy. When an alpha particle hits body tissue, it can damage the DNA of a cell and lead to a cancer-causing mutation.

Plutonium also breaks down very slowly, so it remains dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

“If you inhale it, it’s there and it stays there forever,” said Alan Lockwood, a professor of Neurology and Nuclear Medicine at the University at Buffalo and a member of the board of directors of Physicians for Social Responsibility, an advocacy group.

While parts of the Japanese plant have been reconnected to the power grid, the contaminated water — which has now been found in numerous places around the complex, including the basements of several buildings — must be pumped out before electricity can be restored to the cooling system.

That has left officials struggling with two sometimes-contradictory efforts: pumping in water to keep the fuel rods cool and pumping out — and then safely storing — contaminated water.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, called that balance “very delicate work.”

He also said workers were still looking for safe ways to store the radioactive water. “We are exploring all means,” he said.

Meanwhile, new readings showed ocean contamination had spread about a mile (1.6 kilometers) farther north of the nuclear site than before, but was still within the 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius of the evacuation zone. Radioactive iodine-131 was discovered offshore at a level 1,150 times higher than normal, Nishiyama told reporters.

Closer to the plant, radioactivity in seawater tested about 1,250 times higher than normal last week and climbed to 1,850 times normal over the weekend. Nishiyama said the increase was a concern, but also said the area is not a source of seafood and that the contamination posed no immediate threat to human health.

The buildup of radioactive water in the nuclear complex first became a problem last week, when it splashed over the boots of two workers, burning them and prompting a temporary suspension of work.

Then on Monday, Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials said workers had found more radioactive water in deep trenches used for pipes and electrical wiring outside three units.

The contaminated water has been emitting radiation exposures more than four times the amount the government considers safe for workers.

The five workers in the area at the time were not hurt, said TEPCO spokesman Takashi Kurita.

Exactly where the water is coming from remains unclear, though many suspect it is cooling water that has leaked from one of the disabled reactors.

It could take weeks to pump out the radioactive water, said Gary Was, a nuclear engineering professor at the University of Michigan.

“Battling the contamination so workers can work there is going to be an ongoing problem,” he said.

Amid reports that people had been sneaking back into the mandatory evacuation zone around the nuclear complex, the chief government spokesman again urged residents to stay out. Yukio Edano said contaminants posed a “big” health risk in that area.

Gregory Jaczko, head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, arrived in Tokyo on Monday to meet with Japanese officials and discuss the situation.

“The unprecedented challenge before us remains serious, and our best experts remain fully engaged to help Japan,” Jaczko was quoted as saying in a U.S. Embassy statement.

Early Monday, a strong earthquake shook the northeastern coast and prompted a brief tsunami alert. The quake was measured at magnitude 6.5, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. No damage or injuries were reported.

Scores of earthquakes have rattled the country over the past two weeks, adding to the sense of unease across Japan, where the final death toll is expected to top 18,000 people, with hundreds of thousands still homeless.

TEPCO officials said Sunday that radiation in leaking water in Unit 2 was 10 million times above normal — a report that sent employees fleeing. But the day ended with officials saying that figure had been miscalculated and the level was actually 100,000 times above normal, still very high but far better than the earlier results.

“This sort of mistake is not something that can be forgiven,” Edano said sternly Monday.  (*)
 
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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in World News

 

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Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu urges no let-up in Iran nuclear pressure

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

MOSCOW, RUSSIA, March 24, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM) — Despite the current unrest in the Middle East, the international community should continue to insist on the closure of Iran’s nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, RIA NOVOSTI reported.

“The growing tensions in the Middle East increase various risks, and radical Islamic movements could take advantage of these risks,” Netanyahu told journalists in Moscow.

Netanyahu will meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev later on Thursday to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the situation in Libya.

“It’s hard for the world to realize this, as it was hard in the 1930s to realize the threats posed by radical movements,” the Israeli PM added. “The most important thing now is not to allow Iran to develop its own nuclear arms.”

“If they manage to develop nuclear arms this regime will never fall. And they will threaten other countries and you too,” the Israeli PM said.

“Iran is not controlled by [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad. Iran is controlled by [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei. I see his bigotry and hatred for the modern world.”

“Hitler firstly began conquering the world and then started developing nuclear arms, Khamenei is going the opposite way,” Netanyahu said, adding that only the threat of military operations could force Iran to halt its nuclear program.   (*)
 
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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in World News

 

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3 nuke workers hospitalized in Japan

Japan's critical situation stays alarming as a number of around 26,000 people have lost their lives or are presumed dead.

JAPAN, March 24, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / PRESS TV / AFP )) — Three workers at reactor 3 of Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture have been taken to hospital for radiation, while the nuclear crisis keeps high the life-threatening concerns of the disaster.

Japan’s nuclear safety agency said the workers of the Fukushima Daiichi plant were hospitalized after being exposed to radiation, AFP reported Thursday.

March 11 witnessed an extremely fatal earthquake followed by a gigantic tsunami in northeastern Japan, while so far at least 26,000 people have died or are presumed dead according to the National Police Agency.

The National Police Agency said on Thursday that 9,700 people have so far been killed and over 16,500 more are presumably dead.

There are fears of a much higher death toll from the disaster that has displaced hundreds of thousands of Japanese.

The mega-quake has also affected the presumably quake-proof Fukushima nuclear plant. Efforts are underway to cool down overheating reactors at the plant.

The Japanese government has ordered the evacuation of about 200,000 people living in a 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) area around the nuclear power plant, and told people living between 20 kilometers and 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from the plant to remain indoors.

On March 11, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, off the northeast coast of Japan’s main island, unleashed a 30-foot (10-meter) tsunami wave and was followed by more than 50 aftershocks for hours.

The quake is now considered Japan’s deadliest natural disaster since the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, which claimed the lives of more than 142,000 people.   (*)
 
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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in World News

 

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Photostream : Emergency at another reactor of Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant

Nuclear accident rated at level 4 : The Japanese government rates the accident at the Fukushima Number One nuclear power plant at level 4 on an international scale of 0 to 7. Two radioactive substances, cesium and radioactive iodine, were detected near the Number One reactor at the plant on Saturday. Their presence indicates nuclear fission of uranium. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said that fuel in the reactor partially melted. It's the first such accident in Japan. A level 4 on the International Nuclear and Radiologocal Event Scale includes damage to fuel and release of significant quantities of radioactive material within an installation. It's the same level as a criticality accident at a nuclear fuel processing plant in Tokai Village in Ibaraki Prefecture, south of Fukushima, in 1999. The agency called the accident very regrettable even though it was triggered by an earthquake. ( Photo : NHK)

Second Japanese Nuclear Reactor At Risk of Exploding : Nuclear safety agency says the cooling system has stopped working at the Fukushima number three reactor, VOA News reported on Sunday. Japan's nuclear safety agency says there is an emergency at another reactor at a quake-hit power plant. Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Sunday that the cooling system at the number three reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant has stopped working and risked a possible explosion following a blast Saturday at the plant's number one reactor. VOA reporters close to the plant say aftershocks are still rocking the area, more than 24 hours after the original 8.9-magnitude jolt and tsunami hit on Friday afternoon, local time. An explosion Saturday damaged a building housing the Fukushima facility's number one reactor, however officials say the reactor itself remained intact.Officials say radiation from the plant appeared to have decreased after the blast on Saturday. But authorities did not say why and the extent of the ongoing danger was not clear. Authorities had called on all residents to move at least 20 kilometers from the facility and as a precaution against radiation poisoning, authorities say they are distributing iodine tablets to people in the area. (Photo : RIA Novosti )

In this video image taken from NTV Japan via APTN, smoke rises from Unit 1 of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okumamachi, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, Saturday, March 12, 2011. Japan’s Government spokesman Yukio Edano said the explosion destroyed the exterior walls of the building where the reactor is placed, but not the metal housing enveloping the nuclear reactor, however the government has ordered the evacuation of all people within a 12-miles (20 Km) radius of the plant. As reported by RIA NOVOSTI on Monday, Another reactor at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant has lost its emergency cooling system, international media reported on Sunday, quoting Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. Additional water supply to the Number Three reactor should be established urgently to avoid a blast due to overheating, an agency official told a news conference. On Saturday, a powerful blast hit the Fukushima Number One power station, about 250 km (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo, which was badly damaged by Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami. The explosion destroyed the wall the reactor turbine building, but Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the reactor itself, covered with a steel container, was not damaged. In a report to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Japanese authorities assigned the accident at the Fukushima Number One power station the level 4 on the international INES scale that runs from 1 (anomaly) to 7 (major accident), the DPA news agency reported. According to the IAEA's definition, a level-4 accident is defined as having "local consequences," such as a "minor release of radioactive material." (AP Photo/NTV Japan via APTN)

In this photo released by Tokyo Power Electric Co., the Fukushima Daiichi power plant's Unit 1 is seen after an explosion in Okumamachi, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, Saturday, March 12, 2011. As reported by Kyodo News Agency on Sunday, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday another reactor of its quake-hit Fukushima nuclear power plants had lost its cooling functions, while at least 15 people at a nearby hospital were found to have been exposed to radioactivity. The utility supplier notified the government early Sunday morning that the No. 3 reactor at the No. 1 Fukushima plant had lost the ability to cool the reactor core. The reactor is now in the process of releasing radioactive steam, according to top government spokesman Yukio Edano. It was the sixth reactor overall at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 plants to undergo cooling failure since the massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck Japan on Friday. The disaster raised fears over radioactive leaks from the plants after cooling systems there were hampered, most seriously at the No. 1 reactor. An explosion Saturday at the No. 1 plant blew away the roof and the walls of the building housing the No. 1 reactor's container. The government and nuclear authorities said there was no damage to the steel container housing the troubled No. 1 reactor, noting that the blast occurred as vapor from the container turned into hydrogen and mixed with outside oxygen. (AP Photo/Tokyo Power Electric Co.)

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2011 in World News

 

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Iran Confirms Invitations to Tour Nuclear Sites

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility (file photo)

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January 04, 2011 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — Iran has invited foreign diplomats to tour its nuclear facilities, but diplomats say Tehran has left out several key world powers.

Iranian officials have suggested that the all-expenses-paid visit take place on January 15 and 16, ahead of Iran’s talks on its nuclear program in Istanbul later this month with world powers. Representatives of the P5+1, a group comprised of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, are scheduled to be meet with Iranian officials later this month.

Diplomats familiar with the invitations said Monday that Iran sent them to Russia and China – two of the P5+1 members – along with Egypt, Cuba and Hungary, which currently holds the EU presidency.

But the diplomats said Iran did not invite the other four P5+1 members – the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday that invitations were extended to representatives of some European Union countries, some members of a group of non-aligned nations and some of the P5 +1 members.

The U.S. has been one of the harshest critics of Iran’s nuclear program, which it suspects is being used to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful means. 

China has confirmed it has received an invitation, but did not specify if it will send a representative.  A foreign ministry spokesman said China is in communication with Iran.  

Iranian state-run media quote Mehmanparast as saying his country’s invitations are in line with previous measures regarding its “transparent and peaceful nuclear activities.”

Iranian officials say the tour would include a visit to the country’s uranium enrichment site at Natanz as well as its heavy water facility at Arak.

Western powers want Iran to halt its enrichment program, which they suspect is a cover for an effort to build a nuclear arsenal.  Iran says it has the right to enrich uranium for civilian use and asserts that it does not want atomic weapons.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to suspend enrichment.  The U.S., the EU and other nations also have imposed economic sanctions on Tehran.  (*)

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2011 in World News

 

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Iran invites EU, Russia and China to tour nuclear sites

Senior Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh

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January 04, 2011 (KATAKAMI / TELEGRAPH.CO.UK) — Iran has invited Russia, China, the EU and its allies to tour its nuclear sites, in an apparent move to gain support ahead of a new round of talks with six world powers.

In a letter seen by The Associated Press, senior Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh suggests the weekend of Jan. 15 and 16 and says that meetings “with high ranking officials” are envisaged.

The offer comes weeks before Iran and the six powers follow up on recent talks that ended with agreement on little else but to meet again. The US was not among those invited to tour the sites.

 

FILE : Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (L) shakes hands with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Baku, November 18, 2010. World powers should stop threatening Iran if they want to achieve results at talks on Tehran's nuclear programme, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday. REUTERS/Dmitry Astakhov/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

The new round between Tehran, and the permanent UN Security Council members (USA, Russia, China, Britain and France) plus Germany, is tentatively due to take place in Turkey in late January.

It is meant to explore whether there is common ground for more substantive talks on Iran’s nuclear program, viewed by the US and its allies as a cover for secret plans to make nuclear arms – something Tehran denies.

Instead, the Islamic Republic insists its uranium enrichment and other programs are meant only to generate fuel for a future network of nuclear reactors.

The offer of a visit comes more than three years after six diplomats from developing nations accredited to the IAEA visited Iran’s uranium ore conversion site at Isfahan, which turns raw uranium into the feedstock gas that is then enriched. Participants then saids they could not make an assessment of Iran’s nuclear aims based on that visit to that facility in central Iran.

But the new offer appeared more wide ranging, both as far as nations or groups invited and sites to be visited. (*)

 

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2011 in World News

 

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