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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nuclear News from Whitefield Hixson





Posted: 19 Jul 2011 06:50 PM PDT
By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Round two for the Aloha Initiative. The local, non-profit organization welcomed another group of Japanese visitors to Hawaii. Not just any visitors - it's those most affected by the March natural disasters. This time, about 30 young students from the Fukushima prefecture have come for a three week stay.

18 year old Misaki Tadano couldn't wait to come to Hawaii. It's been a tough four months since the tsunami, earthquake, and nuclear trouble devastated her hometown of Fukushima. "I'm still very scared, but I have to be strong," says Tadano.
Marian MoriguchiThis is the first trip to Hawaii for most of these students, and they'll stay for three weeks. Tadano hopes to learn more english while she's here - and like the other kids, she's still celebrating Japan's big women's world cup soccer win. "I'm excited! I was excited. I loved the soccer game," she said with a huge smile.

Group leader Yumiko Nishimoto says, "100 percent of the students were affected in one way or the other, the tsunami. Some of them have lost friends or family, also in the earthquake or the nuclear power accident."



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Posted: 19 Jul 2011 03:04 PM PDT
On Sunday Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff presided over a ceremony in Itagui, near Rio de Janiero, where four nuclear submarines are scheduled to be built.  No mention is made of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, the safety or risks of nuclear submarines, instead the focus was on impressing the "big shots".

Former president Luiz Inacio 'Lula' da Silva, who commissioned the programme, described the submarines as 'a necessity'.Government officials claim that the subs will be used to protect the country's offshore oil reserves, and the exploration platforms which are intended to expand those reserves.

While the Brazilian economy struggles forward, there are some who wonder what protection the submarines would be able to provide to their coasts and resources.  Some skeptics have pointed out that one of Brazil's major resources, oil rigs, would not be that much safer proposing an assault would likely occur-onsite or via missile or other aerial weapon.

It would appear Brazil is very happy to spend a hefty sum on a technology that is attracting negative international attention, and dogged by its other historical disasters and mishaps.  I wonder if the President's consultants warned him that no amount of chest-thumping will make nuclear power any safer.

The conventional (non-nuclear) submarines, Scorpène class (S-BR), are part of a technology contract signed with France in 2009. By 2014, a dry dock at Itaguaí will be completed and the actual construction begin.

"The construction of these submarines is part of strategic positioning by Brazil that will strengthen domestic industrial capacity and make our workers more skilled. It is also a demonstration of our willingness to build international alliances," declared the president.

The construction of the four conventional submarines is a step on the way to the final objective of the Brazilian Navy's Submarine Development Program (Prosub): eventually building a nuclear submarine (SN-BR) by the year 2023, with a Brazilian-made nuclear reactor.

That will put Brazil into the select company of a very few other nations, China, England, France, Russia and the United States, with such technological ability.

"The merits of this partnership are technology transfer and a strategic alliance that will strengthen and advance the skills of our Navy and industrial sector, making it more modern and capable of defending the country. We seek nuclear propulsion only for defensive, never offensive, purposes," declared president Rousseff.


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Posted: 19 Jul 2011 02:05 PM PDT
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Posted: 19 Jul 2011 06:22 AM PDT
From Huffington Post
WASHINGTON -- The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission withheld and manipulated information in an effort to stop work on a proposed radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, according to an internal investigation.

The inquiry, requested by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko apparently broke no laws. But the report says Jaczko was "not forthcoming" to other commissioners when he decided in October to shut down the technical review of the Energy Department's application for the underground nuclear dump.

But a senior Republican said the report by the NRC's inspector general showed that Jaczko acted improperly.
The report "paints an embarrassing picture of a bully whose use of deceit and manipulation is ruining the integrity of a respected independent regulatory agency," said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
"It's quite clear that closer congressional scrutiny of the NRC and the role the Obama administration's agenda has played in Chairman Jaczko' s unilateral actions is warranted and necessary," Issa said. The California congressman's committee is one of three House panels that are investigating Jaczko's role in shutting down work on the Yucca Mountain project.
Republicans and many Democrats outside Nevada favor creation of single storage site for nuclear waste, but the Yucca Mountain project is fiercely opposed by Nevada lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has vowed to do everything in his power to kill it. President Barack Obama opposed the Yucca Mountain site in the 2008 campaign and has moved consistently to kill it since taking office in 2009.

The license for the Yucca Mountain, which has been in development for nearly 30 years and cost more than $15 billion so far, has been in limbo since last June, when a licensing board independent of Jaczko and the rest of the commission rejected the Obama administration's request to withdraw the project application. Jaczko has yet to schedule a final vote from the five-member commission on the matter.

The 46-page report by NRC Inspector General Hubert Bell also delves into Jaczko's management style, saying he often lost his temper and badgered staff members who disagreed with his positions. A number of those interviewed said Jaczko would threaten to withhold foreign travel or to contact the Obama administration as means of gaining support on issues.

Jaczko knew his decision to shut down the technical review of Yucca Mountain, which would be used by the board to evaluate the license, "would be controversial and viewed as a policy decision for full commission consideration," the report says. "Therefore ... he strategically provided three of the four commissioners with varying amounts of information about his intention."

Lawmakers from both parties have criticized Jaczko for what they say is an overly secretive style and accuse him of acting unilaterally on the commission's behalf. They cite several examples, including Jaczko' s declaration in March that Japan's nuclear crisis constituted an emergency in the United States.

Their sharpest criticism is reserved for his handling of the divisive plan to shut down Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The NRC is considering a request by the Energy Department to shut down the proposed waste site and has begun initial steps to implement the shutdown. Even so, Jaczko has said the five-member commission has not cast a final vote on the issue and has no timeframe to make a decision.

Three NRC commissioners told Congress last month that they have their positions clear in writing.

That apparent contradiction mystified and enraged members of Congress, who said they cannot get a straight answer from the NRC on Yucca.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, suggested that Jaczko was "playing some kind of foot-dragging game" and intentionally delaying a decision on Yucca Mountain.

Before becoming NRC chairman, Jaczko was a member of Reid's staff. But he denied that the Nevada Democrat or anyone else influenced his decisions on Yucca Mountain.

"It was in no way a political action or intended to reference any other political figure or direction from any other political figure," he told the House Energy and Commerce Committee at a hearing last month.

In an unusual move, Jaczko sought to get ahead of the inspector general's report, which has not been released to the public, with a statement late Wednesday. He said the investigation reaffirmed that his actions have been consistent with the law and his authority as chairman.

But he acknowledged to the IG that he at times lost his temper and used "forceful" management techniques.

In an interview Thursday with the AP, Jaczko defended his tenure his as chairman and his sometimes hard-charging style, which he said comes from a deep-seated belief in the agency' mission to ensure safety of the nation's 104 commercial nuclear reactors.

"I believe passionately and strongly about nuclear safety, and I take that responsibility very seriously," he said.

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Posted: 19 Jul 2011 05:44 AM PDT
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has made life difficult for the Nuclear Industry and many members of the Japanese Government because of his recent comments and public stance on nuclear power. However, try as he might to avoid it, the Prime Minister will be forced to step down with no successor in line to keep Japan's future energy nuclear free.

No politician considered a possible successor is taking up Kan's call to decommission all of Japan's nuclear reactors.  In fact, almost all prominent Cabinet ministers and executives of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan who have supported Kan appear reluctant to go along with his nuclear-free idea.

Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, considered a leading candidate, was asked about a future without nuclear energy on July 16 in Yokohama.

"While that may be possible as a 'dream' of an individual, it will not be easy for the central government to make it a precondition," Noda said.

Former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said in a speech in Kobe on June 26: "In the area covered by Kansai Electric Power Co., 40 percent (of the electricity supply is generated) by nuclear power plants. Manufacturing will not be able to continue if the nuclear plants are stopped. "

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, another politician who had propped up the Kan administration, also brushed aside the prime minister's suggestion.

"I do not see the point of expressing what is simply one's wish at a news conference," Sengoku said.

DPJ Secretary-General Katsuya Okada was also negative about Kan's argument.

"We also have to avoid a situation in which there is an increase in the volume of emissions of greenhouse gases," he said. "I wonder how much we can depend on natural energy."

However, a recent public opinion poll conducted by The Asahi Shimbun found 77 percent of respondents in favor of eventually doing away with nuclear energy.


That has led some within the DPJ to say that an anti-nuclear energy candidate in the DPJ presidential election held after Kan resigns could gain more votes.
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