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Posts Tagged ‘contamination’

Nuclear crisis deepens in disaster-struck Japan

Posted by Admin on March 16, 2011

Earthquake and Tsunami damage-Fukushima Dai-Ni...

Earthquake and Tsunami damage to Fukushima reactors

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110316/wl_asia_afp/japanquake

by Hiroshi Hiyama Hiroshi Hiyama Wed Mar 16, 3:44 am ET

SENDAI, Japan (AFP) – Japanese crews grappling with the world’s worst nuclear incident since Chernobyl suspended work due to radiation fears Wednesday as tens of thousands in need after the quake and tsunami desperately appealed for help.

The jittery nation, living in dread of a nuclear catastrophe after Friday’s twin disaster, was also hit by a strong 6.0 magnitude earthquake that swayed buildings in Tokyo, fraying already jangled nerves.

The official toll of the dead and missing after the quake and tsunami flattened Japan’s northeast coast has topped 11,000, with 3,676 confirmed killed, police said.

However, after the Tokyo stock exchange’s biggest two-day sell-off in 24 years sparked a global market rout, the headline Nikkei share index closed up 5.68 percent on bargain hunting.

The Bank of Japan pumped another 3.5 trillion yen ($43.3 billion) into the financial system, adding to trillions spent this week since the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and towering tsunami crippled a large swathe of the economy.

The evacuation order at the Fukushima nuclear power plant came as a tall white cloud was seen billowing high into the sky over the stricken complex.

“Around 10:40 am (0140 GMT) we ordered the evacuation of workers… due to the rise in (radioactivity) data around the gate” of the ageing plant, a nuclear safety agency official said at a televised news conference.

Several hours later there was no news on whether the crews had been allowed back into the plant 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

Before the evacuation order, crews at Fukushima — who have been hailed as heroes — contended with a new fire and feared damage to the vessel containing one of the plant’s six reactor cores.

A Japanese military helicopter was on its way to dump water on the stricken nuclear plant to help contain the overheating.

The containment vessel around the core of reactor number three may have suffered damage, and the “likeliest possibility” for the white cloud was steam escaping from the vessel, chief government spokesman Yukio Edano said.

The number-three reactor was hit by a blast Monday that tore off the outer structure of the reactor building.

Fire crews fought a new blaze early Wednesday at reactor number four, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said, but it was later extinguished.

Engineers have been desperately battling a feared meltdown at the 40-year-old plant since the earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems and fuel rods began overheating.

There have now been four explosions and two fires at the complex, with four out of its six reactors in trouble.

France’s Nuclear Safety Authority said the disaster now equated to a six on the seven-point international scale for nuclear accidents, ranking the crisis second only in gravity to the level-seven Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

But Yukiya Amano, the Japanese chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, insisted Tuesday there was no comparison to the Chernobyl crisis, when radiation spewed across Europe.

The head of the UN’s atomic watchdog said that unlike Chernobyl, the Fukushima reactors have primary containment vessels and had also shut down automatically when the earthquake hit, so there was no chain reaction going on.

The full tragedy of the quake and tsunami was meanwhile playing out as more details emerge of the staggering death and devastation in the worst-hit northeast.

The small fishing town of Minamisanriku, for example, is believed to be missing about half of its 17,000 people.

“Ten of my relatives are missing. I haven’t been able to get in contact with them,” 54-year-old Minamisanriku resident Tomeko Sato, who lost her house in the disaster, told AFP.

Millions have been left without water, electricity, fuel or enough food and hundreds of thousands more are homeless, stoically coping with freezing cold and wet conditions in the northeast.

Aomori governor Shingo Mimura said he desperately needed central government assistance to get hold of oil and relief supplies.

“We cannot possibly get out to rescue survivors nor reconstruct the devastated areas without oil. Just a tiny bit of oil for today can protect lives,” he said.

“There are a variety of problems, such as shortages of water, food and blankets as well as difficulties in delivering supplies,” added Ryu Matsumoto, state minister in charge of disaster management.

“We will try to figure out how to transport supplies also via air or sea.”

With nerves on edge across the world’s third-biggest economy and beyond, people across Asia have been stripping shelves of essentials for fear of a major emission of radiation from the power plant on the east coast.

The government has warned that panic buying in towns and cities that have not been directly affected by the twin disasters could hurt its ability to provide aid to the devastated areas.

Edano, who is the chief cabinet secretary, said Japan as a whole was amply provided with fuel but stressed that petrol and kerosene were “very short” in the ravaged northeast.

“Those who do not live in disaster-hit areas, please do not buy (fuel) in bulk. We have enough to meet the nationwide demand,” he said, adding that the government was doing its all to get fuel to the north.

The normally heaving streets and subways of Tokyo were quieter than usual on Wednesday morning. The number of people sporting paper face masks has shot up, although the masks offer no real protection against radiation.

Radiation levels in the capital’s vast urban sprawl of 30 million people have see-sawed without ever reaching harmful levels, according to the government.

But it has warned people living up to 10 kilometres (six miles) beyond a 20-kilometre exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant to stay indoors. More than 200,000 people have already been evacuated from the zone.

President Barack Obama, who has dispatched a naval flotilla led by a US aircraft carrier to aid in the quake-tsunami rescue operation, said he was “deeply worried” about the potential human cost of the disaster in Japan.

The government in Tokyo said it was ready to draft in more help from the 49,000 US military personnel stationed in Japan.

Obama also vowed to “further improve” the safety of US atomic facilities, while several European nations announced reviews of their own nuclear installations and Germany temporarily shut down seven reactors.

Hoax emails and text messages warning of radiation drifting south from Japan have set off a run on essentials such as bottled water and fresh milk in places as far afield as the Philippines.

China said it was stepping up checks of travellers and goods inbound from Japan for possible radiation contamination.

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Why a price on carbon will not stop deforestation

Posted by Admin on February 22, 2010

Why a price on carbon will not stop deforestation

By Chris Lang, 17th February 2010

Indonesia forest destruction palm oil, PHOTO: Greenpeace

Three straws in the wind: Two pieces of policy news and a new piece of research. Two weeks ago, a leaked document from the EU revealed that the European Commission and some member states hope to include oil palm plantations in the definition of forests. Yesterday, the Jakarta Post reported that Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry is drafting a decree to reclassify oil palm plantations as “forests”.

Last week, the European Commission’s Science for Environment Policy put out a News Alert with the headline “Pricing carbon insufficient to save tropical forests from deforestation”.

There are two related issues here. The first is the definition of “forest”. Currently, the UN defines a forest as any area larger than 500 square metres with crown cover of 10 per cent and trees capable of growing two metres high. Clearly, this definition fails to address the conversion of native forests to monoculture industrial tree plantations. (Incidentally, the UN has not yet attempted to agree a definition of forest degradation. The latest document from the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol, includes two alternative lists of definitions. But the word “degradation” is not included in either list, not even in square brackets.)

The second issue is whether deforestation (including conversion of forests to monocultures) can be prevented by putting a price on carbon. Recent research, published in Environmental Science and Technology found that putting a price on carbon is unlikely to prevent forests being cleared for oil palm plantations. Part of the problem is that a higher carbon price drives up demand for biofuels (as an alternative to expensive fossil fuels). This in turn increases both the price of biofuels and the likelihood that forests are converted to oil palm plantations.

Under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, 10 per cent of all road transport fuel will have to be “renewable” by 2020. This directive has helped drive a massive expansion in the area of oil palm plantations for biofuel, which has resulted in the destruction of vast areas of forest (and therefore increased greenhouse gas emissions). Instead of addressing this problem, the EU seems determined to make matters worse. A draft communication (available here – pdf file 98 KB) from the European Commission was recently leaked. It is supposed to provide guidance to EU member states on the use of biofuels, but it includes the following extraordinary statement:

“Continuously forested areas are defined as areas where trees have reached, or can reach, at least heights of five metres, making up a crown cover of more than 30 percent. They would normally include natural forest, forest plantations and other tree plantations such as palm oil. . . . This means, for example, that a change from forest to oil palm plantation would not per se constitute a breach of the criteria.”

Rainforest Rescue and Friends of the Earth Europe are campaigning against this attempt to reclassify oil palm plantations as forests.

Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, with oil palm plantations covering an area of 7 million hectares. Currently these plantations are classified as an agricultural crop. But earlier this week, the head of research and development at the Forestry Ministry, Tachrir Fathoni, explained to the Jakarta Post that Indonesia wants to re-classify this area of monoculture as forest. “It is to anticipate the implementation of the REDD scheme,” he said.

Fathoni argued that Malaysia already includes oil palm plantations in its forest sector. “By doing so,” he said, “Malaysia can reap financial incentives from the UNFCCC [from] carbon trade.” Financial incentives, that is, to clear forests and replace them with oil palm monocultures. Obviously, providing carbon credits for oil palm plantations is not quite what most people have in mind when they think about REDD. Equally obviously, the UN needs to sort out its definition of forests in order to exclude industrial tree plantations.

A common “solution” put forward to prevent the conversion of forests to plantations is to make the forest worth more standing because of the carbon stored in it than the palm oil would be worth from the plantation that replaced the forest.

It sounds simple, but recent research by Martin Persson and Christian Azar at the Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg, Sweden indicates that a price on carbon may not be enough:

“We estimate that deforesting for palm oil bioenergy production is likely to remain highly profitable, even in the fact of a price on the carbon emissions from forest clearing.” []

An important part of their findings is that increasing the price of carbon will not solve the problem. The European Commission’s Science for Environmental Policy summarises their argument as follows:

“Landowners anticipate gains in the future because they expect carbon prices to rise over time. This means that landowners can pay a relatively low price for carbon emissions from deforestation now and profit from a greater willingness to pay for bioenergy in the future as climate policy is strengthened and carbon and energy prices rise. As a consequence, the value of land will also rise. A higher carbon price will not only increase the cost of forest clearing but also the revenues from doing so.”

Persson and Azar are not arguing that tropical deforestation should be kept out of future international climate regimes. “That would only make matters worse,” they write. But their research has major implications for REDD, particular given the direction that REDD is currently heading – trading the carbon stored in forests and hoping that the magic of the markets will keep the profits from carbon trading higher than the profits from palm oil trading.


[] ^ Martin Persson and Christian Azar (2010) “Preserving the World’s Tropical Forests—A Price on Carbon May Not Do“, Environmental Science and Technology, 2010, 44 (1), pp 210–215, DOI: 10.1021/es902629x.

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