Tag Archives: Japan

BBC News Magazine: The ship that totally failed to change the world

By Tammy Thueringer & Justin Parkinson
NS Savannah
Fifty years ago the world’s first nuclear-powered cargo-passenger ship sailed from the US to Europe on a publicity tour to persuade the world to embrace the atomic age. It didn’t quite work out like that.

Sleek in shape, painted red and white, its interior decorated in what was then ultra-modern chrome, the NS Savannah wasn’t quite like any other cargo ship.

It had facilities for passengers. The 600ft, 12,000-ton ship boasted a cinema, veranda bar and swimming pool. The cabins had no curtains. Instead, “polarised” windows, designed to cut glare, lined the sides of staterooms.

The ship was one of the few to spring directly from the imagination of a US president. In 1953, Dwight Eisenhower had made his famous Atoms for Peace speech, attempting to balance the growing fear of nuclear apocalypse with optimism about the possibility of civilian use of atomic energy.

And he wanted an atomic ship. A civilian one.

NS Savannah, 1962“A very attractive ship”: The NS Savannah, pictured in 1962

The NS Savannah, which cost $50m, was launched 55 years ago this week. It was to be an ambassador of sorts – the world’s first nuclear-propelled merchant ship and a symbol of safety and faith in the fuel of the future.

Stan Wheatley was one of those who was excited to be working on the ship. He was in the shipyard while the Savannah was built and served as the chief engineer on its maiden voyage. “The nuclear power system was a prototype, no question, but we were all trained well.”

Everyone was aware the ship was supposed to be a beautiful advertisement for nuclear energy.

“It represented the best-looking ship around and it still is a very attractive ship,” says Wheatley, now a member of the Savannah Association which works to preserve and protect the decommissioned ship that now sits at a port in Baltimore, Maryland.

Inside the NS Savannah's stateroomInside the NS Savannah’s stateroom
The Savannah's control roomThe Savannah’s control room
View from the Savannah's bridgeView from the Savannah’s bridge Continue reading

#Japan: Doubts over ice wall to keep #Fukushima safe from damaged nuclear reactors

Frozen barrier, costing £185m, being built around Fukushima Daiichi’s four damaged reactors to contain irradiated water.

Workers work on the construction of an ice wall at the tsunami-crippled Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.Workers work on the construction of an ice wall at the tsunami-crippled Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/AFP/Getty Images

In fading light and just a stone’s throw from the most terrifying scenes during Japan’s worst nuclear accident, engineers resumed their race against time to defeat the next big threat: thousands of tonnes of irradiated water.

If all goes to plan, by next March Fukushima Daiichi’s four damaged reactors will be surrounded by an underground frozen wall that will be a barrier between highly toxic water used to cool melted fuel inside reactor basements and clean groundwater flowing in from surrounding hills.

Up to 400 tonnes of groundwater that flows into the basements each day must be pumped out, stored and treated – and on-site storage is edging closer to capacity. Decommissioning the plant will be impossible until its operator, Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] addresses the water crisis.

Last month workers from Tepco and the construction firm Kajima Corp began inserting 1,550 pipes 33 metres vertically into the ground to form a rectangular cordon around the reactors. Coolant set at -30C will be fed into the pipes, eventually freezing the surrounding earth to create an impermeable barrier.

“We started work a month ago and have installed more than 100 pipes, so it is all going according to plan to meet our deadline,” Tadafumi Asamura, a Kajima manager who is supervising the ice wall construction, said as workers braved rain, humidity and radiation to bore holes in the ground outside reactor No 4, scene of one of three hydrogen explosions at the plant in the early days of the crisis.

But sealing off the four reactors – three of which melted down in the March 2011 disaster – is costly and not without risks. The 32bn-yen (£185m) wall will be built with technology that has never been used on such a large scale.  Continue reading

#Japan: #Fukushima #farmer takes on #Tepco over wife’s #suicide

Mikio Watanabe's house in Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture, remains in an exclusion zone and all he can do is maintain it during short visits. Being unemployed and forced to live elsewhere was too much for his wife, who burned herself to death during what she thought would be their final stay at the house.Mikio Watanabe’s house in Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture, remains in an exclusion zone and all he can do is maintain it during short visits. Being unemployed and forced to live elsewhere was too much for his wife, who burned herself to death during what she thought would be their final stay at the house. | REUTERS

The Fukushima District Court is due to rule next month on a claim that Tokyo Electric Power Co. is responsible for a woman’s suicide, in a landmark case that could force the utility to publicly admit culpability for deaths related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

In July 2011, nearly four months after the massive earthquake and tsunami that triggered a series of catastrophic failures at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Hamako Watanabe returned to her still-radioactive hilltop home, doused herself in kerosene and set herself on fire.

She left no suicide note but her husband, Mikio, says plant operator Tepco is directly responsible.

“If that accident hadn’t happened, we would have lived a normal, peaceful life” on their family farm some 50 km from the plant, said Watanabe, now 64, who discovered her charred body.

The Fukushima District Court is expected to rule in late August on Watanabe’s lawsuit, which Tepco is contesting. The outcome could set a precedent for claims against the struggling utility, said Watanabe’s lawyer, Tsuguo Hirota.

The triple meltdowns at the plant forced more than 150,000 people from their homes. Most of them remain displaced and about a third, including Watanabe, are living in temporary housing.

The utility has settled a number of suicide-related claims through a government dispute resolution system, but declined to say how many or give details on how much it has paid.

Japan has made public 25 disaster-related death cases that were settled through the resolution system, some for more than ¥16 million. Causes of death were not always specified, and include those due to natural causes, such as elderly patients who died in evacuation centers. A Mainichi report this week said arbitrators were encouraged to automatically halve requested damage to expedite the process.  Continue reading

#Japan: #Typhoon #Neoguri makes landfall on #Kyushu

Typhoon Neoguri slammed into Kyushu early Thursday after lashing the Okinawa island chain, with three people killed as powerful winds and torrential rains battered the country.

“It landed near the city of Akune shortly before 7 a.m.,” an official at the Meteorological Agency said.

Akune sits on the western coast of Kyushu.

The typhoon’s winds slowed somewhat overnight, with the storm packing gusts of up to 126 kph as it moved east at 25 kph.

The system is forecast to move farther along the Japanese archipelago later in the week after crossing Kyushu.

The government was set to hold a disaster-management meeting Thursday morning to discuss how to best cope with the storm.

Officials said Neoguri would bring torrential rain and warned of the risk of flooding and landslides, after the storm forced local authorities to advise half a million people to seek shelter in Okinawa earlier in the week.

As the typhoon was bearing down on the archipelago, round-the-clock television footage pinpointed its latest location and helmet-clad reporters surveyed the damage left by the powerful storm.

Areas outside the typhoon’s immediate path were also lashed with heavy rain, with a landslide in Nagano Prefecture swallowing a house and killing a 12-year-old boy who was inside, according to NHK.

On Tuesday, the storm claimed the life of a 62-year-old man knocked off his boat in rough waters in Kochi Prefecture, according to authorities, while NHK said an 81-year-old fisherman died in Kumamoto Prefecture.

The Japan Times

#Japan to resume ‘research’ #whaling in 2015

Published on 9 Jul 2014

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, says his country will abide by the decision passed down by the international court of justice and adds that differences on whaling between Australia and Japan should not impact on ‘favourable bilateral relationships’. Abe also says Japan will resume whaling for ‘research’ purposes but that the country is a ‘good international citizen’ and will adhere to the ICJ ruling.

Source: Frank Leen – Youtube