I was pleased to find some political poetry, specifically about Fukushima today. It’s fitting for this blog, anyway. An excerpt:
by Jon Rappoport
So there I was
in one of those giant discount stores
trying on a new pair of pants in the dressing room
a cool neutral voice said
“changing your underwear is politics
and by the way when was the last time
you cut your toenails
wearing or not wearing a watch is politics
that mole near your left knee is political
the calcium deposit on your right ankle is political
the way you look at yourself in the mirror is political
those three years of your life in the 60s we can’t account for
The curtain brushed aside and a tall naked woman walked in
she ran a black instrument over the new pants
-a loud buzz-
“they’re radioactive,” she said “testicular cancer in three months
try the pink drawstring sweat pants instead”
the neutral voice picked up…
“you’re a month late on your appointment for a dental cleaning
you haven’t changed your oil in a year
your health plan will be canceled next week”
I can only imagine the fear people living in Japan might feel as a result of the Fukushima disaster. No one can be happy about the dangers of removing the fuel rods, either. The second in Reactor 4 pool will be removed today. No one’s really talking about it. And no one’s really talking about the disaster and the plume that’s making its way to North America. There seems to be a media blackout. Perhaps, now that the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is there, we’ll hear more.
A team of 19 experts from the IAEA and other bodies will tour the plant on Wednesday and evaluate Tepco’s fuel extraction process at the No. 4 reactor and its handling of contaminated water. It concludes its review on Dec 4.
“They must look into Tepco’s overall management of the site,” Masashi Goto, a retired Toshiba’ nuclear engineer and critic of Tepco. “They shouldn’t just look at each little issue. They should look at the organizational challenges at Tepco that have created the recent string of incidents.”
I hope we hear more about creating a nuclear-free world where disasters such as this can never take place. Going with alternative energy sources would be a wise start.
Renewable energy could change the energy business. While some large-scale organizations will always be part of the energy industry, we are seeing the start of decentralized, distributed generation of energy. Although the conventional wisdom tells us that solar power, battery technology, and smart grids are far in the future, we are only a breakthrough or two away from a new age of decentralized energy technology. While none of us can predict the future, and technological breakthroughs cannot be assumed, the risk of nuclear power is not difficult to predict.
The price of solar energy continues to come down, as the number of solar cells continues to grow. Breakthroughs in nanotechnology have the potential to shrink the size of these cells, making it possible to imagine smaller, more inexpensive installations of solar arrays. While some of the discussion of solar technology imagines utility-scale centralized power stations, my own view is that improved solar cells coupled with improved battery technology makes it possible to imagine a far more decentralized approach to energy generation.
Let’s do it, ok?
Even with the irresponsible Fords hogging the headlines with their right winginess, Toronto City Council managed to do something good! From Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump
City of Toronto Joins Call to Stop Proposed Nuclear Waste Dump beside the Great Lakes
TORONTO, ONTARIO November 14, 2013—A growing number of communities, organizations and citizens are opposing Ontario Power Generation’s plan to build an underground nuclear waste dump (a Deep Geological Repository) approximately 1km from the shore of Lake Huron. Public hearings on the matter were closed on October 30, 2013 by a Joint Review Panel and a Federal government decision is expected in 2014.
Today the City of Toronto unanimously passed Councillor Mike Layton’s motion for a resolution opposing OPG’s proposed nuclear waste repository. Toronto joins Mississauga, Oakville, London, Hamilton and many others organizations, citizens and communities in Ontario, Michigan and Ohio in formally opposing OPG’s plan. ‘It is vitally important to human health, the environment and to the Great Lakes economy that the Great Lakes be protected from the threats of any potential radioactive contamination’ said Councillor Layton, the initiator of the motion. The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, an organization of over 100 Canadian and American cities, including Toronto, is formally opposing OPG’s plan. ‘Today the City of Toronto took action to protect the drinking water of our citizens as well as the 40 million people living in the Great Lakes region. We would strongly encourage OPG to explore alternative sites outside of the Great Lakes Basin’ said Councillor Crawford.
Michigan State Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood and Representative Sarah Roberts, who are rallying the public and Michigan politicians to oppose the nuclear dump, note ‘Placing a permanent nuclear waste burial facility so close to Lake Huron is ill-advised. If a radioactive leak were to occur, it could be devastating to our economies and to our valuable drinking water sources.’
U.S. Congressmen Dan Kildee, Sander Levin, Gary Peters and John Dingell have written a letter to the Joint Review Panel expressing serious concern. U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow also have urged US Secretary of State John Kerry to ‘encourage the Canadian government to reconsider placing a nuclear waste dump near the shores of Lake Huron.’
‘We are delighted that Canada’s largest city is showing leadership and taking action to protect this irreplaceable fresh water resource’ said Beverly Fernandez, Spokesperson of Stop The Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, a non-profit citizens group that launched a campaign to raise awareness about OPG’s plan and a petition that now has almost 42,000 signatures opposing OPG’s proposal. ‘It absolutely defies common sense to bury the most toxic waste humans have ever produced, that remains lethal and dangerous for 100,000 years, approximately 1 km from the drinking water of 40 million people in two countries,’ Fernandez said.
Stop The Great Lakes Nuclear Dump is a non-profit organization comprised of concerned Canadians who believe that the protection of the Great Lakes from buried radioactive nuclear waste is responsible stewardship, and is of national and international importance. In order to protect our precious natural resource, the Great Lakes, our group believes that radioactive nuclear waste should not be buried anywhere in the Great Lakes Basin. We are urging citizens to sign our online petition and to send a message to the Minister of the Environment to stand up for the protection of the Great Lakes.
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Nov 12 (Reuters) – Former Japanese premier Junichiro Koizumi on Tuesday urged his old deputy, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to abandon nuclear power, adding to pressure on the government to re-consider its position on unpopular atomic energy.
Koizumi was one of Japan’s most popular prime ministers before he stepped down in 2006 and his comments carry influence among the general public and within the ruling bloc, led by his old Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Nuclear power has been contentious since a power plant in the Fukushima region north of Tokyo was hit by a big earthquake and tsunami in 2011, triggering explosions, meltdowns and the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
“If the LDP decided on abandoning nuclear power, all the parties would be for the policy as the opposition is already supporting it,” Koizumi told a news conference.
“What a magnificent and fantastic project it would be. He can get to use his power to utilise nature as resources. There are no other prime ministers who are as lucky as he is.”
Koizumi supported nuclear power when he was prime minister and his calls in recent months for the country to give it up are a headache for the government.
Abe aims to reduce nuclear power as much as possible but believes it would be irresponsible to give it up straight away because that would threaten a stable power supply.
Koizumi said if money used to build nuclear plants was spent on renewable energy, it would spur a range of technological development.
More than two and a half years after the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, is struggling to stop radiation leaks.
Koizumi said Abe could determine Japan’s position on the issue.
“Even within the LDP, there are quite a few lawmakers who at heart are leaning towards the zero-nuclear policy. A prime minister’s power is enormous. If he proposed the zero-nuclear policy, no objections would emerge.”
Asked about Koizumi’s call, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga indicated the government intended stick to its policy of gradually reducing nuclear power’s ratio in the country’s energy mix.
“The government believes it is extremely important to administer its energy policy in a responsible manner,” Suga said.
Abe has been riding high in opinion polls due to the success of his economic policy. But energy policy could prove to be his Achilles’ heel as a survey by the Asahi Shimbun daily showed on Tuesday that 60 percent of those polled supported Koizumi’s zero-nuclear proposal. (Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Robert Birsel)
Canada Reaches Nuclear Agreement With Uranium-Rich Kazakhstan
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Canada plans to enter a civilian nuclear agreement with Kazakhstan, home to 12 percent of the world’s uranium deposits and an ambitious fuel cycle industry.
Azerbaijani newspaper AzerNews reported Monday that the agreement will be signed in Kazakhstan during a first-ever visit by Canada’s foreign minister this week. Agreements on the peaceful use of nuclear energy between nations typically lay out diplomatic expectations regarding nonproliferation, nuclear safety and other issues. They often precede additional treaties and agreements that lead to trade in nuclear technology and services.
Next year, Canada’s Cameco will begin a feasibility study on a 6,000-tonne-per-year uranium conversion facility at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant, according to the World Nuclear Association. The company also owns 60 percent of Kazakhstan’s Inkai uranium mine. Pending the study’s findings, a joint venture between Cameco and state-controlled Kazatomprom could begin construction of the conversion equipment in 2018.
Kazakhstan holds the world’s second largest uranium reserves, AzerNews reported. The country’s mines accounted for more than 36 percent of the word’s uranium production in 2012, according to the WNA. Kazakhstan also signed an agreement with Areva in 2008 to build a new fuel fabrication facility at Ulba. Bolstered by demand from China’s rapidly expanding reactor fleet, Kazatomprom aims to supply up to one-third of the world’s fuel fabrication market by 2030.
Dr. Jim Harding provides important information about Regina’s impact on the water downstream. It ain’t pretty.
QU’APPELLE VALLEY LAKES CLEANUP TAKES BACK SEAT TO NEW ROUGHRIDER STADIUM
BY Jim Harding
For decades Regina’s poorly treated sewage has degraded eco-system health downstream in the Qu’Appelle Valley. Regina’s refusal to priorize modernizing its wastewater treatment means that people sometimes can’t swim safely, eat the fish or even boat.
The wellbeing of cottagers and those that make the valley their home is being disrespected. And there is no excuse; for years Peter Leavitt and his associates at the University of Regina have shown the major role Regina’s sewage plays in degrading this waterway. Meanwhile, rather than biting the bullet and upgrading the system, Regina politicians prefer to make a multi-million dollar new stadium their highest priority. Out of sight, out of mind!
Metal contamination increases with the growth of agriculture, industry and urbanization. Most of the catchment area for the Qu’Appelle River drainage basin includes industrial exposure – e.g. a steel plant, oil refinery, fertilizer plant and potash mine near Regina. Metal contamination from erosion is increased by agricultural tilling, irrigation and use of chemicals; coal plants and waste incineration send metals into the atmosphere which find their way into freshwater.
Metal pollutants accumulate in lake sediment and eventually enter aquatic food webs. Leavitt’s research suggests that small aquatic invertebrates in the Qu’Appelle system “may have been exposed to damaging levels of toxic metals for 100 years”. This research concludes that “overall, potential toxic metals from urban and industrial sources accumulate significantly within invertebrate diapausing (dormant) eggs, while less toxic metals preferentially accumulate in the sediment matrix”. The more toxic metals include cadmium, chromium and molybdenum.
Sediment analysis suggests that 70% of the nitrogen pollution in the Qu’Appelle waterways comes from Regina. (Most of the phosphorous likely comes from agriculture.) This elevated nitrogen influx results in heavy algal blooms which can elevate to toxic levels. This excessive algal growth can deplete oxygen levels in lakes and result in mass die off of fish and other aquatic organisms. Pasqua Lake, the first lake 175 km downstream from Regina, is the most heavily affected. In earlier research it was estimated that this fairly shallow lake contained about 300% more algae than in pre-colonial times; currently it’s estimated to be 500%. Most nitrogen gets sequestered in lake sediment but nutrients are passed downstream when saturation occurs, first to Echo Lake, then to Mission and on to Katepwa. This is chronic as I write!
There are other pollutants from Regina. Environment Canada found personal care products, like aspirin derivatives and some antibiotics downstream.
The last time Regina made a major upgrade of its wastewater plant was in 1977, to include tertiary treatment, i.e. “clarification” to remove phosphorous. Thirty-five years later this is no longer “state of the art” and the City has fallen behind the treatment standards of other prairie cities. City politicians have had other priorities, like Harbour Landing and a new Roughrider stadium.
I have some personal experience with this matter. When I was on Regina’s City Council in the mid-1990s, meeting at a session on capital budget, I raised planning for upgrading water treatment. I was told in no uncertain terms that with property reassessment coming, suburban taxes would increase and most councilors would lose their seats if we dared include these capital costs. Councilors agreed in word or by silence and the matter was dropped.
I’m not privy to how this was handled during Mayor Fiacco’s term. City officials claim they have budgeted for the wastewater upgrade, yet nothing significant has happened. The City is now looking at selling its poorly treated wastewater to a potash company south of Regina, while another potash company has indicated it wants to remove water directly from the Qu’Appelle lakes. What would all this “pragmatism” do to the flow and water quality of the Qu’Appelle lakes?
So here we are in 2012 with Regina the only major prairie city not to have upgraded its sewage treatment. The cost of doing this has continued to rise and could now be as much as $200 million. In its 2012 budget the City only budgeted $19.6 million for wastewater upgrades.
Aquatic eco-system protection simply must be implemented quickly. However Regina’s present Mayor and Council seem to be trying to end-run the electorate by approving much more spending to build a new Roughrider stadium without sufficient public input. Mosaic Stadium has just had a $14 million upgrade to prepare it for the 2013 Grey Cup. Then it’s going to be torn down. The proposed new stadium will have about the same seating capacity as Mosaic Stadium. Its total cost, including loan interest and maintenance over a 30 year period will be $675 million. This amount does not include cost overruns.
The province will contribute an $80 million grant and the Roughriders will only have to pay $25 million mostly from corporate sponsorships. According to Regina City Council’s funding plan, $300 million will come from the pockets of Regina taxpayers, who will be required to pay a 0.45% increase in property taxes each year for 10 years. Forced to foot the bill, how will Regina’s taxpayers view spending the millions needed to stop contaminating the Qu’Appelle Valley waterways?
Mayor Fiacco justified announcing the new stadium at a Roughrider game, saying that “users will pay”, suggesting that raising the facility fee for games by $4 will cover the provincial loan. Yet only $100 million of the total $675 million will likely come from this. Sounding a little like Prime Minister Harper, who also sidesteps democratic due process, he says “we were elected to make decisions”, while ignoring that stadium upgrades in 1977 came after a plebiscite. When asked about the fact that general taxes will go up, a City official spoke of “delivering a quality of life in Regina”, drawing an analogy to public transit which, like the stadium, is not used by everyone.
BREAD AND CIRCUSES
What about quality of life downstream from Regina’s effluent? What about municipal responsibility? When you go to the City’s web page there’s mention that an upgrade of sewage treatment will be required by 2016 (province) and 2020 (federal), yet no government grants are forthcoming for this. Why is the province spending $80 million for a Regina stadium and ignoring Regina’s sewage pollution?
The City is not stringently lobbying for such assistance. If anything it leaves the impression that the main problem with sewage treatment is persisting odour. It doesn’t mention its role in polluting the Qu’Appelle Valley lakes; this can reinforce disinformation such as the claim that “the lakes have always had high algae.” Based on a 1999 report it even alleges that “the City is a leader in treating wastewater”. Tell that to the residents and cottagers living along Pasqua or other Qu’Appelle Valley lakes.
The City’s diagram on waste treatment highlights its sediment removal, aerated lagoons, clarification and UV disinfecting and then ends abruptly, showing only an arrow for the discharge of its poorly treated effluent into Wascana Creek. For those living downstream this is where the contamination begins.
How did protecting eco-system health and a major recreational waterway become less important than a new football stadium? Is bread and circuses being allowed to squeeze out the quest for clean water and sustainability? We only can hope that this matter gets raised during Regina’s fall election.