November 5, 2018
Nuclear pollution has become a new form and perhaps more harmful type of pollution that obsesses coastal regions; it has been of increasing concern after the disastrous Fukushima nuclear leak on March 11, 2011. In order to assess the impact of the Fukushima accident on the East China Sea (ECS), a highly resolved model is set up to simulate the evolution of the 137Cs concentration. Different from previous studies in this regard, here we take into account the radionuclides originally existing in the ocean. It is found that the radionuclides from the Fukushima leak do have reached ECS, though with a concentration far below the harmful level. The major waterways that inlet the radionuclides are Taiwan Strait and the waterway east of Taiwan. The radioactive material tends to accumulate in the ECS until reaching its peak in 2019; afterward, the outflux through Tokara Strait and Tsushima exceeds the influx through the two southern waterways, and the material resumes in 2021 to its original state. The concentration is neither homogeneously nor stationarily distributed; for example, usually in summer, there is a high center over the Subei Bank in the Yellow Sea. This study is expected, should a similar accident happen again, to help decide where to monitor the ocean, and, hopefully, how to get the pollution under control.
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From The Yomiuri Shimbun, a propaganda mouthpiece close to the Japanese government.
Give new impetus to countries to lift import bans on Japanese seafood
An unfair import ban imposed in reaction to the nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture is unacceptable. Japan must make use of this clear judgment for countries to accelerate lifting such bans.
A World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel ruled that South Korea’s ban on fishery products imported from Japan amounts to “arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination” and violates WTO rules.
Citing the nuclear accident as a reason, South Korea has imposed a blanket import ban on fishery products from eight prefectures, including Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, since September 2013. For some of the import items, the ban has a serious impact on the fishery industries in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear accident.
Japan filed complaints with the WTO in 2015, claiming Seoul’s ban was “not based on scientific grounds and hampered free trade.” It calls for the ban to be lifted on 28 kinds of fishery products, such as bonito and saury.
The WTO has sided with Japan because it did not get a satisfactory explanation from South Korea about why Seoul focused solely on fishery products imported from Japan.
Might Seoul have aimed to exclude Japanese fishery products that compete with those of South Korea? If so, such an attitude would run counter to the WTO’s principle of free trade and losing the case would be inevitable.
The South Korean government announced that it will appeal to a higher WTO panel, equivalent to a higher court. A situation should be avoided in which handing down the final decision is unnecessarily postponed.
Moves by S. Korea, China vital
It is reasonable that Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Ken Saito said, “[We] call for South Korea to sincerely and swiftly correct the violation of the [WTO] agreement.”
Japan exports products after subjecting them to an even stricter examination than is required by international standards on the influence of radioactive substances on foods.
The number of countries and regions that imposed import bans on Japanese foods after the nuclear accident was initially 54, but it declined by half to 27 as time went by.
In addition to South Korea, many of Japan’s main trading partners, including China, the United States and the European Union, still impose import restrictions on Japanese foods. Among other steps, they continue to ban importing some items or call for the presentation of certificates of inspection of Japanese foods.
In particular, China has taken the same level of strict restrictive measures as South Korea, and banned importing all foods from Tokyo and nine other prefectures.
The moves of China and South Korea seem to strongly influence other Asian countries and others that are still taking some kind of regulatory measures against Japanese foods.
In parallel with its efforts regarding South Korea, the Japanese government needs to make more efforts toward negotiations with China for lifting its import ban.
Although the government has set the goal of exporting ¥1 trillion worth of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products and other foods in 2019, such exports remain sluggish.
It has been pointed out that meat and fruit imported from Japan, which have become luxury brands, are sought after and praised by wealthy people abroad, yet there are few products for the most populous middle-income bracket of other countries.
There is no doubt that lifting the import bans of each country would also contribute to the improvement of the image of Japanese products overall.
BEIJING — Bowing to days of passionate street protests, a city government in eastern China said Wednesday that it had halted any plans to build a nuclear fuel plant there. The reversal was the latest indication of how public distrust could hold back China’s ambitious plans for expanding its nuclear power industry.
The government of Lianyungang, a city near the coast of Jiangsu Province, announced the retreat in a terse message online. “The people’s government of Lianyungang has decided to suspend preliminary work for selecting a site for the nuclear cycle project,” it read, referring to a proposed plant for reprocessing used fuel from nuclear plants.
No reason was given, but it appeared clear enough. In recent days, residents have taken to the streets to oppose any decision to build the plant nearby. The main urban area of Lianyungang is just 20 miles southwest of a large and growing nuclear power plant on the coast, but the idea of a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility also being built in the area seemed to push public unease to a new height.
A 21-year-old Lianyungang resident with the surname Tang said Wednesday that demonstrators had been chanting “Oppose nuclear waste, defend our home.” Like other people contacted there, she did not want her full name used, citing fear of reprisal for talking to reporters.
“Nobody wants this kind of thing built in their own home,” Ms. Tang said.
China’s authoritarian leaders are wary of local protests escalating into broader challenges to their power. But local governments have often given ground in the face of growing public opposition to chemical plants, waste incinerators and other potential sources of pollution. Now proposed nuclear projects are also becoming increasingly troublesome.
A model of a nuclear reactor on display at the stand for the China National Nuclear Corporation at an expo in Beijing last year. Across the country, the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 has hardened public wariness of nuclear power.
“While the Chinese government does not hesitate to arrest the few political dissidents, it spends more time and energy to appease public demands,” Wenfang Tang, a professor of political science at the University of Iowa, who studies public opinion and politics in China, said in emailed comments.
“The high level of government sensitivity and responsiveness to public opinion further encourages political activism in Chinese society,” Professor Tang said. “The louder you are, the more quickly the government will respond.”
In Lianyungang and across China, the nuclear calamity in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 has hardened public wariness of nuclear power, although the government argues that expanding the industry is essential for weaning the economy off coal, with all of its dangerous pollutants.
The biggest protest in Lianyungang took place on Saturday, when many thousands of people, including families with children, marched through the downtown area.
Despite warnings from the government, protests continued on a smaller scale this week, as residents defied ranks of riot officers with shields, according to news reports and video that people shared through social media.
“I told my daughter that she must go to this protest,” one resident said, according to Sixth Tone, an English-language news website based in Shanghai. “With every extra person, the momentum will get bigger.”
The announcement does not mean the nuclear fuel-reprocessing proposal is dead. The project is a collaboration between the China National Nuclear Corporation and a French company, Areva, and it has high-level government support, although no final agreement to build it has been signed. Five other Chinese provinces are under consideration for the initiative, and Lianyungang could lift its suspension. The two companies have said that they want to start building in 2020 and finish by 2030.
But in China, suspensions of contentious projects have a way of quietly turning into permanent cancellations, and Lianyungang appears likely to follow that pattern. The big question now will be whether public opposition coalesces in the five other areas under consideration.
All but one — Gansu Province in the northwest — is a heavily populated coastal province. Gansu is already home to China’s first civilian nuclear reprocessing plant, a small facility that has been held back by technical problems.
In 2013, officials jettisoned plans for a nuclear fuel fabrication plant in the southern province of Guangdong after protests. Preliminary proposals to build nuclear power plants inland have also ignited intense opposition.
The Chinese government has said that as it expands its fleet of nuclear power plants, it needs a plant for reprocessing spent fuel, a practice that separates unused plutonium and some uranium from waste. That unused material could be used to generate power, but critics have warned that the plutonium could be deployed for weapons. Japan has also built a full-scale reprocessing plant, but it has not started up yet.
On Chinese social media, and even on news websites, commentators said that the contention in Lianyungang showed that the public should have a bigger say in nuclear energy planning.
“In just a few days, the official stand of Lianyungang has undergone a sea change,” read a comment on Sohu.com, a Chinese news website. “Don’t underestimate just how determined the public is in opposition to nuclear waste, which is far more dangerous than wastewater from any paper pulp mill.”
Shenanigans at a nuclear power plant in Guangdong show that transparency when incidents occur is just as important as safety protocols
The official report on an incident at a nuclear power plant near Hong Kong, more than a year ago, raises some serious safety questions. As a result of a breach of operational guidelines, and an attempted cover-up, three staff at the Yangjiang nuclear plant in Guangdong, 220km from Hong Kong, received administrative warnings and their crew leader was stripped of his senior nuclear operator licence – a more severe punishment, though none lost their jobs. The Ministry for Environmental Protection said the incident occurred during maintenance in March last year. After receiving a system alert, the four staff took actions that caused a “residual heat removal pump” on one of the reactors – a crucial back-up part of the water-cooling system – to stop functioning for six minutes. They then tried to cover up the incident and did not enter it into a log book as required.
On the face of it, the incident may sound relatively trivial, especially if the unit was not running. People familiar with such operations say breaching guidelines briefly would usually fall well short of immediate safety significance. But a number of points remain unclear after an investigation that took more than a year. The statement did not say what caused the alert, what actions the four took that led to their warnings, or how the incident and the attempted cover-up came to light. Thankfully, two nuclear experts dismissed the possibility of a radioactive leak or public safety threat.
The most serious concern is the attempted cover-up. This perverts a reporting system put in place to help safeguard life and property because human error and safety incidents cannot be eradicated. The Yangjiang incident also highlighted a growing operational problem in the nuclear industry – the shortage of senior operators for a massive expansion needed to meet the country’s consumption and emissions-reduction goals. Uncompetitive pay rates for what can be a high-pressure job do nothing to help recruitment.
That said, it remains true there is no more reliable or cleaner way of producing electricity. China has earned a reputation for taking nuclear safety seriously and wanting to be seen to do so to help promotion of its nuclear technology to potential foreign buyers.
Exposure of the attempted cover-up is a reminder that transparency is as important with nuclear power plants as safety. Lessons learned with each incident can only result in safer and better reactors.
The government in Lianyungang in Jiangsu province issues brief statement saying work on nuclear fuel reprocessing plant project suspended
The authorities in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, have suspended plans to build a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant after several days of street protests against the project.
Observers said the decision could put other nuclear projects under greater public scrutiny, and urged backers of similar schemes to improve transparency.
The Lianyungang city government announced the halt in a one-sentence statement issued early Wednesday morning.
“The government has decided to suspend preliminary work on site selection for the nuclear recycling project,” the statement said.
It came after thousands of protesters launched a series of street demonstrations from Saturday, protesting about the potential radiation risks and the alleged lack of transparency in the decision-making process for the project.
Residents used social media platforms to question the process but the comments were soon deleted by censors. “What if there is any radiation leakage? Why does the government want to make a decision on such a big issue on its own, a decision that will affect future generations?” they asked.
China National Nuclear Corporation planned to use technology supplied by French firm Areva to develop the spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant.
The companies previously said construction would start in 2020 and be completed by 2030, but had not settled on a site.
The process has been shrouded in secrecy, with Lianyungang residents discovering that their city could be the site for the plant after the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence announced in a press release that a deputy head visited the city on July 26 and claimed “much progress has been made on site selection”.
The Lianyungang city government issued a statement on Sunday to try to calm the public, saying the plans were still at an early stage and no location had been confirmed.
Sporadic protests continued on Monday and Tuesday, with video footage posted online showing police mobilised to protect the city government’s office building from protesters.
Xiamen University energy policy specialist Lin Boqiang said the plan was shelved as a result of a lack of transparency and communication by the government and state-owned nuclear companies.
“Public concerns can be contagious and spill over to other cities, as has been the case with various incinerator and PX [chemical] projects,” he said.
Many local governments have been forced to scrap plans for such projects after public protests over health and safety concerns.
A series of deadly blasts at industrial sites over the years has only worsened public fears and deepened distrust of government.
“China’s PX industry suffered a severe setback. If the developers of nuclear projects do not learn a lesson, they could be faced with similar problems in future,” Lin said.
China is the world’s most active builder of nuclear power plants. It has 32 reactors in operation, 22 under construction and more planned.
The government has also spent heavily to build up its ability to produce nuclear fuel and process the waste.