Thursday, 31 March 2011

Anti nuclear academics and artists in India oppose nuclear new build

March 30, 2011

We deeply regret the death and devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and are gravely concerned at the disaster at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station, where reactors suffered serious accidents damaging their cores, and released harmful radiation, resulting in radiation burns and other injuries.

Fukushima’s radiation releases have contaminated drinking water in Tokyo, 220 kilometres away. According to preliminary estimates based on data from a United Nations agency, Fukushima has already released about one-fifth as much iodine-131 as the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, and half as much caesium-137; both cause cancer.

The crisis shows that even in an industrially advanced country, nuclear reactors are vulnerable to catastrophes irrespective of precautions and safety measures. Small individual incidents in them can spiral into serious mishaps. The earthquake cut off primary power supply to the reactors. The backup power failed with the tsunami. Loss of cooling water precipitated the crisis. Two weeks on, Fukushima remains a threat to the public.

The Japanese nuclear crisis is a wake-up call for India, which has launched a huge nuclear expansion programme. Yet, instead of acknowledging the gravity of the crisis, our Department of Atomic Energy has cavalierly minimised it, described it a “purely chemical reaction”, and declared that Indian reactors cannot undergo serious accidents.

We strongly believe that India must radically review its nuclear power policy for appropriateness, safety, costs, and public acceptance, and undertake an independent, transparent safety audit of all its nuclear
facilities, which involves non-DAE experts and civil society organisations.

Pending the review, there should be a moratorium on all further nuclear activity, and revocation of recent clearances for nuclear projects.


* A Gopalakrishnan, former Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board
* Achin Vanaik, Professor, Political Science, Delhi University
* Amit Bhaduri, Economist, Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University
* Amita Baviskar, Sociologist, Delhi School of Economics
* Ammu Joseph, Journalist and writer, Bangalore
* Anand Patwardhan, Film-maker, Mumbai
* Anil Chaudhary, Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace
* Anuradha Chenoy, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
* Aruna Roy, Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Member, National Advisory Council
* Arundhati Roy, Writer and Social Activist
* Ashis Nandy, Psychologist and Social Critic
* Ashish Kothari, Kalpvriksh, the environmentalist group
* Bala Ravindran, Director, Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar
* Balan Nambiar, Artist, Bangalore
* Bharti Kher, Artist
* C Rammanohar Reddy, Editor, Economic and Political Weekly
* Deepak Nayyar, Economist and former Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University
* Dunu Roy, Environment and Safety Activist, Hazards Centre, Delhi
* EAS Sarma, Former Power Secretary, GoI, Vishakhapatnam
* Geetanjali Shree, Hindi Writer
* Girish Sant, Energy specialist, Prayas, Pune
* Gulam Mohammed Shaikh, Artist
* Harsh Kapoor, Social and Internet Activist
* Imrana Qadeer, Public Health Researcher, former JNU Professor
* Javeed Alam, Chairman, Indian Council of Social Science Research
* Jean Dreze, Economist, Allahabad University
* Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University
* Kamala Bhasin, Feminist Activist, SANGAT
* KN Panikkar, Historian, formerly JNU, now in Kerala
* Krishen Khanna, Artist
* Kuldip Nayar, Columnist, former High Commissioner to the UK
* Lawrence Surendra, Professor Mysore University and Environmentalist
* L Ramdas, Former Chief of Naval Staff, India
* Lalita Ramdas, Social Activist
* Leela Samson, Dancer and Coreographer
* MK Pal, Former Director, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata
* Meher Engineer, Former Scientist, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata
* MV Ramana, Physicist, currently at Princeton University
* Nandini Sundar, Prof. of Sociology
* N Pushpmala, Artist, Bangalore
* Nikhil Dey, Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti Activist, Rajasthan
* Nirupam Sen, Former Ambassador to the UN
* PM Bhargava, Former Director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad
* Praful Bidwai, Columnist, Nuclear Affairs Analyst
* Rajeev Bhargava, Director, Centre for Studies in Developing Societies, Delhi
* Ram Rehman, Photographer
* Ramachandra Guha, Anthropologist and Historian
* Ranbir Kaleka, Artists
* Romila Thapar, Historian, Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University
* Sadanand Menon, Art Critic, Chennai
* Shabnam Hashmi, Activist, ANHAD
* Sanjay K Biswas, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
* Satyajit Mayor, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore
* Satyajit Rath, National Institute of Immunology, Delhi
* Seema Mustafa, Editor, The Sunday Guardian
* SG Vasudev, Artist, Bangalore
* SP Shukla, Former Member, Planning Commission and Finance Secretary, Government of India
* Subodh Gupta, Artist
* Sudhir Chandra, Historian, Baroda
* Sudhir Chella Rajan, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
* Sumit Sarkar, Historian, Delhi
* Suvrat Raju, Physicist, Fellow at Harvard, now at Allahabad
* Tani Bhargava, Social Activist, Delhi
* Tanika Sarkar, Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University
* Vineeta Bal, Immunologist
* Vivan Sundaram, Artist
* Zoya Hasan, Political scientist, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University

An informal information platform for activists and scholars concerned about the dangers of Nuclearisation in South Asia

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Tuesday, 29 March 2011


ENDS Europe DAILY, Wednesday 23 March 2011

Lithuania's environment ministry has criticised a plan to build a nuclear power plant in Belarus, 50 kilometres from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. It described the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project as "inadequate".

In a statement on Tuesday, the ministry warned that actions would be undertaken by Lithuania to ensure the project is in line with environmental regulations. It says the EIA does not estimate possible radiation levels in case of an accident.

The ministry also complains of insufficient data on the geology, tectonics and seismology of the location. The EIA does not cover spent fuel storage and there are no analyses concerning impacts on
the Neris river and the local hydrological system.

According to the ministry, the Belarusian government has been ignoring calls to involve Lithuania in the project, despite transboundary rules allowing neighbouring countries to comment on EIAs. In 2010, the states of Micronesia used these rules to protest against plans to upgrade a Czech coal-fired power plant.

Lithuania is planning to raise the issue during this week's meeting of European leaders in Brussels, as well as a meeting of parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety in Vienna in April.

Lithuania's own Soviet-era nuclear power plant in Ignalina was decommissioned between 2004 and 2009 as part of its EU accession agreement.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Greenpeace Japan measures radioactivity

From our radiation sampling team in Japan

Brian Fitzgerald - March 26, 2011
Jacob Namminga, one of our radiation safety advisors, spoke to me via Skype about today's sampling trip in a rural area of Japan, to the north west of the Fukushima nuclear plant. We'll be reporting the details of our findings once they are compiled and have been checked, but I asked Jacob to provide some reflections on what today's trip was like. This is what he had told me.

We are staying in a place in Yonezawa, 45 km from Fukushima city called the Smile hotel. It has a giant yellow smiley on it, which under the circumstances is a bit surreal. We have Internet, the electricity is working. We have it rather easy compared to some of the people here who are refugees, having had to leave their homes and who are living just a few kilometres away. We brought a lot of food in from Osaka and try to eat that and avoid local foods and especially milk.

As we found out today, the radiation levels are high in Fukushima city -- our measurements confirmed levels that have been reported in newspapers and by the government -- in some places so high that you would get your "maximum annual dose" (if you believe in such things) in about 8 days. It's a bit strange to see people biking and going about their business.
At 9am we set out from Yonezawa, and drove for one and a half hours toward the region we wanted to make our measurements.

We do not stay in the high radiation areas longer than necessary in order to minimize our own dosages.
We kept our measurement gear on, but we had to turn off the audio bleeps on the Geiger counter, its constant sound was driving us nuts. The alarms of the devices can't be turned off, and in particularly high radiation areas they'd all go off. There was one place we hit such a high reading that we didn't even stop there. It was windy and dry, and the dust and snow can carry radioactive particles. So if you step out of the car and get dust or snow on you, you might bring radioactive particles into the car and you don't want that. We moved on quickly.

We met the police at a blockade about 35 km out from the Fukushima nuclear plant, and they let us do measurements. Cars were still going in and out that didn't appear to be relief workers or firemen -- it may be people are getting permission to go in and get their belongings, but I'm speculating. It was not busy, but it wasn't deserted: there were still people going in and out.

My biggest impression of the day was that this is a truly beautiful place – the mountains are breathtaking, and if you don't look at the Geiger counters, it's quite a nice place to be. But you look at the Geiger counters and you realise there's a danger, and that you can't see it with your eyes.

Fukushima Nuclear leak causes radiation levels to rocket 1,250 times normal level in surrounding seawater

Risk: Smoke is seen billowing from the No.3 reactor at the Fukushima plant as Japanese officials revealed radiation levels in surrounding seawater have rocketed

By Richard Shears In Tokyo  Mail online 27th March 2011

Residents 18 miles from stricken reactor urged to evacuate

U.S. naval barges rush freshwater towards stricken Japanese plant
Safety concerns in California as scare alert leaves West Coast at risk

Radiation levels are soaring in seawater near the crippled Fukushima plant core, Japanese nuclear safety officials warned today.

Two weeks after the nuclear power plant was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami, tests on Friday showed radioactive iodine had spiked 1,250 times higher than normal in the seawater just offshore the plant.

The latest setback in preventing further leakage was confirmed as engineers tried to pump puddles of radioactive water from the power plant 150 miles north of Tokyo.

Workers, who stepped into radiation-contaminated water at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, are shielded with tarpaulins before receiving decontamination treatment at a nearby hospital

Warning: Radiation readings on Saturday morning in Tokyo are six times higher than normal at 0.22 microsieverts per hour

Read more:

It is feared the containment shield around nuclear fuel rods in the plant might have been weakened, resulting in dangerous material leaking out.

It emerged today that Japanese people as far as 18 miles from Fukushima's nuclear plant are being urged to evacuate by government officials.
U.S. naval barges have provided freshwater to help workers at the plant stabilise reactors which have been overheating since the deadly Japanese tsunami crippled the plant's cooling system earlier this month.

Meanwhile, a defect in the U.S. government's nuclear alert system has left West Coast America unable to immediately respond in the event of a radiation emergency.

Half the Environment Protection Agency's 12 California sensors are sending radiation test data too slowly, leaving Californians at risk during a nuclear alarm, according to an EPA official.

Damage to the containment cone, say analysts, could result in steam escaping from the reactor and carrying radiation into the air - and there could also be leakages into the soil around the crippled Fukushima plant.

If radiation of the highly dangerous quality found in water at the troubled number three reactor rises into the atmosphere, strong winds could carry the contamination as far as Tokyo, 135 miles to the south, and beyond.


Monbiot the cynic

The summit in the art of self-deception has been scaled by the Guardian journalist George Monbiot, who has written here that Fukushima has convinced him that nuclear is our only option. His reasoning is simple:

A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.

How cynical. Monbiot wrote this while firefighters were risking their health and possibly their lives to protect citizens. He wrote this while the nuclear plant was radiating, the levels climbing around it, and still no prospect of an end to the leaks. He wrote this while the people of Fukushima looked on from emergency shelters as their livelihoods were destroyed, possibly for generations, and while tap water in Tokyo was forbidden to babies. Meanwhile, at the time of writing, the plutonium threat in reactor No 3 is still not under control.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Chris Huhne faces legal challenge over nuclear link to cancer in children

Community worker who lives near proposed nuclear power stations in Lancashire launches unprecedented case

Rob Edwards The Guardian, Friday 25 March 2011
The government has ordered an expansion of the UK's nuclear programme without properly factoring in evidence that nuclear power stations cause an increase in cancer cases in children living nearby, according to a legal challenge in the high court.

The case alleges that the energy and climate secretary, Chris Huhne, did not properly review the evidence on cancer when giving the go-ahead for the expansion last year. Lawyers claim the action could delay, or even stop, the programme of new reactors.

Rory Walker, a 24-year-old community worker from Lancaster, has won legal aid to launch the unprecedented case.

Walker lives close to Heysham where two new reactors are planned, and says he is worried about having children who could suffer an increased risk of leukaemia.

"It is folly beyond belief, and almost genocidal, to build new nuclear power stations," he said. "Nuclear power is unsafe, uneconomic and a dangerous distraction."

Walker's decision to go to court predates the Fukushima nuclear crisis following the Japan tsunami, though Walker said it has reinforced his fears.

He is an active member of the Heysham Anti-Nuclear Alliance, and works on a project to help local people grow more food on a community allotment. Under legal aid rules, he has agreed to contribute 10% of his income towards the cost of the legal action.

Walker alleges that evidence from government-sponsored studies in Germany was not adequately taken into account by Huhne. It suggests that young children who live close to nuclear power stations are twice as vulnerable to developing leukaemia. The studies, known as KiKK (Kinderkrebs in der Umgebung von KernKraftwerken), prompted an investigation by the UK Department of Health, which has not yet been published.

Ian Fairlie, a consultant on radiation in the environment, is acting as an expert witness in support of Walker's court challenge.

"If the risks found following the KiKK study were applied to Heysham, infants and young children under five living within 5km would be exposed to increased risks of cancer, especially leukaemia," he said.

Huhne is accused of breaching a 1996 directive from Europe's nuclear agency, Euratom. Andrew Lockley, a partner with Irwin Mitchell, said: "The fundamental purpose of the Euratom directive is to make sure that a comprehensive and detailed assessment is made before new nuclear reactors are built."

"It does not permit an approach which appears generalised, generic and deferred. Justification requires that the health detriments should be considered and balanced against the economic, social or other benefits which may occur – but this doesn't seem to have happened here." The lawyers want a judicial review to rule that Huhne acted unlawfully, and to quash his decisions.

A spokeswoman for Huhne at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) said: "We are confident that the decisions were rightly and properly made. The safety of our nuclear power stations is the government's number one priority and the UK has one of the most rigorous and robust regulatory systems anywhere in the world."

She added: "The government have asked the chief nuclear inspector, Dr Mike Weightman, to produce a report on the implications of the unprecedented events in Japan and the lessons to be learned for the UK nuclear industry."

A spokesperson for the Nuclear Industry Association, which represents nuclear companies said: "This matter is now part of the legal process and we are not therefore in a position to comment."

The government has until the end of the month to make a formal response to the legal action, which will then go to a judge, who may order a hearing in London.

George Monbiot is wrong.

Nuclear power is not the way to fight climate change

Renewable energy is a safe, clean source which will become cheaper as we invest in it
Jeremy Leggett The Guardian, Thursday 24 March 2011

Article historyGeorge Monbiot argues of nuclear energy that the absence of less harmful alternatives has "converted me to the cause" (Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power, 21 March). He says he is driven to his new love by the imperative of battling climate change, and what he sees as the inability of renewable energy to run viable economies.

On the climate imperative, I agree. On the other assertions, I profoundly differ. I speak as someone who founded a renewable energy company because of my fears about climate change and the downsides of dependency on conventional energy. Since I did so, I have watched renewables industries become some of the fastest growing in the world. In 2008 and 2009 more renewables came onstream in both Europe and America than did all fossil fuels and nuclear combined. In Europe in 2009, wind and solar PV alone provided more than half all new generation.

"Energy is like medicine," Monbiot writes, "if there are no side-effects, the chances are that it doesn't work." Were he to visit the renewables frontlines, he would discover many views to the contrary. German government and companies have run a scaled national experiment showing that the modern economy could be powered by renewables. A sophisticated American modelling exercise has shown the same for the global economy. All it requires is systematic mobilisation, and the imagination to believe what Silicon Valley believes.

Ultimately we should be able to provide power far less expensively than new nuclear. As we grow, our costs fall. We do not need to hand open cheques for currently unknowable billions to the taxpayer for things like waste transportation, waste disposal, decommissioning, security at sites, or accident clear-up.

But like Spitfires and Lancasters in 1939, we need to be mobilised fast, along with our even more important sister industries in energy-efficiency. And herein lies the main reason why Monbiot contradicts his own objective to counter climate change. The nuclear industry does not want renewable energy to succeed. Indeed, they lobby to kill our chances.

The chief executives of EDF and E.ON are both on record as saying that renewables would spoil the chances for nuclear, and only a minor renewables contribution can be tolerated if ministers want a "nuclear renaissance".

"I still loathe the liars who run the nuclear industry," Monbiot writes. But he now confesses that Fukushima has made him love their technology. He falls in love with the false calculation that it is needed, that it can work economically, and that it can solve its horrific waste, decommissioning and proliferation-security pitfalls.

And then there are the safety, health and indeed human psychology issues. "The impact on people [of the current disaster] has been small," Monbiot asserts. My, how I would love him to have to face a roomful of Fukushima citizens with that argument. Or put on a suit and pick up a hosepipe at the plant itself.


Thursday, 24 March 2011

First pictures emerge of the Fukushima Fifty as steam starts pouring from all four reactors at the stricken nuclear power plant

By Matt Blake and Richard Shears    24th March 2011

The darkness is broken only by the flashing torchlight of the heroes who stayed behind.

These first images of inside the stricken Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant reveal the terrifying conditions under which the brave men work to save their nation from full nuclear meltdown.

The Fukushima Fifty - an anonymous band of lower and mid-level managers - have battled around the clock to cool overheating reactors and spent fuel rods since the disaster on March 11.

Efforts to control the leakage of radiation from the crippled nuclear plant in Japan received a setback early today when steam began pouring from four reactor buildings.

Until then, black smoke billowing from one of the reactors had been the only concern - an incident which resulted in all work to cool four of the reactors being suspended on Wednesday
At first light in Japan today officials were alarmed to see steam pouring from reactors 1, 2, 3, and 4.

It is the first time that steam has been seen rising from the No.1 reactor since the Fukushima plant was hit by the tsunami nearly two weeks ago.

Firemen this week have been blasting water into the reactors using long hoses but officials were not able to tell whether the desperate work was covering the fuel rods.

Then, when black smoke began pouring out of one of the reactors - suggesting that something was burning - all water-blasting work was suspended and everyone trying to stabilise the plant was ordered to evacuate.

It is believed the steam rising from the four reactors today is from spent fuel rods that have been kept outside the main containment structure where currently active fuel rods are located.

But the spent rods must still be kept immersed in water. If they are not, radioactivity is released into the atmosphere.

Despite sweltering heat from the damaged reactors, they must work in protective bodysuits to protect their skin from the poisonous radioactive particles that fill the air around them.

But as more radiation seeps into the atmosphere minute by minute, they know this job will be their last.

Five are believed to have already died and 15 are injured while others have said they know the radiation will kill them.

The original 50 brave souls were later joined by 150 colleagues and rotated in teams to limit their exposure to the radiation spewing from over-heating spent fuel rods after a series of explosions at the site. They were today joined by scores more workers.

Japan has rallied behind the workers with relatives telling of heart-breaking messages sent at the height of the crisis.A woman said her husband continued to work while fully aware he was being bombarded with radiation. In a heartbreaking email, he told his wife: 'Please continue to live well, I cannot be home for a while.'

One girl tweeted in a message translated by ABC: 'My dad went to the nuclear plant, I've never seen my mother cry so hard. People at the plant are struggling, sacrificing themselves to protect you. Please dad come back alive.'

But it is becoming even more pressing that the Fukushima succeed after it was revealed today that Tokyo's tap water has been contaminated by unusual levels of radiation.

The government have issued a warning to all mothers urging them not to let babies drink the tap water.

The warning came after it emerged last night that radioactive particles have reached Europe and are heading towards Britain in the wake of the catastrophe that officials say could cost up to £190billion - making it the costliest natural disaster in history.

And fresh safety concerns arose today as black smoke was spotted emerging from Unit 3 of the plant, prompting a temporary evacuation of all workers from the complex, operators Tokyo Electric Power company said.

Nearly two weeks after the twin March 11 disasters, nuclear officials were still struggling to stabilise the damaged and overheated Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, which has been leaking radiation since the disasters knocked out the plant's cooling systems.

Water spray: Workers at Fukushima yesterday try to cool the plant

More Japanese crew exposed to radiation

By Jonathan Soble in Tokyo   The Financial Times March 24 2011
Three technicians working at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station were exposed to potentially dangerous radiation on Thursday, bringing the number injured to 17.

The almost 300 members of the workforce at the nuclear facility are fast becoming national heroes for their efforts to make safe the facility, which is in an evacuation zone.

The three were laying a cable in a turbine building attached to No 3 reactor, Tepco said. Radiation meters showed they had absorbed airborne doses of more than 170 millisieverts, above the 100 mSv threshold at which researchers say cancer risk increases.
The 100 mSv level is normally the legal dose limit for emergency workers at nuclear facilities, but Japan has raised its limit to 250 mSv to allow work at the plant to continue.

Restoring the internal cooling systems remains the best hope for stabilising the plant and moving beyond the ad hoc emergency measures of helicopter water drops and spraying with water cannons.

Technicians have fitted new external power lines to all the reactor units at the plant, but the equipment inside has been damaged by the quake, explosions and seawater that engulfed the facility and there is no guarantee it will still work.

Beyond the plant itself, contamination from the accident has now spread beyond the immediate Fukushima area, about 240km north-west of Tokyo.
Australia joined the US and Hong Kong on Thursday in restricting food and milk imports from the quake-affected zone, while Canada became the latest of many nations to tighten screening after the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl blast in what is now Ukraine.

Italy suspends nuclear progrmme

The Italian government has decided to suspend for 12 months procedures for the selection and construction of nuclear sites in the country in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear incident in Japan. The decision puts at risk the launch in 2020 of the country's first reactor, but aims to calm voters ahead of a crucial referendum on
nuclear energy scheduled on 12 June.

Argus Media 23rd March 2010

Radioactive cloud from Fukushima arrives in Britain

Bloomberg 23rd March 2011

Mycle Schneider: As far back as 2005, I warned Eisaku Sato, governor of Fukushima at the time, about the dangers of letting spent fuel accumulate in cooling ponds at the prefecture's nuclear plants and the need to put it into much safer dry stores as soon as possible. He seemed to be the only one who listened. But clearly there were people who always knew better and whose arrogance characterizes the nuclear industry.

The U.S. military is considering the mandatory evacuation of thousands of American troops and their families in Japan out of concern over rising radiation levels, a senior defense official tells CNN. The official, who did not want to be on the record talking about ongoing deliberations, says there are no discussions to evacuate all U.S. troops across the country. The talks have focused exclusively on U.S. troops in Yokosuka, just south of Tokyo, the official said.

Yokosuka is home to America's largest naval base in Japan. The military is monitoring radiation levels on a constant basis.

CNN 22nd March 2011

Parents have been advised not to give children water from Tokyo's taps after some samples contained more than double the legal limit of the hazardous substance. The discovery increases fears of food and water safety nearly two weeks after the devastating earthquake and tsunami which killed thousands and damaged a nuclear plant in Fukushima, leading to a radiation leak. Residents of cities in Japan's northeast earlier had already been advised not to drink tap water due to elevated levels of radioactive iodine, which can cause thyroid cancer. Until Wednesday, levels found in Tokyo tap water had been minute, according to officials.

Telegraph 23rd March 2011

Times 23rd March 2011

BBC 23rd March 2011

High radiation levels have been found in the sea off Japans earthquake-stricken nuclear power plant, fuelling fears about the impact on the nations fishing industry. Operator Tokyo Electric Power said unusual amounts of five kinds of radioactive material had been found in water samples near the Fukushima Daiichi plant. One of the substances, Iodine-131, was found at nearly 127 times the permitted level.

FT 23rd March 2011

Japan said on Wednesday there was no need to extend a 20 km (12 mile) evacuation zone around its tsunami-damaged nuclear plant, despite elevated radiation readings outside the area.

Yahoo 23rd March 2011

IAEA update 23rd March

IB Times 23rd March 2011

Japan's top lenders including Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group are in talks to provide up to 2 trillion yen ($24.7 billion) in emergency loans to Tokyo Electric Power to help the operator of a stricken nuclear plant rebuild its power supply network.

Reuters 23rd March 2011

STV 23rd March 2011

It emerged that the plant had contained far more spent fuel rods than it was designed to store, while its technicians failed to carry out the necessary safety checks, according to documents from the reactor's

Independent 23rd March 2011

Guardian 23rd March 2011

Radiation from the stricken Japanese nuclear power plant has reached Europe and is heading towards Britain, it emerged last night. Officials in Iceland have detected  a minuscule amounts of radioactive particles believed to have come from Fukushima, the site of the worst nuclear accident in 25 years. Last night the Government said radiation from Japan had not been detected by Britain's network of monitoring stations set up after the 1986 Chernobyl explosion. A spokesman said any signs of radiation were not expected in the next few days. However, France's nuclear agency said tiny amounts were likely to arrive in the country by today.

Daily Mail 23rd March 2011

Daily Record 23rd March 2011

An excess of optimism has become a recurring theme of Japan's nuclear crisis, the world's worst for 25 years. For critics of Japan's atomic energy policy in general, and of the official response to breakdowns at Fukushima in particular, the emergency has been framed in terms of chronic failures to acknowledge risks and prepare for worst-case scenarios. Beyond the broad question of whether the world's most earthquake-prone country should host 54 nuclear reactors, doubts have been raised about the location and design of
some plants. Regulators last year approved a 10-year extension of the life of Fukushima Daiichi's No 1 reactor, its oldest, which began operating in 1971. They did so in spite of finding 16 shortcomings in plant facilities, including poorly conducting radiation metres and cracked water-level gauges. Tepco was given five years to fix the most serious problems, according to regulatory filings.

FT 23rd March 2011

Japanese nuclear technicians moved closer to restoring power to crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi atomic station on Wednesday, but internal cooling systems that will be key to stabilising the plant's four most damaged units remained offline.

The pro-nuclear chairman of Japan's atomic watchdog yesterday called for a worldwide review of the nuclear energy industry after admitting that mistakes had been made in the design of the Fukushima power plant. His remarks came as it emerged that minuscule numbers of radioactive particles were detected as far away as Iceland and were believed to have originated from the plant.

Times 23rd March 2011


The chief executive of RWE Npower has warned that it could be forced to delay plans to build UK plants, especially if any major safety changes prompted by Japan's atomic disaster push up the cost of reactors. Volker Beckers also told the Future of Utilities conference the UK's new nuclear power stations are already expected to slip behind schedule by "three to six months" as a result of the Sendai earthquake. UK regulators had been expected to approve the design for new reactors in June, but this may now take until late 2011 because of further checks. "It is getting very difficult to persuade investors to fund new projects," the executive said. "Especially given what's going on in Japan, we can't just carry headlong into [the carbon price
support] this early". The new tax may be introduced as soon as 2013, although it will not incentivise new nuclear until 2018.

Telegraph 23rd March 2011

From a communications perspective, the challenge facing the nuclear energy industry goes beyond the specifics of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns. Public concern is so great, media coverage so voluminous, the response from politicians so easily misinterpreted, and the fact patterns so detailed, that it would be immensely challenging for any industry to dig out from the weeds and identify a few fundamental themes to guide a strategy going forward.

Forbes 22nd March 2011

Scotsman 23rd March 2011

Next week, the person in the hotseat will be Keith Parker, chief executive of the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association. The NIA represents almost every company involved in providing UK nuclear power, and even lists the stricken Tepco among its members. In the wake of the Japan nuclear crisis, this is your chance to ask him about nuclear safety, the role of nuclear in providing low-carbon energy and whether the industry can ever recover from the events of the past two weeks. Email all your questions to by the end of Sunday, March 27th.

FT 22nd March 2011

THE Somerset Chamber of Commerce is hosting an event near Bridgwater this Thursday, to show local food and drink businesses how they could benefit from Hinkley Point C.

Bridgwater Mercury 21st March 2011

National Grid is currently carrying out a public consultation to seek people's opinions on the criteria it will use in future when analysing whether to place new electricity cables under or over the ground. This comes while the energy giant is deciding on which route a new power line from Hinkley Point C in Bridgwater to Avonmouth will take across Somerset and North Somerset.

Weston Mercury 22nd March 2011

COUNCIL chiefs have pledged to continue to press for a proposed 400,000 volt power line across the North Somerset countryside to run underground. The pledge follows a meeting between councillors and
National Grid to highlight concerns about the energy giant's plans to run an overhead power line between Hinkley Point and Avonmouth to bring electricity on to its transmission network.

Bristol Evening Post 22nd March 2011


Counter-terrorism measures at Wylfa nuclear power station in Anglesey are to come under public scrutiny later. Security chiefs will take questions from local people with nuclear safety in the global spotlight after the Japan earthquake. The Civil Nuclear Police Authority insists UK nuclear plants are in "safe hands". But
anti-nuclear group Pawb says it has concerns about Wylfa's vulnerability to cyber-attacks and air assaults.

BBC 23rd March 2011

Energy Supplies

Demand in China, India and other emerging markets soars, but there is also quite considerable growth from advanced economies too. The big picture is that with an additional one billion cars on the road, demand for oil would grow 110pc to more than 190 million barrels per day. Total demand for energy would rise by a similar order of magnitude, doubling the amount of carbon in the atmosphere to more than three and a half times the amount climate change scientists think would keep temperatures at safe levels.

Telegraph 23rd March 2011


The hysteria surrounding nuclear power in Europe which reached fever pitch in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis (sparked by a 9 magnitude earthquake and Tsunami) has called Europe's nuclear future into question. Comments from the European Energy Commissioner about an apocalypse have done little to help. The stress tests announced soon after the tsunami. Some of the details of the stress tests emerged at yesterday's (21 March) Energy council meeting in Brussels.

EU Reporter 22nd March 2011


Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) has launched a new campaign to permanently close the 23 General Electric Mark I reactors currently operating in the United States.

NIRS 22nd March 2011

On Monday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) delivered a letter to energy firm Entergy stating that it may keep running its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant through March, 21, 2032. The
reactor in the aged plant, which is known to have released radiation into groundwater, is virtually identical to that of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, whose flaws some scientists claim have contributed to the world's worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl meltdown.

World Socialist Web 23rd March 2011


Letter: Your leader writer who is so dismissive of earthquake-related threats to German nuclear power stations has clearly never heard of the fiasco surrounding the Mülheim-Kärlich power plant. This
expensive facility began generating electricity in 1986 but was closed down just two years later; attempts to deal with the earthquake risk in the Neuwieder basin by moving the initially proposed location by 70 metres were found by the courts to have invalidated the original planning permission for the site. The plant is now being dismantled.

FT 23rd March 2011


The Scottish renewable energy industry is calling for more ambitious targets on the use of green heat sources. Trade body Scottish Renewables wants parties in Holyrood to increase the overall target for renewable energy use from 20% to 30% by 2020. This includes proposals for 16% of Scotland's heat energy to be generated through renewable alternatives, such as biomass.

BBC 23rd March 2011

**Today's news and searchable archives going back to May 2006  available at


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Nuclear lessons from Japan

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 12, Dated 26 Mar 2011 Saturday, March 26 2011 by Praful Bidwai
Fukushima has highlighted the supreme importance of nuclear safety. Governments, especially in the West, cannot afford to ignore public concerns about safety. Switzerland has cancelled its plans to build three new reactors. And Germany’s conservative government has reversed its controversial decision to prolong the phaseout of all nuclear reactors. Nuclear authorities in many countries are questioning the assumptions on which they designed reactor safety systems and operating parameters. But in the Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), complacency and smugness prevail. Its secretary denies that there is “a nuclear emergency” in Japan, only “a purely chemical reaction”. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised a safety review of all DAE installations. He said his government “attaches the highest importance to nuclear safety”; the DAE has “been instructed to undertake immediate technical review of all safety systems… particularly with a view to ensuring that they would be able to withstand… tsunamis and earthquakes”. That’s a red herring.

But the DAE’s internal review of our (Indian) nuke programme is likely to be a whitewash job

THE FUKUSHIMA disaster has spun out of control with explosions in three reactors, a fire in a fourth, and huge radioactivity releases. The Japanese government has finally admitted to the gravity of the crisis and said there is “a very high risk” of further radioactivity leaks from the crippled reactors. Prime Minister Naoto Kan made a television address pleading for calm and said: “I would like to ask the nation, although this incident is of great concern, I ask you to react very calmly.”

The disaster, verging towards catastrophe, is still unfolding. But it is clear that it is far, far worse than the Three Mile Island meltdown (1979) in the US. In its lethal effects, it may not match the Chernobyl meltdown of 1986 in Ukraine, whose anniversary falls on 26 April. Chernobyl caused an estimated 32,400 to 1,10,000 deaths, mainly from cancer. But in its economic, industrial and psychological impact, the Fukushima disaster is likely to be far more powerful and far-reaching than Chernobyl.

Put simply, Fukushima is the global nuclear industry’s worst-ever crisis. Chernobyl was “in the East”. The meltdown could be attributed to faulty designs and shoddy practices in a relatively backward society. The argument doesn’t apply to industrially advanced Japan.

Japan is a world leader in nuclear power, with 55 reactors, next only to the number in the US and France. Unlike them, it has had an active, albeit now declining, nuclear power programme. It ventured into ‘high-end’ fast-breeders just when France, once a breeder leader, abandoned its programme. The Fukushima reactors are of US design (General Electric). The global economic, industrial and emotional impact of the Fukushima disaster, which the world public followed virtually in real time, will be immeasurably greater.

That apart, Fukushima has highlighted the supreme importance of nuclear safety. Governments, especially in the West, cannot afford to ignore public concerns about safety. Switzerland has cancelled its plans to build three new reactors. And Germany’s conservative government has reversed its controversial decision to prolong the phaseout of all nuclear reactors. Other countries too are likely to review their nuclear expansion plans. It’s a safe bet that the ‘nuclear renaissance’ that George W Bush tried to instigate through artificial subsidies will now be a non-starter.

Nuclear authorities in many countries are questioning the assumptions on which they designed reactor safety systems and operating parameters. But in the Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), complacency and smugness prevail. Its secretary denies that there is “a nuclear emergency” in Japan, only “a purely chemical reaction”. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised a safety review of all DAE installations. He said his government “attaches the highest importance to nuclear safety”; the DAE has “been instructed to undertake immediate technical review of all safety systems… particularly with a view to ensuring that they would be able to withstand… tsunamis and earthquakes”.

That’s a red herring. The DAE has already declared that all its installations can cope with magnitude 7 earthquakes and heavy tsunamis. It reiterated that the very afternoon Singh made his statement in Parliament. It can be safely predicted that an internal review will be a whitewash job. The Indian public has reason to be alarmed at the Japanese crisis: reactors at Tarapur are also Boiling Water Reactors designed by General Electric, the same as Fukushima’s, only smaller, one-generation older, and probably with weaker safety systems.

The DAE must be made to discard the hubristic “it-can’t-happen-here” approach and introspect into India’s nuclear safety record: embarrassing failures like the 1993 fire at the Narora reactor, the Kaiga containment dome collapse, cases of radiation over-exposure at numerous sites, unsafe heavywater transportation, and terrible health effects near the Jaduguda uranium mines and the Rajasthan reactors.

We urgently need an independent, credible safety audit of India’s nuclear programme, in which people outside the DAE participate, pending a radical review of India’s half-baked plans to rush into nuclear power expansion. To begin with, there must be an immediate moratorium on further reactor construction, including the controversial untested French reactors that India is planning to install at Jaitapur in Maharashtra.

India's Nuclear Neros

 Outlook Magazine  Saturday, March 19 2011  by Praful Bidwai

The colossal hubris, ignorance and smugness of India’s nuclear czars take one’s breath away. The day Japan’s crisis took a decisive turn for the worse, with an explosion in a third Fukushima reactor and fresh radiation leaks, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) secretary Sreekumar Banerjee declared that the nuclear crisis “was purely a chemical reaction and not a nuclear emergency as described by some section(s) of media”. Nuclear Power Corporation chairman S.K. Jain went one better: “There is no nuclear accident or incident. It is a well-planned emergency preparedness programme which the nuclear operators…are carrying out to contain the residual heat after…an automatic shutdown”.
N-power isn’t the low-risk option the deceitful, inept DAE says it is

The colossal hubris, ignorance and smugness of India’s nuclear czars take one’s breath away. The day Japan’s crisis took a decisive turn for the worse, with an explosion in a third Fukushima reactor and fresh radiation leaks, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) secretary Sreekumar Banerjee declared that the nuclear crisis “was purely a chemical reaction and not a nuclear emergency as described by some section(s) of media”. Nuclear Power Corporation chairman S.K. Jain went one better: “There is no nuclear accident or incident. It is a well-planned emergency preparedness programme which the nuclear operators…are carrying out to contain the residual heat after…an automatic shutdown”.

This is proof, if proof were at all needed, that our nuclear power programme is in the hands of men who are totally cut off from reality and have a default conviction in their own omniscience and infallibility. Their denials are as despicable as their pathetic parroting of the virtues of India’s nuclear installations and their safety.

Let’s get this straight. The Fukushima crisis is the world’s worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. The earlier (partial, largely contained) meltdown at Three Mile Island (1979) pales beside it. The Fukushima reactors have spewed large amounts of radioactivity into the air. The vessel containing the core of Reactor 2, which fully lost water cover for hours, has been damaged. The fire in Reactor 4 released yet more radiotoxins. At the time of writing, only a miracle can prevent further radiation release.

The Fukushima disaster is the world’s first multi-reactor crisis; controlling it is more difficult. It also poses three special problems. Large quantities of spent fuel, containing extremely radioactive nuclear wastes, are stored in pools in the reactor building, following General Electric’s design. These are no longer being cooled. A spent fuel leak, spreading due to the flooding, could have unspeakably lethal effects.

Second, Fukushima reactors’ primary containment—similar to India’s Tarapur reactors, also GE-designed—has been found by a US laboratory to be vulnerable to molten fuel burning through the reactor vessel, eventually breaking out. Third, Reactor 3 burns a mix of uranium-plutonium oxide (MOX). Researchers say mox generally increases the consequences of severe accidents with large radioactivity releases, resulting in a five-fold increase in latent cancer fatalities.

Even if the Fukushima crisis doesn’t worsen further, it highlights the inherent hazards of nuclear power, in which small individual mishaps can precipitate a runaway crisis. The reactors were shut down by the earthquake; and their still-hot cores were no longer cooled. The diesel back-up came on, but went out in an hour. The loss of coolant led to the explosions and radioactivity releases.

That this happened in industrially advanced Japan, with high nuclear safety standards, underscores the gravity of the generic problem with nuclear reactors. They are all vulnerable to a catastrophic accident irrespective of safety measures. Nuclear power generation is also bound up with radiation exposure, harmful in all doses, and radioactive waste streams, which remain hazardous for thousands of years.

India’s nucleocrats have been in denial of these problems and suppressed their abysmal safety record. The list of failures is long: a serious fire at Narora, which moved from the turbine to the reactor room amidst panic-driven abandonment of fire-fighting procedures; collapse of a containment-dome safety system at Kaiga; frequent radiation exposure of workers and lay public to doses above the permissible; and the spiking of drinking water with deadly tritium in Kaiga. India has the distinction of running two of the world’s most contaminated reactors.

This necessitates a radical reform of the DAE, the government’s worst-performing department, which has never completed a project on time and within budget. We must have an independent, credible nuclear safety audit, with outside experts and civil society representatives. We must review our nuclear power policy for appropriateness, safety, costs, and public acceptance, based on a holistic view of the best ways of meeting our energy needs. If nuclear power emerges as the least desirable option, we should discard it. The environment ministry must also revoke all conditional clearances granted to nuclear projects, including Jaitapur.

Nuclear power has subjugated our energy policy and budgets to an unaccountable, self-perpetuating, pampered technocracy, imposed unacceptable hazards upon unwilling populations, and degraded our democracy. The juggernaut must be halted.

(Praful Bidwai is a columnist and activist of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace.)

Monday, 21 March 2011

Germany decides to shut down aging nuclear power plants

European Commissioner for Energy Guenther Oettinger addresses the media after a hastily convened meeting of energy ministers, nuclear regulators and industry officials in Brussels, Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Earlier Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that seven reactors that went into operation before 1980 would be offline for three months while Europe's biggest economy reconsiders its plans to extend the life of its atomic power plants.

One of them, the Neckarwestheim I reactor, would remain shut down for good. Residents said living in the shadow of the 35-year-old nuclear plant is making them increasingly nervous in the wake of the events in Japan.

"It must be switched off," 32-year-old Anja Pfau told AP Television News as she pushed her 5-month-old boy along the street in a pram. "There are enough alternative energies like water power and solar energy."

A previous government decided a decade ago to shut all 17 German nuclear reactors by 2021, but Merkel's administration last year moved to extend their lives by an average 12 years. That decision was suspended for three months.

Canada’s nuclear regulator says a leak at a power plant caused 19,000 gallons of demineralized water to be released into Lake

Toronto, NY -- March 16, 2011,
Charles McChesney / The Post-Standard

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission says there is no significant risk to public health,
 but do we believe them?

The water was released from the Ontario Power Generation plant in Pickering, Ontario, Monday and the commission was informed around 11:30 p.m. that day. The agency says the leak was caused by pump seal failure.

"The event was a low-level regulatory event with only negligible effect to the environment and no public health implications," Ontario Power said in a release.

Well they would say that wouldn't they! Low level means radiactive water was released and radioactive water gets into the environment and stays there, causing damage.

EnergyNuclearIndustry divided over long-term impact of Japanese nuclear crisis

UK nuclear developers counsel caution as experts remain at odds over whether disaster will herald global slow-down in nuclear build plansBy Will Nichols     15 Mar 2011

The escalating crisis at the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan has prompted a range of responses from industry experts and environmentalists with some predicting the disaster will herald an end to nuclear build programmes and others expressing confidence the sector can learn the lessons from the events in Japan.

The crisis at the plant is still on-going with reports this morning of a third explosion that has resulted in dangerous levels of radiation and further stoked fears that the reactors' fuel rods could go into meltdown.
Obama promises to tackle fuel prices, makes case for "energy independence"However, while the full scale of the threat has yet to be assessed, the dramatic pictures from the earthquake and tsunami-affected plant have been used to reopen the debate around the efficacy of nuclear power.

Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins said the explosions demanded "an urgent rethink" of new-build nuclear, while Tom Clements, the NGO's South East area campaign co-ordinator in the US, said he also expected a reassessment of nuclear policy.

Speaking to BusinessGreen, Clements said he had already received calls from ratings agencies worried about the reputational and investment risks of new nuclear plants.

"The only positive thing to come out of this is that I believe it will cause a renewed interest both by industry and the public in renewable energy and energy efficiency," he said. "This is going to persuade the financial investors to move away from this risky technology."

Simon Powell, head of sustainable research at CLSA in Hong Kong, also forecast a major shift in national nuclear policies.

"I don't think nuclear is going to be done away with, but it is likely that people's nuclear programmes will be delayed as they question whether it is the right thing to do," he told news agency Reuters.

His comments came as a number of government's moved swiftly to review or suspend their plans for new nuclear plants.

British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne has already instructed the UK's chief nuclear inspector, Dr Mike Weightman, to report on the implications of the situation in Japan. Meanwhile, the scheduled launch of an indepedent report that was expected to highlight the benefits of nuclear power and call for a new long-term strategic nuclear plan for the UK was yesterday postponed.

Across the Atlantic, influential independent Senator Joe Lieberman, chair of the homeland security panel, said over the weekend that the US should "put the brakes on" building new plants until the impact of the Fukushima incident is clear.

These events prompted global political risk analysts the Eurasia Group to issue a note warning new-build programmes could be put on the backburner in Britain and the US.

In Europe, the Swiss government has already announced it will put approvals for three nuclear plants on hold so safety standards can be revisited, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the government would suspend an agreement that would have extended the life of the country's nuclear power plants.

India and South Korea have also announced reviews of their nuclear programme, while officials in Malaysia signalled that they too could delay their proposed nuclear programme.

However, John Kemp, Thomson Reuter's energy analyst, warned that too much could be read into what are essentially political decisions to delay permits.

"Delaying permits for a few months is neither here nor there – nobody wants to be approving permits on the day of an explosion," he told BusinessGreen. Kemp added it was impossible to tell what the long-term impact would be on the industry or on alternative sources of energy until the outcome of the explosion was known.

"If the reactors leak, then that would make a nuclear revival less likely."

However, he was not convinced that additional funds would be ploughed into renewables as a result of the crisis and cautioned that moving away from nuclear would damage countries' attempt to meet energy security and emissions goals

"If we don't replace reactors with more nuclear, we have to burn more fossil fuels or undertake severe demand reduction strategies," he said. "Long term, it's very much up in the air and the question for regulators is if you don't do nuclear, what's the alternative?"

EDF and E.ON, the UK's two largest nuclear operators, both told BusinessGreen that it was too early to make decisions on whether to re-evaluate their investments and that they would wait for the results of the government review.

"We welcome the fact the UK government has asked the safety regulator to report on the implications of the events in Japan," EDF said in a statement. "EDF Energy is happy to support this work in whatever way it can to ensure lessons are learned. The nuclear industry puts great weight on learning from any such events."

Industry body the Nuclear Industry Association was unable to comment before going to press.

Oldbury on the 17th March 2011

This was taken from the other side of the Severn, showing Oldbury letting off steam.
What was in the steam?
Anything radioactive???

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Nuclear power and earthquake hazard in the UK


The UK is not a country generally associated in the public mind with earthquakes. However, while the UK is nowhere near in the same league as high seismicity areas such as California and Japan, it nevertheless has a moderate rate of seismicity, sufficiently high to pose a potential hazard to sensitive installations such as nuclear power stations, dams and chemical plants.
The distribution of British earthquakes in space
The study of British earthquakes has in the past been somewhat neglected compared to some other countries, not necessarily those with more active seismicity.
Up to the 1970s, the most recent publication attempting to survey the whole history of British earthquakes was still Davison's catalogue of 1924 even though this was now 50 years out of date.

Modern instrumental monitoring of British earthquakes began around 1970 with the establishment of LOWNET by the Global Seismology Group of BGS (then IGS) which has subsequently expanded to the present country-wide monitoring network, supported by a customer group led by the Department of the Environment. This led to routine macroseismic surveying of British earthquakes from 1974 onwards, and the beginnings of reinvestigation of historical seismicity at about the same time by Roy Lilwall.

In the early 1980s, the expansion of the nuclear power programme in the UK led to increased activity in revaluating historical seismicity both from macroseismic and instrumental records, and major studies were made by several investigators independently, including BGS, Imperial College London, and private consultancies. All this work was combined and synthesised in the early 1990s to make a consistent, numerate earthquake catalogue for the UK, which was published by BGS in 1994.

A map of earthquakes in the UK

Above we see a map of earthquakes in the UK, taken from the BGS catalogue. It is clear from this map that the spatial distribution of earthquakes is neither uniform nor random. For example, in Scotland most earthquakes are concentrated on the west coast, between Ullapool and Dunoon, with the addition of centres of activity near the Great Glen at Inverness and Glen Spean, and a small area around Comrie, Perthshire, and extending south to Stirling and Glasgow. The Outer Hebrides, the extreme north and most of the east of Scotland are virtually devoid of earthquakes. For the north-west of Scotland the absence of early written records, the small population, and the recent lack of recording instruments means that there may be a data gap; for instance, there are indications that an earthquake occurred in 1925, possibly near Ullapool, with magnitude probably about 3½ ML, for which there are no first-hand reports. However, many other parts of Scotland, especially south of the Highland line, are quite well-documented, at least since 1600, and therefore the lack of earthquakes is genuine.

Further south a similar irregularity is seen. If one draws a quadrilateral from Penzance to Holyhead to Carlisle to Doncaster, most English and Welsh earthquakes will be included within it. The northeast of England seems to be very quiet; almost aseismic. The southeast has a higher rate of activity, with a number of earthquakes which seem to be "one-off" occurrences. The most notable example of these is the 1884 Colchester earthquake, a magnitude 4.6 ML event which was the most damaging British earthquake in at least the last 400 years, and yet which occurred in an area (Essex) otherwise more or less devoid of earthquakes from the earliest historical period up to the present day.
There are also important centres of activity near Chichester and Dover. The former produced a swarm-like series of small, high-intensity earthquakes in the 1830s and was active again in 1963 and 1970.

Offshore, there is significant activity in the English Channel and off the coast of Humberside. Because only the larger events in these places are likely to be felt onshore, the catalogue in the pre-instrumental period is probably under-representative of the true rate of earthquake activity in these zones. Even after the introduction of seismometers, offshore earthquakes may still have gone unnoticed on account of the distance to the nearest instruments. The Central Grabens of the North Sea are now known to be active features, only because of the improvements in instrumental monitoring over the last fifteen years.
Certain centres can be identified as showing typical patterns of activity. For example, the Caernarvon area of north-west Wales is one of the most seismically active places in the whole UK. Both large and small earthquakes, usually accompanied by many aftershocks, occur at regular intervals. The most recent of these larger events was the earthquake of 17 July 1984 (5.4 ML), which was one of the largest ever UK earthquakes to have an epicentre on land and had a very protracted aftershock sequence. Two further felt earthquakes have occurred there since, on 29 July 1992 (3.5 ML) and 10 February 1994 (2.9 ML). It is tempting to ascribe several early earthquakes of unknown epicentre (eg that of 20 February 1247) to this area just because it seems to be such a favoured site for large earthquakes.

In South Wales, on the other hand, although a line of epicentres of significant events can be traced from Pembroke (an earthquake in 1892) to Newport (active in 1974), only the Swansea area shows consistent recurrence, with significant earthquakes occurring in 1727, 1775, 1832, 1868 and 1906. (Given this periodicity it may be that a further earthquake in this area is due in the near future.) The Hereford-Shropshire area has also produced large earthquakes in 1863, 1896, 1926 and 1990, but none of these share a common epicentre.

The area of the Dover Straits is particularly significant because of the occurrence there of two of the largest British earthquakes in 1382 and 1580 (both of magnitude about 5¾ ML). Since 1580 the only earthquakes there have been much smaller, raising the question of whether there is a danger of another 1580-style earthquake in the near future. The area may be structurally continuous with a zone of activity running east through Belgium, in which case it could be argued that stress in this area since 1580 has been released further east. This does not rule out another 1580-type earthquake in the future, but it is impossible to estimate how soon it might occur.

In the north of England seismic activity occurs over a more or less continuous area from Leicester to Carlisle. The most prominent centres of repeating activity here are the upper end of Wensleydale (with significant earthquakes in 1768, 1780, 1871, 1933 and 1970) and to a lesser extent the Skipton area.

What is remarkable is the lack of correlation between this pattern and the structural geology of the UK.

Tectonic sketch map of the UK

This map shows the major crustal subdivisions in the UK. The boundaries between areas of moderate or high seismicity and areas of very low seismicity do not correspond to any major structural feature; for instance the sharp dividing line running SE from Inverness. And the major boundaries shown above are not clearly reflected in the pattern of seismicity either as dividing lines between zones of differing rates of seismicity nor as lineations marked by earthquakes. It seems likely that the pattern of seismicity may be influenced by the distribution of ice during the last glaciation - certainly for Scotland this appears to be the case.

The distribution of British earthquakes in time

log N = a - b M  where N is the number of earthquakes per year exceeding a given magnitude M. The constant a reflects the absolute level of seismicity in an area, and the value of b has generally been found to be consistently close to 1.0.

Magnitude frequency plot for the UK

 It has long been realised that larger earthquakes occur less frequently than smaller earthquakes, the relationship being exponential, ie roughly ten times as many earthquakes larger than 4 ML occur in a particular time period than earthquakes larger than magnitude 5 ML. This can be expressed by the Gutenberg-Richter formula

This holds true for the UK. The graph above shows an analysis for the area 10o W to 2o E and 49o N to 59o N. This deliberately excludes the northern North Sea area which is of high seismicity and completely under-represented in the catalogue before 1970 because of the impossibility of detecting smaller events in this area before that date. A least-squares regression to this data gives the relationship log N = 3.82 - 1.03 M

Also shown is an alternative doubly-truncated exponential model which gives a curved fit ot the data at the higher magnitude end.

One can therefore draw the following conclusions about average recurrence - the UK may expect:

an earthquake of 3.7 ML or larger every 1 year
an earthquake of 4.7 ML or larger every 10 years
an earthquake of 5.6 ML or larger every 100 years.

Seismic hazard calculations

Seismic hazard calculations in regions of low seismicity, such as the UK, are generally based on probabilistic methodology. Probabilistic seismic hazard assessment (PSHA) uses a combination of interpreted geological and seismological data to calculate the probability that a certain level of ground motion will be exceeded, or not exceeded, in a given period of time.

This methodology can be divided into three principal components as follows:

(i) Definition of a set of seismic source zones which define the geographical variation of earthquake activity. These source zones are based on the distribution of observed seismic activity together with geological and tectonic factors and represent areas where the seismicity is assumed to be homogenous; ie there is an equal chance that a given earthquake will occur at any point in the zone.

(ii) An understanding of earthquake recurrence with respect to earthquake magnitude, as described in the previous section.

(iii) An attenuation relationship is required which defines what ground motion should be expected at Location A due to an earthquake of known magnitude at Location B. The rate at which the strength of shaking decreases with distance from an earthquake's epicentre varies regionally and has to be calculated or estimated. Peak ground acceleration (pga) is the measure of earthquake shaking most used by engineers in this country. However, it has two disadvantages - firstly, the attenuation of pga in the UK is very poorly known, and secondly, pga is actually not a particularly good measure of the actual expectation of damage. A useful alternative is intensity, which is an expression of ground shaking in terms of its effects. The attenuation of intensity in the UK is very well documented, and intensity is directly proportional to damage, making it a very meaningful parameter.

The intensity attenuation model used here is expressed by the formula

I = 3.32 + 1.44 ML - 3.34 log R,  where ML is local magnitude and R is hypocentral distance in kilometres.

Seismic hazard studies in the UK in the past have been mostly single-site studies for particular installations. The first attempt to look at hazard for the UK as a whole using the PSHA methodology was conducted by Ove Arup around 1991. This study calculated hazard at eleven representative sites in the UK. Following this, a study to produce contour maps of UK seismic hazard was commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry, and was carried out by BGS and AEA Technology. In this study the computer code SUNMIC was used, which allows a "logic tree" model to be applied to the hazard, by which uncertainty in input parameters can be modelled by the inclusion of multiple choices each with a weighting value).

Seismic hazard results

Here is a sample hazard map of the UK, based on the study made for the DTI.

Intensity hazard map for the UK

The map shows intensities that are 90% likely not to be exceeded in 50 years - equivalent to a return period of 475 years. For guidance, a simplified equivalence of the intensity values (on the European Macroseismic Scale) is as follows:

3 - Felt by few
4 - Felt by many indoors, windows and doors rattle
5 - Felt by most indoors, small objects fall over
6 - People run out in alarm, slight damage to buildings (plaster cracks)
7 - Moderate damage to buildings (chimneys fall, cracks in walls)

As might be expected, the areas of highest hazard parallel the areas where earthquakes have been most common in the past, but particularly those places where repeated earthquake activity has been highly localised - this localisation has a pronounced effect on the hazard calculations compared to areas where the seismicity, while high, is more diffuse and less repetitive. The zones where hazard is higher than average encompass the W Highlands of Scotland, an arcuate zone running from Carlisle to Pembroke, NW Wales and W Cornwall. The places in the UK with lowest seismic hazard are Northern Ireland (especially the western counties) and outlying parts of Scotland, including the Orkneys and Outer Hebrides.

The actual values of hazard are not particularly high, since the predicted intensity for the higher zones is only 6 EMS. In other words, even in areas of relatively high exposure to earthquakes in the UK, if a facility has a life of 50 years there is only a 10% chance that it will experience shaking equivalent to intensity 6. Moving briefly from hazard to risk, if we take as a guideline that probably less than 5% of buildings of normal construction (eg conventional brick houses) will be damaged in a place when the intensity there is 6, the probability of damage for a single house in 50 years is therefore less than 0.5%.

Roger Musson

25 June 2003

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Japan nuclear crisis prompts surging investor confidence in renewables

Shares in renewable energy sources rocket as public and investors recoil from nuclear

John Vidal and Fiona Harvey, Tuesday 15 March 2011 

The crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan, will profoundly change public – and investor – perception of nuclear power. Photograph: Abc Tv/EPA

As Japan's nuclear crisis unfolds, energy and environmental experts said that investor confidence in the technology was already beginning to wane, with renewable energy and fossil fuels the likely beneficiaries.

"Shares in renewable energy industries yesterday rose while most other energy stocks fell," said Clare Brook, fund manager of leading green investment group, WHEB, in London. "This tragedy comes on top of the oil price rise, the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and unrest in the Middle East, all of which has made renewables more attractive. We would expect investment in renewables, especially solar, to increase. Nuclear has become politically unacceptable," she said.

Rupesh Madlani, a renewables analyst at Barclays Capital in London agreed. "At the very least, we would expect significant investments in nuclear power to be delayed, or deferred, for one to two years."

But some leading environmentalists who have backed the technology as a low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels said the accident should not slow new nuclear investment.

The climate scientist James Lovelock said the problems in Japan should not put people off nuclear power. "There is a monstrous myth about nuclear power. I would make a strong guess that of the tens of thousands of people killed in Japan, none of them will be from nuclear power."

He said that people were "prejudiced" against nuclear power unreasonably. "It is very safe," he said. Chernobyl, for instance, was "an idiotic mess-up that could only have occurred in the Soviet Union", and according to UN estimates had killed only about 56 people. More people are routinely killed in oil refineries and coal mines, he pointed out.

He added that the reactors affected in Japan were among the oldest still operating, and that newer plants had more safety features.

Mark Lynas, another environmental campaigner who has espoused nuclear power as a way to limit climate change, was also strongly supportive of the technology, but pessimistic about how it would be perceived after the Japanese experience.

"It's too early to make a final diagnosis of what is happening in Japan, but what is obvious is that this will be a colossal setback for the nuclear industry at just the moment at which climate change is sparking a real renaissance," he said.

While he said there was unlikely to be serious damage resulting from the problems at nuclear power stations in Japan, he said the public perception of events was likely to taint the reputation of nuclear power.

He said the events in Japan were "extremely bad" for nuclear energy, even though Japan had little opportunity to generate more energy from renewable sources, because of a lack of land for wind power and a lack of sun to generate solar energy.

"It's about public acceptability," he said. "If people do not think nuclear power is acceptable, then the most likely outcome is a return to fossil fuels."

But Benny Peiser, director of climate sceptic group Global Warming Policy Foundation, doubted that the accident would benefit renewables. "Japan's nuclear disaster will only intensify the global race for cheap fossil fuels while most future energy research and development will go into nuclear safety," he said.

The Green MP Caroline Lucas said the Japanese accident strengthened the case against new nuclear construction. "You will never be able to completely design out human error, design failure or natural disaster," said Lucas, whose party backs energy efficiency and more renewable energy to meet Britain's energy and climate change goals.

Walt Patterson, associate fellow at Chatham House thinktank, said that the financial damage could also be severe. "Somebody is going to wind up paying the bill and it will probably be the Japanese public one way or another," he said. "That is undoubtedly going to filter back to the debate in Europe as a further factor in the very dubious economics of these plants," he told Reuters.

European governments yesterday scrambled to step up efforts to assess nuclear safety. Germany is to take seven of its 17 nuclear reactors offline for three months while the country reconsiders plans to extend the life of its atomic power plants. Switzerland has said that it will impose a moratorium on three new plants and Finland will review the safety of its nuclear reactors.

On Tuesday, a meeting of EU energy ministers, nuclear regulators and industry officials agreed in principle to a series of "stress tests" for European nuclear power stations.

"I think it will make a lot of governments, authorities and other planners think twice about planning power stations in seismic areas," said Jan Haverkamp, European Union policy campaigner for environmental group Greenpeace, which opposes new nuclear reactors and wants existing ones phased out.

Other analysts said they expected confidence in nuclear power to drop significantly as it did in the aftermath of other major accidents. Political confidence took at least three years to recover after the partial core meltdown in Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the accident slowed growth, but led to a large number of new safety measures.

But any renewed confidence was shattered six years later in April 1986 after the Chernobyl accident – the most devastating in the history of nuclear power. World leaders categorically declared their continued intention to rely on the source of energy within weeks of the catastrophe, but funding for nuclear energy research dried up, the public became hostile and financiers in the US and Europe shunned the industry.

No new reactors were ordered in the US for 25 years while Germany, Italy and many other European countries banned the expansion of the energy source.