TEPCO sued over deaths of elderly patients during Fukushima evacuation


Fukushima *

Fukushima * (Photo credit: Sterneck)

 

 

June 11, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN,

Noriko Abe is demanding answers over the death of her 98-year-old father-in-law who was forced to take a 230-kilometer bus trip lasting more than eight hours in the confusion following the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Dozens of hospital patients died during the arduous evacuation process, which was hampered by poor communications, a lack of manpower and the sheer chaos in the aftermath of two natural disasters. At least one medical worker said decisions made during the evacuation likely exacerbated the situation for the frail patients.

Abe and the families of three other patients at Futaba Hospital who died in the evacuation process filed a lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court on June 10, seeking a total of about 130 million yen ($1.3 million) in compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The patients’ ages ranged from 62 to 98 when they died.

“This is not an issue about money,” Abe, 71, said. “I want the court to clarify the reasons our father had to die and for TEPCO to apologize.”

The government’s Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations pointed to a lack of communications between various agencies of the central and Fukushima prefectural governments as part of the reason for the delay in evacuating the Futaba Hospital patients.

But the plaintiffs, citing their own advanced age, focused the lawsuit on TEPCO to avoid a drawn-out court battle against the governments.

The lawsuit adds to the mountain of compensation claims against the utility over the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“We would like to refrain from commenting on the lawsuit,” a TEPCO official said.

According to the lawsuit, the four patients, who were being treated for pneumonia and other ailments, were among about 340 at Futaba Hospital when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami knocked out power at the nearby Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 11, 2011.

Power outages meant medical equipment could not be used at Futaba Hospital, and the four patients did not receive adequate care, the lawsuit said.

The following day, 209 patients were evacuated from the hospital and eventually taken to Iwaki Kaisei Hospital. The four patients were not among them.

At 3:36 p.m. that day, the first hydrogen explosion rocked the Fukushima No. 1 plant. Officials of the central and Fukushima prefectural governments tried to pick up the pace of relocating patients in nearby hospitals.

But the explosions hampered the evacuation of the remaining patients at Futaba Hospital.

A decision was made to take the second group of 34 patients–including the four–from Futaba Hospital to the Soso public health center in Minami-Soma, about 25 kilometers north of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, for radiation checks before transferring them to an evacuation center.

But it wasn’t until the early morning of March 14 when the Self-Defense Forces rescued the 34 patients and used an SDF bus to take them to the Soso public health center.

“I could not do anything for them,” said Kenji Sasahara, 47, who headed the Soso public health center when the patients arrived for radiation checks. “Their conditions were very bad so I should have asked that they be taken directly to the evacuation center.”

Sasahara said a number of patients were pale and in such serious condition they could not be removed from the SDF bus. Center workers entered the vehicle to conduct the radiation checks, which were completed in about 10 minutes.

A plan was devised to transfer the patients to Iwaki Koyo Senior High School, about 46 kilometers south of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, on a bus chartered by the Fukushima prefectural government.

But to avoid approaching the stricken nuclear plant, the bus route went inland and covered a distance of 230 kilometers.

According to the government investigative panel’s final report, officials at the prefectural agency dealing with the natural disasters were not aware that many of the patients were in serious condition and unfit for such a long drive.

Sasahara said he asked the SDF members to take the patients to Iwaki without transferring them to the other bus.

“It would have been dangerous to even transfer the patients to the other bus because that alone would have been a heavy burden,” he said.

Sasahara asked a public health center worker from Iwaki to travel with the group as a navigator. “That was the only thing I was able to do,” Sasahara said.

The four patients died between March 15 and April 18 while being evacuated or after they had reached the evacuation center. Abe’s father-in-law died on March 16.

A third group of 54 patients evacuated from Futaba Hospital on March 15, while 35 others were moved on March 16. Both groups ended up in Nihonmatsu, northwest of the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Although Sasahara was worried about the patients, he and the 50 workers at the center were swamped with work as about 1,000 evacuees a day showed up for radiation checks.

Early on the morning of March 16, Sasahara received a call on his mobile phone from an acquaintance in Iwaki who worked in the prefectural government.

“A number of patients have died,” the acquaintance said, leaving Sasahara speechless.

According to the government investigative panel, three patients died before the bus reached the Iwaki high school, while five others died by the morning of March 16.

According to Futaba Hospital officials, four from the group of 34 died by the end of March.

In total, 19 patients evacuated from Futaba Hospital died over the five days after the nuclear accident, and 21 others died by the end of March.

Sasahara, who holds a PhD in medicine, now heads the Fukushima prefectural public hygiene research institute.

“The patients were not exposed to radiation because they were always either in the hospital or in a vehicle,” he said. “Looking back on it, there was no need to bring those patients to the public health center in the first place.”

(This article was compiled from reports by Shinichi Fujiwara and Noriyoshi Ohtsuki.)

 

source- http://ajw.asahi.com/

 

 

 

Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant leaking contaminated water


Reactor control room at Fukushima 1 nuclear po...

Reactor control room at Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant in Japan This photo was taken on June 23, 1999 during a tour of the plant. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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(Reuters) – As much as 120 tons of radioactive water may have leaked from a storage tank at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, contaminating the surrounding ground, Tokyo Electric Power Co said on Saturday.

The power company has yet to discover the cause of the leak, detected on one of seven tanks that store water used to cool the plants reactors, a spokesman for the company, Masayuki Ono, said at a press briefing.

The company plans to pump 13,000 cubic meters of water remaining in the tank to other vessels over the next two weeks.

Water from the leaking tank, which located 800 meters from the coast, is not expected to reach the sea, Kyodo news wire reported, earlier, citing unidentified officials from the utility.

The company did not say how long the tank had been leaking.

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi plant has faced a range of problems with controlling ground water and maintaining the massive cooling system built to keep the reactors stable.

The power company said on Friday said it lost the ability to cool radioactive fuel rods in one of the plant’s reactors for about three hours. It was the second failure of the system to circulate seawater to cool spent fuel rods at the plant in the past three weeks.

The facility was the site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in March 2011 when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a tsunami that destroyed back-up generators and disabled its cooling system. Three of the reactors melted down.

The storage tanks, pits excavated at the site in the wake of the disaster, are lined with water proof sheets meant to keep the contaminated water from leaking into the soil

Work to decommission the plant is projected to take decades to complete.

 

WHO downplays the health impacts of Fukushima nuclear disaster, a ‘PR Spin’


Published on Thursday, February 28, 2013 by Common Dreams

Greenpeace says report ‘shockingly downplays’ increased cancer risk for thousands of Japanese

– Jon Queally, staff writer

A new study released by the World Health Organization says that women, and especially female infants, exposed to radiation released following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan are at a significant risk of developing cancer later in life.

 A child is screened for radiation contamination before entering an evacuation center in Fukushima, Japan, Friday 1 April 2011. (Photograph: Wally Santana/AP) Despite those announcements by the WHO, critics of the new report say that overall the organization has done a great disservice by downplaying the overall dangers posed by the leaked radiation and accused the report of hiding “crucial information” about the ongoing dangers faced by those living in and beyond the Fukushima Prefecture.

“The WHO report shamelessly downplays the impact of early radioactive releases from the Fukushima disaster on people inside the 20 km evacuation zone who were not able to leave the area quickly,” said Dr. Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International nuclear radiation expert.

“The WHO should have estimated the radiation exposure of these people to give a more accurate picture of the potential long-term impacts of Fukushima. The WHO report is clearly a political statement to protect the nuclear industry and not a scientific one with people’s health in mind.”

Specifically focused on the threat to girls and women, Reuters reports on the WHO findings by explaining:

In the most contaminated area, the WHO estimated that there was a 70% higher risk of females exposed as infants developing thyroid cancer over their lifetime. The thyroid is the most exposed organ as radioactive iodine concentrates there and children are deemed especially vulnerable.

Overall, however, it was the WHO’s conclusion that “predicted risks” of cancer for Japanese generally “are low and no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated,” that Greenpeace aggressively pushed back against.

Pointing out that the WHO only releases its radiation assessments only with the approval of the International Atomic Energy Agency—often criticized as an advocate for, not a regulator of, the global nuclear industry—Greenpeace says the entire report should be looked on suspiciously as more “public relations spin” than good science.

According to Greenpeace scientists, the WHO “shockingly downplays” the cancer impacts on the population by emphasizing small percentages increases in cancers, but fails to adequately describe how those seemingly small numbers translate into the risks posed ot many thousands of people.

“The WHO’s flawed report leaves its job half done,” said Teule. “The WHO and other organizations must stop downplaying and hiding the impact of the Fukushima disaster and call for more emphasis on protecting the millions of people still living in contaminated areas.”

Cost of Jaitapur reactors could triple to nearly Rs. 35,500 crore


 

VAIJU NARAVANE, The Hindu, Dec 6,2012

 

English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

English: Internationally recognized symbol. Deutsch: Gefahrensymbol für Radioaktivität. Image:Radioactive.svg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

EDF, the French electricity giant that has built and operated the country’s 58 nuclear reactors, has announced that the bill for the 1,650-MW, third-generation pressurised reactor known as EPR has now gone up to AFP €8.5 billion. At its inception, the reactor, designed by Areva of France, was expected to cost €3.3 billion.

This is bad news for India which is slated to buy six EPR reactors for a site in Jaitapur, Maharashtra. Initially expected to cost some €20 billion, the six EPRs India intends to buy will now be in the region of €50 billion — nearly Rs. 35,500 crore.

Delays and cost over-runs have marked the construction of the EPR in Flamanville, Manche, France. In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) carried out an audit of the country’s nuclear installations and asked for several reinforcements and design changes. All these added to the price.

However, work on the reactor had been badly delayed and it is now expected to go on stream in 2016. Industry insiders predict that date will not be respected and there will be further cost overruns.

“The development of the boiler design, additional engineering studies, the integration of new regulatory requirements and everything learnt from Fukushima have also been taken into account,” EDF said in a statement.

There is not a single EPR that is working today. The reactor built in Olkilouto, Finland, by Siemens and Areva is also running four years behind schedule and has yet to begin operating. The reactor may start operating next year.

EDF has been rapped on the knuckles several times by the nuclear watchdog ASN for cutting corners, using shoddy materials, and employing workers who do not know their job. The Flamanville plant is the first reactor being built in France in nearly 20 years.

 

 

India- Desirability of nuclear power is the real question


 

MADHUMITA DUTTA, The Hindu

  • EXPOSURE LIMIT: While the environmental and health risks of radiation are known, the magnitude of the impact of nuclear accidents takes time to play out in a real world situation.
    APEXPOSURE LIMIT: While the environmental and health risks of radiation are known, the magnitude of the impact of nuclear accidents takes time to play out in a real world situation.

A few days ago, The Hindu carried an article titled “The real questions from Kudankulam” (editorial page, Sept. 14, 2012). Incidentally, it was published a few days after the brutal crackdown by the Tamil Nadu police on the protesting fisherfolk who have been opposing the siting of a nuclear power plant in their midst for over two decades now. The author of the article, a physicist with a reputed scientific research institution, questioned the agency of the protesting fisherfolk by bracketing them as “victims only of unfounded scaremongering” who were purportedly being misled by “educated purveyors.” The article claimed that the debate around Kudankulam has not been a “genuine” one and has been in abstraction, mostly around the “desirability of nuclear power” rather than “mechanisms” to make it safe. The claim being modern technology, maintenance and safety standards will make it “safe.” Notwithstanding of course the ideal scientifically “controlled” conditions vs ground realities. If one looks at the dubious track record of nuclear power plants across the world and its horrendous reputation of regularly exposing its workers and residents to dangerous levels of ionising radiations, the disconnect is pretty obvious.

In 1957, a fault in the cooling system in Kyshtym nuclear complex in Russia led to a chemical explosion and the release of 70-80 tonnes of radioactive material into the air, exposing thousands of people and leading to the evacuation of thousands more. Major accidents, which have killed, maimed and exposed large populations of worker and local residents, have been reported from various other nuclear facilities — Windscale nuclear reactor, U.K. (1957); Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, U.S. (1961); Three Mile Island power plant, U.S. (1979); Chernobyl power plant, Russia (1986); Seversk, Russia (1993); the Tokai-Mura nuclear fuel processing facility, Japan (1989); Mihama power plant, Japan (2004); Fukushima Daiichi power plant, Japan (2011) and the Marcoule nuclear site, France (2011). All these incidents and many more unreported ones including from India have obviously raised questions about the desirability of nuclear energy and any real possibility of it being “safe.” While environmental and health risks of radiation are now scientifically known, the magnitude of the impact of accidents such as a Fukushima or Chernobyl takes a long time to play out in a real world situation. The fact that in each of these places people have not been able to return to their homes, that their lives have never been normal again, and that they constantly live under the shadow of diseases and death makes nuclear energy patently dangerous.

And on top of it, the obtuseness of governments to disclose information related to nuclear, civilian or military, makes it even worse. Take for instance the confession by the Japanese government in June 2012 that it had withheld from the public important radiation maps provided by the U.S. Energy Department post-Fukushima. The information revealed that residents in an area northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were being exposed to their annual permissible dose of radiation within eight hours. This meant that these residents were not evacuated by the government to a safer place, an act that can be termed criminal.

In France, over 20,000-30,000 workers dubbed as “nuclear nomads” are subcontracted annually in the 58 nuclear reactors operated by Électricité de France S.A. (EDF) located in 20 sites which contribute 78 per cent of the electricity produced in the country. EDF subcontracts over 1,000 companies, who employ the “nuclear nomads,” sometimes of foreign origin, to do the dangerous maintenance, repair and clean-up work in these plants, exposing them to ionising radiations. In her book “Nuclear Servitude: Subcontracting and Health in the French Civil Nuclear Industry,” French social scientist Annie Thébaud-Mony has highlighted this division of labour and “risk” by subcontracting dangerous work in the French nuclear power industry. In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, over 18,000 workers were hired to clean-up the power plant, who were all subcontracted to do dangerous radioactive clean-up work. These men, hailed as “national heroes” by many, were actually local residents rendered unemployed by the disaster or were daily wagers from city slums. Since the 1970s, Japan has had a dubious track record of subcontracting maintenance work of reactors to outside companies which hire workers on a short-term basis who remain employed till they reach their radiation exposure limit (Nuclear Nomads: A look at the Sub-contracted Heroes by Gabrielle Hecht in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 9, 2012).

In the case of Kudankulam, the fisherfolk have been raising similar questions. They have been asking to see the disaster management plan which, till date, remains a secret, even under the Right to Information Act. Given the inherent uncertainties of natural disasters, questions about preparedness to mitigate impact of calamities such as tsunami waves of higher magnitude are being asked. An inadequate reserve of fresh water for cooling as well as a lack of back up electricity are concerns that have been raised by people and their expert committee many times but consistently dodged by the government and officials of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. Secrecy shrouds the fate of the radioactive spent fuel, its reprocessing and transportation. All these questions and more remain unanswered. Are all these issues a debate in abstraction? Is questioning the “desirability” of nuclear power not a valid one given the above track record? If this is not concrete, what is?

(Madhumita Dutta is with the Vettiver Collective in Chennai and a volunteer with the Chennai Solidarity Group for Kudankulam Struggle.)

Rahul Siddharthan responds

 

Radioactive cesium found in Japan’s fish, seawater


Published: 05 August, 2012, 13:37

 Japanese women sort through freshly caught fish at the Hirakata fish market in Kitaibaraki, Ibaraki prefecture, south of the stricken Fukushima daiichi nuclear power plant number 1 on April 6, 2011 (AFP Photo / Toru Yamanaka)

Japanese women sort through freshly caught fish at the Hirakata fish market in Kitaibaraki, Ibaraki prefecture, south of the stricken Fukushima daiichi nuclear power plant number 1 on April 6, 2011 (AFP Photo / Toru Yamanaka)

TAGS: HealthNatural disastersNuclearProtest,Japan

 

Harmless traces of radioactive cesium have been discovered in fish and seawater in several areas of Japan, as the country debates whether fish is safe to consume continues and anti-nuke protests grow in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) stated that radioactive cesium, presumably from the crippled Fukushima I nuclear plant, was found in seawater and fish in several regions of the country, Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported from Tokyo.

The aquatic radiation was detected in central Japan (Shizuoka Prefecture), the western part of central Honshu (Niigata) and the country’s northeast (Iwate).

The concentrations of radioactive particles are very small, and pose no health risks to humans, MEXT said. The ministry believes that cesium may have traveled to the area in rainfall.

Radioactive cesium is a human-made radioactive isotope produced through the nuclear fission of the element cesium. It has a half-life of 30 years, making it extremely toxic.

Earlier this year, low levels of radioactive cesium were found in fish just off Japan’s east coast, which was believed to have originated from the Fukushima plant.

The Ministry continues to closely monitor and verify traces of radiation in seawater and fish following the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima-Daiichi complex.

How safe is Japan’s fish and seafood?

Many countries restricted their food imports from Japan in the wake of the catastrophe. India suspended food imports from Japan for three months in April 2011, fearing radioactive contamination. The EU imposed tighter radiation controls on its imports of food and animal feed from Japan.

The full extent of the spread of radioactive contamination in Japan remains unclear. The discovery of radioactive Japanese fish and seawater could further damage Japan’s flagging seafood industry.

Reports of contaminated seafood are worrisome for the country, since contaminated seawater and fish move in uncontrollable and untraceable paths.

Low levels of nuclear radiation from the Fukushima disaster were detected in bluefin tuna off the California coast in May of this year, suggesting that fish are carrying the contaminants across the Pacific Ocean faster than wind or water. US researchers carried out a study showing the tuna were responsible for transporting radionuclides from the 2011 Fukushima disaster across the entire North Pacific Ocean.

Many question whether fish from the Pacific Ocean and Japan’s coastal waters are safe to eat in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Japanese officials and many scientists say they are, but the data on radiation levels in Japan’s fish stock tells a different story.

Radiation levels are high in many species that Japan has exported to Canada in recent years, such as cod, sole, halibut, landlocked kokanee, carp, trout and eel. And radiation levels in certain species are higher this year than in 2011, Vancouver’s Straight.com reports.

The highest levels of cesium in fish were detected in March, a year after the accident, when a landlocked masu salmon caught in a Japanese river was found to have 18,700 Becquerel of cesium per kilogram, or 187 times Japan’s legal limit for radiation in seafood. (A Becquerel is a unit of radioactivity equal in which one nucleus decays per second).

Tim Takaro, an associate professor at Simon Fraser University, now avoids eating fish from Japan: “I would find another source for fish if I thought it was from that area,” he told Straight.com. “There are way too many questions and not enough answers to say everything is fine.” Takaro is a member of the Canadian anti-nuclear group Physicians for Global Survival.

The Fukushima tragedy has shattered Japanese faith in the country’s decades-long reliance on nuclear energy, withseveral large anti-nuclear demonstrations taking place in the country in recent months.

Nuclear Tuna and NPR’s Trivialization


Fukushima *

Fukushima * (Photo credit: Sterneck)

May 31, 2012 · By Robert Alvarez

NPR shouldn’t trivialize the risk of radioactive tuna from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Yesterday, National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story asserting that cesium-137 from the Fukushima nuclear accident found in Bluefish tuna on the west coast of the U.S. is harmless.

It is not advisable to eat Bluefin Tuna. Photo by tokyofoodcast.
It’s not harmless. The Fukushima nuclear accident released about as much cesium-137 as a thermonuclear weapon with the explosive force of 11 million tons of TNT. In the spring of 1954, after the United States exploded nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands, the Japanese government had to confiscate about 4 million pounds of contaminated fish.

Radiation from Fukushima spread far and wide. Like American hydrogen bomb testing, the Fukushima nuclear accident deposited cesium-137 over 600,000 square-miles of the Pacific, as well as the Northern Hemisphere and Europe. With a half-life of 30 years, cesium-137 is taken up in the meat of the tuna as if it were potassium, indicating that the metabolism holds on to it.

According to a previously secret 1955 memo from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission regarding concerns of the British government over contaminated tuna, “dissipation of radioactive fall-out in ocean waters is not a gradual spreading out of the activity from the region with the highest concentration to uncontaminated regions, but that in all probability the process results in scattered pockets and streams of higher radioactive materials in the Pacific. We can speculate that tuna which now show radioactivity from ingested materials have been living, in or have passed through, such pockets; or have been feeding on plant and animal life which has been exposed in those areas.”

In 2001, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry noted that “…concentrations of cesium within muscle tissue are somewhat higher than the whole-body average. Cesium has been shown to cross the placental barrier of animals…”

There are several reasons why it’s not advisable to eat Bluefin tuna:

Cesium-137 adds to the contaminant risk of harm to humans eating the Bluefin tuna, especially pregnant women and infants, who are the most vulnerable, and will for some time to come.
Bluefin tuna is an endangered species because of over-fishing and contamination.
Bluefin tuna accumulate other contaminants such as mercury from sources such as coal-fired power plants.
If NPR had been around in the 1950’s, would it also have trivialized the impacts of open-air hydrogen bomb testing?

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Germany sets new solar power record, institute says


Solar Powered Street Light

Solar Powered Street Light (Photo credit: joostboers)

 

Sat, May 26 2012

By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) – German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour – equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity – through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said.

The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.

They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass.

Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation’s midday electricity needs.

“Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity,” Allnoch told Reuters. “Germany came close to the 20 gigawatt (GW) mark a few times in recent weeks. But this was the first time we made it over.”

The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world’s leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed.

Government-mandated support for renewables has helped Germany became a world leader in renewable energy and the country gets about 20 percent of its overall annual electricity from those sources.

Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

SUNSHINE

Some critics say renewable energy is not reliable enough nor is there enough capacity to power major industrial nations. But Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany is eager to demonstrate that is indeed possible.

The jump above the 20 GW level was due to increased capacity this year and bright sunshine nationwide.

The 22 GW per hour figure is up from about 14 GW per hour a year ago.Germany added 7.5 GW of installed power generation capacity in 2012 and 1.8 GW more in the first quarter for a total of 26 GW capacity.

“This shows Germany is capable of meeting a large share of its electricity needs with solar power,” Allnoch said. “It also shows Germany can do with fewer coal-burning power plants, gas-burning plants and nuclear plants.”

Allnoch said the data is based on information from the European Energy Exchange (EEX), a bourse based in Leipzig.

The incentives through the state-mandated “feed-in-tariff” (FIT) are not without controversy, however. The FIT is the lifeblood for the industry until photovoltaic prices fall further to levels similar for conventional power production.

Utilities and consumer groups have complained the FIT for solar power adds about 2 cents per kilowatt/hour on top of electricity prices in Germany that are already among the highest in the world with consumers paying about 23 cents per kw/h.

German consumers pay about 4 billion euros ($5 billion) per year on top of their electricity bills for solar power, according to a 2012 report by the Environment Ministry.

Critics also complain growing levels of solar power make the national grid more less stable due to fluctuations in output.

Merkel’s centre-right government has tried to accelerate cuts in the FIT,which has fallen by between 15 and 30 percent per year, to nearly 40percent this year to levels below 20 cents per kw/h. But the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, has blocked it.

($1 = 0.7992 euros)

Letter to PM on Koodankulam – from Atul Chokshi


March 27, 2012
Dear Shri Manmohan Singh:

I am writing to express my deep concern and sorrow at the recent developments in Kudankulam and Idhitikarai.  While there can be vigorous debate and disagreement on nuclear energy, as a country formed with democratic ideals India surely cannot allow repressive action against a group of non-violent people who oppose the nuclear plant at Koodankulam.The use of massive police force to intimidate villagers, and the reported blocking of water and food to the village is unacceptable.

Although new nuclear plants are perhaps safer than those constructed decades ago, it is impossible to rule out a catastrophic accident at a nuclear power plant, despite the considerable attention devoted to reducing risk in such complex and large-scale engineering designs.  This is tacitly acknowledged by all Governments that try to locate such plants in regions away from “large” population centers.

Furthermore, the understanding of potential risk and damage is implicit in the continuing push to limit liability by corporations and countries wishing to sell nuclear power plants.  It is important to note that the single nuclear accident in Fukushima is estimated to cost $250 billion, or more.  These large estimates of damage pale in comparison with the Rs. 1,500 crore ($300 million) limit of liability in India which the foreign providers find unacceptable, and whose objections the Govt is apparently trying to
accommodate.

As citizens, a group of villagers who are concerned about potential risks with nuclear power surely deserve at least the same, if not more, courtesy as foreign providers of nuclear power plants whose demands appear to be attended to with alacrity.

The concerned citizens near the Koodankulam nuclear power plant, and others near future planned plants, deserve your serious attention.Without meaningful discussion,  a significant number of citizens who are directly affected by such projects are feeling left out of the democratic process.  Note that several countries are now moving towards local consent-based approaches to nuclear power and related issues, and this seems appropriate also for India.

The large scale and dramatic increase in nuclear power over the next several decades envisioned by the Govt appears to have been planned without broad consultation and serious consideration of recent developments in other energy sources.  The Koodankulam imbroglio, together with the Fukushima disaster, provides an opportunity to pause and initiate a greater public debate on energy needs and possible means of satisfying these needs in as benign a manner as possible, so that citizens can participate meaningfully in the process, without feeling alienation caused by policies being rammed down on their lives.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Atul Chokshi
Professor
Indian Institute of Science,

Bangalore

Countrywide Day Long Solidarity Hunger Strike and other protest actions in Solidarity with People of Kudankulam


The state government of Tamil Nadu has finally succumbed to pressure by the Central government and decided to commission the operation of the two Russian built nuclear reactors in Koodankulam, in south Tamil Nadu. In protest against this government decision, S. P. Udayakumar, Pushparayan and 13 others are sitting on an indefinite hunger strike in Idinthikarai, a village near Koodankulam. They are surrounded by more than 10,000 people from the villages around the nuclear plant.

The government has attempted to crush this mass movement by sending in thousands of armed police who have surrounded the protestors, and has cut off even essential amenities like water, food and electricity to them. More than 300 people have been arrested, and slapped with sedition charges — no less.

Over the last six months in what has been the latest phase of a more than decade long struggle, tens of thousands of residents in and around Koodankulam have peacefully and non-violently demonstrated against the government’s nuclear power plans. They have demanded that the plant be scrapped, especially in the light of the devastating Fukushima nuclear accident which has starkly brought out to the world the dangers of nuclear energy. They are demanding that the government take recourse to more environmentally friendly ways like solar and wind energy to meet the energy crisis. Instead of addressing their livelihood and life concerns, the government has resorted to making all kinds of wild allegations like claiming that it is foreign funded, is funded by foreign NGOs, etc.

We strongly condemn the repression launched against the people of Koodankulam and southern Tamil Nadu and demand that those arrested be immediately released. If a willingness to exercise one’s democratic right of protest in peaceful and non-violent ways, or to criticize the pursuit of nuclear energy, or even to oppose government plans in this regard is to be deemed seditious and warrants being arrested, then we also declare ourselves to be as guilty as our fellow citizens in Tamil Nadu. We stand in solidarity with them.

In expression of our solidarity with the heroic people of south Tamil Nadu, activist groups and intellectuals across the country are organising solidarity actions tomorrow, March 23, on the occasion of Bhagat Singh Martyrdom Day. Solidarity hunger strikes are being organised in more than 22 cities, including Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai, Panjim, Kochhi, Allahabad, Lucknow, Kanpur, Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Hisar, Sonipat, Sohana, Fatehabad, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Hazaribagh, Ranchi, Jadugoda and Almora. An indefinite relay fast has started in Chennai. Some more cities will see solidarity actions on the following days. More than 500 people are going to begin a PEACE MARCH from Nagercoil to Idinthikarai on March 26.

As a part of this nationwide campaign, the citizens of Pune, are organising a solidarity hunger strike tomorrow opposite the Collector Office.

Program: Solidarity hunger strike in support of the struggle against Kudankulam Nuclear Plant

Date: March 23, 2012, Friday

Time: 7 am to 7 pm

Venue: Opposite Collector Office, Near Sasoon Hospital, Pune.

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