State of Nuclear Politics in Japan
Yukio Edano, head of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced that for the first time, critics of the nuclear industry would be included on the nation’s long-term energy policy panel. There are no representatives from the nuclear industry. The panel resumed work for the first time since the March nuclear disaster, and expects to deliver a report by next summer. Some members are reported to be pushing for shutting down all nuclear reactors around the country, while others say a decision cannot be made until the Fukushima disaster is under control. Minutes from the meetings will be posted online, in an effort to promote transparency.
The Japanese Diet will vote on a bill to establish a 10-member independent investigative panel that will explore the causes of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The panel will be separate from the third-party panel currently doing investigative work, and will be authorized to call witnesses and demand documents. The bill is expected to pass both houses of parliament.
METI minister Yokio Edano said that he would give ‘serious consideration’ to the Makinohara Assembly’s decision to shut down the Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka prefecture. A recent survey of residents showed that over 50 percent of respondents support closing the plant.
Japan will delay testing of the Monju fast-breeder reactor, in light of uncertainty about the country’s energy policy. Earlier in the week, the Science Ministry announced that funding for the reactor would be cut by 80 to 90 percent. The reactor, considered the model for Japan’s next generation of reactors, has been fraught with technical issues. It was shut down for over 14 years because of a coolant leak.
The government panel investigating the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis has declared Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) was negligent in containing damage from the disaster and protecting the plant from the ensuing tsunami. An interim report is expected by year’s end.
The panel reviewing TEPCO’s financial status said it would demand that the company’s management resign en masse at the end of the year, as a prerequisite for receiving government funding for compensation due to victims of the disaster. In addition, management will be asked to return stocks and forfeit retirement pay. The panel has advised that the company may need to cut 7,400 jobs by March 2014, and has warned banks that loans made to TEPCO may never be repaid.
The same panel said it will take control of the utility and put it under public control when it runs out of capital, which is sure to happen. TEPCO currently has only JY1 trillion in its coffers. The panel also said it will not allow an increase in electricity rates for this fiscal year, which ends in March.
In a turnaround from last week, TEPCO said it would shorten the application required for compensation for victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The company was criticized for requiring completion of a 160-page form. By comparison, one of TEPCO’s nuclear emergency handbooks is three pages in length—another is six pages. The new form will be available within two weeks.
TEPCO has begun the compensation process for self-employed workers across Japan, sending out claim forms this week. Compensation will be based on the previous year’s sales, minus costs of raw materials. The process for farmers will begin next month.
Status of the Fukushima Daiichi Reactors
As of Sept. 29, the temperatures in Reactors 1, 2, and 3 have all fallen below 100ºC. The most recent reactor to reach that status, 2, is currently at 99.4ºC. However, TEPCO cautions that cold-shutdown status cannot be declared until temperatures are stable and assuming that cooling systems continue to work.
TEPCO found high levels of hydrogen in pipes connecting to Reactor 1, measuring between 61 to 63 percent, after last week’s discovery that hydrogen was present. The company says that since there is no oxygen in the pipes, an explosion is unlikely, but has begun to drain the gas. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has also ordered TEPCO to measure hydrogen levels in pipes connected to Reactors 2 and 3.
Contamination (Including Human Exposure)
Government documents reveal that although large amounts of potassium iodide pills were available for residents in areas affected by the March explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, they were not distributed at all or until it was too late. Potassium iodide, when taken within a few hours of radiation exposure, can prevent thyroid cancer. Children are at especially high risk of this disease. Japan’s central government did not issue an order to distribute the pills until five days after the explosion, by which time they were no longer effective, and many people had already evacuated. NISA is investigating.
Japan’s Science Ministry announced that high levels of radioactive cesium-137 have been found in Gunma Prefecture, over 250 km from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years. In response, Russia’s Hermitage Museum cancelled a planned exhibit of glassworks at the Museum of Modern Art in Gunma, citing fears of contaminating the art.
Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute say that radiation levels in the ocean off the coast of the Fukushima Daiichi plant show that contaminated water continues to actively leak into the sea. Ocean currents have concentrated radiation levels, rather than allowing them to dissipate. The Woods Hole researchers are analyzing the effects of radiation on sea life.
Decontamination and Waste Disposal
Goshi Hosono, Nuclear Crisis Minister, said that Japan will announce plans to deal with storing and disposing of nuclear waste and other contaminated substances by next month.
The Environment Ministry announced it will decontaminate areas in Fukushima, Miyagi, Yamagata and Ibaraki Prefectures where contamination levels are 5 millisieverts or more per year. The move, which will involve removing 5 cm of topsoil and leaves from over 17 percent of Fukushima prefecture alone, is expected to produce almost 29 million cubic meters of radioactive debris—enough to fill 23 separate Tokyo Domes. The Tokyo Dome has a seating capacity of 55,000.
To accommodate the resulting debris, the Environment Ministry announced a plan to build temporary storage facilities in Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, Tokyo, Chiba, Tochigi, Ibaraki, and Gunma Prefectures, but first needs to obtain permission from local governments. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Osamu Fujimura, said that no decisions have been made, and the issue is still open for discussion.
Tokyo will accept half a million tons of trash, rubble, and debris from Iiwate and Miyagi through 2013. The move is designed to ease cleanup and rebuilding in the prefectures, which were hit hard by the March earthquake and tsunami. However, local residents have expressed concern that the rubble will be radioactive. Tokyo’s municipal government said that radiation levels are low, and residents should not be concerned.
Residents in the Ota neighborhood of Minamisoma are decontaminating their section of the city, rather than relying on government help. After purchasing radiation measuring tools with government subsidies, and enlisting nuclear experts to teach them how to use them, they created a radiation map twice as accurate as that provided by the central government. A copy was distributed to all 1,000 households. So far, they have decontaminated 800 meters of sidewalks within the city.
The panel tasked with overseeing Fukushima-related compensation issues estimates that TEPCO’s liability could top JY4 trillion, not including the costs of decommissioning the damaged reactors. That number could increase if voluntary evacuees are also compensated.
Iitate Village in Fukushima Prefecture has warned residents against signing compensation agreements with TEPCO. Village officials are concerned that damage has not yet been fully assessed, and warn once residents receive payment, they have no right to file additional claims. Warning letters will be sent to 2,500 households within the prefecture.
Power Company Scandals
As of the end of August, more than 50 former government bureaucrats were still holding lucrative positions at TEPCO. Japan has a long history of allowing officials to leave government service and move to high-paying positions at utilities, where they have little or no responsibility. Critics blame the close ties between utilities and the government for the lax oversight that led to the Fukushima disaster.
The president of Kyushu Power Company, Toshio Manabe, who previously announced he would resign in the midst of a scandal, said he will await the decision of the company’s board of directors. Manabe originally said he would step down after Kyushu executives admitted that they tried to sway public opinion toward nuclear power at a town hall meeting.
Other Nuclear News
Switzerland announced that it will gradually phase out nuclear energy over the next 20 years, citing concerns about nuclear safety in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. The Swiss government said it will increase renewable power, including hydro-power, and may import some electricity, pointing out that nuclear power is becoming more expensive because of rising safety costs.
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Russia's Health Ministry has given regulatory approval for the world's first COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.
Putin's Daughter Among Vaccinated<p>The Russian leader also said that one of his daughters has already been inoculated and is feeling well.</p><p>"One of my daughters got vaccinated, so in this sense, she took part in the testing," Putin said.</p><p>After the first vaccine shot, his daughter experienced a slight fever, 38 degrees Celsius (100.4°F). Her temperature came down to just slightly above normal the next day. </p><p>"After the second shot, she had a slight fever again, and then everything was fine. She is feeling well and has a high antibody count," Putin said. </p><p>He didn't specify which of his two daughters, Maria or Katerina, received the vaccine.</p><p>Russian health authorities have said that medical workers, teachers and other risk groups will be the first to receive shots of the vaccine.</p>
Years of Work Reduced to Weeks<p>Russia is the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine. As <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-coronavirus-vaccine-may-only-be-available-in-mid-2021/a-54362065" target="_blank">countries worldwide race to produce the first vaccine</a>, health experts warn that speed and national pride could compromise safety.</p><p>Scientists in Russia and abroad have questioned Moscow's decision to register the vaccine before Phase 3 trials that normally last for months and involve thousands of people, but Putin emphasized that the vaccine underwent the necessary trials and that vaccination will be voluntary.</p><p>Russian officials have said that large-scale production of the vaccine will begin in September, and mass vaccination may start as early as October.</p><p>Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippines-duterte-volunteers-to-be-putins-russian-coronavirus-vaccine-guinea-pig/a-54523030" target="_blank">lauded Russia's efforts in developing the vaccine</a> and said that the Philippines is ready to work with Moscow on vaccine trials, supply and production. Duterte volunteered to "be the first they can experiment on."</p><p>"I will tell President Putin that I have huge trust in your studies in combating COVID and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity," Duterte said, adding that he thinks Russia's vaccine will be ready for the Philippines by December.</p>
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A powerful series of thunderstorms roared across the Midwest on Monday, downing trees, damaging structures and knocking out power to more than a million people.
By Arkilaus Kladit
My name is Arkilaus Kladit. I'm from the Knasaimos-Tehit tribe in South Sorong Regency, West Papua Province, Indonesia. For decades my tribe has been fighting to protect our forests from outsiders who want to log it or clear it for palm oil. For my people, the forest is our mother and our best friend. Everything we need to survive comes from the forest: food, medicines, building materials, and there are many sacred sites in the forest.
Map of the Knasaimos traditional lands.
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By Farah Aqel
Overthinkers are people who are buried in their own obsessive thoughts. Imagine being in a large maze where each turn leads into an even deeper and knottier tangle of catastrophic, distressing events — that is what it feels like to them when they think about the issues that confront them.
Ruminating<p>According to the late Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a professor of psychology at Yale University, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796420/" target="_blank">ruminating</a> involves replaying a problem over and over in your mind. We ruminate by obsessing over our thoughts and thinking repetitively about various aspects of a past situation.</p><p>It usually involves regret, self-loathing and self-blaming. Rumination is associated with the development of depression, anxiety and eating disorders. </p><p>People prone to such patterns of thought may, for example, overanalyze every single detail of a relationship that breaks up. They often blame themselves for what has happened and are overcome with regret, with typical thoughts being: </p><p>- I should have been more patient and more supportive. </p><p>- I have lost the most perfect partner ever. </p><p>- No one will love me again.</p>
Worrying<p>Worrying is wanting to predict the future. It involves negative thoughts about things that might and might not happen.</p><p>- They'll not like me in the interview; they'll not give me the job. </p><p>- I haven't heard back from other employers. How long will I be unemployed?</p><p>These thoughts are energy-draining and distressing. They could happen to anyone under stress. But when you reach the point where your thoughts and worrying are preventing you from doing what you want to do — from living your life to the fullest — then you should take action.</p>
Catch Yourself Overthinking<p>Reuben Berger, a psychotherapist at the university hospital in the western German city of Bonn, recommends several practical steps that you could employ in your daily routine when you catch yourself worrying or ruminating.</p><p>One effective remedy, says Berger, is the <a href="https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uf9938" target="_blank">thought-stopping technique.</a></p><p>"When the negative thoughts come or ruminations start, you say to yourself: 'Stop!,'" he says, adding that it is more effective when you actually say the word out loud.</p><p>He even recommends having a rubber band around your wrist to ping against yourself while saying the word. Adding a visual component by imagining a stop sign also makes the technique more powerful, he says.</p><p>The main idea here is conditioning yourself to stop the loop of worrying (making future predictions) or rumination (obsessing over past events).</p><p>Berger says the technique could take up to two weeks to take effect and that it needs to be practiced every day. "Consistency is very important," he says. </p>
Thoughts Are Just Thoughts<p>Another way of dealing with negative thoughts often used in modern therapy is realizing that thoughts aren't facts, says Berger.</p><p>He says it is important when we think something to ask: Is that real? Did that really happen? What is the worst thing that could happen?</p><p>Flight anxiety is one example where untrue thoughts are accepted as facts. Although air travel is the safest way to get around, people suffering from fear of flying accept their thoughts and fears as reality, then act upon them by refusing to fly.</p>
Mindfulness<p>Berger also recommends the use of mindfulness techniques, in which attention is paid to experiences in the moment without judging them, as a way of reducing worrying.</p><p>"Mindfulness helps you to distance yourself from your thoughts and to be more present in the moment," he says.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3432145/#R2" target="_blank">Several studies</a> have shown that mindfulness has a positive impact on reducing stress-related behaviors such as rumination and worrying, as focusing on the moment makes anxiety about other problems impossible.</p><p>Mindfulness can be practiced during routine activities by paying attention to your body and your surroundings. For instance, when you leave for work in the morning, you can focus on sensing the breeze, listen attentively to birds, feel the gravel under your feet and monitor your breath. </p>
Trick Your Brain Into Happiness<p>People plagued by obsessive thoughts do not always choose healthy ways like mindfulness to distract from them, however.</p><p> Dr. Edward Selby, a psychologist at Florida state university, has shown in a study that people try to avoid rumination by engaging in a range of uncontrolled behaviors, such as binge eating and substance abuse.</p><p>But he says that a much better way to overcome such distress is by distraction and shifting attention away from problems that are obsessing us.</p><p>There are many activities that can be used to distract from rumination, he says, and people should choose the one that works best for them. Here are some examples:</p><p>- Listen to music</p><p>- Read a book</p><p>- Take a hot shower</p><p>- Dance or exercise </p><p>- Talk to a friend (not about the problem)</p><p>- Watch a movie</p><p>- Mindfulness meditation</p>
Changing the Perception of Events<p>The way people perceive a situation largely influences their emotions and behavior. It is not the situation itself that determines how they feel, but rather the way they interpret it.</p><p>Reframing negative thoughts can lead to positive emotions and, subsequently, healthier behaviors — including a reduction in damaging overthinking and worrying.</p><p>Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is currently a gold standard in psychotherapy. CBT aims to change the way people think and act. It largely involves challenging unhelpful beliefs or attitudes such as overgeneralization — thinking "I always fail at public speaking" when you have had one bad experience in front of an audience, for example — or "catastrophization," i.e., imagining the worst possible outcome to a situation. </p><p>A psychotherapist can teach people how to implement such thought-changing techniques into their lives. Techniques vary depending on their issues and goals.</p>
Solutions Are at Hand<p>Try to find ways of avoiding worrying, rumination and overthinking that make you feel most comfortable.</p><p>Incorporating any routine in your life when you're stressed isn't an easy task, but you can do it! If you feel overwhelmed, you can always seek professional help. </p><p><em>If you are suffering from serious emotional strain or suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to seek professional help. You can find information on where to find such help, no matter where you live in the world, <a href="https://www.befrienders.org/" target="_blank">at this website.</a></em></p>
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A 4,000-year-old ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic has collapsed into the sea, leaving Canada without any fully intact ice shelves, Reuters reported. The Milne Ice Shelf lost more than 40 percent of its area in just two days at the end of July, said researchers who monitored its collapse.
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