By Justin McKeating
With the first nuclear reactor to be restarted in Japan after the 2011 Fukushima disaster to begin producing electricity soon, it’s clear the country’s government has decided to step back into the dangerous past rather than race into a sustainable future of renewable energy.
The government is restarting reactors despite opposition from local leaders and despite massive protests from Japan’s people. This disregard for their concerns has forced some groups to go to court to fight the restarts.
The government restarted the Number 3 reactor at the Ohi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture in central Japan on July 1. The tens of thousands of people who protested against the restart outside the prime minister’s office in Tokyo were ignored, even though Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda claimed he was “startled” by the huge size of the gathering. The government plans to restart Ohi’s Number 4 reactor later this month.
The restart at Ohi has not gone smoothly. As if the people living close to nuclear reactors in Japan aren’t worried enough, “more than two dozen alarms rang out at the plant. That came after three days after a separate alarm was triggered mid-week." Fortunately, those alarms were false and caused by “unstable atmospheric conditions, such as a dense fog." Attempts to reassure concerned people have failed at the outset.
This follows warnings just last week from Mitsuhisa Watanabe, a tectonic geomorphologist at Toyo University, and Katsuhiko Ishibashi, seismologist and professor emeritus at Kobe University. Using Ohi operator Kansai Electric Power Co’s (KEPCO) own published seismic data, the scientists have found that the reactors sit on geological faults that could produce much larger earthquakes than KEPCO has previously admitted. In 2005, Ishibashi predicted an earthquake could cause a nuclear disaster. In March 2011, he was proved terribly right.
After being shown in such blunt terms that their government is not listening to them, concerned citizens are now resorting to legal means to try to stop the Ohi reactors.
The case of two groups, Green Action and Mihama-no-Kai (Osaka Citizens Against the Mihama, Ohi and Takahama Nuclear Power Plants), before a Japanese court concludes July 9, with a decision expected within two weeks.
The groups cite errors in the guidelines for reactor design safety criteria, the three active earthquake faults near the Ohi plant and the need to re-examine the fault under the plant. They also raise concerns that ageing piping at Ohi could be damaged by an earthquake, based on the suspicion that important equipment at the Fukushima reactors was damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and not by the subsequent tsunami. Here at Greenpeace we wish them every success in their bid.
Why has the Japanese government acted so rashly and irresponsibly?
The disaster at Fukushima is far from under control. Sixteen months after the reactors there melted down, record levels of radiation—enough to give a person a year’s worth of radiation exposure in just 20 seconds—were found in the Number 1 reactor’s building. Over at reactor Number 4, the building which houses 1,331 highly radioactive spent nuclear rods is “tilting” and “bulging”. This week the pool’s cooling system failed. The exposure of this fuel to the environment could result in a catastrophic release of radiation.
In the past year, the Japanese people have bravely shown the world that they can live without nuclear power. The Japanese government should follow where the people lead—away from an outdated, discredited and dangerous nuclear past and into a future that offers safe, clean and plentiful renewable energy. The way forward is clear.
The growing Texas solar industry is offering a safe harbor to unemployed oil and gas professionals amidst the latest oil and gas industry bust, this one brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Houston Chronicle reports.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>