Eco Links For July, 2014

I went for a walk and watched fireflies near a temple where I live. Amazing creatures. Got a lesson in bioluminescence from Pandabonium, too, via National Geographics.

There is a lot I do not know.

I like how my town is not exploiting this site for tourism.

July - hot and humid. Japan still has no nuclear reactors online. Do people in other parts of the world even think about this? Can we get some support, please?

Seems a small town in Tochigi near major tourist spot Nikko, where the Tokugawa shoguns have their final resting place, will be selected to permanently store radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. "Permanently" is a pretty serious word when it comes to nuclear waste. Not sure why they didn't put it in Fukushima. Expect Narita-style protests?

The Mainichi: Tochigi town favored as permanent radioactive waste storage site

Shioya Mayor Kasuhisa Mikata, right, expresses his disappointment to Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue over the Ministry of the Environment's informal selection of his town as a place to construct a final disposal site for radioactive waste, at Shioya town hall on July 30, 2014. (Mainichi)
Shioya Mayor Kasuhisa Mikata, right, expresses his disappointment to Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue over the Ministry of the Environment's informal selection of his town as a place to construct a final disposal site for radioactive waste, at Shioya town hall on July 30, 2014. (Mainichi)

The Ministry of the Environment is preparing to use state-owned land in the Tochigi Prefecture town of Shioya to permanently store radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it has been learned.
The ministry has been searching for a location to construct a facility to store "designated waste" including radioactive materials from the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. On July 30, Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue visited the Shioya town office and asked Mayor Kazuhisa Mikata to agree to a detailed inspection of the area.
Following the meeting, Mikata stated that he was "opposed to construction" of such a facility but indicated that he would engage in discussions with the ministry.
The ministry is eyeing three hectares of state-owned land in Shioya to construct the storage site, officials say. In a meeting with mayors in Tochigi Prefecture it was earlier agreed that prospective sites would be evaluated on four factors -- their distance from communities, their distance from water resources, the level of vegetation and nature in the area, and the amount of designated waste to be stored. Officials agreed to convert these figures into numerical data to make judgments.
During the meeting on July 30, which was also attended by Tochigi Gov. Tomikazu Fukuda, Inoue explained to Mikata that Shioya had achieved the highest ranking in the evaluation. Mikata responded that the ministry's move was "disappointing." He added that the source of one of Japan's designated 100 remarkable water areas lay nearby.
In a news conference after the meeting, Mikata told reporters, "I conveyed my clear opposition. But I think we should lend an ear with regard the implementation of a detailed survey. I would like to consider the issue after discussions with the Ministry of the Environment."
The designated waste includes straw and incinerated ash with a level of radioactivity of 8,000 becquerels or more per kilogram. In 2012, the ministry named the Tochigi Prefecture city of Yaita as a prospective location to build a permanent storage site, but it did not provide explanations to the town in advance, which resulted in local opposition, sending the ministry's plans back to the drawing board. Later, local officials agreed to settle on a single location in which a detailed survey would be conducted. The ministry had acted swiftly to make a selection. A total of roughly 14,000 tons of designated waste remains in Tochigi Prefecture.

Jiji Press and Yomiuri: Tochigi town chosen for N-waste disposal

Jiji Press SHIOYA, Tochigi (Jiji Press)—The Environment Ministry said Wednesday it has picked state-owned land in the town of Shioya, Tochigi Prefecture, as a candidate site for building a final disposal facility for designated waste contaminated by radioactive substances from the March 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima.

State-owned land, that must be the key word. No need to dilly-dally any further, then. This is an issue that should have been in focus since the first nuclear reactors were conceived of and built back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

NHK World:  Spent nuclear fuel: Reprocess or dispose?
The Japanese government's basic stance is to reprocess all spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium and reuse it as fuel at nuclear power plants.

A basic energy plan adopted in April upholds the nuclear fuel recycling policy. But, for the first time, the plan also called for studies on ways to directly dispose of spent fuel without reprocessing it.

Behind this move lies a series of challenges the government faces in recycling nuclear fuel. A reprocessing plant in Rokkasho Village in the northern prefecture of Aomori has suffered numerous troubles, and has been unable to start full operation more than 20 years since construction began.

The fast-breeder reactor Monju in Fukui Prefecture in central Japan is designed to use recycled plutonium.
But the facility too has been plagued by troubles, including a fire and failed inspections, and its future is uncertain.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency plans to continue geological and geographical analyses for the direct disposal of spent fuel. It's due to finalize a report in 2018.

However, this option also has its own challenges. Spent nuclear fuel is highly radioactive, and compared to reprocessing, direct disposal would mean more than a 4-fold increase in nuclear waste volume.
Above all, the government lacks any prospect of finding a place that would accept a nuclear dumpsite.

Jul. 25, 2014

NHK World: Agency: Nuclear waste can be directly disposed of
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency is reported to be looking at the direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel instead of reprocessing it.

NHK has obtained a draft report compiled by the agency which analyzed the environmental impact of disposing of spent nuclear fuel.

The conclusion of the analysis is expected to touch off controversy, because the government has long maintained the policy of reprocessing all spent nuclear fuel. It has conducted few studies about disposing of it as waste.

Spent nuclear fuel is known to have higher radiation levels than high-level radioactive waste.

But the agency's draft report says it is technically possible to directly dispose of spent nuclear fuel at a low radiation level.

If spent nuclear fuel is buried 1,000 meters underground for 1 million years, the radiation level at the earth's surface will peak in 3,000 years, at 0.3 microsieverts per year.

Even though reprocessing remains official government policy, the Rokkasho reprocessing plant is nowhere near full operating capacity.

Japan's nuclear power plants have accumulated 17,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel.

The agency's analysis is expected to lead to greater attention on future discussions on dealing with the stockpile of spent nuclear fuel.

Professor Tatsujiro Suzuki at Nagasaki University says the conclusion that direct disposal is possible is a very important step forward. Suzuki is a former member of the government's Atomic Energy Commission.

Jul. 25, 2014

If you still eat meat, at least you know what to avoid. Right?

Kyodo: China scandal pushes McDonald's Japan to upgrade food-safety steps

McDonald's Holdings Co. (Japan) apologized Tuesday for a recent scandal over chicken meat provided by a Chinese producer, promising to do "whatever it takes" to ensure the safety of food on its menu.
"I would like to extend my sincere apologies to our valued customers for any anxiety or concern that this situation may have caused," President Sarah Casanova said at her first press conference since the scandal emerged last week. McDonald's Japan has halted sales of all products using chicken meat sourced from China since one of its suppliers, Shanghai Husi Food Co., was accused of selling spoiled and expired meat to Western fast food chains operating in China and Japan. It has already switched chicken sourcing to Thailand completely. 

These fast food chains are also going to increase imports of meat from Brazil. We know what that means: More rain forest cut down, more genetically modified feed, more bacteria and virus and you name it. You really want meat that bad (and that cheap?) and every day? Not going to happen.

Cheap meat, cheap energy. That is about to change, and are you prepared?

CDC Director Blog Thoughts from CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

This really made my day. I will be attending the meeting in Korea in October, and this is what we get:

Asahi: Nagoya Protocol to take effect in October,but Japan has yet to ratify it

July 16, 2014


The Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing of genetic resources will take effect in October, but without the participation of Japan--even though it spearheaded the initiative.

The protocol stipulates procedures for equal sharing of benefits on the use of genetic resources such as medicine between providers of the resources and users of them.

While Japan compiled the protocol as president of the meeting of the parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010, it did not meet the deadline for ratification due to a delay in domestic procedure.

The Secretariat of what is informally known as the Biodiversity Convention, based in Montreal, announced July 14 that 51 countries had ratified the document.

That means the protocol will enter into force on Oct. 12, exactly 90 days after more than a minimum of 50 countries agreed to be bound by it.

The protocol was adopted at the 10th meeting of the CBD parties in 2010 in Nagoya, with the aim of providing financial assistance to developing countries that provide resources covered by the protocol.

This is because companies and research institutes in advanced countries tended to monopolize bumper profits, which were criticized as “biopiracy.”

The first meeting of parties to the protocol to discuss details will be held during the Conference of Parties of the CBD, scheduled in South Korea in October.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement: “Practical tools such as the Nagoya Protocol are critical for the sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity. I commend the member states that have ratified this important international legal instrument.”

Japan has been slow to ratify the protocol because of holdups in making arrangements with related industries.

Various government ministries and agencies held meetings with experts, industry representatives and academics to discuss Japan's position, but to no avail.

“Japan is responsible for ratifying the protocol as soon as possible and to implement related measures as early as next year,” Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said July 15 after a Cabinet meeting.

First Japan abandons all the work for Climate Change, and now also Biodiversity. South Korea also dilly-dallying, if that's the term. Yes, that's the term. Countries need to grow some spine and man up and get serious about these issues.

What a month.

I like Ken's idea of restoring an old house in rural Nagano prefecture, with farmland and forest, and pledged 5,000 yen to his amazing vision/project called Kijisan. Do follow/support/enjoy.

Who hasn’t thought about restoring a Japanese mountain farm? Japan is full of small dying hamlets that are loaded with perfectly good infrastructure and inexpensive homes on old agriculture lots. While the social structures of these hamlets are fading, they have small commercial centers, water systems, and are surrounded by forest reserves, or commons. They are walkable, bikeable, quiet and usually human scaled. To my mind they are the model to emulate, and ought not be abandoned.

Why is it Calvin & Hobbes have all the answers...

Top image from Saitama company Yoshima, staff blog


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