Posts Tagged ‘ Environment ’

US to impose tariff on Chinese solar panels in victory for domestic makers

March 21, 2012

We need more decisions like this one…actions that support American companies to compete and prosper in this challenging economy. The key here is to execute from the top…meaning that our elected officials need to grow a “pair” and back up our American companies…domestic makers….how about small businesses in America? Don’t leave them behind!! Buy products made in the USA.

That’s my comment…pass it on..

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “US to impose tariff on Chinese solar panels in victory for domestic makers” was written by Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, for on Tuesday 20th March 2012 23.39 UTC

The Obama administration, which regularly champions America’s clean energy industry, has delivered modest support for home-grown solar panel makers complaining of unfair competition from China

In a much-anticipated decision, the commerce department on Tuesday said it would impose tariffs of 2.9% to 4.73% on Chinese-made solar panels, after finding the Beijing government was providing illegal subsidies to manufacturers.

The commerce department could impose heavier penalties in May, when it is due to decide whether China is dumping solar panels at prices below their actual cost.

But Tuesday’s move did not suggest the Obama adminstration is willing to risk a trade war with China in support of struggling solar panel manufacturers.

Domestic solar panel makers, who had requested the tariffs, welcomed the decision, saying it had helped expose unfair Chinese trade practices.

“Today’s announcement affirms what US manufacturers have long known: Chinese manufacturers have received unfair and WTO-illegal subsidies,” Steve Ostrenga, an executive who is a member of the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, said in a statement. “We look forward to addressing all of China’s unfair trade practices in the solar industry.”

Solar installation companies, whose business relies on Chinese-made panels, expressed relief that the small tariffs would not drive up costs.

“This is a huge victory for the US solar industry and our 100,000 employees,” said Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy. “Given all our expectations, this is really good news.”

But there were some suggestions that the Obama administration was sending a mixed message on its support for the renewable energy industry.

Some industry executives had hoped for a greater show of support from the administration – even at the risk of causing a trade rift with China.

Obama, in the White House and on the campaign trail, has regularly held up the renewable energy industry as an example of American innovation – noting that solar power was invented at Bell Labs. But China has now taken the lead, with more than 700 manufacturers of solar panels.

A few of those Chinese companies have acknowledged receiving cheap loans and other government support.

But low-cost solar panels are also helping some sections of America’s clean energy industry.

The energy secretary, Steven Chu, who was grilled on his department’s support for solar power in Congress earlier Tuesday, proudly noted during his testimony that America overtook China in clean energy investment last year.

The US made $56bn in clean energy investment in 2011, overtaking China, which invested $47.4bn. Much of the US investment represented the tail end of the 2009 recovery act funds.

What Chu left unmentioned, however, was that the growth of the US clean energy industry was led by the plummeting costs of Chinese-made solar panels, which brought solar farms closer to the cost of electricity generated from fossil fuels.

American imports of Chinese solar panels have grown exponentially in recent years, from $21.3m in 2005 to $2.65bn last year.

But cheap Chinese solar panels have also put American solar panel makers out of business – and proved a political embarrassment for the Obama adminstration.

The most high profile failure – and the one with the biggest political fallout – was the collapse of Solyndra, which declared bankruptcy after receiving half a billion dollars in department of energy loans.

Another loan recipient, Evergreen Solar, embarrassed the administration by announcing plans to move production from Massachusetts to China because of lower costs. The company ended up going bankrupt.

However, those failures still provided fodder to Republicans in Congress and candidates seeking the party’s nomination to attack Obama for his support for clean energy. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Can we rely on computer models to predict future climate change?

January 10, 2012

Climate model

As we become more and more dependent on computers…and as technology and programing becomes more advanced…scientists make more use of  models that could help use us predict not only climate change but in other areas such as urban living,population,traffic,erosion,cell phone usage, etc. Models will continue to be a useful tool for planning and prevention.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony  

Powered by article titled “Can we rely on computer models to predict future climate change?” was written by Carbon Brief and Duncan Clark, for on Wednesday 4th January 2012 12.03 UTC

Computer models are one of the tools that scientists use to understand the climate and make projections about how it will respond to changes such as rising greenhouse gas levels. The models are simulations of earth’s climate system either at a global or regional level.

The climate system is hugely complex, and no mathematical model can perfectly reflect all of its intricate processes in perfect detail. Hence there’s always some difference between a model and reality, and it’s normal when presenting model results to estimate how big this difference is.

Nonetheless, scientists are confident that models can project big-picture changes such as global temperature rise. The IPCC gives three reasons for its confidence in large-scale climate modelling: the fact that the fundamentals of the models are based on well-established physical laws; the success of models at predicting or reproducing observed patterns and variability in our current and recent climate; and the success of models at reproducing past changes in our climate, including global temperature changes.

Comparing models developed independently by different centres around the world provides additional confidence where those models agree on the response (typically on global and continental scales). To minimise the impact of inaccuracy in any one model, scientists can simulate the same scenarios in multiple models and compare the outcomes.

When models are used to provide information about more localised parts of the climate – for example, over a particular country or region – the results become more uncertain. However, the quality of regional models is improving, increasing the confidence with which they can predict local features such as rainfall.

This article was written by Carbon Brief in conjunction with the Guardian and partners

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Medicinal tree used in chemotherapy drug faces extinction

November 11, 2011

Peeling Pacific Yew (Taxus brevifolin) Bark for Taxol

The forests and jungles are being harvested faster than it can be replaced. Trees are an important resource that needs to be protected from extinction. I am surprise that we are still talking about saving trees…its time to shut up and take action…save our trees before its too late…where is my medicinal tree?

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Medicinal tree used in chemotherapy drug faces extinction” was written by Hanna Gersmann and Jessica Aldred, for The Guardian on Thursday 10th November 2011 07.30 UTC

A species of Himalayan yew tree that is used to produce Taxol, a chemotherapy drug to treat cancer, is being pushed to the brink of extinction by over-harvesting for medicinal use and collection for fuel, scientists warned on Thursday.

The medicinal tree, Taxus contorta, found in Afghanistan, India and Nepal, has seen its conservation status change from “vulnerable” to “endangered” on the IUCN’s annual “red list” of threatened species.

Taxol was discovered by a US National Cancer Institute programme in the late 1960s, isolated in the bark of the Pacific yew tree, Taxus brevifolia. All 11 species of yew have since been found to contain Taxol. “The harvesting of the bark kills the trees, but it is possible to extract Taxol from clippings, so harvesting, if properly controlled, can be less detrimental to the plants,” said Craig Hilton-Taylor, IUCN red list unit manager.

“Harvest and trade should be carefully controlled to ensure it is sustainable, but plants should also be grown in cultivation to reduce the impact of harvesting on wild populations,” he added.

The red list is currently the most detailed and authoritative survey of the planet’s species, drawn from the work of thousands of scientists around the globe. For the first time, more than 61,900 species have been reviewed. The latest list categorises 801 species as extinct, 64 as extinct in the wild, and 9,568 as critically endangered or endangered. A further 10,002 species are vulnerable, with the main threats being overuse, pollution, habitat loss and degradation.

Tim Entwisle from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said: “There are 380,000 species of plants named and described, with about 2,000 being added to the list every year. At Kew we estimate one in five of these are likely to be under threat of extinction right now, before we even factor in the impacts of climate change.”

The Chinese water fir, for example, which was formerly widespread throughout China and Vietnam, is critically endangered. The main cause of decline is the loss of habitat to expanding intensive agriculture. The largest of the recently discovered stands in Laos was killed through flooding for a newly constructed hydropower scheme.

In the granitic Seychelles Islands, 77% of the assessed endemic flowering plants are at risk of extinction, including the Coco de Mer, which is illegally harvested for its supposed aphrodisiac properties.

Some 25% of all mammals were deemed to be at serious risk, according to the list. The black rhino in western Africa has officially been declared extinct. The white rhino in central Africa is on the brink of extinction and has been listed as possibly extinct in the wild. In Vietnam, poaching has driven the Javan rhinoceros to extinction, leaving the critically endangered species’ only remaining population numbering less than 50 on the Indonesian island that gave it its name.

But it is not all bad news for conservationists. Przewalski’s horse, also known as the Mongolian wild horse, was listed as extinct in the wild in 1996. Thanks to captive breeding and a successful reintroduction programme, the population in central Asia is now estimated at more than 300 and the wild horse has improved its status from critically endangered to endangered.

“This update offers both good and bad news on the status of many species around the world,” said Jane Smart, director of the IUCN Global Species Programme. “We have the knowledge that conservation works if executed in a timely manner, yet, without strong political will in combination with targeted efforts and resources, the wonders of nature and the services it provides can be lost forever.”

The overall message is that biodiversity continues to decline and governments need to take action to achieve the goal of a 10-year plan that was agreed on the international biodiversity summit in Japan last year. It reads: “By 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Starbucks concerned world coffee supply is threatened by climate change

October 14, 2011

Starbucks in New York

Climate change to affect the taste of my coffee?… Now I am listening…that’s right Starbucks, the coffee giant  is chanting climate change issues…well to be perfectly clear…Starbucks has always been in favor of research concerning global food demand and conservation. Hey…it makes for good conversation or you can just ponder over the issue while drinking your next Starbucks cafe latte…no sugar please..

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony  

Powered by article titled “Starbucks concerned world coffee supply is threatened by climate change” was written by Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, for on Thursday 13th October 2011 20.17 UTC

Forget about super-sizing into the trenta a few years from now: Starbucks is warning of a threat to world coffee supply because of climate change.

In a telephone interview with the Guardian, Jim Hanna, the company’s sustainability director, said its farmers were already seeing the effects of a changing climate, with severe hurricanes and more resistant bugs reducing crop yields.

The company is now preparing for the possibility of a serious threat to global supplies. “What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road – if conditions continue as they are – is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean,” Hanna said.

It was the second warning in less than a month of a threat to a food item many people can’t live without.

New research from the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture warned it would be too hot to grow chocolate in much of the Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world’s main producers, by 2050.

Hanna is to travel to Washington on Friday to brief members of Congress on climate change and coffee at an event sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The coffee giant is part of a business coalition that has been trying to push Congress and the Obama administration to act on climate change – without success, as Hanna acknowledged.

The coalition, including companies like Gap, are next month launching a new campaign – showcasing their own action against climate change – ahead of the release of a landmark science report from the UN’s IPCC.

Hanna told the Guardian the company’s suppliers, who are mainly in Central America, were already experiencing changing rainfall patterns and more severe pest infestations.

Even well-established farms were seeing a drop in crop yield, and that could well discourage growers from cultivating coffee in the future, further constricting supply, he said. “Even in very well established coffee plantations and farms, we are hearing more and more stories of impacts.”

These include: more severe hurricanes, mudslides and erosion, variation in dry and rainy seasons.

Hanna said the company was working with local producers to try to cushion them from future changes.

“If we sit by and wait until the impacts of climate change are so severe that is impacting our supply chain then that puts us at a greater risk,” he said. “From a business perspective we really need to address this now, and to look five, 10, and 20 years down the road.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Good year for spiders sparks a surge of arachnophobia

September 19, 2011

Tegenaria gigantea common house spider

Spiders are usually the least loved of the when you fear spiders, think of the word arachnophobia ..but they serve an important link in the chain of life…most important they help keep the insect population at bay…without them ..we would have a bigger problem of controlling those pesky mosquitos…so think twice before passing that duster along corner walls!

Pass it on

Dr Anthony

This article titled “Good year for spiders sparks a surge of arachnophobia” was written by Tracy McVeigh, for The Observer on Saturday 17th September 2011 23.04 UTC

Spiders are a less than welcome seasonal sight for many. But, along with apples, conkers and reddening leaves, autumn brings out Britain’s arachnids in huge numbers.

The bad news, for those who don’t like them, is that this year there are more than ever. A warm spring followed by a wet summer means the eight-legged blighters are everywhere, spinning webs in the garden, getting stuck in the bath and tottering across bedroom ceilings.

That’s just the male spiders, which can be seen running around as colder temperatures send them indoors to seek shelter. The females are inside already but stay fairly still and generally out of sight on skirting boards, so the bad news for arachnophobics is that there are even more of them around than it first appears.

“What’s happened is that the warm spring brought an influx of pollen, so that encourages an influx of insects and crane flies and all the rest of the feeding chain. So it’s more food for spiders and more of the babies from last year survive,” said Angela Hale, a spider expert at Drusillas Animal Park in Alfriston, East Sussex. Along with zoos in Bristol and London, Drusillas is being inundated with calls about its courses on tackling spider phobias, and reports of strange spiders in gardens and homes.

“People suddenly start seeing big spiders everywhere and think they have some exotic breed on their hands. But the reality is that at this time of year they are mating and are pregnant. So you are seeing the males scuttling around looking for the females and then you have the females with great bulbous bodies full of eggs. But they are not a strange foreign spider, they are just pregnant and that makes their bodies not only swollen but also clumsy, so they tend to be again more visible.”

Hale, who is secretary of the British Tarantula Society and keeps between 150 and 200 pet spiders, says they are essential to the ecosystem. “If we didn’t have spiders we’d be inundated with all the flies and others things they eat for us. And then there are the birds, like the wren, which feed on spiders. This year’s abundance of spiders will all work out in the end.”

Arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias in the UK, but also the most irrational as no native British spider is capable of causing serious harm. While all spiders carry poison, most British species have jaws too weak to pierce human skin and those that are able to bite do so rarely and usually painlessly.

The latest research, from the University of Queensland, now suggests that even in Australia, where spiders can be deadly, people aren’t born afraid, but learn their fear from others.

Spiders typically like dark, unswept, dusty corners, and will often stay under floorboards. Contrary to popular myth, they are not especially fond of baths, but just can’t get out once they are in.

Britain is home to some 650 species but only one is harmful to humans, the noble false widow, which can deliver a nasty nip.

According to Alan Stubbs of Buglife, a conservation charity for invertebrates, people should cherish the influx of spiders. “Instead of being squeamish, look at how much they do for us, eating the flies. We are possibly the most arachnophobic country in the world but we have no reason to be. I think people are scared because they run so fast, but they are harmless. My wife and I have names for the ones in our house.”

Buglife recently ran a campaign called Love Spiders, which saw a host of celebrities extolling the virtues of the much maligned creatures, and Stubbs appealed to people not to kill spiders they find in their house.

“They don’t do you any harm. Leave them alone and they’ll catch flies and be happy just doing their own thing. If you don’t like looking at them then just have a look at a web with the dew on it and wonder why we bother with the Turner prize when nature can create such a wonderful thing.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Daryl Hannah arrested at protest

August 31, 2011

US actress Daryl Hannah shows her oil-contaminated hand

You have freedom of speech in America…but it always seems you can still get arrested for it…or should we say quietly removed from the streets. Daryl Hannah arrested? You go girl…tell them what’s on your mind… still I like her style and courage to stand up for what she believes in …instead of standing home or sitting in a bar …drinking and complaining about how America is going down the toilet…Are we still Americans?

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony


Powered by article titled “Daryl Hannah arrested at protest” was written by Ben Quinn and agencies, for The Guardian on Tuesday 30th August 2011 20.34 UTC

Actor Daryl Hannah has been arrested in front of the White House along with other environmental protesters who oppose a planned oil pipeline from Canada to the US Gulf Coast.

The sit-in on Tuesday involved dozens of activists campaigning against the Keystone XL pipeline which would go through six states to refineries in Texas.

Before she was arrested, Hannah said the protesters want to be free from dependence on fossil fuels and that she hoped Barack Obama will not give way to oil lobbyists.

The actor sat down on the pavement near the White House and refused orders from US Park Police to move.

TransCanada, a major energy corporation, says on its website that the $13bn (£7.98bn) Keystone pipeline system will play an important role in linking a secure and growing supply of Canadian crude oil with the largest refining markets in the US, “significantly improving North American security supply”.

Hannah, who made her name in films of the1980s such as Blade Runner, Splash, Roxanne, Wall Street and Steel Magnolias, has been arrested in the past for environmental causes.

She and Nasa climate scientist James Hansen were among 31 people arrested in June 2009 as they protested against mountaintop removal mining in southern West Virginia.

On that occasion, all were released after being charged with impeding traffic and obstructing an officer after they blocked a road near a Massey Energy subsidiary’s coal processing plant.

Police forcibly removed her from a tree in Los Angeles in 2006 as she was trying to prevent the demolition of a community farm which had become a cause celebre among other Hollywood figures. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Melting Arctic ice releasing banned toxins, warn scientists

July 24, 2011

Melting Arctic ice releasing banned toxins

It’s bad enough that the Arctic ice caps are melting, but the idea there has been toxic contamination in these areas and this contamination is being released into the marine life waters is more disturbing to me.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony


Powered by article titled “Melting Arctic ice releasing banned toxins, warn scientists” was written by Damian Carrington, for The Guardian on Sunday 24th July 2011 17.00 UTC

The warming of the Arctic is releasing a new wave of toxic chemicals that had been trapped in the ice and cold water, scientists have discovered.

The researchers warn that the amount of the poisons stockpiled in the polar region is unknown and their release could “undermine global efforts to reduce environmental and human exposure to them”.

The chemicals seeping out as temperatures rise include the pesticides DDT, lindane and chlordane, made infamous in Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring, as well as the industrial chemicals PCBs and the fungicide hexachlorobenzene (HCB).

All of these are know as persistent organics pollutants (Pops), and are banned under the 2004 Stockholm convention.

Pops can cause cancers and birth defects and take a very long time to degrade, meaning they can be transported for long distances and accumulate over time. Over past decades, the low temperatures in the Arctic trapped volatile Pops in ice and cold water.

But scientists in Canada and Norway have discovered that global warming is freeing the Pops once again. They examined measurements of Pops in the air between 1993 and 2009 at the Zeppelin research station in Svalbaard and Alert weather station in northern Canada.

After allowing for the decline in global emissions of Pops, the team showed that the toxic chemicals are being remobilised by rising temperatures and the retreat of the sea ice, which exposes more water to the sun. For example, air concentrations of PCBs and HCBs have shown a rising trend from about 2004 onwards. The scientists’ work is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Hayley Hung, at the air quality research division of Environment Canada and one of the team, said their work provided the first evidence of the remobilisation of Pops in the Arctic. “But this is the beginning of a story,” she said. “The next step is to find out how much is in the Arctic, how much will leak out and how quickly.”

Hung said, with the exception of lindane, there was little existing knowledge of the scale of the Pops stored in high latitude regions.

The fate of the frozen Pops depends on the speed of warming in the Arctic – it is currently heating up much more quickly than lower latitudes – as well as how the chemicals interact with snow and rain.

Pops accumulate in fats and are therefore concentrated up the food chain, but Hung cautions that food chains themselves in the Arctic may be altered by climate change. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Lessons for Japan from the Chernobyl catastrophe

March 16, 2011


The situation in Japan is changing by the minute and the authorities there can not allow this to get out of hand. My prayers go out to the brave people of Japan and to the lives lost. Now is the time for the Japanese officials to make the hard decisions and put a better plan into action.  The world is watching and hoping for Japan to rise to the challenge.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Lessons for Japan from the Chernobyl catastrophe” was written by Ian Sample, science correspondent, for The Guardian on Wednesday 16th March 2011 21.44 UTC

The worsening crisis at the Fukushima power station in Japan has led to inevitable comparisons with the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster that killed workers at the plant instantly, caused cancers in the surrounding population and spread radioactive contamination so far that livestock restrictions are still in place at some farms around the UK.

The situation at Fukushima – which the French nuclear agency estimates to be a level six “serious accident” (two up from the one at Three Mile Island in 1979) – is certainly grave and immediately dangerous for those at the site who are fighting to make the crippled reactors and fuel storage ponds safe.

But whatever warnings are now being issued by foreign governments to their citizens in Japan, there are significant differences that set this apart from the catastrophe in Ukraine, even as the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission warned that a pool of spent fuel rods at Fukushima had boiled dry.

At Chernobyl the nuclear reactor exploded after a surge in power that blew the top off the power plant and sent hot fuel – and importantly, its more radioactive fission products – high into the upper atmosphere, where it floated across national borders.

A fire that broke out in the graphite core forced more radioactive material into the air, helping it spread further. The reactor had no containment facility to even slow the release of radiation from the plant.

The Fukushima boiling water reactor is a 40-year-old power plant and it has some glaring design flaws, but the reactors have been switched off for five days, so there is less fresh radioactive material around, and each core is contained within a 20cm-thick steel container, which is then protected by a steel-lined reinforced concrete outer structure. Even in the case of a meltdown, these measures should at least limit the amount of radiation released.

The engineers at the site are working in swift changeover shifts to limit their own exposure to radiation. After a peak in radioactivity during the release of steam from the plant this week, one worker received a radiation dose of 106 millisieverts, according to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

That is a dangerous level, but the dose corresponds to less than a 1% risk of fatal cancer in the worker’s lifetime, said Richard Wakeford, an expert in radiation epidemiology at the Dalton Nuclear Institute at Manchester University.

But what of the population beyond? The risk from radiation falls off substantially with distance. The authorities have already imposed an exclusion zone of 12 miles around the power station, introduced food bans and dispensed potassium iodide pills to those in the surrounding area. Those pills are to be taken only if a major leak of radiation spills out from the plant and reaches people at high levels.

The radiation is lower at a distance because the particles become dispersed and their radioactivity continues to fall.

Radiation levels have already risen above background levels in Tokyo and the US navy has measured higher levels off the coast, but these are far below the levels that can harm health. Any danger ahead will come from a major and sustained release of radiation.

There are a number of disaster scenarios that the authorities must contend with that could produce a severe radiation leak. The most obvious is that one or more of the reactors goes into meltdown. That can occur if the fuel rods in the core are not cooled enough, and the rods and surrounding cladding melt.

Because this molten material forms a blob it is much harder to cool than when the rods are spaced apart, so it can heat up further and ultimately melt through the bottom of the reactor vessel. If it then causes an explosion and ruptures the secondary containment, it can release radiation into the environment.

The latest nuclear power reactors due to be built in Britain have a built in “core-catcher” that comprises a chute down which the molten core flows until it reaches a reservoir in the ground, said Andrew Sherry, director of the Dalton Institute.

Another doomsday scenario – and one the engineers are battling now – is that one or more of the huge water pools used to store spent fuel boils dry, exposing the fuel rods to the atmosphere where they catch fire. These fuel rods are heavily contaminated with radioactive fission products that could be released directly into the air.

If either of these happens, more radioactive material will be spewed out of the power station without doubt. At the site, the greatest danger would be from short-lived products of the fission reactions that fizzle out quickly in a burst of gamma rays. These burn out so fast that they are not a major problem further afield. “As time goes by, much of the early short-lived radioactivity dies away and you’re in a much happier position,” said Wakeford.

Any explosion could launch uranium and plutonium fuel – the latter from reactor 3 – into the air. These would remain as particles and would settle near the plant. They are grim environmental contaminants, and could see vast areas ruled out of bounds, but they are only a serious problem to people if they are ingested or inhaled.

For the more distant population, the most serious radioactive substances that would be released are caesium-137 and iodine-131. These are extremely volatile, so can be carried a long way. But dangerous doses are not likely to travel far on the wind. “Unless you’re right next to the plant, the vast amount of the dose would be from what you eat and drink,” said Neil Crout, who models environmental contaminants at the University of Nottingham.

The danger comes when radioactive iodine and caesium rain down on the ground, on pastureland, for example, and livestock eat it. Cows concentrate radioactive iodine in their milk. Radioactive caesium accumulates in muscles, and in the past has built up in grazing sheep.

The threat to humans then comes from drinking milk and eating contaminated meat. Both can raise the risk of cancer – iodine especially by being absorbed into children’s thyroid glands. The iodine pills work by flooding the thyroid with stable iodine so the gland cannot absorb the radioactive form.

“The principal concern the authorities are worrying about, and it is why they have evacuated the area, why they are banning food stuffs, and why they are issuing stable iodine tablets, is that if there is a serious release, you have radioactive iodine. We know from Chernobyl that you’ve got to limit the dose to the thyroid glands of young children,” said Wakeford. A recent report from the UN’s scientific committee on the effects of atomic radiation found that a rise in thyroid cancer was the only substantial medical legacy of Chernobyl in the general population.

“What happened at Chernobyl, which was a much more serious accident than this, was that the local Soviet authorities were in denial, they didn’t get people out of the area, they didn’t evacuate quickly enough, and they allowed children to continue to drink heavily contaminated milk, and as a consequence, many children received high doses of radiation, a sievert and greater, to the thyroid and we’ve seen thousands of thyroid cancers as a consequence,” Wakeford said.

“In 1957 radioiodine was released in the Windscale fire in Cumbria . They monitored it and tipped the milk away. If they had done that at Chernobyl they could have prevented much of the problem.”

• This article was amended on 17 March 2011 to correct a misspelling of Neil Crout’s name. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Japan tsunami and earthquake – live coverage

March 12, 2011

A woman carrying a child on her back walks over debris in Rikuzentakada

As more and more information comes in about Japan’s tsunami and earthquake, concerns about their nuclear reactors has everyone around the world wondering if they can contain the toxic material from leaking out or are the possibilities of a nuclear meltdown unfolding before our eyes. What will be the consequences of this event?

Pass it on

Dr Anthony


Powered by article titled “Japan tsunami and earthquake – Saturday 12 March part one” was written by Lee Glendinning and Tania Branigan, for on Saturday 12th March 2011 02.00 UTC

1.36am: Hello, here’s a summary of the latest events as Japan wakes to a mass rescue mission and scenes of devastation on Saturday morning after an earthquake which measured 8.9 magnitude struck the country, prompting a massive tsunami.

• Japanese media have said the death toll is expected to exceed 1,000.

• The earthquake struck in the afternoon local time on Friday, triggering a tsunami with 10m-high waves hitting the northern port of Sendai. Waves have swept across farmland, sweeping away homes, crops, vehicles, triggering fires.

• Japan has declared states of emergency for five nuclear reactors at two power plants after the units lost cooling ability

• Japan’s military has mobilised thousands of troops and hundreds of planes as a mass relief effort begins to take shape

The latest information from the Associated Press builds a vivid picture of what Japan wakes up to this morning.

(AP) Japan’s northeastern coast was a swampy wasteland of broken houses, overturned cars, sludge and dirty water Saturday as the nation awoke to the devastating aftermath of one of its greatest disasters, a powerful tsunami created by one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded.
The death toll from Friday’s massive magnitude 8.9 quake stood at more than 200, but an untold number of bodies were believed to be lying in the rubble and debris, and Japanese were bracing for more bad news as authorities tried to reach the hardest-hit areas.
Aerial footage showed military helicopters lifting people on rescue tethers from rooftops and partially submerged buildings surrounded by water and debris. At one school, a large white “SOS” had been spelled out in English.
The earthquake that struck off the northeastern shore was the biggest recorded quake ever to hit Japan. It ranked as the fifth-largest earthquake in the world since 1900 and was nearly 8,000 times stronger than one that devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, last month, scientists said.

1.53am: Some updated information on nuclear reactor situation unfolding in Japan. The Japanese government has been holding an emergency meeting on the Fukushima nuclear plants. It has warned of a possible radiation leak as authorities battle to contain rising pressure at two nuclear plants damaged the quake.

Pressure was building in reactors of two plants at Tokyo Electric Power Co ‘s Fukushima facility, located 150 miles north of Tokyo. At one of them, the Daiichi plant, pressure was set to released soon , which could result in a radiation leak, officials said.

“It’s possible that radioactive material in the reactor vessel could leak outside but the amount is expected to be small, and the wind blowing towards the sea will be considered,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference.

“Residents are safe after those within a 3km radius were evacuated and those within a 10 km radius are staying indoors, so we want people to be calm,” he added.

Reuters has quoted an expert as saying that while some radiation may leak from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, a major disaster is unlikely.

Naoto Sekimura, a professor at the University of Tokyo says “No Chernobyl is possible at a light water reactor.”

Loss of coolant means a temperature rise, but it also will stop the reaction. Even in the worst-case scenario, that would mean some radioactive leakage and equipment damage, but not an explosion. If venting is done carefully, there will be little leakage. Certainly not beyond the 3 km radius.

2.10am: Residents in Japan are beginning to survey the extent of the devastation.

2.20am: A new official death toll gives a clear idea of the scale of the tsunami’s destructive reach. Japan police said that as of 10am Saturday local time, 287 people were confirmed dead in nine prefectures; a further 725 are missing in six prefectures.

2.32am: This graphic and list from the US geological survey demonstrate the relentlessness with which shocks continue to pummel the quakezone.

2.38am: Justin McCurry our correspondent in Japan, writes to say that Japan’s prime minister, Naoto Kan, has returned to Tokyo from a visit to the disaster zone. He described the damage as “huge”.

2.42am: The Japan Times is now reporting a radiation leak has been confirmed at Fukushima plant.

Radiation leak confirmed at quake-hit Fukushima plant
Kyodo News

Radiation rose to an unusually high level in and near Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant Saturday following the powerful earthquake that hit northern Japan the previous day, the nuclear safety agency said, making it the first case of an external leak of radioactive substances since the disaster.

2:49am: @DavidHalton who is tweeting from Sendai, has posted this picture of survivors crammed into a shelter. He said it appeared that aftershocks were subsiding and that phones were now working sporadically.

“We have enough of everything except water right now. Not looking forward to nighttime and the cold,” he wrote.

Temperatures are due to drop to around zero overnight again.

Earlier, he wrote: “So grateful to be in the company of family and best friends even though we have nothing else. All that matters!”

@blaiseplant, also in Sendai, wrote: “The school we just checked was completely packed with refugees…The people at the schools seemed to be in high spirits, a lot of sad faces though.”

2.54am: A Japanese expert acknowledged that the size of Friday’s earthquake had taken many researchers by surprise. Yuji Yagi, an associate professor at Tsukuba University, said the quake had been triggered by a displacement of up to 20 meters in a fault approximately 500 km long and 200 km wide.

Yagi told Kyodo News that the boundary of a large tectonic plate stretching from offshore Iwate prefecture to offshore Ibaraki prefecture had undergone a significant realignment. ”Many earthquake researchers did not expect such a quake to happen,” he said.

Yagi believes the quake measured magnitude 9, rather than the 8.8 announced by Japan’s meteorological agency.

2.56am: News agencies are reporting that a 6.1-magnitude earthquake has struck the South Pacific nation of Tonga.

The quake hit about 143 miles (230km) northeast of Neiafu, Tonga at 2:19 pm. It occurred at a depth of 6.8 miles (10.9km).

No tsunami alert was immediately posted. Earlier the Met Office in Tonga had reported the island nation had recorded 2-3 foot (60-90cm) waves as a result of the massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake off Japan.

Radio New Zealand is reporting that thousands of people in the capital Nuku’alofa had sought refuge from the tsunami at the King’s residence, which was on higher ground.

3.11am: Byron Kidd, a Tokyo resident, said phone voice services to Sendai still appeared to be down, but his father-in-law had managed to send an email from his mobile phone to confirm he was safe.

He was not at home when the earthquake struck thankfully – he lives in Sendai very close to the ocean. His place has been destroyed. Things that should be outside are inside. It’s pretty uninhabitable. There have been shelters set up in schools and gymnasiums and some people have spent the night in cars.

With concerns about power shortages persisiting, Byron added that officials are now using the public address system in Tokyo to request people conserve electricity by shutting off non-essential appliances.

3.17am: Here is a statement from the World Food Programme executive director Josette Sheeran.

When nature strikes with such force, the world has to come together. I would like to express my deepest compassion and heartfelt solidarity with the Government and people of Japan in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

This epic tragedy recalls some of the worst devastations that WFP and Japan have together responded to around the world, and all of us at WFP are impressed by the bravery and dedication of Japan’s emergency response services and the decisive measures the Japanese Government has taken to deal with the damage and save lives.

It is a spirit, a resiliency in the face of challenge, which we have come to know and admire from Japan. Japan is one of the world’s most generous nations and has always stood with WFP when tragedy occurs and, today, WFP stands with Japan.

We are ready to assist in any way Japan may find helpful. Our thoughts and prayers are with the many families affected by this tragedy.

3.27am: @s.o: All 81 passengers rescued on ship that was swept out to sea by tsunami – NHK

3.29am: Justin McCurry writes:

Japan’s prime minister, Naoto Kan, has said that “minute” amounts of radiation were released from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Kan was speaking after a helicopter trip to survey the quake and tsunami damage. The plant’s operator had earlier opened the valves of the containers housing the reactors to reduce pressure, which in turn led to the release of a small quantity of radioactive steam.

Light planes and vehicles swept from Sendai airport in northern Japan sit among the debris from the tsumani.

3.36am: Daisuke Wakabayashi (@daiwaka), a Tokyo-based Wall Street Journal reporter who has reached Fukushima prefecture, reported “quite extensive damage to the roads and some surrounding buildings. We are seeing buildings that have crumbled.”
He added that around 200 people were queuing with buckets, bags and bottles at a water distribution centre allowing them to take 10 litres per household.

3.45am: Roland Buerk, from the BBC, writes about the scene as the country awoke this morning.

It was only when the sun came up that a more complete picture of devastation began to become a little bit more clear.

From the air it was clear that what had been paddy fields and villages are now sea-water lagoons. The water came in with the tsunami in some places and hasn’t gone out again. It must have been very difficult for rescuers to get to those areas during the night.

The scale of the devastation has become clearer too. Overnight we heard snippets of information – 300 bodies found in one ward of one city. In another town, 300 homes engulfed by a wave that came in at rooftop height. Now local media are reporting that a town in Iwate prefecture, home of 23,000 people, has been largely destroyed.

3.57am: Here are some of the latest snippets from Reuters and Japan’s Kyodo news agency:

In one of the worst-hit residential areas, people buried under rubble could be heard calling out for rescue. TV footage showed staff at one hospital waving banners with the words “FOOD” and “HELP” from a rooftop.
In Tokyo, office workers who were stranded in the city after the quake forced the subway system to close early slept alongside the homeless at one station. Scores of men in suits lay on newspapers, using their briefcases as pillows.
Kyodo said at least 116,000 people in Tokyo had been unable to return home on Friday evening due to transport disruption.
The northeastern Japanese city of Kesennuma, with a population of 74,000, was hit by widespread fires and one-third of the city was under water, Jiji news agency said on Saturday.
The airport in the city of Sendai, home to one million people, was on fire, it added.

Some video footage shows the full force of water battering ships, homes and cars yesterday

4.04am: Time for a summary of events so far this morning:

The death toll is expected to exceed 1,000, domestic media say, with most people appeared to have drowned.

Around 3,000 residents living near nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture have been evacuated from area.

The Northeastern city of Kesennuma, with population of 74,000, has been hit by widespread fires, with one-third of the city submerged, media say.

Tsunami warnings were issued for the entire Pacific basin, except mainland United States and Canada, but fears of tsunami beyond Japan have not materialised.

4.23am: For readers in Japan, @TimeOutTokyo has offered this guide on how to help. Their summary: “Give money, give blood, but don’t head to the afflicted areas”

4.25am: Police in Japan have raised the death toll to 420, with 784 missing, Kyodo News is reporting.

Justin McCurry earlier spoke to Shaun Burnie, a consultant on the nuclear industry, and head of nuclear campaigns at Greenpeace International, who has explained the potential risks at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture where the cooling system has failed. Burnie has been visiting Japan for nearly 20 years, including the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

When nuclear power plants are shut down in an emergency that does not mean that the problem is over. And this has proved to be the case at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, south of Sendai.

One critical safety issue is the maintenance of water cooling systems to ensure that the nuclear fuel inside the reactor core does not heat up to unsafe levels. With the loss of emergency generator capacity at 3 reactors at Fukushima the risk is that the nuclear fuel is already damaged.

It appears that the reactor operator Tokyo Electric has been unable to pump cooling water for at least 3 or more hours at units 1,2 and 3. These are reactors built in the early 1970s – so are nearly 40 years old.

The possibility is that the reactor fuel is already damaged. If they are unable to restore coolant pump capacity then the fuel will continue to heat up, eventually the fuel will be exposed to air at which point a whole series of events can unfold, including steam explosions, fuel meltdown and worse case is loss of containment.

The reactors contain around 100 tons of highly radioactive spent fuel within each core. People may remember Three Mile Island which was a partial core meltdown. The fact that 2,000 people are being evacuated from around the site suggests there may already be radioactivity in the containment building.

A fire broke out at Onagawa nuclear power plant, and there are reports of leaking spent fuel ponds at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. This is a serious situation could get very much worse. The last thing the people of Japan need after the tragedy of this earthquake and tsunami is a nuclear catastrophe.

4.42am: Here is a breakdown on what we know about the nuclear reactors currently having problems, which is quite complex. This is what Richard Adams published earlier to explain:

• Diesel generators that normally would have worked as back-ups to keep cooling systems running had been disabled by tsunami flooding.

• Power supply systems to provide emergency electricity for the plants were being put in place, the World Nuclear Association said.

• Both plants are light water reactors operated by the Tokyo Electric Power company (or Tepco):

Fukushima Daiichi (No 1) plant

– has six reactors, three of which were shut down for maintainence. Two of the remaining reactors, Unit 1 has significant problems with a rising temperature and in another the operator says it has lost cooling ability.

– the Unit 1 reactor has seen radiation levels inside its control room rise, and slightly higher radiation levels have been detected outside the reactor. Pressure inside the reactor is twice the normal level, and the operator has been forced to vent radioactive vapor to relieve the pressure.

Fukushima Daini (No 2) plant

– has four reactors, and in units 1, 2 and 4 of them the operator has said it has lost cooling ability.

– Tepco says pressure is stable inside the reactors of the Daini plant but rising in the containment vessels.

• Both plants have been declared to be in a state of emergency by the government, and residents moved outside of a 10km zone around both plants.

4.49am: This is quite an incredible image of an energy map provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which shows the core of the tsunami, and the intensity of the way it spread.

5.20am: Kyodo news has just reported that the Fukushima nuclear plant might be experiencing nuclear meltdown.

5.30am: @tukky_nt RT @Reuters: FLASH: #Japan nuclear authorities say high possibility of meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 reactor – Jiji. RT @TomokoHosaka: Japan nuclear safety commission official says meltdown at nuclear power plant possible, AP confirms. #earthquake #jpquake

6.01am: As we wait for more confirmation on the nuclear situation unfolding in Japan, here is the latest information from AP.

AP) A nuclear power plant affected by a massive earthquake is facing a possible meltdown, an official with Japan’s nuclear safety commission said.

Ryohei Shiomi said that officials were checking whether a meltdown had taken place at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant’s Unit 1, which had lost cooling ability in the aftermath of Friday’s powerful earthquake.

Shiomi said that even if there was a meltdown, it wouldn’t affect humans beyond a six-mile radius. Most of the 51,000 residents living within that radius have been evacuated, he said.

The BBC has just published a fresh gallery of pictures, which show the scope of the rescue mission going on in Japan today.

6.37am: Possible good news – Japan’s Kyodo news agency is reporting that workers have successfully released pressure from the Fukushima No. 1 reactor.

It is thought they had to halt work earlier because of the high radiation levels around the valves, but were able to resume.

Reports concerning the possible meltdown remain confused: the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant, does not believe there has been damage to the core due to overheating. But officials with the nuclear safety commission say they believe there is a possibility of a partial meltdown.

6.48am: This Reuters gallery shows the aftermath of the disaster in some of the worst hit areas today.

6.55am: While we wait for more news from the press conference by Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, a quick update on events:

Workers have successfully vented gas from the reactor, reducing pressure, but Japanese media report that prime minister Naoto Kan has not ruled out a possible radiation leak from the No. 2 reactor.

The death toll from the disaster is expected to exceed 1,300, with most deaths due to drowning.

Around 50,000 rescuers have deployed to north-eastern Japan

Many survivors have been trapped overnight on rooftops, surrounded by a sea of mud and water, and in emergency shelters

Tsunami warnings for most of Japan have been lowered, although there is still a risk of large waves along the north-eastern coast

7.15am: A fuller read on the nuclear situation is now up here. Events are developing fast so we will continue to update on this blog.

7.30am: An expert from the USGS has told CNN that the quake appears to have moved Japan’s main island by 8 feet and shifted the world on its axis.

Aftershocks are continuing more than 24 hours after the magnitude 8.9 tremor struck.

There’s an interesting read here on how the crucial few seconds gained thanks to Japan’s earthquake warning system may have helped to save lives.

7.52am: Japanese media reporting that explosion heard at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi plant around 0630 GMT – more soon

7.56am: My colleague Justin McCurry in Japan says explosion reported at Fukushima Daiichi (No 1) reactor at 15:36 local time (06:36GMT). TV footage shows smoke rising from plant.

8.35am: The nuclear plant’s operators say four people were injured in the explosion, Kyodo news agency reports.

NHK is advising people in the Fukushima area to stay inside, close doors and windows and turn off air conditioning. They have also been advised to cover their mouths with masks, towels or handkerchiefs

8.45am: Justin McCurry says television footage is showing the exposed frame of one of four buildings housing reactors. The external panelling appears to have been blown away, but no flames or smoke are visible almost two hours after the blast. Officials in Fukushima prefecture said the cause of the explosion is being investigated.

8.56am: While we’re waiting for more details from the press conference on the explosion, a quick response to a query in the comments about how people can help.

The Disasters Emergency Committee says most of its members are unlikely to play a part in the response because their expertise lies in handling disasters in poorer developing countries and points people towards the Red Cross, the only agency with significant expertise in developed nations. But the British Red Cross say they are not accepting donations for Japan at present as their Japanese colleagues have yet to ask for help.

If you’re in the US, MSNBC has suggestions here

For those in Japan, @timeouttokyo has offered a guide on what (and what not) to do

9.03am: Chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano has told a press conference that he cannot confirm that the explosion at the nuclear power plant was the reactor, saying details of the incident remained unclear. He said authorities were prepared for the worst emergency but urged people to remain calm and not to listen to rumours. He also asked them to conserve electricity.

9.14am: Reuters reports that the UN’s nuclear watchdog – the International Atomic Energy Agency – is urgently seeking information on the situation at the power plant.

Chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano has confirmed a radiation leak, but it is not clear if he was referring to the aftermath of the blast or to earlier reports of high readings in the area.

9.23am: We’re wrapping up this blog but live coverage will continue.

In the meantime, here’s a round-up of events so far in Japan on Saturday.

There are growing fears about damage to two nuclear power stations following Friday’s 8.9 magnitute earthquake. There has been an explosion at a building at one of the plants, Fukushima No 1 in Futuba, 150 miles (240km) north of Tokyo. Japanese authorities have extended the evacuation area at the Fukushima No 2 plant to 10km, the same distance as for Fukushima No 1 plant.

The death toll from the disaster is expected to exceed 1,300, with most deaths due to drowning. The official death toll currently stands at 413, with 784 people missing and 1,128 injured. Police said between 200 and 300 bodies were found along the coast in Sendai, the biggest city in the area near the quake’s epicentre.

Police estimate that more than 215,000 people are taking refuge in emergency shelters in the east and north of the country. Many survivors have been trapped overnight on rooftops, surrounded by a sea of mud and water. Around 50,000 rescuers have deployed to the region.

Tsunami warnings for most of Japan have been lowered, although there is still a risk of large waves along the north-eastern coast.

The tsunami rolled across the Pacific at jet speed but had weakened before it hit Hawaii and the West Coast of the US. Initial reports suggest limited tsunami damage to Pacific island nations. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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