Japan feared evacuation of 30 million in nuclear crisis, ex-PM says
Residents of the area near the 20-kilometer exclusion zone around the crippled Japanese nuclear plant are tested for radiation earlier this month.
September 19th, 2011
11:13 AM ET

Japan feared evacuation of 30 million in nuclear crisis, ex-PM says

After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami off Japan damaged the Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactor, the Japanese government was presented with a scenario which would have required the evacuation of half of Tokyo and the entire width of the main island of Honshu, former Prime Minister Naota Kan says in an interview with Kyodo News.

The evacuation zone would have covered all areas within 200 to 250 kilometers (125 to 155 miles) of the nuclear reactor, meaning about 30 million people in Tokyo and its surrounding areas would have needed to be moved, according to the Kyodo report in The Japan Times.

Kan said he feared such an evacuation would have resulted in chaos, according to the report.

"I wasn't sure whether Japan could continue to function as a state," he is quoted as saying.

Kan also said Japan was not prepared for the disaster resulting from the 9.0-magnitude quake.

"We had never foreseen a situation in which a quake, tsunami and a nuclear plant accident would all happen at the same time," he is quoted as saying.

Kan resigned in August after widespread criticism of how his government handled the aftermath of the quake. His approval rating plummeted.

As of early September, more than 75,000 residents who live within 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) of the crippled nuclear plant were still unable to return to their homes because of high radiation levels.

Toshio Nishizawa, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima plant, has said he hopes to achieve the second phase of a cold shutdown of the plant before a January deadline.

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Earthquake • Energy • Japan • Natural Disasters • Nuclear • Tsunami
September 12th, 2011
08:28 AM ET

One killed in blast at French nuclear waste site, source says

An oven exploded Monday at a nuclear site in France, killing one person and injuring four others, a spokeswoman for French energy company EDF said.

There was no radioactive leak or waste released, she said. The Ministry of the Interior and the French nuclear safety agency also said there had been no radioactive leak, CNN affiliate BFM-TV reported.

The explosion took place in Marcoule, in southeastern France, the EDF spokeswoman said, declining to give her name in line with company policy.

Weapons-grade plutonium is produced at the plant, the think tank Global Security said. EDF did not immediately confirm that.

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Read CNN's full coverage of the explosion at a French nuclear site
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Filed under: Energy • France • Nuclear • World
Group urges Japan to delay school near crippled nuclear plant
Tens of thousands of residents were evacuated after an earthquake damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in March.
August 29th, 2011
08:37 AM ET

Group urges Japan to delay school near crippled nuclear plant

An environmental group on Monday urged the incoming Japanese prime minister to delay the start of school near a nuclear plant crippled by a massive earthquake and tsunami six months ago.

Fukushima city schools are scheduled to reopen Thursday.

The March 11 disaster triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, as cores overheated and spewed radioactive material into surrounding areas.

Greenpeace said the government's decontamination plan is lacking, adding that its team found average radiation doses remained high in areas decontaminated by the government.

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Japan • Nuclear • World
August 15th, 2011
07:51 PM ET

Japan redesigns nuclear safety agency after Fukushima

Japan's nuclear safety agency will be placed under the control of the country's Environment Ministry, a top government official announced Monday in a move stemming from the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

Monday's decision will take the day-to-day regulation of nuclear plants out from under the Ministry of the Economy, Trade and Industry, which has promoted the use of nuclear energy, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.

The agency has been tentatively designated the Nuclear Safety Agency, but Edano said he and other Cabinet members hope to add the word "regulatory" to the name before long.

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Kitchen nuclear reactor a no-no. Who knew?
A man did nuclear experiments at home. “But they took all my stuff, so now I'm done," he said of authorities who checked on him.
August 3rd, 2011
01:46 PM ET

Kitchen nuclear reactor a no-no. Who knew?

Note to self: When building a nuclear reactor in the kitchen, don't ask nuclear regulatory authorities for advice.

A 31-year-old man in Angelholm, Sweden, was detained after police learned he was trying to build a device to split atoms in his apartment, the news site The Local reported. He was later released.

The man had mail-ordered radioactive waste from overseas and had procured some on his own by dismantling home smoke detectors, according to an interview in the local Helsingborgs Dagblad newspaper.

Just to be on the safe side, the man decided to write to the Swedish Radiation Authority to make sure his hobby was legal, he told Helsingborgs Dagblad. Authorities there told him they would send someone out to measure radiation levels in the kitchen.

"When they came, they had the police with them," he told the newspaper.

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Japanese PM ready to abandon nuclear power; utility to inject gas into reactor
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Wednesday that nuclear power carries too much risk.
July 14th, 2011
11:46 AM ET

Japanese PM ready to abandon nuclear power; utility to inject gas into reactor

Japan's energy plan needs to be completely revised and must eliminate the nation's dependence on nuclear power, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Wednesday, according to The Daily Yomiuri.

"I have realized that nuclear accidents cannot be prevented completely with the conventional safety measures we have at present," he said.

It's a sharp about-face for Kan. His government approved a plan just last year that called for 14 new nuclear reactors by 2030 and an increase in nuclear energy production from 26% to 53% of total electricity generated, The Daily Yomiuri reported.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. planned Thursday to inject nitrogen into the last of the damaged reactors at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Kyodo News Agency reported.

The inert gas will help stabilize the reactors as the utility aims for a cold shutdown by January at the latest, Kyodo reported.

TEPCO already has new water circulation systems working at all three reactors to keep their temperatures under control.

Meanwhile, the Fukushima municipal government says it plans to cleanse the entire city of radioactive contamination, Yomiuri Shimbun reported. The city is about 30 miles from the damaged plant.

The effort, which could take nearly 20 years to complete, would involve pressure-washing buildings and scraping off the top layer of soil.

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Earthquake • Energy • Japan • Natural Disasters • Nuclear
July 10th, 2011
07:49 PM ET

Slow progress at Japan's Fukushima plant

Four months after Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, operators at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are still grappling with the crisis the disaster unleashed but say they are making slow progress.

Despite periodic setbacks - including a water leak that shut down operations for several hours Sunday - the Tokyo Electric Power Company has managed to set up a decontamination system that filters radioactive material from the water.

Some of the treated water is now being circulated back through the reactors, a key step toward keeping the reactors' melted nuclear cores cool on a permanent basis.

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Filed under: Earthquake • Japan • Nuclear • Tsunami
Report: Thyroid radiation found in 45% of children in Japanese province
People in protective suits pray Wednesday for disaster victims in Tomioka, Japan, near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
July 6th, 2011
09:16 AM ET

Report: Thyroid radiation found in 45% of children in Japanese province

Japanese nuclear safety officials say 45% of children in the prefecture where three nuclear reactors melted down had thyroid exposure to radiation, Kyodo news agency reported.

None of the 1,080 children surveyed was exposed to more than 0.2 microsievert per hour, the threshold for pursuing further examinations, and most were far less, officials told Kyodo, as reported in Japan Times.

That amount is not considered a health risk, officials said.

Meanwhile, soil at four locations in the city of Fukushima was contaminated with radioactive cesium at levels 1.5 to 4.5 times the legal limit, Kyodo reported. The city is well outside 12.5-mile evacuation zone around the stricken plant.

A sample of soil from a street ditch found radiation far in excess of the amount that required permanent resettlement in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, the agency reported.

Japan's government plans to require safety assessments, or "stress tests," on all the country's nuclear power plants, industry minister Banri Kaieda said Wednesday, according to Kyodo. All the plants have been shut down since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Energy • Japan • Natural Disasters • Nuclear
Nuclear crisis in Japan will probably sap 38 years of profit, study says
Protesters demonstrate outside TEPCO's shareholder meeting Tuesday in Tokyo.
June 28th, 2011
12:51 PM ET

Nuclear crisis in Japan will probably sap 38 years of profit, study says

A Japanese electric utility is likely to pay more in damages for its ongoing nuclear crisis than all the profit it made off nuclear power over 38 years, a study says.

The study by Kenichi Oshima, an environmental economist at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, estimates that Tokyo Electric Power Co. earned nearly 4 trillion yen from the time the Fukushima 1 plant opened in 1970 until the end of the 2008 business year, the Kyodo News Agency reported in The Japan Times.

The damages TEPCO will be forced to pay evacuees, farmers, fishing businesses and others hurt by the nuclear disaster will run into the trillions of yen, perhaps as high as 8 trillion to 11 trillion, according to Kyodo.

Three of TEPCO's reactors experienced full meltdowns after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and continue to leak radiation.

Nevertheless, shareholders on Tuesday rejected a motion for the company to abandon nuclear power, Kyodo reported.

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Earthquake • Energy • Japan • Natural Disasters • Nuclear
June 27th, 2011
08:43 PM ET

Thousands flee as wildfire nears Los Alamos lab

A raging wildfire near the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has prompted the evacuation of more than 10,000 residents as firefighters battle hot temperatures and high winds, authorities said Monday.

Los Alamos, a center of American nuclear science, is one of the nation's top national-security research facilities.

The fire near the lab has raised concerns about whether hazardous materials kept there are being adequately guarded. Authorities say they are.

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Greenpeace: Japan nuclear plant radiation accumulating in marine life
A Greenpeace crew tests waters off Japan for radiation contamination earlier this month.
May 26th, 2011
08:31 AM ET

Greenpeace: Japan nuclear plant radiation accumulating in marine life

Radiation from Japan's damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is accumulating in marine life off Japan's coast above legal limits for food contamination, Greenpeace said Thursday.

The environmental group said its findings run counter to Japanese government reports that radiation from the Fukushima plant, damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, is being diluted as time passes.

“Despite what the authorities are claiming, radioactive hazards are not decreasing through dilution or dispersion of materials, but the radioactivity is instead accumulating in marine life," Greenpeace radiation expert Jan Vande Putte said in a press release.

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Energy • Japan • Nuclear
Comparisons to Chernobyl slammed as images of Japan tsunami emerge
Tokyo Electric Power Co. released images Thursday of the devastating tsunami rolling toward its nuclear plant.
May 19th, 2011
01:22 PM ET

Comparisons to Chernobyl slammed as images of Japan tsunami emerge

The Tokyo Electric Power Co. has released dramatic tsunami images on its website, as a nuclear expert slammed comparisons between the Japan nuclear disaster and Chernobyl.

The photos, which are available on TEPCO's website, show the tsunami that crippled the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant barreling toward the facility before inundating it with water.

The news came as the power company continued to issue press releases reporting radiation in the groundwater and seawater around the plant. It also came two days after the company said it learned that a pressure vessel in reactor No. 1 may be leaking and that the reactor's fuel rods almost melted completely hours after the tsunami hit.

A U.S. physicist said, if accurate, the revelations would indicate a "very, very bad accident" that would be difficult to clean up.

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Philippine nuclear plant to become tourist attraction
The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was completed in 1984 but never brought online.
May 11th, 2011
01:41 PM ET

Philippine nuclear plant to become tourist attraction

Philippine tourism officials are turning an unused nuclear power plant into a tourist attraction, the Philippine Star reports.

The $2.3 billion Bataan Nuclear Power plant was completed in 1984 but was never put into use.

The plant was built during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos, but when Corazon Aquino became president in 1986, she refused to open it, saying its location near earthquake faults and an active volcano made it unsafe, according to an Agence-France Presse report.

Tourists will now get a look inside the plant and its intact reactor to see "how nuclear energy throughout the world menacingly threatens the quality of life of the people if handled incorrectly,” Department of Tourism regional director Ronald Tiotuico told the Philippine Star.

“Hopefully, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant would serve to warn the global community of the fallout disaster that struck people in the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima,” the Star quoted him as saying.

It won't be an all-nuclear tour, however. The plant will be a stop on a tour that includes historical sites and beach resorts, the Star reported.

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Filed under: Energy • Nuclear • Philippines • Travel
Gotta Watch: Japan, one month later
Hundreds of photos sit by the side of the road in the destroyed Japanese town of Minamisanriku.
April 11th, 2011
10:35 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Japan, one month later

It's been a month since an earthquake and subsequent tsunami rocked Japan, leaving more than 27,000 people dead or missing. From decimated towns that are far from recovery to the delicate reminders of how life used to be, today's Gotta Watch focuses on life in Japan one month after the crisis began.

Anatomy of a ghost town – It looks like any other town, except for one thing. It's devoid of life. Earthquake and tsunami damage forced so many residents from their homes. All that's left are the subtle signs of a hasty retreats and elevated radiation levels.

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/04/11/dnt.lah.japan.radiation.city.cnn"%5D

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Earthquake • Gotta Watch • Japan • Natural Disasters • Nuclear • Tsunami
What to do with United States' nuclear trash?
Most of the United States' spent nuclear fuel is stored at nuclear power plants in pools, or in steel-lined casks like these.
April 5th, 2011
08:35 PM ET

What to do with United States' nuclear trash?

Japan's crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where the exposure of spent nuclear fuel has contributed to radiation problems there, has highlighted a challenge with nuclear waste: Spent nuclear fuel is never really spent. It remains radioactive and potentially dangerous.

The Japan incident has American politicians advocating to move the United States' nuclear waste, often stored in pools and casks on the grounds of nuclear power plants, away from highly populated areas. And it exposes the fact that the country hasn't come up with a more permanent storage solution.

"Basically, we right now do not really have a long-term strategy" for nuclear waste storage, said UCLA professor Albert Carnesale.

So, what is to be done with the country's 70,000 tons of commercial spent nuclear fuel and the 3,000 additional tons per year that the nation will produce? In 2002, Congress approved Nevada's Yucca Mountain as a site where nuclear fuel would be stored. But after taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama told the Energy Department not to use it.

Obama then created the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future. The panel, with 15 experts including Carnesale, is studying what to do with spent nuclear fuel.

Click the audio player to hear the rest of the story from CNN Radio's Jim Roope:

You can also listen to the CNN Radio Reports podcast on itunes or subscribe to the podcast here.

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Filed under: Energy • Nuclear
Wednesday's live video events
March 30th, 2011
07:47 AM ET

Wednesday's live video events

Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the conflict in Libya and the nuclear crisis in Japan.

Today's programming highlights...

10:00 am ET - Nuclear safety hearing - The nuclear crisis in Japan is making some in the United States concerned about nuclear safety in this country.  A Senate appropriations subcommittee discusses that issue today.

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Barack Obama • District of Columbia • Earthquake • Energy • Japan • Libya • Natural Disasters • Nuclear • On CNN.com today • Politics • Security • September 11 • Syria • Terrorism • Tsunami • U.S. • War • World
U.S. nuclear plant had partial meltdown years before Three Mile Island
The Fermi 1 nuclear plant, which suffered a partial meltdown in 1966, stands on Detroit Edison property in an undated file photo.
March 29th, 2011
03:29 PM ET

U.S. nuclear plant had partial meltdown years before Three Mile Island

The news media took note of Monday's anniversary of the nuclear accident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island power plant, but a partial meltdown at another U.S. reactor seems to have slipped from the public memory.

Fermi 1, a small nuclear reactor south of Detroit, experienced a loss-of-coolant accident in October 1966.

Fermi 1, owned by a consortium of utilities and industrial giants, went into service on leased Detroit Edison land in 1963. It was a prototype fast breeder reactor, meaning it was designed to create more fuel than it consumed.

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3 types of plutonium detected at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant
Authorities hold a blue sheet over patients exposed to radiation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant last week.
March 28th, 2011
12:11 PM ET

3 types of plutonium detected at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant

Three types of plutonium have turned up amid the radioactive contamination on the grounds of the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, its owner reported Monday.

The plutonium is a byproduct of nuclear reactions that is also part of the fuel mix at the damaged No. 3 reactor.

It was found in soil at five different points inside the plant grounds, the Tokyo Electric Power Company said late Monday.

Plutonium can be a serious health hazard if inhaled or ingested, but external exposure poses little health risk, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Energy • Environment • Japan • Nuclear • World
March 28th, 2011
10:33 AM ET

America's worst nuclear accident: 32nd anniversary of Three Mile Island

As Japan struggles with a nuclear crisis at a power plant damaged during the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, America is marking the 32nd anniversary of its worst nuclear disaster: Three Mile Island.

On March 28, 1979,  a partial nuclear meltdown occurred at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg.

When a valve at the plant malfunctioned, dangerous amounts of radioactive gases and iodine-131 were released. At first, Metropolitan Edison, the owner of the plant, insisted that it was a minor incident. However, the scope of the crisis became clear as investigators tried to assess the damage. Members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission called for an emergency evacuation of the area, but the NRC outraged the community after approving the direct release of 40,000 gallons of radioactive waste water into the Susquehanna River. No one was injured, but the fear that a nuclear meltdown with deadly consequences could happen in the U.S. became frighteningly real. CNN.com asks: "Is the fear realistic?"

CNN Radio spoke with  Tom Kauffman and Nat Goldhaber, who were key players in the Three Mile Island incident. Kauffman was a plant systems operator, and he showed up for work to hear an emergency alarm ringing and the control room a beehive of activity. Goldhaber, in charge of energy issues for the state, began his day about 7 a.m. with a call telling him that there had been a major accident at Three Mile Island and that radiation was heading toward the town of Goldsboro.

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Monday's live video events
March 28th, 2011
07:26 AM ET

Monday's live video events

Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the conflict in Libya and the nuclear crisis in Japan. 

Today's programming highlights...

10:00 am ET - Wartime contracting hearing - Federal contracting is the subject of a Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan hearing in Washington.  The commission will look at Pentagon efforts toward saving money on contracting.

FULL POST


Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Afghanistan • Barack Obama • Democratic Party • District of Columbia • Earthquake • Iraq • Japan • Libya • Military • Natural Disasters • Nuclear • On CNN.com today • Politics • Security • Security contractors • Tsunami • U.S. • War • World
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