A Japanese government report Monday heaped fresh criticism on the operator of the nuclear power plant where a disastrous accident was set off last year by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the country.
The measures taken by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the plant operator, and the Japanese nuclear regulator to prepare for disasters were "insufficient," the report by a government-formed panel of investigators said, and the response to the crisis was "inadequate."
The crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant spewed radiation and displaced tens of thousands of residents from the surrounding area in the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.
Even now, more than one year after the disaster began, TEPCO doesn't seem to be making much effort to clearly investigate the causes of the accident at the plant, the 10-member panel, led by Tokyo University engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura, said in the report Monday.FULL STORY
Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
Two teams of producers are traversing the country as part of CNN Radio and CNN iReport's Embed America project. They're talking to voters about how the 2012 presidential election affects them, and focusing on issues identified during phase 1 of the iReport debate.
CNN visited Hopedale, Ohio, to meet iReporter Amanda Sedgmer. She's the mother of five children and the wife and daughter of a coal miner. Sedgmer told CNN she feared that if President Obama was re-elected, her family's way of life would be threatened. At the same time, competition from natural gas and a new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency are contributing to the demise of some coal plants. The resulting story garnered thousands of comments. One topic the readers discussed was how other fields have changed due to circumstances. Some offered messages of hope for Hopedale.
The decline of auto manufacturing jobs in the Midwest left this reader out in the cold, and she offered advice to Sedgmer.
Jakes_momma: "Ms. Sedgmer, please don't blame the POTUS for the decline in coal production. The energy industry is changing. Coal was once king, now it's natural gas. That's not the government, that's industry moving on. If you and your husband are smart, you'll make a change quickly and leave the area, as much as it saddens me to tell you that. I've had to leave my childhood home of central Indiana when the auto industry shut plant after plant after plant in the city we lived in during the '80s. There are no longer good paying production jobs of any quantity in that area. We didn't wait until the last plant closed to leave, we sold our home and moved on. We would have loved to have had a GM job like our dads but it was not in our control. You may be voting for Romney but you would be wise to keep the Obama 2012 slogan in mind - 'Forward.' What is really in the future of the coal industry regardless of who is president is more closures. I think they have fracking in Ohio; that's the future (at least short-term). Good luck to you, your family and your area! It's hard and very sad to watch an industry change, even if it's better for all."
Some said readers should try to be understanding of the family.
Andrea Dawn Bignall: "If you were in their situation, you would probably do the same. They have kids to think about, and jobs are harder to come by nowadays. Yeah, its bad for the environment, but so is driving you car back and forth to work everyday. Put yourself in someone else's shoes."
One commenter asked if the family is lucky, in a strange way. FULL POST
Embattled Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko announced Monday he is resigning.
Jaczko, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, has been under fire after Democratic and Republican members of the commission complained about his management style earlier this year.
In his statement Monday, Jaczko said he would stay on until a successor is confirmed by Congress.FULL STORY
The U.S. Navy for the first time will demonstrate what it calls a Great Green Fleet, a carrier strike group operating in large part on nonfossil fuels, during a larger, 22-nation exercise this summer.
The Navy’s two-day demonstration, which will happen during the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise around Hawaii from June 29 to August 3, is part of its plan to send such a strike group on a regular, months-long deployment in 2016, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said on Wednesday.
It’s also a step in the Navy’s plan to meet at least half of its energy needs – on shore and afloat – with nonfossil fuels by 2020, Mabus said.
“(This summer’s demonstration) will focus on the fact that we are well down the path of meeting these goals,” Mabus said.
The demonstration strike group will include aircraft operating on 50/50 blends of biofuel and conventional aviation fuel, and noncarrier ships operating on 50/50 blends of biofuel and diesel. Other parts of a strike group – a carrier and submarines – already are nuclear-powered.
A U.N. nuclear inspector from South Korea was killed Tuesday in a car accident in Iran, state-run media reported.
Ok-Seok Seo was traveling with another inspector from the International Atomic Energy Agency near the Khandab nuclear complex in central Markazi province when their vehicle overturned, state news agencies said, citing Iran's Atomic Energy Organization.
The IAEA has not commented on the report.FULL STORY
The head of the Environmental Protection Agency's office in Dallas has resigned over comments he made in 2010 that became the focus of political condemnation last week.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said Monday that she accepted a letter of resignation from Al Armendariz. "I respect the difficult decision he made and his wish to avoid distracting from the important work of the agency," Jackson said in a written statement.
In the letter dated Sunday, Armendariz said he regrets his comments, adding that they did not reflect on his work or the work of the EPA.
The controversy erupted last week when a video surfaced showing Armendariz saying in 2010 that his methods for dealing with non-compliant oil and gas companies were "like when the Romans conquered the villages in the Mediterranean. They'd go into little villages in Turkish towns and they'd find the first five guys they saw and crucify them."
Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis pioneered the business of sending millionaire tourists to space. Now they want to mine asteroids for what they say will be tens of billions of dollars worth of resources annually for use on Earth and beyond.
Seattle-area's Planetary Resources, backed by big-money investors including filmmaker James Cameron and Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, said Tuesday it plans to develop and launch a series of robotic systems and unmanned spacecraft, starting with its Arkyd-100 Earth-orbiting space telescopes that it hopes to launch by the end of 2013 to identify candidate near-Earth asteroids.
The company hopes to dispatch swarms of Arkyd-300 prospecting spacecraft, which would orbit candidate asteroids and finish the process of determining what they hold, within 10 years.
The Bellevue, Washington, company would then unveil a new system of spacecraft for the payoff: mining precious metal, such as platinum, for use on Earth; and extracting water, whose elements the company says can be used for fuel and life-support systems in space.
In short, Planetary Resources hopes it will be in a crucial and lucrative position of not only boosting terrestrial industry, but also setting up a network of fuel depots that humanity will need to better explore the solar system and beyond.
"The Earth is feeling a resource pinch, and ultimately we will have the ability to turn that which is scarce into abundant," Diamandis, who co-founded Planetary Resources with Anderson in 2009 but generally kept mum about the project until this month, said at a press event in Seattle on Tuesday.FULL STORY
The Senate narrowly rejected a Republican-sponsored measure Thursday that would have bypassed the Obama administration's current objections to the Keystone XL pipeline and allowed construction on the controversial project to move forward immediately.
Fifty-six senators voted in favor of the amendment - four short of the 60 required for approval. Eleven Democrats joined a unanimous Republican caucus in backing the plan.
The proposed 1,700-mile long pipeline expansion, intended to carry crude oil from Canada's oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast, has become a political lightning rod. Supporters, including the oil industry, say it's a vital job creator that will lessen the country's dependence on oil imported from volatile regions.
Opponents say the pipeline may leak, and that it will lock the United States into a particularly dirty form of crude that might ultimately end up being exported anyway.FULL STORY
Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved licenses to build two new nuclear reactors Thursday, the first authorized in over 30 years. CNN looked into safety at U.S. plants. There are 23 nuclear reactors in the United States that use the General Electric-designed Mark 1 containment housing, which is similar to the design at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant. Readers talked about the safety of U.S. plants.
Some readers thought the concerns were overblown. This was the most-liked comment:
Jack Baker: "We have been using nuclear power for over 50 years, and there have been very few serious incidents, and only a couple of incidents with injuries or radiation release. And considering that the quantity of waste by-product is significantly less than any other type of power generation, including natural gas, how can people be so adamant against nuclear power?"
There were many who responded in turn to Jack Baker's coment.
MK54: "I believe that rendering a portion of the Earth uninhabitable for centuries, maybe more is a tremendous and unacceptable disaster, because of the persistence, even if no person is directly killed. The scale of a disaster is not always just in people killed. Earth is a beautiful and hospitable place, but it is up to us to keep it that way."
pwrphoto: "Many people would say that it's because of ignorance but I think it is mostly due to the subjective nature of how we, humans, perceive risk. Risk has two components: likelihood and impact. Your comment focuses on both risk and likelihood but most people only look at the impact. That is, they don't care if having a nuclear accident is very unlikely. They just care that if there is an accident the consequences are extreme. It is for the same reason that airplane accidents attract more attention than each individual road accident."
PatriotEagle: "Also, unlike Japan we don't get tsunamis. And France is completely energy because they run the whole country on nuclear energy and there's not been one nuclear problem to my knowledge in France."
One reader replied to the "Why?" and wondered why other kinds of energy aren't being explored. FULL POST
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved licenses to build two new nuclear reactors Thursday, the first authorized in over 30 years.
The reactors are being built in Georgia by a consortium of utilities led by Southern Co. They will be sited at the Vogtle nuclear power plant complex, about 170 miles east of Atlanta. The plant already houses two older reactors.
"Today marks an advancement in our nation's energy policy," Southern Company chief executive Thomas Fanning said at a press conference after the approval. "The project is on track, and our targets related to cost and schedule are achievable."
The five-member NRC voted in favor of the licenses four to one, with Chairman Gregory Jaczko dissenting.FULL STORY
U.S. carbon emissions plunged during the 2007-2009 recession, and conservation efforts, a weak recovery and more use of natural gas will help keep those levels down for another 15 years, the Energy Department reported Monday.
Coal-fired power plants will remain the largest source of U.S. electricity throughout that period at nearly 40% of total output, the department projects in its annual report on the future of energy. But the Energy Information Administration's 2012 report finds that emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for a warming climate are likely to remain below their 2005 levels until 2027.
"These projections reflect increased energy efficiency throughout the economy, updated assessments of energy technologies and domestic energy resources, the influence of evolving consumer preferences and projected slow economic growth," the agency's acting administrator, Howard Gruenspecht, said in a statement accompanying the report.
Overall, the share of fossil fuels as an energy source is expected to drop from 83% to 77% in 2035, the report states.FULL STORY
Gravel quarried inside Japan's Fukushima nuclear evacuation zone has turned up in construction projects in the city of Nihonmatsu, including an elementary school and a condominium, according to Japanese media reports.
The Mainichi Daily News, citing government investigators, reports Thursday that the radioactive gravel has been shipped to more than 200 companies and may be in everything from bridges to homes for evacuees from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The disaster left more than 15,000 people dead and damaged the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant, causing radiation leaks when three nuclear reactors suffered meltdowns.
The government established a 20-kilometer (12-mile) evacuation zone around the damaged plant on April 22. The suspect construction material came from a quarry in Namie, within the evacuation zone, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported. But it was originally shipped to 19 companies between the time of the quake and the establishment of the zone, according to a Mainichi report.
The Obama administration will likely announce its opposition to the controversial Keystone pipeline project as early as today, according to a Democratic source briefed on the matter.
The pipeline would run from northern Alberta in Canada down to Texas's Gulf Coast. Republicans and some unions want to push approval through for the project in favor of the job creation prospects. The administration points to environmental reviews still underway and opponents express concerns about the nation's oil dependency being further embraced in regards to not rushing a decision.FULL STORY
Two ships trying to break through ice to resupply ice-bound Nome, Alaska, are nearly there after a 10-day journey but have paused to identify the safest path into harbor, a U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman said Friday.
The U.S. Coast Guard's only operating Arctic icebreaker, the Cutter Healy, and the Russian fuel tanker Renda were in the Bering Sea about eight nautical miles from Nome on Friday morning, Coast Guard Lt. Veronica Colbath told “CNN Newsroom.”
The Healy will have broken through nearly 300 miles of ice for the Renda, which is transporting 1.3 million gallons of fuel for Nome on a journey that began last week from southern Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. The ships’ leaders and an ice expert are discussing “the best way to proceed” to Nome on northwestern Alaska’s coast, Colbath said.
“We have (had) … ice and weather challenges on this 300-mile journey, so we will not be rushing into the harbor of Nome until we have identified the best course of action to navigate in,” Colbath said.
A nuclear scientist was killed in a blast in Tehran on Wednesday morning, an Iranian news agency reported. It's the latest in a string of attacks that Iran has blamed on Israel.
A motorcyclist placed a magnetic bomb under Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan's Peugeot 405, the state-run IRNA news agency said. The blast also wounded two others, IRNA said.
State television channel Press TV reported later Wednesday that Roshan's driver, named as Reza Qashqaei, had died in a hospital from his injuries.
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani condemned the attack and said it would not undermine Iran's resolve. "This is not the first time that arrogant powers adopt such futile measures," he said, according to Press TV.FULL STORY
Nuclear rivals India and Pakistan exchanged lists of their nuclear sites Sunday in accordance with a 1988 agreement that prohibits the neighboring countries from attacking the locations, officials in Islamabad said.
Pakistan's foreign ministry confirmed that it turned in its list to the Indian High Commission, and received the same from New Delhi. There was no immediate comment from Indian officials.
Both countries recently returned to talks on conventional and nuclear weapons, Indian officials have said.
No major developments were expected from the high-level talks, which were held in Islamabad last week. The discussions were aimed at building confidence between the two nuclear powers, according to a December statement from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.FULL STORY
Russian authorities seized radioactive material from the luggage of a passenger on a flight from Moscow to Tehran on Friday.
The luggage, belonging to an Iranian citizen, contained 18 metal objects packed in individual steel cases, Russia's Federal Customs Service said in a statement. The agency said the material, the radioactive isotope sodium-22, can be obtained in a nuclear reactor.
Initial tests showed that radiation levels of the objects were 20 times above normal, the customs service said.
The Russian atomic agency Rosatom, however, said sodium-22 is exclusively used for medical and scientific research and does not have a high radiation level. Rosatom contradicted the custom agency's claim that the material can only come from a nuclear reactor.FULL STORY
Pacific Gas & Electric Company said Tuesday that it is liable for the San Bruno, California, pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes in September 2010, and will compensate the victims.
Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage on the efforts of the deficit "super committee" to reach a deal on reducing the national debt.
Today's programming highlights...
9:00 am ET - Solyndra loan hearing - Energy Secretary Steven Chu will testify on his department's loan guarantee to troubled solar company Solyndra.
Australian power companies say skyrocketing solar panel use is overloading their power lines, according to news reports.
In the wake of new limits set by Australia’s energy industry on solar panel installation, one power company said it may raise power rates to ease system strains created by the reverse flow of electricity, according to the Australian.
The issue stems from the increase in homes and businesses using photovoltaic cells, which feed electricity back into networks. The upsurge is creating “consequences for appliances and equipment in customers' homes," energy provider Ausgrid said in a letter to the New South Wales pricing and regulatory body, the Australian reported.
Ausgrid, one of the largest power providers Down Under, warned of the “significant likelihood" that costs would need to go up due to the solar craze, which has taken off in parts of Australia.