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Daily Archives: 06/02/2012



As ruas desertas de Tomioka, dentro da zona de exclusão de 20 quilómetros em redor da central de Fukushima. (Foto: Stringer/Reuters)

O Japão poderá ter todos os seus 54 reactores nucleares parados durante o Verão, admitiu nesta quinta-feira o ministro da Indústria. O Governo já está a estudar planos de emergência para enfrentar um eventual apagão.

Dos 54 reactores do país, apenas cinco estão ainda em actividade. Mas até Maio estes cinco deverão ser desligados para inspecções regulares e ninguém sabe quando voltarão a funcionar. Nem mesmo o ministro da Indústria Yukio Edano. “Se fixarmos uma data para a reentrada em funcionamento, isso significaria que estávamos a tirar conclusões precipitadas sobre a segurança dos reactores”, disse o ministro à agência Dow Jones Newswires.

A dor de cabeça da indústria nuclear nipónica começou a 11 de Março, quando um tsunami, causado por um sismo, atingiu a central de Fukushima, no Nordeste do país, destruindo os sistemas de arrefecimento.

Imediatamente a esta catástrofe, 15 reactores foram desligados nas centrais da região Nordeste. Hoje, 49 não estão a funcionar, quer por questões de manutenção regular (obrigatória depois de 13 meses de exploração), ou por causa de abalos sísmicos. A sua entrada em funcionamento tem sido condicionada pela realização obrigatória de testes de resistência, nomeadamente a catástrofes naturais como a de 11 de Março, e pela aprovação das autoridades locais, algumas muito renitentes em voltar a confiar no nuclear.

O governador da província de Fukui, onde está instalada a central nuclear Oi, disse ao jornal Mainichi que os testes de resistência não são suficientes enquanto critério para determinar se os reactores poderão ser reactivados. “Não passam de uma simulação. Não foram determinados padrões claros sobre de que forma os resultados destes testes serão usados para decidir se os reactores estão prontos para funcionar.”

De qualquer forma, o ministro Yukio Edano rejeitou a possibilidade de acelerar a realização dos testes de resistência para permitir uma entrada em funcionamento dos reactores mais cedo, mesmo que reconheça que “passar o Verão sem energia nuclear seja extremamente difícil”. Antes de Fukushima, a energia nuclear gerava 30% de toda a electricidade consumida no Japão.

“Devemos desde já tomar medidas para o caso de nenhuma central nuclear estar em funcionamento nos próximos meses e sobretudo durante os picos de consumo estivais”, disse à agência. A companhia Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), que explora as duas centrais da província de Fukushima e que abastece Tóquio, estima que é quase certo que nenhum dos seus reactores estará a funcionar neste Verão.

As companhias de electricidade apelam à população e às empresas para reduzirem os seus consumos e são forçadas a recorrer às centrais térmicas para compensar a suspensão do nuclear. O Governo estuda planos de emergência para enfrentar eventuais apagões e incentivos para a opção por aparelhos eléctricos e electrónicos mais eficientes.

Ontem, o Governo japonês foi alvo de uma chuva de críticas de populações, responsáveis locais e cientistas depois de, numa conferência de imprensa em Washington, ter sugerido que a duração de vida dos reactores nucleares no país seria alargada dos 40 para os 60 anos, em alguns casos. Hoje, o ministro responsável pela crise nuclear, Goshi Hosono, veio admitir a responsabilidade pela confusão criada por informações contraditórias e esclarecer que o limite é mesmo de 40 anos. Hosono considera ser extremamente difícil os reactores chegarem aos 60 anos, noticia a estação NHK.

Autor: AFP, Helena Geraldes
Fonte: Ecosfera / Público
Original: http://bit.ly/wIveG3


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Vegetable Cafe Harmonize, in Fukushima, sells produce grown far from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. (Photography: Ko Sasaki for The New York Times)

ONAMI, Japan — In the fall, as this valley’s rice paddies ripened into a carpet of gold, inspectors came to check for radioactive contamination.

Onami sits just 35 miles northwest of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which spewed radioactive cesium over much of this rural region last March. However, the government inspectors declared Onami’s rice safe for consumption after testing just two of its 154 rice farms.

Then, a few days later, a skeptical farmer in Onami, who wanted to be sure his rice was safe for a visiting grandson, had his crop tested, only to find it contained levels of cesium that exceeded the government’s safety limit. In the weeks that followed, more than a dozen other farmers also found unsafe levels of cesium. An ensuing panic forced the Japanese government to intervene, with promises to test more than 25,000 rice farms in eastern Fukushima Prefecture, where the plant is located.

The uproar underscores how, almost a year after a huge earthquake and tsunami caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Japan is still struggling to protect its food supply from radioactive contamination. The discovery of tainted rice in Onami and a similar case in July involving contaminated beef have left officials scrambling to plug the exposed gaps in the government’s food-screening measures, many of which were hastily introduced after the accident.

The repeated failures have done more than raise concerns that some Japanese may have been exposed to unsafe levels of radiation in their food, as regrettable as that is. They have also had a corrosive effect on public confidence in the food-monitoring efforts, with a growing segment of the public and even many experts coming to believe that officials have understated or even covered up the true extent of the public health risk in order to limit both the economic damage and the size of potential compensation payments.

Critics say farm and health officials have been too quick to allow food to go to market without adequate testing, or have ignored calls from consumers to fully disclose test results. And they say the government can no longer pull the wool over the public’s eyes, as they contend it has done routinely in the past.

“Since the accident, the government has tried to continue its business-as-usual approach of understating the severity of the accident and insisting that it knows best,” said Mitsuhiro Fukao, an economics professor at Keio University in Tokyo who has written about the loss of trust in government. “But the people are learning from the blogs, Twitter and Facebook that the government’s food-monitoring system is simply not credible.”

One result has been a burst of civic activism, rare in a nation with a weak civil society that depends on its elite bureaucrats more than citizen groups to safeguard the national interests, including public health. No longer confident that government is looking out for their interests, newly formed groups of consumers and even farmers are beginning their own radiation-monitoring efforts.

More than a dozen radiation-testing stations, mostly operated by volunteers, have appeared across Fukushima and as far south as Tokyo, 150 miles from the plant, aiming to offer radiation monitoring that is more stringent and transparent than that of the government.

“No one trusts the national government’s safety standards,” said Ichio Muto, 59, who farms organic mushrooms in Nihonmatsu, 25 miles northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. “The only way to win back customers is to tell them everything, so they can decide for themselves what to buy.”

Mr. Muto is one of 250 farmers in Nihonmatsu who started a makeshift radiation-testing center at a local truck stop. On a recent morning, he and a half-dozen other farmers gathered in the truck stop’s tiny kitchen. There, they diced daikon, leeks and other produce before putting them separately into a $40,000 testing device that was donated by a nongovernmental group.

The farmers test samples of every crop they grow, and then they post the results on the Internet for all to see. Mr. Muto knows firsthand how painful such full disclosure can be: he destroyed his entire crop of 110,000 mushrooms after tests revealed high radiation levels.

But such efforts do not address one of the biggest questions asked by consumers: whether farming should be allowed at all in areas near the plant.


Setsuko Suzuki, 56, of Fukushima, took cabbage and rice to a citizens’ radiation testing center. (Photography: Ko Sasaki for The New York Times)

Farmers like Mr. Muto say they have no choice because they have seen little if any compensation and must make a living. So far, Fukushima Daiichi’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, has offered full compensation only to farmers in the zones that were evacuated, which were within 12 miles of the plant, and a larger area to the northwest, where winds carried much of the fallout.

That approach is in line with the government’s basic stance since the accident: limiting as much as possible the size of the land area affected in this densely populated nation. Officials admit that many people question the wisdom of allowing farms so near the plant to operate, but they say that once they stop farming in an area because of radiation, it will take years to persuade the public to allow them to start again.

“Consumers might think the best choice is not to farm here, or just throw the food away, but producers see it differently,” said Wataru Amano, chief of the rice section of the Fukushima prefectural government.

However, farmers in Onami have a different view. Even before the discovery of tainted rice in November, they said, the government’s policy had left them no choice but to keep farming. Now, they said, they face economic ruin because no one will buy their rice.

“This happened because those up above did not want to pay compensation,” said a 74-year-old rice farmer, who gave only her surname, Sato, for fear that further association with radiation could spell the end of her farm, which has been in the family for six generations. “We did what they told us to do, and now we are being wiped out.”


Onami sits just 35 miles northwest of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which spewed radioactive cesium that has impacted rice farms.

Farming officials say they have too few radiation-detecting machines to test every product from every farm; there are only a few dozen machines in all of Fukushima Prefecture, a region about the size of Connecticut, with 110,000 farms. However, they acknowledge that random sampling has proved inadequate because the explosions at the plant spread radioactive particles unevenly across communities, creating small “hot spots” of high radioactivity.

Prefectural officials say that since the discovery of tainted rice, they have tested rice from 4,975 farms in Onami and 21 other communities mostly in the relatively contaminated areas to the northwest of the plant. They said the rice from about one-fifth of those farms contained cesium, though most of it at low levels. Only 30 farms exceeded Japan’s current safety level for radiation in food.

However, almost 300 farms had rice that would exceed a new, tougher safety level that the Health Ministry is to adopt in April, bringing Japan in line with most developed countries. “We must regain public trust by putting together a new screening system as quickly as possible,” Mr. Amano said.

Still, farming officials have so far resisted removing what many consumers say is the biggest hurdle to regaining their trust: the lack of transparency in the government’s radiation testing. Many consumers complain that the results of radiation tests are kept intentionally vague so consumers cannot tell exactly where the readings come from.

Agricultural officials and many farmers fear that revealing more detailed results would scare away consumers, who might be spooked by even low levels of radiation. “We hear the calls for more disclosure, but revealing more detailed data would just hurt too many farmers,” said Osamu Yoshioka, a food safety official at the Ministry of Agriculture.

That view was disputed by shoppers at Vegetable Cafe Harmonize, a small grocery store here that sells produce only from western Japan, far from the nuclear plant. One shopper was Junko Kohata, a 42-year-old real estate agent who said she avoided all Fukushima-grown produce because the government only reveals whether it is above or below the permissible level.

“I’d rather buy local, but I have no choice but to protect myself,” Ms. Kohata said. The store was opened two months ago by the Network of Parents to Protect Children from Radiation, known here as Mamorukai, which was started by a few dozen concerned parents after the accident. In nine months, it has grown into a nationwide network with 200 chapters.

“If the government treated us like adults, there would be no need for Mamorukai,” said Sachiko Sato, a network founder. “Japan must build an entirely new food-monitoring system that we average people can really trust.”

Author: Martin Fackler
Source: The New York Times
Original: http://nyti.ms/AnXh32


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A Tesla Motors, fabricante americana de automóveis elétricos, apresentou no início deste mês a nova geração do seu esportivo Roadster. Segundo a fabricante, o Roadster Sport acelera de zero a 100 km/h em 3,9 segundos, o que o deixa a frente de muitos esportivos de renome.

Sua estrutura é feita em chassi de alumínio e sua carroceria é construída em fibra de carbono, o que contribui para um peso final de 1.238 kg. Lançado após um ano da versão 2.0, o novo Roadster tem o mesmo motor, mas vem com nova frente e sistema de isolamento acústico. O preço de entrada do modelo continua em US$ 109 mil.

Autor: Vanessa Barbosa
Fonte: Exame
Original: http://bit.ly/zWSSAt


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The Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks ice ahead of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent during an Arctic expedition, in this August 24, 2009 handout photo. (Credit: Reuters/U.S. Coast Guard/Patrick Kelley/Handout)

A huge pool of fresh water in the Arctic Ocean is expanding and could lower the temperature of Europe by causing an ocean current to slow down, British scientists said Sunday.

Using satellites to measure sea surface height from 1995 to 2010, scientists from University College London and Britain’s National Oceanography Center found that the western Arctic’s sea surface has risen by about 15 cms since 2002.

The volume of fresh water has increased by at least 8,000 cubic km, or about 10 percent of all the fresh water in the Arctic Ocean. The fresh water comes from melting ice and river run-off.

The rise could be due to strong Arctic winds increasing an ocean current called the Beaufort Gyre, making the sea surface bulge upwards.

The Beaufort Gyre is one of the least understood bodies of water on the planet. It is a slowly swirling body of ice and water north of Alaska, about 10 times bigger than Lake Michigan in the United States.

Some scientists believe the natural rhythms of the gyre could be affected by global warming which could have serious implications for the ocean’s circulation and rising sea levels.

Climate models have suggested that wind blowing on the surface of the sea has formed a raised dome in the middle of the Beaufort Gyre, but there have been few in-depth studies to confirm this.

If the wind changes direction, which happened between the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, the pool of fresh water could spill out into the rest of the Arctic Ocean and even into the north Atlantic Ocean, the study said.

This could cool Europe by slowing down an ocean current coming from the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe relatively mild compared with countries at similar latitudes.

“Our findings suggest that a reversal of the wind could result in the release of this fresh water to the rest of the Arctic Ocean and even beyond,” said Katharine Giles at UCL’s Center for Polar Observation and Modelling and lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The team plans to investigate further the relationship between sea-ice cover and wind changes.

Author: Nina Chestney
Editing: Janet Lawrence
Source: REUTERS
Original: http://reut.rs/xhADu3


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