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Tue, 23 Jul 2019
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Japan to scrap 4 stricken reactors at Fukushima

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Scrambling hard to tackle its worst atomic crisis, Japan said on Wednesday it will scrap four stricken reactors at the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear facility, as radiation seeping into seawater reached its highest level yet and the President of the troubled plant's operator hospitalised.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant's operator, said that it will decommission the four reactors at the plant, more than two weeks after the monster magnitude-9 quake and tsunami struck Japan's northeast leaving nearly 30,000 people dead or unaccounted for.

"We have no choice but to scrap reactors 1 to 4 if we look at their conditions objectively," Tsunehisa Katsumata, the company's Chairman, said at a press conference.

Nuke

Toxic Plutonium Seeping from Japan's Nuclear Plant

Tokyo - Highly toxic plutonium is seeping from the damaged nuclear power plant in Japan's tsunami disaster zone into the soil outside, officials said Tuesday, as the government grew frustrated by missteps in the effort to stabilize the overheated facility.

Safety officials said the small amounts of plutonium found at several spots outside the complex were not a risk to humans but support suspicions that dangerously radioactive water is leaking from damaged nuclear fuel rods -- a worrying development in the race to bring the power plant under control.

"The situation is very grave," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters Tuesday. "We are doing our utmost efforts to contain the damage."

A tsunami spawned by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake March 11 destroyed the power systems needed to cool the nuclear fuel rods at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex, 140 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

Since then, three of the plant's six reactors are believed to have partially melted down, and emergency crews have grappled with everything from malfunctioning pumps to dangerous spikes in radiation that have sent workers fleeing.

Arrow Down

UK: Care Home Costs Hit 80,000 More as Those Being Denied Council-Funded Places Soar

Tens of thousands more elderly people are being forced to pay for their care compared with this time last year, a report has found.

elderly person
© Alamy
Counting the cost: More elderly people are having to fund their own care as council funds dry up
The number being denied a council-funded place in a care home or help from a carer in their own house has risen by 80,000 in the last 12 months amid public spending cuts.

The report revealed that 1.7million elderly people received some form of free care in 2010/09, down from 1.78 million in 2009/08 - a drop of five per cent.

The fall will prompt fears that cash-strapped councils are becoming increasingly reluctant to provide free care for the elderly, many of whom have dementia or have suffered strokes and need round-the-clock help.

The report, by the Care Quality Commission watchdog, also revealed that the number of hospital beds on geriatric wards has fallen by more than 15 per cent in the last five years.

There are now just under 21,000 geriatric beds across all NHS trusts in England and Wales - down from 24,700 in 2005/06 - despite the fact that the elderly population is increasing.

Recent reports have already highlighted how the needs of the elderly are being increasingly sidelined by the NHS and local authorities.

USA

Silence is betrayal (MLK anti-war speech)


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UK: Future of Elderly Below the Poverty Line: 1 in 4 Women Will Retire on Under £10,000

retired woman
© G. Baden/zefa/Corbis
Bleak prospects: Women retiring now are paying the price for taking time out earlier in their careers to look after their families
One in four women will be living below the poverty line when they retire, a study reveals today.

Researchers found that 26 per cent of women who plan to retire this year will have less than £10,000 a year - or under £200 a week - to live on when they stop working.

The findings highlight the nightmare facing women who are paying the price for deciding to give up their jobs to bring up their children instead of staying at work and building up a pension.

An annual sum of £10,000 a year will barely cover the basics such as food, fuel and utility bills.

It is below the minimum income standard set by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which estimates somebody needs at least £14,400 a year to escape poverty.

By comparison, the average worker in Britain earns around £26,000.

The study, from insurance giant Prudential, which polled more than 10,000 adults, found women are far worse hit than men by pensioner poverty.

Only 12 per cent of men who retire this year will have to try to make ends meet on less than £10,000 a year.

Nuke

Worse Than Chenobyl: When the Fukushima Meltdown Hits Groundwater

Fukushima is going to dwarf Chenobyl. The Japanese government has had a level 7 nuclear disaster going for almost a week but won't admit it.

The disaster is occurring the opposite way than Chernobyl, which exploded and stopped the reaction. At Fukushima, the reactions are getting worse. I suspect three nuclear piles are in meltdown and we will probably get some of it.

If reactor 3 is in meltdown, the concrete under the containment looks like lava. But Fukushima is not far off the water table. When that molten mass of self-sustaining nuclear material gets to the water table it won't simply cool down. It will explode - not a nuclear explosion, but probably enough to involve the rest of the reactors and fuel rods at the facility.

Nuke

Japan Nuclear Crisis: Workers 'Losing Race' to Save Reactor

Greenpeace anti-nuclear activist
© AP
A Greenpeace anti-nuclear activist holds a flower bouquet during a candlelight vigil outside the Japanese Embassy in Jakarta
Workers at Japan's earthquake hit nuclear plant lost ground in the battle to save the plant from meltdown after the radioactive core of one reactor appeared to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel.

The core at reactor two of the Fukushima plant may have melted on to a concrete floor, according to experts, running the risk of radioactive gases being released into the surrounding area.

Richard Lahey, who was a head of reactor safety research at General Electric when the company installed the units at Fukushima, said the workers, who have been pumping water into the three reactors in an attempt to keep the fuel rods from melting, appeared to have "lost the race" to save the reactor.

"The indications we have ... suggest that the core has melted through the bottom of the pressure vessel in unit two, and at least some of it is down on the floor of the drywell," he told a newspaper.

Question

Criminal Negligence or An Ongoing Experiment? North Carolina, US: Army Investigates Mysterious Baby Deaths at Fort Bragg

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© USACE
Are new construction and cheap materials to blame for a dozen Army base deaths?
With the death of a four-month-old last month at Fort Bragg, the number of baby deaths at the Army base in just four years reached 12. The baby boy wasn't suffering from any illnesses and was fine one minute on the morning of Feb. 24. The next minute, though, he was no longer breathing.

According to the The News & Observer, the Army has been investigating mysterious baby deaths going back to 2007, when Jaden Willis, a healthy two-month-old, died suddenly. His mother Pearline Sculley, still doesn't know why her baby died, though his death certificate lists Sudden Infant Death Syndrome as the cause.

But after two other babies died in the same home, Sculley just isn't buying it.

Investigators have reviewed medical records and autopsy reports of the now dozen deaths at Fort Bragg. They have also performed countless environmental tests in the homes of some of the families whose children died. No common cause has been found.

People

Syrian Cabinet Resigns Amid Unrest

crowds in Syria
© AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman
Damascus - Syria's Cabinet resigned Tuesday to help quell a wave of popular fury that erupted more than a week ago, threatening President Bashar Assad's 11-year rule in one of the most authoritarian nations in the Middle East.

Assad, whose family has controlled Syria for four decades, is trying to calm the growing dissent with a string of overtures. He is expected to address the nation in the next 24 hours to lift emergency laws in place since 1963 and moving to annul other harsh restrictions on civil liberties and political freedoms.

Mass protests exploded nationwide on Friday, touched off by the arrest of several teenagers who scrawled anti-government graffiti on a wall in the southern city of Daraa. Security forces launched a swift crackdown, opening fire in at least six locations around the country - including the capital, Damascus, and the country's main port of Latakia.

More than 60 people have died since March 18 as security forces cracked down on protesters, Human Rights Watch said.

State TV said Tuesday Assad accepted the resignation of the 32-member Cabinet headed by Naji al-Otari, who has been in place since September 2003. The Cabinet will continue running the country's affairs until the formation of a new government.

The resignations will not affect Assad, who holds the lion's share of power in the authoritarian regime.

Nuke

Japan on 'Maximum Alert' Over Nuclear Plant

searchers in hazmat
© Reuters
Japan said Tuesday the government is on "maximum alert" over a crippled nuclear plant where highly radioactive water has halted repair work and plutonium has been found in the soil.

The earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan's northeast coast and left over 28,000 dead or missing also knocked out reactor cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, which has leaked radiation into the air and sea.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan conceded that the situation at the coastal atomic power station remained "unpredictable" and pledged that his government would "tackle the problem while in a state of maximum alert".

Emergency crews braving the radiation threat have used fire engines and pumps to pour thousands of tons of water onto reactors where fuel rods are assumed to have partially melted, and also topped up pools for spent fuel rods.