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Almost 30 years after the Chernobyl Power Plant disaster, British freelance filmmaker Danny Cooke traveled to Pripyat to check out what the Ukranian city looks like today. Using a drone and a camera, he produced this video of an abandoned town that feels frozen in time—sort of like a modern-day nuclear version of Pompeii.

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Two Years After the Tsunami, Fukushima Residents Courageously Seek Justice

The Fukushima nuclear disaster shows how strong and determined people can be when faced with the loss of everything they know and love.


The people I've met in Japan in the two years since the devastating tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster have shown me once again how strong and determined people can be when faced with the loss of everything they know and love.

I am talking about the evacuees who have been forced to abandon their homes, jobs, and communities. The disaster forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee the area to escape the radiation contamination following the March 2011 earthquake.

As we approach the two year anniversary of the disaster, little has changed.

Radiation levels are still too high for most evacuees to return home and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. The few that have returned do so with the knowledge they are likely facing health risks.

This is the reality of nuclear power: a meltdown may not have an immediate radiation-related death toll, but as time progresses the true costs to physical, mental and societal health start to unfold.

Once tight-knit communities are fragmenting. Terms like 'Fukushima divorce' are creeping into the vocabulary and after two years of living in temporary housing, people are losing hope.

They cannot move on and start building new lives because they are not being properly compensated. How can you afford to begin a new life when you are still paying the mortgage for a house that is contaminated and unsafe to live in?

Hope is disappearing. But the determination to move forward and fight for what is right is growing.

Tired of waiting for the government to provide clear information, proper compensation, clean neighborhoods and safe food, the people of Fukushima are taking matters into their own hands.

They are launching class action suits and seeking damages from TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, they are working together to ensure their foods are safe and they are seeking their own news and advice instead of relying on the government’s lackluster information.

Some people have been especially outspoken about these problems.

One of them, Kenta Sato, started using social media soon after the disaster to pressure the government into releasing accurate information about his village of Litate.

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The Hubbub About Thorium: A Silver Bullet for Energy?

Thorium is an element that can produce nuclear power at a faster, cheaper, and more sustainable rate than current practices in the U.S. can.


More and more people are getting excited about thorium. And now it’s your turn. Nuclear energy from thorium has been presented as a magic bullet, the innovation the world has been waiting for—finally, the energy source we can all rally behind that will carry us safely into the future—from now until the robot wars and aliens force us to colonize other planets.
But does it deserve the hype? It does.
From the 1940s to‘70s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. proved the element thorium, like plutonium and uranium, can be used to create nuclear energy using Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors. But due to the push for bomb-making nuclear material back in the day, and subsequent vested interests, thorium fell by the wayside.
That's right, thorium, named after the hammer god guy, is a different nuclear energy element. If this is news to you, welcome to the party. But it actually turns out there's been a movement in the works for the last decade or so to resurrect the original research from Oak Ridge. Fifty years later, the thorium race is back on, and like never before. But the U.S. is late to the party we forgot we started. Right now, India, China, Japan, The Netherlands, and Brazil have concerted efforts under way, while the U.S. sits by its fracking itself.
The benefits: Thorium is super abundant; it’s super powerful (a golf ball-sized chunk equals your entire life’s energy consumption); it can’t be made into weapons (efficiently); and it reduces waste. And the reactor it would ideally use (the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) can actually clean up past nuclear waste and transform it into carbon-free electricity and thermal energy, and desalinate water. Phew! That’s quite the list of superpowers, I know. But it’s true. I didn’t believe it at first either.
The debate: After delving into a number of articles, interviews, lectures, and endless forums, the main concern seems to be proliferation, as in making nuclear bombs. But I found this is not a real (or very well researched) concern. Experts tend to agree that if you were, say, North Korea or Iran, and maybe wanted to kinda sorta blow up western civilization with nukes, you'd go with the traditional, more efficient and proven method of making them (with plutonium and uranium).
So with bombs aside, I ask again, what's the hold up on thorium energy in the states? Looks like building thorium reactors is slow to take root in the U.S. for a few reasons, namely our entrenched system bent on uranium nuclear power and the big money interests preventing thorium from getting its time in the sun (ironically overshadowed by solar energy, but more significantly kept down by oil, coal, and traditional nuclear).
And what else is keeping us thorium-less? We need a regulatory body in D.C. (as part of the National Nuclear Security Administration) to actually understand thorium enrichment and the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR). The creation of this new regulatory agency is the specific (daunting) action that needs to happen to make it more feasible here.
What to do: Learn more about thorium (fun! Links below!). And/or simply share this interesting bit of news with those you talk with about world-shaping matters, so when the time comes, when there finally is a measure that we could vote on, or speak up for, you (and your friend) will know what's going on, and share your support. Stay up on the latest. If you're psyched on the idea (as I was when first hearing about thorium, and continue to be), you might check out such gloriously nerdy sites as energyfromthorium.org and ithec.org. There you will get all kinds of science knowledge behind the element, but more importantly, see what’s in the works and how to show your support.
The more people who know about thorium, the better. China will beat us. But maybe that’s fine. Maybe that’s what it’ll take to get us going ... I mean, we need some way to power the wars against robots and aliens (and have non-bio-hazard-bubble-suit-wearing grandchildren). So share the gospel and may thorium have mercy on us all.
Here’s the TED Talk from Kirk Sorensen.
A short documentary on it, The Thorium Dream.
A promising-looking documentary on thorium that’s in production, The Good Reactor. (Help with their Kickstarter, coming soon!)
And a few great articles:
This month, challenge a neighbor to GOOD's energy smackdown. Find a neighbor with a household of roughly the same square footage and see who can trim their power bill the most. Throughout February, we'll share ideas and resources for shrinking your household carbon footprint, so join the conversation at good.is/energy. \n
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How Hard Is It to Close a Nuclear Plant?

In New York State, the possible closure of just one nuclear plant shows how complicated shutting one of these monsters down can be.

Since the meltdown at Fukushima, countries around the world have reconsidered their commitment to nuclear power, which provides around 15 percent of the world’s electricity. Japan, a nuclear-dependent country in an earthquake-prone zone, is having second thoughts about its system. Germany’s government want to close its plants, although to replace that capacity would require 2,800 miles of new transmission lines. China, on the other hand, is planning on opening a batch of nuclear reactors.

In New York State, the possible closure of just one nuclear plant shows how complicated shutting down one of these monsters can be. A nuclear energy complex called Indian Point sits about 35 miles from New York City, in the Hudson Valley. It also sits near a fault line and, according to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is at the highest risk from earthquakes of any power plant in the country. The licenses for both of the active reactors there will expire by 2015. Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants the plant closed; New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, favors keeping it open. Entergy, the company that runs the plant, is reportedly considering enlisting former mayor Rudy Giuliani as a celebrity spokesperson.

Last week, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection released a report that considered how hard it would be to close the plant and what the effects would be. The report, written by the Boston-based consulting firm Charles River Associates, worked from this premise: “Any power plant, including [Indian Point], can be retired, but not without costs and tradeoffs.”

The problem, as the report lays out, is figuring out how to replace the power that Indian Point generates without spewing more carbon into the atmosphere. Although nuclear power plants do have some carbon emissions associated with them, they’re one of the cleanest sources of energy. Cuomo’s office has said that the governor believes the state can find other sources. (One possibility would be to route power from Quebec.) The report lays out a few possibilities for keeping electricity flowing, but none of them rely entirely on renewables. To replace Indian Point without increasing emissions would be “extraordinarily expensive,” the report concludes, and wouldn’t be reliable enough to ensure that New Yorkers wouldn’t be at risk for power outages.

A more likely scenario, in a market-based world, would be for plants fired by natural gas to replace the entire capacity of the nuclear reactors. But even in the event that Indian Point is replaced, in part, by a wind farm, carbon and nitrous oxide emissions will still increase by 5 to 10 percent, the report found.

If the plant’s license is renewed, though, it could operate for another 20 years. There's a plan for how to evacuate the surrounding population in case of a meltdown, but so many people live in the area that in practice an evacuation likely would take too long to keep them out of harm’s way.

Nuclear power involves risk, but so does increasing the amount of carbon emissions in the atmosphere. In some places, the risk of a nuclear-plant meltdown may be high enough to justify shutting it down. That might be true in Japan, too. But until wind and solar can replace some of the world’s nuclear plants, not all of them can be shut down: the risks of continuing to warm the planet are too high.

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On the 25th Anniversary of Chernobyl, Greenpeace Freaks Us Out About Indian Point

Watch this wildly, unapologetically sensational anti-nuke video from Greenpeace.

On the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl, I present to you (without endorsement or critique) this wildly, unapologetically sensational Greenpeace video about the potential threat posed by the Indian Point reactor, which sits a mere 30 or so miles north of New York City. As the video notes, 17 million people live within 50 miles of Indian Point.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3oROy0xg2A

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Overload: The Public's Down on Nuclear Power, Stewart Brand's Still Behind It, and More

The post-earthquake debate about nuclear reactors, massive new coal mining, and more of what we're reading at GOOD Environment HQ.

Support for building new nuke plants has dipped lower than it was in 1979, right after the Three Mile Island accident.

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