Got back home to Japan last night. One observation on the flight back… at 47 minutes before we were scheduled to land, I happened to glance up at the in-flight video screen at the front of the cabin. The map showing our location, altitude, ETA, etc. was happily changing screens, gradually getting more detailed. As it came into the closest focus of our location, somewhere over water, the flight path showed we were about to make a near 90-degree turn – right. That meant that we had come over the globe, but much farther than usual, then making a right turn, would approach Narita airport from the Pacific. As I recall, every other year I have made this trip, we flew in over land – or at least we could see it once we got past Hokkaido.
This year was different, and I can’t help but think that we flew that way to purposefully avoid flying over the Tohoku area.
The other interesting detail about the trip was at the domestic terminal at Narita. I have forgotten to take off my belt, and the buckle triggered the red light when I walked through the metal detector. A very nice young woman brought me a bin and asked me to please put my shoes through the machine as well. She set two slippers down on the floor for me. I stepped into them, walked through the metal detector, took them off, placed them on a cart to my right, and picked up my belt, shoes, and bags as they came out of the machine on my left.
Only in Japan. It’s good to be back home.
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If you are interested in the current condition of the reactors in Fukushima, I recommend this interview:
Arnold Gundersen with a Fukushima update / Aileen Mioko Smith on rising radiation levels in Japan and government denial
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Hot Particles From Japan to Seattle
Video with Arnie Gundersen from June 12, 2011,
now with Japanese subtitles
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Radiation expert says outcome of nuke crisis hard to predict, warns of further dangers
As a radiation metrology and nuclear safety expert at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, Hiroaki Koide has been critical of how the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) have handled the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Below, he shares what he thinks may happen in the coming weeks, months and years.
The nuclear disaster is ongoing. Immediately after the crisis first began to unfold, I thought that we’d see a definitive outcome within a week. However, with radioactive materials yet to be contained, we’ve remained in the unsettling state of not knowing how things are going to turn out.
Without accurate information about what’s happening inside the reactors, there’s a need to consider various scenarios. At present, I believe that there is a possibility that massive amounts of radioactive materials will be released into the environment again.
At the No. 1 reactor, there’s a chance that melted fuel has burned through the bottom of the pressure vessel, the containment vessel and the floor of the reactor building, and has sunk into the ground. From there, radioactive materials may be seeping into the ocean and groundwater.
The use of water to cool down the reactors immediately after the crisis first began resulted in 110,000 cubic meters of radiation-tainted water. Some of that water is probably leaking through the cracks in the concrete reactor buildings produced by the March 11 quake. Contaminated water was found flowing through cracks near an intake canal, but I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I believe that contaminated water is still leaking underground, where we can’t see it. Because of this, I believe immediate action must be taken to build underground water barriers that would close off the nuclear power plant to the outside world and prevent radioactive materials from spreading. The important thing is to stop any further diffusion of radioactive materials.
The government and plant operator TEPCO are trumpeting the operation of the circulation cooling system, as if it marks a successful resolution to the disaster. However, radiation continues to leak from the reactors. The longer the circulation cooling system keeps running, the more radioactive waste it will accumulate. It isn’t really leading us in the direction we need to go.
It’s doubtful that there’s even a need to keep pouring water into the No.1 reactor, where nuclear fuel is suspected to have burned through the pressure vessel. Meanwhile, it is necessary to keep cooling the No. 2 and 3 reactors, which are believed to still contain some fuel, but the cooling system itself is unstable. If the fuel were to become overheated again and melt, coming into contact with water and trigger a steam explosion, more radioactive materials will be released.
TEPCO says it is aiming to bring the No. 1, 2 and 3 reactors to cold shutdown by January 2012. Cold shutdown, however, entails bringing the temperature of sound nuclear fuel in pressure vessels below 100 degrees Celsius. It would be one thing to aim for this in April, when the government had yet to confirm that a meltdown had indeed taken place. But what is the point of “aiming for cold shutdown” now, when we know that fuel is no longer sound?
In the days ahead, the storage of enormous quantities of radiation-contaminated waste, including tainted mud resulting from the decontamination process, will become a major problem. Because the responsibility for spreading nuclear materials into the environment lies with TEPCO, it makes sense to bring all the radioactive waste to TEPCO headquarters in Tokyo.
Since that’s not possible, the waste should be taken to the grounds of the nuclear power plant. If the plant is not large enough to accommodate all the waste, then a location close to the plant will also have to be designated as a nuclear graveyard. However, no one should take advantage of the chaos and force Fukushima to host interim radioactive waste repositories for spent fuel from other nuclear power plants.
Recovering the melted nuclear fuel is another huge challenge. I can’t even imagine how that could be done. When the Three Mile Island accident took place in 1972, the melted nuclear fuel had stayed within the pressure vessel, making defueling possible. With Fukushima, however, there is a possibility that nuclear fuel has fallen into the ground, in which case it will take 10 or 20 years to recover it. We are now head to head with a situation that mankind has never faced before.
(Mainichi Japan) September 9, 2011
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As usual, there are a LOT of excellent news items from EX-SKF
— too many to include here —
Check them out!
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Japan Official Ordered Nuclear E-Mails, Inquiry Finds
E-mails supporting the restart of two reactors at Genkai Nuclear Power Station were written by employees posing as citizens.
Published: September 8, 2011
KYOTO, Japan — Investigators concluded Thursday that a nuclear plant operator that tried to manipulate public opinion with fake e-mails was acting under instructions from a high-ranking local government official, adding a new twist to a scandal that has hampered Japan’s efforts to restart idled nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster.
An independent investigative committee found that the governor of Saga Prefecture told the operator, Kyushu Electric Power, to send e-mails supporting the restart of two reactors at the company’s Genkai Nuclear Power Station. The company has already admitted to ordering employees to pose as regular citizens by sending e-mails during an online town-hall-style meeting in June over whether to allow the restart of the reactors.
Despite the company’s admission, the committee did not accuse the governor, Yasushi Furukawa, of explicitly asking officials to send e-mails masquerading as coming from the public, but only of asking it to send e-mails. Mr. Furukawa has denied requesting any faked e-mails, saying a Kyushu Electric vice president misunderstood his remarks during a private meeting earlier in June.
Mr. Furukawa’s deliberations over whether to allow the restart have been the focus of national attention because his decision could sway other local leaders facing similar decisions about restarting reactors in their districts.
If they denied every request to restart reactors, the local leaders could virtually shut down Japan’s nuclear power industry, which provides almost a third of the nation’s electrical generating capacity. Currently, 43 of Japan’s 54 reactors are sitting idle, only some because of damage from the huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Most have been shut for legally required maintenance checks that must take place every 13 months. Facing a public backlash against nuclear power, the national government is asking local governors and mayors to sign off before restarting those undamaged reactors.
If none are restarted, the last operating reactor will have to be shut down by next April.
Seeking to allay fears about the safety of the reactors, the previous prime minister, Naoto Kan, began a series of so-called stress tests to confirm the reactors’ ability to withstand large earthquakes. The tests, which have also been embraced by the new prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, are scheduled to be finished by the end of the year.
However, by seeming to confirm widespread suspicions here that government is working secretly with industry to advance nuclear power despite growing public opposition, the scandal over faked e-mails could make it even more difficult for officials to grant permission to restart the reactors.
Many Japanese blame such cozy ties for the national government’s failure to require tougher defenses against tsunamis at Fukushima Daiichi, which was crippled by the earthquake and tsunami. Earthquake risk is one reason the vast majority of Japanese now want to phase out nuclear power altogether, according to opinion polls.
In an effort to appease public anger, Kyushu Electric created the investigative committee, which was headed by Nobuo Gohara, a well known former prosecutor. The committee said it made its findings after teams of lawyers interviewed 127 people, including top company executives.
The scandal has already forced the resignation of a local lawmaker in Saga who headed a panel in the prefectural assembly that was also looking into whether to allow the restart of the reactors. The lawmaker, Hobun Kihara, admitted taking donations from Kyushu Electric.
Japan: Tsunami still haunting survivors
08 Sep 2011 14:51
Six months after the tsunami, survivors in Japan are still experiencing the emotional impact of the disaster, says global child rights organisation Plan International.
The earthquake and tsunami which hit the north-east region of Japan on March 11 left 15,763 people dead, over 4,000 missing and nearly 6,000 injured.
“Although many children appear to be coping well, there are reports of behavioural changes in some of the affected children. While some children seem more withdrawn than usual, others behave irritably and even aggressively,” said Margriet Blaauw, Plan Japan’s Psychosocial Programming Advisor.
Given the unprecedented scale of the disaster, Plan, for the first time, launched an emergency response in Japan which ordinarily raises funds for organisation’s programmes in developing countries.
The emotional needs of children and communities and their ability to cope with the psychosocial effects of the disaster have been at the centre Plan’s targeted response in the disaster-affected Miyagi prefecture. Plan staff on the ground report that tsunami survivors are still haunted by the devastating tragedy.
Plan has established a partnership with Care Miyagi, a local group of psychologists from three different professional associations. So far 40 workshops have been facilitated for 2300 teachers and parents on children’s well-being and self-care. These workshops will continue as more requests from schools come in.
Gabriel Kazuo Tsurumi, Executive Managing and National Director of Plan Japan said: “Whatever the lessons the rest of the world is learning from Japan in rapid physical recovery, there is a lot that Japan can learn from others, particularly on overcoming the emotional impact of the crisis and avoiding long term emotional harm.”
“Plan’s experience in dealing with natural disasters such as the 2004 Asian tsunami and more recently the Haiti earthquake in 2010, has been instrumental in steering the organisation’s response in Japan which fills in a particular gap in wider recovery,” he added.
As part of Plan’s commitment to facilitate children’s participation in all its programmes, the organisation has run child media projects with school children in Miyagi. About 60 children have already received training in still and video camera to express their views and become part of the emotional recovery process.
Over the next six months Plan will continue to focus on psychosocial care for children as a top priority of its ongoing response and support parents, teachers and health workers in reaching out to as many children as possible. Also, initiatives involving children’s participation such as the child media project will be further expanded to cover more children in the tsunami affected areas.
• Plan is one of the oldest and largest children’s development organisations in the world with programmes in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty.
• The organisation works with more than 37,900 communities each year, covering a population of 28 million children.
• Plan has raised approximately USD 2 million for its emergency response in Japan.
Senior Communication Officer, Plan Japan
Mobile: +81 (0)80 3303 6712, Skype: mina_funakoshi
Media Manager, Plan International Headquarters
Mobile: +44 (0) 7500 066 891
Published online 7 September 2011 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2011.525
Fukushima’s reactor cores still too hot to open
Six months after the disaster that caused three meltdowns, efforts to stabilize the Japanese nuclear power plant continue.
On 11 March, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Sendai in Japan, knocking out power at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. In the hours and days that followed, three of the plant’s six reactors melted down, triggering a series of explosions and fires at the site. Six months later, what progress has been made to stabilize the plant, and what is yet to be done?
What is happening at the site right now?
On any given day, 2,500-3,000 workers are on site. Many are cleaning up radioactive debris scattered by the explosions. Others are installing and operating systems to decontaminate radioactive water. Still others are erecting a shroud over the Unit 1 reactor, to prevent further contamination from the meltdown spreading to the environment. Similar covers may follow at Units 2 and 3, which also melted down (see Video).
Are the reactors stable?
Not entirely, but they are much more stable than they were six months ago. After the earthquake, the three reactors operating at the time shut down, but their uranium fuel continued to decay and release heat. The systems that keep the fuel cool in an emergency stopped working, and in the first hours after the accident the fuel became so hot that it probably melted. The melting is thought to have created a mess at the bottom of the reactors and released hydrogen gas that eventually ignited, causing explosions.
In late March, the temperature inside the Unit 1 reactor exceeded 400 °C. It has now fallen to around 90 °C, and temperatures in Units 2 and 3 are also hovering around 100 °C. The cooling water injected into the reactor cores is being heated to boiling point, so workers must continually replenish it.
Eventually — perhaps by the end of this year — the reactor cores will drop well below 100 °C and will no longer require active cooling. Only then will the reactors be considered stabilized.
What about the radiation outside the core?
Radioactive debris scattered by the explosions is the biggest hazard for workers at the plant. In some areas, the radioactive junk is hot enough to kill anyone close to it within minutes, and remote-controlled vehicles must be used to clean it up. Furthermore, radioactive water is continuing to leak from the plant. A system has been set up to decontaminate the water and inject it back into the reactor cores for cooling.
Radioactive contamination, mainly in the form of caesium-137, has spread beyond the plant and will have to be cleaned up by local authorities. Some have already begun the work (see Fukushima impact is still hazy).
What will the social impact of the crisis be?
It might be too early to say. New data suggest that there will have to be a permanent exclusion zone near the plant, just like that around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, where there was a nuclear accident in 1986 (see Directly comparing Fukushima to Chernobyl). Political consequences are still unfolding; at the end of August, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan resigned, owing in large part to critcism of the government’s handling of the nuclear crisis.
What happens now?
In the short term, workers will continue to cool the reactors and clean up as much contamination as possible. But in the longer term they will have to actually remove the uranium from the reactor cores and transport it away from the coast, where it poses a major environmental and health risk.
This will create an unprecedented challenge. The radioactive fuel inside the reactors is believed to have melted down completely, and some or all of it has probably leaked from the stainless-steel pressure vessel in which it was housed into the concrete enclosure below the reactor. The radiation will remain powerful enough to kill for decades to come, so workers will have to find a way to clean up and remove the fuel remotely.
Given the current levels of radiation near the reactors, it may be years before workers are even able to take a first look at what has happened inside.
Sea radiation leaks reach 15,000 terabecquerels off Fukushima plant
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Researchers estimate that amount of radioactive substances that leaked into the sea from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant between March 21 and April 30 totaled 15,000 terabecquerels, an entity which led the research work said Thursday.
The estimate compares with 4,700 terabecquerels of radioactive iodine and cesium that the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., estimated had leaked into the sea between April 1 and 6 from a water inlet at the No. 2 reactor at the four-reactor plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The big gap indicates radioactive substances could have leaked through other channels as well as the No. 2 reactor inlet, said Takuya Kobayashi, a senior researcher at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency which led the estimate work.
The researchers’ estimate will be reported at a meeting of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan starting Sept. 19 in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture.
(Mainichi Japan) September 8, 2011
To members of the press
September 9, 2011
Project Fumbaro Eastern Japan
Project Fumbaro Eastern Japan
is proud to announce the official launch of
our English-language website for overseas supporters.
As part of our ongoing efforts to assist survivors of the March 11 disaster, Project Fumbaro Eastern Japan has launched our official English-language website.
Project Fumbaro Eastern Japan is a group of volunteers that have come together to help Japan cope with the recent national disaster. The afternoon of March 11, 2011 saw countless lives changed forever as the magnitude 9.0 earthquake shook eastern Japan: the earthquake released over 300,000 times more energy than the recent earthquake that rattled the East coast of the US. But the real disaster was the following tsunami that engulfed the entire coast. Over 15,754 lives were lost, and another 4,460 persons are still missing (as of August 30th). In addition to the tragic loss of life, the tsunami left Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant crippled, exposing thousands of families in the area to potential radiation exposure, including young children and pregnant women.
Soon after 3.11, thankfully we received enormous support from the entire international community in monetary and other kinds of immediate relief. We will never forget this generosity. And yet, six months from that fateful day, recovery efforts in the affected area have been painstakingly slow, primarily because of the magnitude of the devastation, but also due to inefficient bureaucracy, lingering uncertainty over the nuclear crisis, and Japan’s unstable political situation.
No longer could we leave the relief efforts to the public agencies. Not content to waste further time and risk more precious lives, we decided to stand up and unite to support the disaster victims.
A few weeks after 3.11, we started with a handful of private individuals on our team coordinating deliveries of relief supplies to small shelters and family houses that had been overlooked by the traditional public relief efforts. Since then, we have gradually expanded our efforts to help survivors rebuild their lives. Our activities include not only the original Relief Supply Project, but now include the Geiger Counter Project, the Home Appliance Project, the Heavy Equipment License Project, and more (please see our website for further detail). These projects have been supported by donations from citizens and companies from all over Japan – our entire staff is comprised of unpaid volunteers. Despite all our efforts, however, there is no denying the magnitude of this massive disaster. That is why we decided one more time to appeal to the generosity of the international community.
The need for an English website and support from overseas
“Establishing an English-language presence was a key goal for us from the beginning“, said Project Fumbaro founder and director Takeo Saijo. “The Tohoku region is far from the Tokyo metropolitan area, and thus is not well known to people outside of Japan. We believe that our English website will be a critical tool in helping us reach a more global audience“.
As the weeks and months have passed by, less and less attention is being paid to the struggle of individual survivors, and yet they still need continuous support in many ways to fight the lengthy battle to rebuild their lives.
It may sound odd that Japan, one of the most industrialized nations in the world, would need to ask for help – even as other parts of the world face similar disasters. To that, we would say that once given the initial opportunity, Japan can quickly recover and we will soon be ready to give back to the international community. As a grassroots association of voluntary individuals, we believe that we are better at making the decisions needed to deal with the localized and constantly changing individual needs, and thus can make more efficient use of precious resources compared to larger agencies.
Aided by the use of the Internet, our support projects are not limited by physical distance. Project Fumbaro Eastern Japan directly connects your generous aid to individuals in dire need of your support. Your contribution will be securely processed via PayPal. We will continue to share our success stories on our website, as well as translated thank-you messages from donation recipients. By doing so, we hope to break down the language barrier between those who love Japan and the survivors in the disaster area struggling to rebuild their lives.
- Official English website: http://fumbaro.org/en
- Official Japanese website: http://fumbaro.org/
- Paypal site: http://www.kauloco.com/eceng
- Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/fumbaroJP
We appreciate for your consideration and support. We welcome your questions and comments.
Remembering 3/11: Six Months After the Fukushima Reactor Disaster, Key Lessons Appear to be Going Unlearned
September 8, 2011
Trio of Experts Outline Eight Key Concerns: Ongoing Health Woes in Japan, Unaddressed Design Flaws and Inadequate U.S. Regulatory Response Seen As Troubling.
WASHINGTON, D.C.///September 8, 2011///Regulatory, scientific and health experts agree: The “3/11” Fukushima reactor disaster is still ongoing six month later … and some major lessons are in danger of going unheeded.
Sunday marks the six-month anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear reactor crisis. In anticipation of that milestone, three leading U.S. experts held a news conference today to outline both what is now known in the wake of the Fukushima and where things stand for the nuclear power industry in the United States.
The news event speakers were: Peter Bradford, former member of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, former chair of the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions, and currently adjunct professor at Vermont Law School on “Nuclear Power and Public Policy”; Edwin Lyman, Ph.D., senior scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists; and Dr. Andrew Kanter, national board president elect (2012), Physicians for Social Responsibility, and director of Medical Informatics/Health Info Services, Millennium Villages Project, Earth Institute, Columbia University.
The following eight concerns and lessons were among those outlined by the speakers:
- The U.S. regulatory response since Fukushima has been inadequate. “Six months after Fukushima, it seems clear that the U.S. is not going to undertake the type of fundamental, no-holds-barred look at its nuclear regulatory practices that followed the much less serious accident at Three Mile Island some 30 years ago.” – Peter Bradford
- America should avoid post-9/11 mistakes in tightening reactor safety standards. “In responding to Fukushima by issuing orders, the NRC should not make the same mistakes as it did following 9/11, when industry stonewalling delayed implementation of critical security measures for many years. Even today, some post 9/11 security upgrades have not been completed at numerous plants … The worldwide response to the Three Mile Island accident was clearly inadequate to prevent even worse events from occurring. The U.S. must respond to Fukushima in a much more comprehensive way or it may soon face an accident even worse than Fukushima.” – Edwin Lyman
- Overall Japanese health dangers are getting short shrift. “The last six months have shown a continued pattern of secrecy, cover-up, and minimization …. (The) news media and some so-called authorities have repeated the false information that doses under 100 mSv (millisieverts) have no health effects. All radiation doses have some effect, particularly when large populations are exposed. The Japanese government’s decision to increase the maximum allowed dose for citizens of Fukushima (including children) from 1 mSv per year to 20 mSv, the equivalent of 200 chest x-rays or the maximum many countries allow for nuclear workers … is unacceptable and remains in place despite vehement public and international pressure.” — Dr. Andrew Kanter
- In particular, the impact on the health of Japanese children is being glossed over. “Children are at least three-to-four times more susceptible to radiation than are adults. There are about 350,000 children under 18 in Fukushima Prefecture. If each of these children were exposed to the 20 mSv maximum over two consecutive years, the National Academy of Sciences BEIR VII report would predict 2,500 additional cancer deaths… The upshot is that there is no safe dose of radiation and exposing non-consenting people, especially children, to these increased health risks is medically unacceptable. The Japanese government is not adequately monitoring radiation contamination of soil, food, water, and air and is not providing the parents with sufficient information to protect their children.” — Dr. Andrew Kanter
- The U.S. was warned of Fukushima-style problems but failed to act … and is still failing to do so. “U.S. reactors have some of the shortcomings of the Fukushima plants. Furthermore, citizen groups and scientists had tried to call one of these – spent fuel pool vulnerability — to Nuclear Regulatory Commission attention during the last decade. The NRC dismissed these efforts, with one commissioner even ordering the staff to do a review designed to discredit the concerns. The NRC reviews of Fukushima to date are all well and good, but the Commission and the Congress need to face up to the deeper lessons of Fukushima as well. When mishaps occur at nuclear power plants, the NRC requires a “root cause analysis” that gets at the underlying causes as well as the immediate technical problems. Without a root cause analysis of its own failure to heed the now validated warnings about spent fuel pools, the NRC may patch the technical problems revealed by Fukushima, but it won’t fix the underlying shortcomings that allow defects to persist until catastrophic events rather than regulatory vigilance force the nuclear industry and the public to face up to them.” – Peter Bradford
- Emergency planning zones in the U.S. must be expanded. “The NRC Task Force report got some things right but others wrong. In contrast to the Task Force conclusions, we believe that emergency planning zones should be expanded, certain hydrogen control measures should be immediately enforced and spent fuel transfer to dry casks should be accelerated. Also, the safety margins of new reactors need to be reassessed.” — Edwin Lyman
- The recent East Coast earthquake should spur more NRC safety analysis. “The earthquake near the North Anna nuclear plant, which reportedly exceeded the plant’s seismic design basis, reinforces the urgency of the NRC Fukushima task force’s recommendation that all plants immediately be reviewed for their vulnerability to seismic and flooding hazards based on the best available information today.” – Edwin Lyman
- Fukushima is turning out to be much worse than Chernobyl. “Although the Chernobyl reactor explosion was devastating, scattering the majority of its nuclear core across a wide swath of Europe, the Fukushima accident involved three reactors, which underwent meltdowns (or melt-throughs) and four spent-fuel pools that suffered damage. It will take years to measure the total release of radioactive materials into the environment from Fukushima, but we already know that that the immediate releases are now estimated as being twice as high as originally admitted. Some authoritative sources, using releases of radioactive Xenon as a marker, show that the amount of Fukushima Daiichi radioactive fuel that has been damaged/released could be several times that of the Chernobyl release. Another estimate has the equivalent of 168 Hiroshima bomb’s worth of Cesium have been released onto Japan.” – Dr. Andrew Kanter
- EDITOR’S NOTE: A streaming audio replay of a related news event is available on the Web at http://www.nuclearbailout.org