Ahad, 20 Oktober 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Radioactive water leaks at Fukushima as operator underestimates rainfall


TOKYO (Reuters) - Highly radioactive water overflowed barriers into Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, its operating utility said on Monday, after it underestimated how much rain would fall at the plant and failed to pump it out quickly enough.

The utility, Tokyo Electric Power Co, also known as Tepco, has been battling to contain radioactive water at the nuclear complex, which suffered meltdowns and hydrogen explosions following a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Dealing with hundreds of tonnes of groundwater flowing through the wrecked nuclear plant daily is a constant headache for the utility and for the government, casting doubt on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's promises that the Fukushima water "situation is under control."

After heavy rain on Sunday, water with high levels of radioactive strontium overflowed containment areas built around some 1,000 tanks storing tonnes of radioactive water at the plant, Tepco said. The radioactive water is a by-product of an improvised cooling system designed to keep the wrecked reactors under control in case of further disaster.

Tepco said it had planned to pump out the accumulating rainwater into empty tanks, check it for radioactivity, and if it was uncontaminated, release into the sea. But the company was overwhelmed by the amount of rainwater.

"Our pumps could not keep up with the rainwater. As a result, it flowed over some containment areas," said Tepco spokesman Yoshikazu Nagai. The company had planned for 30 to 40 millimetres of rainfall on Sunday, but by late afternoon the rainfall already stood at around 100 millimetres, he said.

The ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, 220 km (130 miles) north of Tokyo, highlight the immensity of the task of containing and controlling radioactive water and eventually decommissioning the plant, processes expected to take decades.

Earlier this year, Tepco lost power to cool spent uranium fuel rods at the plant after a rat shorted wiring at the plant.

In the latest incident, containment areas surrounding 12 of 23 groups of tanks overflowed, with one of them containing Strontium-90 as highly concentrated as 710 Becquerels per litre - 71 times higher than the level set by the company as safe for release.

Strontium-90 is a by-product of the fission of uranium and plutonium in nuclear reactors as well as nuclear weapons, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says on its website.

Tepco said it will prepare some 30 extra pumps and lay additional 10 kilometres of pipes to prevent overflowing from happening again.

The utility has come under increased scrutiny after it found in August that 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from one of the hastily built storage tanks at the Fukushima site. Japan stepped up support for the embattled utility in September, pledging half a billion dollars to help contain contaminated water at Fukushima.

Tepco is seeking permission to restart its only remaining viable plant - Kashiwazaki Kariwa, the world's largest nuclear power station, to cut high fuel costs and restore its finances.

Egyptian gunmen kill three outside church in Cairo suburb


CAIRO (Reuters) - Gunmen on a motorcycle fired on Egyptian wedding guests outside a Coptic Christian church in a Cairo suburb on Sunday night, killing three people, security sources said.

The masked assailants shot randomly at the people as they left the church, the sources said. It was not immediately clear if those killed were Christians, they said.

State news agency MENA reported that one of the dead was an eight-year-old child.

A Coptic priest at the wedding told Reuters he was inside the church when gunfire broke out. Thomas Daoud Ibrahim said he rushed outside to find a dead man, a dead woman, and "many injured".

Coptic Christians make up 10 percent of Egypt's 85 million people, and have generally coexisted peacefully with majority Sunni Muslims for centuries, despite bouts of sectarian tension.

But the army's overthrow of elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on July 3 has been followed by the worst attacks on churches and Christian properties in years.

The immediate trigger for the attacks was a bloody security crackdown in Cairo on August 14, when police dispersed two Islamist protest camps set up to demand the reinstatement of Mursi, and killed hundreds of his supporters.

(Reporting By Maggie Fick and Omar Fahmy; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Alistair Lyon and Paul Simao)

Mexico calls alleged U.S. spying on Calderon 'unacceptable'


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico scolded the United States on Sunday over new allegations of spying after a German magazine reported that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had hacked Felipe Calderon's public email account while he was president.

Weekly Der Spiegel said in May 2010, an NSA division known as "Tailored Access Operations" reported it had gained access to then-president Calderon's email account, and turned his office into a "lucrative" source of information.

It said details of the alleged NSA hacking of Calderon's account were contained in a document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Snowden's leaked information has prompted angry recriminations against Washington in Latin America, particularly Brazil.

According to Der Spiegel, the NSA succeeded in hacking a central server in the network of the Mexican presidency that was also used by other members of Calderon's cabinet, yielding a trove of information on diplomatic and economic matters.

Without citing by name the German report, which was picked up by a number of Mexican media, the Mexican foreign ministry condemned the latest allegations about "suspected acts of spying carried out by the National Security Agency."

"This practice is unacceptable, illegal and against Mexican and international law," the ministry said in a statement.

Mexico is one of the United States' biggest trading partners and the report could damage ties as the two sides seek to improve cooperation on issues like cross-border security, migration and fighting organized crime.

The ministry said President Barack Obama had pledged to carry out an "exhaustive investigation" into who was responsible for the suspected espionage in his latest meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto, who succeeded Calderon in December.

"In a relationship between neighbours and partners there is no place for the actions that allegedly took place," it added.

Pena Nieto, who according to separate reports was also a victim of NSA spying before he took office, had already called the alleged U.S. espionage "unacceptable" in July.

Still, Mexico, which sends nearly 80 percent of its exported goods to the United States, has so far offered a more restrained response to the spying allegations than Brazil.

Last month, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff suspended plans for a state visit to Washington due to revelations the NSA had snooped on her communications, and she later blasted the United States over spying at the U.N. General Assembly.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Paul Simao)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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