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Parts of Mt Fuji ‘could collapse’ if fault shifts


TOKYO — Parts of Japan’s Mount Fuji, a national symbol and key tourist attraction, could collapse if a newly-discovered faultline under the mountain shifts, a government-commissioned report has warned.

A three-year study by seismologists discovered a previously unknown active fault underneath the mountain, which sits around 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of Tokyo.

"It’s possible that (parts of) the mountain could collapse with mudslides flowing to Gotemba," a city between the mountain and the Pacific, said Yasuhiro Yoshida, director for earthquake investigation at the science ministry.

A team of researchers, led by academics from the University of Tokyo, fired simulated seismic waves at the mountain, which revealed a fault that was theoretically capable of generating an earthquake of up to magnitude seven.

The team said they believed the fault moved some time in the last million years, although it was not clear when.

Yoshida said local geography showed Mount Fuji experienced major mudslides nearly 3,000 years ago, but that more studies are required to determine how the fault could affect potential volcanic activity, and vice versa.

The area around the mountain, an almost perfect volcanic cone that is much admired for its beauty, is known for having frequent earthquakes and numerous fault lines, even for quake-prone Japan.

Japan has been on heightened alert for possible quakes and other natural hazards since the 9.0 magnitude quake and the tsunami of March 2011 killed 19,000 people and sparked a nuclear emergency at Fukushima.

Filed under News Japan Earthquake Fukushima Mt Fuji Tokyo

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Serving Down Under: Australia offers military jobs to US troops facing separation


YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — U.S. servicemembers looking at career options in this era of shrinking military budgets and force drawdowns might want to take a look Down Under.

The Australian government is recruiting experienced U.S. enlisted personnel and officers to fill a range of positions — from submariners to doctors — in its military, according to a posting on the Australian Defence Force website.

“The Australian Defence Force looks to overseas candidates to fill gaps in our Services, which can’t currently be satisfied by standard recruitment,” reads the intro for overseas applicants on the Defence Force’s recruitment website. “We recognise that these candidates can bring skills and attributes to the Navy, Army and Air Force that will strengthen their overall operation and success rate.”

The job offers could be tempting for U.S. troops as the Afghan War winds down and the Department of Defense looks to trim billions of dollars and more than 100,000 uniformed personnel from its books.

At a time when other Western countries have slashed spending, the prosperous Australians have been growing their military. In the past five years, the Australian military has recruited more than 500 personnel from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Applicants have to meet certain minimum rank levels, as well as medical and interview requirements, Australian defense officials said in an email this week.

Known as the Lucky Country, Australia has had a booming economy for almost two decades due to rising commodity prices and strong Chinese demand for its mining products. It has also seen the Australian dollar rally against the U.S. dollar in recent years, meaning U.S. veterans — especially enlisted — stand to make more money working for the Australia military.

The U.S. Air Force website lists the annual base pay for an E-5, staff sergeant, with six-years’ service at $31,946. An O-3, captain, with six years’ service makes $63,263.

By comparison, a newly promoted E-5, corporal, in the Australian air force makes $57,277, when converted to U.S. dollars, while newly promoted O-3, flight lieutenant, takes home $66,417.

Squadron Leader Bart Langland has flown under both flags.

Langland served 15 years on active duty for the U.S. Air Force and another five in the reserves before joining the Royal Australian Air Force in March 2008. The veteran F-16 and U2 spy plane pilot is helping train Australian fliers at RAAF Base Williamtown, just north of Sydney.

From an Australian perspective the costs to train and develop fighter pilots are enormous, hence the RAAF greatly benefits from being able to get experienced pilots from the U.S. and other countries, Langland said. Joining the Australian Defence Force took Langland a year and included physical examinations, security checks and getting duel Australian-U.S. citizenship, which the State Department had to approve, he said.

Langland said the job was almost exactly the same as serving with the U.S. Air Force.

“If you walk into an Australian fighter squadron or a U.S. fighter squadron, you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference,” Langland said.

Australia has about 23 million people, less than the population of California, in a country about the same size as the U.S. Naturally, the all-volunteer Australian Defence Force is a lot smaller than the U.S. military but it has dedicated itself to quality over quantity, Langland said.

In recent months, the U.S. and Australia have grown even closer with plans to base thousands of U.S. Marines in the northern Australian town of Darwin.

“Australia has always stood shoulder to shoulder with the U.S.A. and, as such, would count on U.S. support in times of major conflict,” Langland said.

The Australian Air Force trains regularly with U.S. units, although it also trains with partner nations in Southeast Asia, he said.

One notable difference serving in Australia is that the pace of work is slower than in the U.S. Air Force, Langland said, adding that his deployment to Afghanistan last year was voluntary.

Langland’s biggest challenge was moving his wife and three children to Australia, far from relatives. However, he rated the schools near RAAF Williamtown as excellent and the weather and beaches on a par with Southern California.

The family plans to stay in Australia at least five more years, he said.

“I feel that by serving here I am making a difference to Australia and America,” he said.

For more information on the program, go to the Australian Defence Force website.

Filed under News US Military Japan Australia US Air Force

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Senator: Fukushima Fuel Pool Is a National Security Issue for AMERICA


After visiting Fukushima, Senator Ron Wyden warned that the situation was worse than reported and urged Japan to accept international help to stabilize dangerous spent fuel pools.

An international coalition of nuclear scientists and non-profit groups are calling on the U.N. to coordinate a multi-national effort to stabilize the fuel pools. And see this.

Fuel pool number 4 is, indeed, the top short-term threat facing humanity.

Anti-nuclear physician Dr. Helen Caldicott says that if fuel pool 4 collapses, she will evacuate her family from Boston and move them to the Southern Hemisphere. This is an especially dramatic statement given that the West Coast is much more directly in the path of Fukushima radiation than the East Coast.

And nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen recently said (at 25:00):

There’s more cesium in that [Unit 4] fuel pool than in all 800 nuclear bombs exploded above ground…

But of course it would happen all at once.

It would certainly destroy Japan as a functioning country…

Move south of the equator if that ever happened, I think that’s probably the lesson there.

This week, Wyden said that the spent fuel is a national security threat to the U.S.:

AlterNet asked Sen. Wyden if he considers the spent fuel at Fukushima Daiichi a national security threat.

In a statement released by his office, Wyden replied, “The radiation caused by the failure of the spent fuel pools in the event of another earthquake could reach the West Coast within days. That absolutely makes the safe containment and protection of this spent fuel a security issue for the United States.”

[Robert Alvarez – a nuclear expert and a former special assistant to the United States Secretary of Energy] agrees, saying, “My major concern is that this effort to get that spent fuel out of there is not something you should be doing casually and taking your time on.”

Yet Tepco’s current plans are to hold the majority of this spent fuel onsite for years in the same elevated, uncontained storage pools, only transferring some of the fuel into more secure, hardened dry casks when the common pool reaches capacity.

Government Agencies Underplaying Risk … So No One Has to Do Anything Different

Why are American nuclear authorities ignoring this threat?

Read more …

Filed under News Japan Radiation Fukushima USA America

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Japan tsunami debris moves towards US and Canada

Wreckage including lumber, footballs, parts of roofs and factories, and even bikes will soon start coming ashore in North America

Suzanne Goldenberg,

Wreckage from Japan's tsunami – fishing gear and furniture, footballs and ships – has swept across the Pacific far faster than expected, with thousands of tonnes projected to land on North American shores this year.

Scientists believe lighter objects such as buoys and oil drums began reaching land last November or December. The rest is spread over thousands of miles of ocean between the Midway atoll and the northern islands of Hawaii.

About 95% will probably never come ashore and is destined for that massive swirl of floating plastic known as the north Pacific garbage patch. The remaining fraction is due to reach the west coast of the US and Canada in October.

No one expects to wake up one morning to a tsunami of rubbish. “It is not like you are going to be standing on the beach looking at the horizon and see a wall of debris come in,” said Nicholas Mallos, a marine debris expert at the Ocean Conservancy.

But there have already been some bizarre finds. This week a beachcomber in British Columbia found a moving crate containing a rusting Harley-Davidson motorcycle registered to Japan’s Miyagi prefecture, which absorbed the brunt of the tsunami. The crate also contained a set of golf clubs.

Last month a a football washed up on an uninhabited island off Alaskaand was traced to its owner, a Japanese schoolboy from the town of Rikuzentakata which was almost flattened by the tsunami. A 160ft fishing boat, the Ryou-Un Maru, drifting to within 300 miles of the British Columbia coast before it was deemed a hazard to shipping and sunk by the US coastguard, was also found.

Washington state officials last week put up posters advising residents what may arrive on their beaches, from common litter to aluminium canisters possibly containing insecticide, and derelict boats.

Read more …

Filed under News Japan Tsunami Hawaii California Oregon Washington Alaska Canada Pacific Radiation

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Chemical blast video: Twin-explosion hits plant in Japan

Two explosions at a chemical plant in western Japan on Sunday killed one worker and injured 22 others, including plant workers and nearby residents. The blasts occurred at Mitsui Chemicals Iwakuni-Ohtake plant as workers were trying to shut down the factory due to a problem in another section of the plant. Mitsui Chemicals, which is based in Waki in Yamaguchi Prefecture, produces adhesives for wood and rubber tyres. The first explosion occurred at about 2 a.m. local time, killing a 22-year-old factory employee and injuring 11 employees. At 8 a.m. local time a second explosion was caught on a surveillance camera, but the buildings were evacuated beforehand and no was hurt. More than 430 buildings, including nearby homes, were damaged in the blast. The fire department and police are investigating what caused the massive explosions. According to the police, there were no dangers of toxic leakage. The flames were brought under control about 15 hours after the second explosion.

Side Note:  It is believed these buildings held uranium.

Filed under Japan Breaking news explosion Fire Uranium radiation fukushima

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Chemical Complex is on fire with nuclear fuel in Yamaguchi

Fukushima Diary

At 2:20 of 4/22/2012, Iwakuni Otake Petrochemical Complex of Mitsui chemicals got lightning strike to explode.

The complex is still on fire, and 3379 units of radioactive waste (200L in each unit) and Uranium for nuclear fuel are preserved in the site.

The state of the uranium and radioactive waste is not reported yet.

Windows were broken and several people got injured.

Filed under News Nuclear power plant nuclear waste fire Fukushima Japan Uranium

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Fukushima damage leaves spent fuel at risk-U.S. lawmaker


* Spent fuel rods need to be moved to safety-Wyden

* Urges Japan to accept help, asks US officials to do more

WASHINGTON, April 16 (Reuters) - Japan, with assistance from the U.S. government, needs to do more to move spent fuel rods out of harm’s way at the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, said U.S. Senator Ron Wyden on Monday.

Wyden, a senior Democratic senator on the Senate Energy committee, toured the ruined Fukushima plant on April 6, and said the damage was far worse than he expected.

"Seeing the extent of the disaster first-hand during my visit conveyed the magnitude of this tragedy and the continuing risks and challenges in a way that news accounts cannot," said Wyden in a letter to Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan’s ambassador to the United States.

Last March, an earthquake followed by a tsunami wrecked the Fukushima plant, causing the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years and prompting global scrutiny of the safety of nuclear power plants.

Wyden said he was most worried about spent fuel rods stored in damaged pools adjacent to the ocean, and urged the Japanese government to accept international help to prevent further release of the radioactive material if another earthquake should happen.

In a statement on his website, Wyden said the only protection for the pools from another tsunami appeared to be “a small, makeshift sea wall erected out of bags of rock.”

Wyden said the spent fuel should be moved to safer storage sooner than anticipated under a 10-year clean-up plan from TEPCO, the owner of the nuclear plant.

The lawmaker also wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and top U.S. nuclear regulator Gregory Jaczko to ask them to find ways to help Japan address the problem. 

Filed under News Fukushima Radiation Japan Politics TEPCO

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Japanese biometric ATM reads your palm, tells fortune

By James Trew

A palm reading cash machine might not tell you your fortune, but it will, at least, dispense some of it. Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank in Japan has revealed that it will introduce the nation’s first ATM that lets you withdraw money just by scanning your palm. This isn’t the first ATM to use extra human verification, but it claims it’s the first that functions without the need for your cash card. Customers will need to pop in to a branch to provide some manual verification — and of course a palm scan — then you’re away. The bank hopes this will help people access their cash in the event of losing your card, or a natural disaster. Great until you upgrade to one of these.

Filed under News Tech Technology Biometrics cashless society Japan ATM Banks

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American Decline: Debated, Contested, Obvious

By William Pfaff

Is the United States in decline? You would certainly think so from the publishers’ lists, although some of the new books, written by determined neoconservatives resisting indictment for complicity in causing the decline, such as Robert Kagan, are arguing that it’s only a very little decline, and temporary, and will end in November when the teapot boils. Certainly President Barack Obama forswears declinism. Anyone who says that America is in decline, “or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they are talking about,” he said in his State of the Union address.

Well, actually, the only people who can really say that are those who haven’t been to Europe or the major Asian states recently, where everything works beautifully, even if Europe’s debts are not paid off. The 200 mph trains that crisscross Europe not only run on time but give you money back if they are late. The hotels in Singapore, Tokyo and the Arabian Gulf surpass all rivals. Their national airlines provide unparalleled service, and even room enough to sit comfortably in economy.

Even the American government luxuriates abroad. Have you ever been an overnight guest in the visiting officers’ apartments of any major American military base abroad? (Not in a combat zone, to be sure!) I have. It’s like Air Force One. And you can bet that everything works, every luxury and comfort provided, every wish granted and whim gratified. What great fun for the little Obama girls! The rest of us usually fly economy.

Why the decline? First: globalization and what it did to destroy the domestic American economy in which ordinary people live. Globalization was the product of an economic ideology that said removing all regulation would guarantee free markets that would automatically produce maximum economic efficiencies, and consequent profit, in every realm of human activity, except war and peace. (Other priorities governed war and peace.)

Second: mindless oversimplification plus ignorance, following from collapsing public education. The latter has a cause that it has not been politically acceptable to identify: the liberation of women. In the United States before the Second World War, teaching in public (or parochial) schools was virtually the only serious work open to university-educated women. They educated America. They now have other things to do, for which we give thanks. But the nation suffers the consequences.

Another factor, which is not trivial, is the huge and credulous audience that has been created for the political fantasies that talk radio and Fox television demagogues promulgate. A consequence of that has been the intellectual corruption of political debate and the money corruption of American political practice and government, which has placed plutocracy in the saddle, with no visible way to unseat him.

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Filed under Commentary US Decline Obama China Japan Europe United States

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Fukushima radiation found in California kelp

San Francisco Chronicle

Kelp off California was contaminated with short-lived radioisotopes a month after Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant accident, a sign that the spilled radiation reached the state’s coastline, according to a new scientific study.

Scientists from CSU Long Beach tested giant kelp collected off Orange County, Santa Cruz and other locations after the March 2011 accident and detected radioactive iodine, which was released from the damaged nuclear reactor.

The largest concentration was about 250 times higher than levels found in kelp before the accident.

"Basically, we saw it in all the California kelp blades we sampled," said Steven Manley, a CSU Long Beach biology professor who specializes in kelp.

The radioactivity had no known effects on the giant kelp, or on fish and other marine life, and it was undetectable a month later.

Iodine 131 “has an eight-day half-life, so it’s pretty much all gone,” Manley said. “But this shows what happens half a world away does effect what happens here. I don’t think these levels are harmful, but it’s better if we don’t have it at all.”

Spread in large, dense, brown forests across the ocean off California, giant kelp is the largest of all algae and grows faster than virtually any other life on Earth. It accumulates iodine, making it a useful way to check how far radioactive material spreads.

"Kelp forests are some of the most productive ecosystems on Earth," he said. "One thing about (kelp) is it has a large surface canopy," which means it is continually exposed to the air and whatever contaminants are in it.

In addition, giant kelp concentrates radioactive iodine - for every 1 molecule in the water, there would be 10,000 in its tissues.

Kelp was collected at three sites off Orange County, as well as Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles County, Santa Barbara, Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz. The highest concentration of iodine 131 was found in the kelp off Corona del Mar, a town near Newport Beach that receives runoff from a large portion of Orange County. Its kelp was collected on April 15 of last year and tested five days later.

The level of radioactive iodine found there - 2.5 becquerel per gram of dry weight - was “well above” levels sampled in kelps prior to the Fukushima release, according to the paper, published online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Read more …

Filed under News California Radiation Fukushima Japan

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Japan deploys missile defenses at 3 locations in Tokyo


Japan has deployed missile batteries in Tokyo and dispatched destroyers as North Korea makes final preparations for a rocket launch that could take place this week despite fierce condemnation from across the globe.

Pyongyang says it will launch a satellite for peaceful scientific research between April 12 and 16 to mark the 100th anniversary on April 15 of the birth of founding leader Kim Il-Sung.

But the United States and its allies say it is a disguised missile test and that the launch would contravene U.N. sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea’s missile program.

A successful satellite launch would burnish the image of young Kim Jong-Un as he seeks to establish his credentials as a strong leader after taking over from his father and longtime ruler, Kim Jong-Il, who died last December.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has given the green light to shoot down the rocket if it threatens Japan’s territory.

Patriot missiles were Saturday deployed at the defense ministry in downtown Tokyo and at two other bases in the region to protect the greater Tokyo area.

The ministry also dispatched three Aegis destroyers carrying interceptor missiles, reportedly to the East China Sea where it has already deployed Patriot missiles on the southern island chain of Okinawa, beneath the rocket’s forecast flight path.

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Filed under News Japan North Korea Missile United States UN East China Sea Tokyo

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Japan deploys missile defences in Tokyo


 Japan has deployed missile batteries in Tokyo and dispatched destroyers carrying interceptor missiles as it boosts its defences against a planned North Korean rocket launch this month.

Pyongyang says it will launch a satellite for peaceful scientific research between April 12 and 16 to mark the 100th anniversary on April 15 of the birth of founding leader Kim Il-Sung.

But the United States and its allies say it is a disguised missile test and that the launch would contravene UN sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea's missile programme.

Patriot missiles were Saturday deployed at three military facilities in the greater Tokyo region and the defence ministry dispatched three Aegis destroyers carrying sea-based interceptor missiles, reportedly to the East China sea.

"With the latest step, it completes the deployment of PAC3," said a duty officer at the defence ministry, referring to the Patriot missiles.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has given the green light to shoot down the North Korean rocket if it threatens Japan’s territory.

In 2009, Japan also ordered missile defence preparations before Pyongyang’s last long-range rocket launch which brought UN Security Council condemnation and tightened sanctions against the isolated communist state.

That rocket, which North Korea also said was aimed at putting a satellite into orbit, passed over Japanese territory without incident or any attempt to shoot it down.

Filed under News Japan Tokyo North Korea Pyongyang UN United States China

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