New Japan PM visits tsunami-wrecked nuclear plant

Updated 30 December 2012
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New Japan PM visits tsunami-wrecked nuclear plant

FUKUSHIMA DAI-ICHI NUCLEAR POWER PLANT, Japan: Newly installed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the tsunami-devastated Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant on Saturday as his government reconsiders plans to eventually phase out the use of atomic energy.
Donning protective gear, Abe took a bus tour of the plant — site of the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster — and greeted workers at its emergency operations center in Okuma town on Japan’s northeastern coast.
A massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, swamped parts of the Fukushima plant, disabling backup systems and triggering radiation-spewing meltdowns that forced tens of thousands of people to flee. The disaster triggered massive protests against atomic energy and widespread public distrust in nuclear plant operators and regulators.
Japan’s nuclear reactors were suspended for checks after the Fukushima meltdowns, and only two of the country’s 50 reactors are currently online.
During his visit to the Fukushima plant’s operations center, Abe urged employees of the plant’s embattled owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., to persevere as the company works to clean up radiation released by the accident and safely close the plant permanently.
“Your courage is what brings hope to Japan,” Abe told workers at the center. “Yet, we still face a great challenge — an unprecedented challenge in human history to working toward decommissioning the plant in such scale.”
The previous government, led by the rival Democratic Party of Japan, had pledged to phase out nuclear power by 2040 by retiring aging reactors and not replacing them.
But Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, which regained power in elections this month, says it plans to spend 10 years studying the best energy mix for the country. Abe has said he may reconsider the previous government’s decision to stop building reactors.
The relatively favorable stance toward resuming operations of more nuclear plants has won favor among business leaders worried about power shortages and rising costs; since the Fukushima disaster, Japanese imports of costly liquefied natural gas have soared.
It’s unclear, however, if that would win the approval of the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, which is drawing up new, compulsory safety standards and checking some plants for potential trouble from geologic faults that could compromise safety in case of earthquakes, which are common in this seismically active country.


Dozens of Rohingya come ashore in Indonesia

Updated 5 min 25 sec ago
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Dozens of Rohingya come ashore in Indonesia

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia: About 80 Rohingya in a wooden boat arrived in Indonesia Friday, officials said, the latest batch of the vulnerable minority to come ashore in the world’s biggest Muslim majority nation.
The group landed in Aceh province on Sumatra island, just weeks after dozens of the persecuted Muslim minority from Myanmar came ashore in neighboring Malaysia.
All appeared to be in good condition, according to local police chief Riza Yulianto, who added that it was not clear how long they had been at sea.
“Thank God they’re all healthy even though a few are just children,” he said.
“We have given them food and we are thoroughly checking their health one by one.”
It has been rare for Rohingya migrants to attempt the sea routes south since Thai authorities clamped down on regional trafficking networks in 2015, sparking a crisis across Southeast Asia as large numbers were abandoned at sea.
But there have been concerns desperate migrants might start taking to the high seas again after mainly Buddhist Myanmar launched a new crackdown last year that forced about 700,000 members of the Muslim minority to flee to Bangladesh.
This month, a group including two Rohingya men, aged 28 and 33, a 20-year-old woman, a 15-year-old girl and an eight-year old boy were spotted in a small boat off the coast of southern Thailand and Myanmar, some 325 kilometers (176 miles) from Aceh.
Local Indonesian fishermen took them back to Aceh where they were later taken into custody by immigration officials.
The group said they had been traveling with two dozen other Rohingya but got separated and were stranded at sea for about 20 days.
They had gotten lost with five others who later starved to death and their bodies were thrown overboard, officials said at the time.
In 2015, hundreds of Rohingya came ashore in Aceh, where they were welcomed in the staunchly conservative Islamic province.
Indonesia tends to accept asylum seekers but they are usually barred from working and often spend years in immigration centers.