Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was responsible for the biggest discharge of radioactive material into the ocean in history, Bloomberg News cited a study from a French nuclear-safety institute as saying. The Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety found that the cesium that flowed into the sea in March was 20 times the plant owner’s estimate.
The report was the second in a week that contradicted official explanations of the accident. Citing research by US and European experts, published by Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, The Guardian said the facility may have released twice as much radiation into the atmosphere as previously estimated. Significantly, the release may have started between the time the plant was struck by a magnitude-9 earthquake and the arrival of a tsunami about 45 minutes later.
Japan and Vietnam reaffirmed their plan to build a nuclear-power plant in central Vietnam’s Ninh Thuan province, Reuters reported. The two countries agreed to proceed with the facility, using Japanese technology, despite the Fukushima disaster.
Indian officials are seeking a site for an experimental nuclear reactor that uses thorium for the bulk of its fuel, The Guardian said, and want to see the prototype plant running by the end of the decade. Proponents of the technology say thorium is more abundant than uranium and does not involve the release of large quantities of carbon dioxide.
Authorities in Thailand are trying to stem growing anger among flood victims as water swamps new neighbourhoods, Reuters said, while the government starts mapping out a multi-billion-dollar plan to prevent a repeat disaster. The floods began in July and have devastated large parts of the central Chao Phraya river basin, killing nearly 400 people and disrupting the lives of more than two million.
The floods, the worst in decades for south-east Asia’s second-largest economy, have damaged millions of tonnes of rice and forced many industrial enterprises to close, according to Reuters. Particularly hard-hit have been Thailand’s electronics and automotive sectors.
According to the United Nations, the world’s population topped seven billion on October 31 – though the US Census Bureau projects that the milestone won’t be reached until April. The New York Times noted that the exact number of people on the planet cannot be known, and even a tiny margin of error puts estimates off by millions.
Despite little official fanfare and no designated “poster child”, according to Bloomberg News, the milestone has highlighted the global population issue – only 12 years after the six-billionth arrival. Around the world, several babies were feted – in celebrations reflecting symbolism more than demography, said the Associated Press.
The recent 7.2-magnitude quake in eastern Turkey, which killed some 600 people, points up the economic divide between the country’s thriving west and an east in long-term decline, The Jerusalem Post reported. While reconstruction may boost the economy in the Van region, it may also deter development – by being a reminder of how risky the area is.
Forced relocations in China’s arid Ningxia province underline the difficulties of adapting to climate change. This piece won a chinadialogue award for ‘Best Climate Report’.