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Japan to release Fukushima’s contaminated water into sea: reports

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TOKYO — Nearly a decade after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan’s government has decided to release over one million tonnes of contaminated water into the sea, media reports said on Friday, with a formal announcement expected to be made later this month.

The decision is expected to rankle neighbouring countries like South Korea, which has already stepped up radiation tests of food from Japan, and further devastate the fishing industry in Fukushima that has battled against such a move for years.

The disposal of contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has been a longstanding problem for Japan as it proceeds with an decades-long decommissioning project. Nearly 1.2 million tonnes of contaminated water are currently stored in huge tanks at the facility.

The plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc, suffered multiple nuclear meltdowns after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

On Friday, Japan’s industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said no decision had been made on the disposal of the water yet, but the government aims to make one quickly.

“To prevent any delays in the decommissioning process, we need to make a decision quickly,” he told a news conference.

He did not give any further details, including a time-frame.

The Asahi newspaper reported that any such release is expected to take at around two years to prepare, as the site’s irradiated water first needs to pass through a filtration process before it can be further diluted with seawater and finally released into the ocean.

In 2018, Tokyo Electric apologised after admitting its filtration systems had not removed all dangerous material from the water, collected from the cooling pipes used to keep fuel cores from melting when the plant was crippled.

It has said it plans to remove all radioactive particles from the water except tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that is hard to separate and is considered to be relatively harmless.

It is common practice for nuclear plants around the world to release water that contain traces of tritium into the ocean.

In April, a team sent by the International Atomic Energy Agency to review contaminated water issues at the Fukushima site said the options for water disposal outlined by an advisory committee in Japan – vapour release and discharges to the sea – were both technically feasible. The IAEA said both options were used by operating nuclear plants.

Last week, Japanese fish industry representatives urged the government to not allow the release of contaminated water from the Fukushima plant into the sea, saying it would undo years of work to restore their reputation.

South Korea has retained a ban on imports of seafood from the Fukushima region that was imposed after the nuclear disaster and summoned a senior Japanese embassy official last year to explain how Tokyo planned to deal with the Fukushima water problem.

During Tokyo’s bid to host the Olympic Games in 2013, then-prime minister Shinzo Abe told members of the International Olympic Committee that the Fukushima facility was “under control”.

The Games have been delayed to 2021 because of the pandemic and some events are due to be held as close as 60 km (35 miles) from the wrecked plant.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20201016/japan-to-release-fukushima-s-contaminated-water-into-sea-reports/57300.html

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Cher welcomes ‘world’s loneliest elephant’ to new home in Cambodia

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Superstar Cher welcomed “the world’s loneliest elephant” to Cambodia Monday to begin a new life at a specialised sanctuary after the creature was rescued from grim conditions in a Pakistani zoo.

The plight of Kaavan — a 36-year-old bull elephant at Islamabad’s dilapidated zoo and originally from Sri Lanka — sparked global uproar from animal rights groups, who launched a campaign to save him.

His cause was boosted by spirited social media support from actress and musician Cher, who travelled to see him off from Pakistan and then to Cambodia to welcome him to his new home.

Wearing a black face mask, the Oscar winner was on hand at Siem Reap airport and waved excitedly at the plane after it landed around 2:30 pm (0730 GMT).

“I am so proud he is here,” she told AFP, after greeting Kaavan through an opening at the base of the crate.

“He’s going to be really happy here,” said Cher, adding that she was hopeful his ordeal was over.

Dubbed the world's loneliest elephant by the press, Kaavan was the only Asian elephant in Pakistan. Photo: AFP

Dubbed the world’s loneliest elephant by the press, Kaavan was the only Asian elephant in Pakistan. Photo: AFP

Mammoth undertaking

Kaavan’s much-anticipated journey was “uneventful”, said Amir Khalil, a veterinarian from animal welfare group Four Paws, adding he behaved “like a frequent flyer”.

“Kaavan was eating, was not stressed — he was even a little bit sleeping, standing, leaning at the crate wall,” he said.

Transporting an adult elephant by plane is no small task, and has only been undertaken a handful of times.

Helpers packed his trunk with 200 kilos (450 pounds) of food to snack on during the seven-hour flight, while a tube system was installed in his transport crate aboard a jumbo Russian cargo plane to handle up to 200 litres (58 gallons) of urine.

After Kaavan touched down, monks offered him fruit, chanted prayers and sprinkled holy water on his crate to bless him.

For the last leg, he was loaded onto a truck for the three-hour journey to his new home, a wildlife sanctuary in Oddar Meanchey province which already hosts three female elephants.

Cher followed behind in her own vehicle as Kaavan made his way through farmland and past the famous Angkor Wat temple.

“Cambodia is pleased to welcome Kaavan. No longer will he be ‘the world’s loneliest elephant’,” deputy environment minister Neth Pheaktra said.

“We expect to breed Kaavan with local elephants — this is an effort to conserve the genetic fold,” the minister told AFP.

After being unloaded from his giant travelling crate, Kaavan walked around his new enclosure — perhaps glad to stretch his legs after his long journey.

Cher was at Siem Reap airport and waved excitedly at the plane after it landed. Photo: AFP

Cher was at Siem Reap airport and waved excitedly at the plane after it landed. Photo: AFP

Years of campaigning

Kaavan’s move is the culmination of years of campaigning from animal rights groups, who say the animal’s behaviour in captivity demonstrated “a kind of mental illness” likely due to the zoo’s woeful conditions.

In May, a Pakistani judge ordered that all the animals at the zoo be moved.

Upon hearing about Kaavan’s freedom, Cher had tweeted that the decision marked “one of the greatest moments” of her life.

A team of vets and experts from Austria-based Four Paws spent months working with Kaavan to get him ready for the trip — a complicated process due to his size and the amount of food needed en route.

The elephant also had to be taught to enter the four-tonne metal crate that was then secured in the belly of a mammoth Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane for the journey.

Four Paws, along with Islamabad authorities, also safely moved three wolves and some monkeys from the zoo. Currently only two Himalayan brown bears, one deer and one monkey remain.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20201201/cher-welcomes-world-s-loneliest-elephant-to-new-home-in-cambodia/58046.html

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New Zealand raises concerns with China over Australian soldier image

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WELLINGTON — New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said on Tuesday that her government has raised concerns with China about its using an image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child.

Australia has demanded Beijing apologise and take down the fake image, posted on Twitter by a senior Chinese official on Monday, marking another downturn in deteriorating relations between the two countries.

“New Zealand has registered directly with Chinese authorities our concern over the use of that image,” Ardern told reporters in the parliament in the capital Wellington.

“It was an unfactual post, and of course that would concern us. So that is something we have raised directly in the manner that New Zealand does when we have such concerns.”

The tiny, trade-focused Pacific island nation has stayed clear of the growing feud between China and Australia, and has long-standing diplomatic, trade and political interests with both countries.

New Zealand has a shared history, close cultural ties, geographic proximity and a strong economic relation with Australia. China is its largest trading partner, with two-way trade exceeding NZ$33 billion.

New Zealand, which is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group with Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States, joined a statement calling on Beijing to reverse its decision to disqualify elected legislators in Hong Kong.

Ardern’s government also backed Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Organization (WHO) despite a warning from Beijing.

New Zealand will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) next year, taking over from Malaysia, where the global event was held this year.

Australia’s relationship with China has deteriorated since Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, China outlined a list of grievances about Australia’s foreign investment, national security and human rights policy, saying Canberra needed to correct its actions to restore the bilateral.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20201201/new-zealand-raises-concerns-with-china-over-australian-soldier-image/58045.html

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Deforestation in Brazilian Amazon surges to 12-year high

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Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon surged again over the past year, hitting a 12-year high, according to official figures released Monday that drew a chorus of condemnation of President Jair Bolsonaro’s government.

A total of 11,088 square kilometers (4,281 square miles) of forest was destroyed in Brazil’s share of the world’s biggest rainforest in the 12 months to August, according to the Brazilian space agency’s PRODES monitoring program, which analyzes satellite images to track deforestation.

That is equivalent to an area larger than Jamaica, and was a 9.5-percent increase from the previous year, when deforestation also hit a more than decade-long high.

“Because of such deforestation, Brazil is probably the only major greenhouse gas emitter that managed to increase its emissions in the year the coronavirus pandemic paralyzed the global economy,” said the Brazilian Climate Observatory, a coalition of environmental groups.

Forests such as the Amazon play a vital role in controlling climate change because they suck carbon from the atmosphere.

However, when trees die or burn, they release their carbon back into the environment.

Bolsonaro, a far-right climate-change skeptic, has presided over rising deforestation and wildfires since taking office in January 2019.

His government is pushing to open protected lands to mining and agribusiness, and has slashed funding for environmental protection programs.

Environmentalists say those policies fuel the destruction of the Amazon, about 60 percent of which is in Brazil.

“The Bolsonaro government’s vision of development for the Amazon is a throwback to the rampant deforestation of the past. It’s a regressive vision that’s far from the effort needed to deal with the climate crisis,” Greenpeace spokeswoman Cristiane Mazzetti said in a statement.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao, who presented the figures in a press conference, defended the government’s committment to fighting deforestation.

“The message I bring in the name of President Bolsonaro is that we will continue working with science and technology to support the work of environmental protection agencies,” said Mourao, a retired army general who heads Bolsonaro’s Amazon task force.

The latest annual deforestation figure was the highest since 2008, when 12,911 square kilometers of forest were destroyed in the Brazilian Amazon.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20201201/deforestation-in-brazilian-amazon-surges-to-12year-high/58043.html

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