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Tepco resumes water filtration at Fukushima nuke plant - ( J44P44NN )

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The shutdown of the ALPS water treatment system at the Fukushima No. 1 plant may have been caused by a rubber mat left in its water tank, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday.

Just a day after resuming trial runs of the advanced liquid processing system, Tepco detected technical problems with line C of the high-tech radiation-filtering machine at around 10:40 p.m. Friday.

On Sunday, the utility said it had found that a rubber mat used to keep ladders from slipping had been left inside an ALPS tank by workers.

The utility said it was still investigating whether the sheet was the cause of Friday’s shutdown.

ALPS was restarted on a trial basis after midnight Thursday and had processed around 100 tons of toxic water before its suspension.

ALPS extracts most radioactive materials from contaminated water and is seen as crucial in the utility’s efforts to process the vast amount of toxic water that continues to accumulate at the crippled No. 1 nuclear plant. The system operates via three separate lines.

While Tepco’s existing water treatment facility at Fukushima No. 1 can only remove cesium, ALPS can extract 62 different types of radioactive materials, with the exception of tritium.

Tepco and the government had trumpeted the ability of ALPS to process tainted water faster than it builds up at the wrecked complex, which suffered three meltdowns in March 2011. They planned to expand the system and enhance its performance in the future.

Initially, Tepco started a trial run of lines A and B in March, but halted all operations in June after the tank of line A was found leaking because of internal corrosion. While Tepco commenced repairs and investigated the problem, it sped up efforts on line C, which at the time was still waiting to be tried out.

Industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Sunday he believes Tepco will soon decide to decommission aging reactors 5 and 6 as well.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during his second visit to the plant on Sept. 19, strongly urged Tepco to decommission the two undamaged units but did not explain why. He also sought a deadline for filtering the stored radioactive water.



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Mayor of Sakai returned in fresh blow to Hashimoto - ( J44P44NN )

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mayor Osami Takeyama’s victory Sunday in the Sakai mayoral election in Osaka Prefecture has cast a shadow over the political future of brash Nippon Ishin co-leader Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka.

Takeyama, a 63-year-old independent, defeated former Sakai Assemblyman Katsutoshi Nishibayashi, his sole challenger, with the backing of the Democratic Party of Japan and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, early returns showed.

Nishibayashi, 43, was backed by Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party).

The main issue in the election was whether to let prefecture absorb the major cities by turning them into wards, as in Tokyo. Sakai would have been one of those cities.

One of Hashimoto’s main goals is to integrate the city of Osaka with the prefecture, giving it the same administrative structure and status as Tokyo.

During his campaign, Takeyama 63, argued that integration would only “steal Sakai’s financial resources and authority.”

Nishibayashi claimed that Sakai would be “left behind” in terms of economic development unless it was part of the larger entity.

Takeyama was elected to his first term four years ago with Hashimoto’s backing when Hashimoto was the governor of Osaka Prefecture. He later butted heads with Hashimoto over the integration plan, making it clear that Sakai would not take part in the merger.

Despite Sunday’s defeat, however, Hashimoto denied at a news conference in Sakai that he would resign as Nippon Ishin’s co-leader.

The Sakai election and Nippon Ishin are “separate matters,” he said. “I must fulfill my responsibilities.”

He also said his goal of creating a larger Osaka would not be deterred.

Even so, the election defeat will inevitably affect his already weakened clout in national politics, observers said.

Indeed, a Kyodo exit poll showed that more than 66 percent of so-called swing voters in the election sided with the incumbent — a sign that Hashimoto is fading fast.

Hashimoto’s meteoric rise to local stardom, and then national politics, owes much to the support of this segment of the voting populace. But Sunday’s poll suggests that Nippon Ishin’s repeated conservative forays, as well as inflammatory remarks made by its own leaders, have disillusioned many of its supporters.

Earlier this year, Hashimoto enraged people at home and abroad by saying he believes Japan’s wartime brothels, where thousands of women and girls were forced into sexual servitude, was “necessary to maintain discipline” in the Imperial Japanese military.

In addition, feisty co-leader Shintaro Ishihara, the one who came up with the plan to purchase the Senkaku Islands from their Japanese owner to further assert Japan’s claim to sovereignty, only resulted in bringing ties with China to their lowest in years, and dragging down the economy.



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Shutdown nears as House delays health law - ( J44P44NN )

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved legislation early Sunday imposing a one-year delay on key parts of America’s health care law and repealing a tax on medical devices as the price for avoiding a partial government shutdown Tuesday.

Senate Democrats had already pledged to reject the measure, and the White House issued a statement vowing a veto. Republicans are pursuing “a narrow ideological agenda . . . and pushing the government towards shutdown,” it said.

The Senate is not scheduled to meet until midafternoon on Monday, 10 hours before a shutdown would begin. Even some Republicans said privately they feared that Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid held the advantage.

The Senate rejected the most recent House-passed bill to avert a shutdown on a party-line vote of 54-44 on Friday, insisting on a straightforward continuation in government funding without health care-related add-ons.

That left the next step up to the House, with time to avert a partial shutdown growing ever shorter.

The House Republican Party rank and file, which includes numerous conservative tea party allies, will soon have to choose between triggering the first partial shutdown in nearly two decades or coming away empty-handed from their latest confrontation in the deepening struggle with President Barack Obama.

Undeterred, House Republicans pressed ahead with their latest attempt to squeeze a concession from the White House in exchange for letting the government open for business normally on Tuesday.

” ‘Obamacare’ is based on a limitless government, bureaucratic arrogance and a disregard of a will of the people,” said Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman.

While conservative lawmakers hailed the move, the White House slammed it.

“Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown,” spokesman Jay Carney said.

Reid attacked the move as “pointless” brinkmanship that could end in economic crisis: “The Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax. The American people will not be extorted by tea party anarchists.”

The finger-pointing coursed through hours of raucous debate on the House floor.

Democrat David Scott stood up to say that what was occurring in the House was nothing less than “a shutdown being ordered by the Republican Party.”

“You have been hijacked by a small group of extreme folks who simply hate this president,” Scott said, breaking House protocol as he addressed Republican members directly. “The American people are never going to forget that it was you who shut down the government.”

Apart from its impact on the health care law, the legislation that House Republicans decided to back would assure routine funding for government agencies through Dec. 15. Under House rules, the measure went to the Senate after lawmakers voted to repeal the medical tax, then for the delay in Obamacare.

A companion measure that was headed for approval assures that U.S. troops will be paid in the event of a shutdown.

The government spending measure marked something of a reduction in demands by House Republicans, who passed legislation several days ago that would permanently strip the health care law of money while providing funding for the government.

It also contained significant concessions from a party that long has criticized the health care law for imposing numerous government mandates on industry, in some cases far exceeding what Republicans have been willing to support in the past.

Republican aides said that most portions of the health law that already have gone into effect would remain unchanged. That includes requirements for insurance companies to guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions and to require children to be covered on their parents’ plans until age 26. It would not change a part of the law that reduces costs for seniors with high prescription drug expenses.

One exception would give insurers or others the right not to provide abortion coverage, based on religious or moral objections.

The measure would delay implementation of a requirement for all individuals to purchase coverage or face a penalty, and of a separate feature of the law that will create marketplaces where individuals can shop for coverage from private insurers.

By repealing the medical device tax, the Republican measure also would raise deficits — an irony for a party that won the House majority in 2010 by pledging to get the nation’s finances under control.



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Crime › Japanese woman shot during robbery in Cambodia - ( J44P44NN )

Sunday, September 29, 2013

PHNOM PENH —

A Japanese woman was shot in the left thigh as she resisted two men trying to steal her handbag in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Japanese embassy sources said Sunday.

TBS quoted an embassy spokesperson as saying the incident occurred Saturday night. The 33-year-old woman and her younger sister had arrived in Cambodia for a holiday. As they were walking near a market in the center of the city, two men approached them. One grabbed the woman’s handbag and when she resisted, the second man shot her with a pistol, police said.

The woman was taken to hospital but her injuries are not life-threatening, an embassy official told TBS. The two men escaped with the woman’s handbag.

A Japanese man was shot dead in Phnom Penh in March and the embassy has issued an alert to Japanese visitors to be careful. 

Japan Today



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National › U.S. to upgrade Japan’s early warning radar aircraft - ( J44P44NN )

Sunday, September 29, 2013

WASHINGTON —

The Pentagon has notified the U.S. Congress of a proposed contract with Japan worth nearly $ 1 billion to upgrade the country’s early warning radar aircraft.

The planned $ 950 million deal would modernize Japan’s fleet of four Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) planes, bolstering electronic systems used to identify other aircraft and providing new cryptographic computers, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.

“The proposed sale will provide Japan with an upgraded AWACS command and control capability” and “allow Japan’s AWACS fleet to be more compatible with the U.S. Air Force AWACS fleet baseline,” according to an agency statement.

Manufactured by aerospace giant Boeing and flown by NATO countries and other U.S. allies, AWACS carry a rotating radar antenna mounted on the back of the plane, using systems to track other aircraft or enemy air defenses at long distances.

The Pentagon’s announcement came before Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travel to Tokyo this week for security talks with their Japanese counterparts.

(C) 2013 AFP



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National › Water decontamination system at Fukushima halted due to glitch - ( J44P44NN )

Sunday, September 29, 2013

TOKYO —

A system to decontaminate radioactive water at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant has been halted due to a defect only hours after it started operations, the plant’s operator said Saturday.

The Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) is designed to remove radioactive materials contained in contaminated water and is expected to play a crucial role in the utility’s fight against the toxic water accumulating at the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said.

The equipment was started in the early hours of Friday but was stopped at 10:37 p.m. the same day when it was found not to be properly flushing fluid used to remove radioactive particles, TEPCO said in a press release.

“We are in the process of investigating the cause of the incident,” the statement said.

There are three ALPS systems at the plant, which was left in a meltdown crisis by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The utility initially started trial operations of two of the three systems in March but halted them in June after corrosion in one was found to be causing water leakage. A third system was activated on Friday before the stoppage.

TEPCO has poured thousands of tons of water onto the plant’s reactors and continues to douse them to keep them cool.

The utility says they are now stable but need more water every day to prevent them running out of control again.

Highly polluted water from the plant is contaminating hundreds of tonnes of groundwater daily and is also leaking from temporary storage tanks, making its way into the sea.

TEPCO has so far revealed no clear plan for disposal of the stored polluted water.

(C) 2013 AFP



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Japan, China and South Korea designate Yokohama as East Asia City of Culture - ( J44P44NN )

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The culture ministers of Japan, China and South Korea met Saturday in the ancient South Korean city of Gwangju and designated one East Asia City of Culture in each country.

Culture minister Hakubun Shimomura nominated Yokohama, a historic port city known for international exchanges, while China’s envoy chose Quanzhou, an ancient trading port in southern Fujian province, and South Korea’s representative selected Gwangju, for its more than 2,000-year history.

The three cities will serve as the principal venues for a series of cultural and arts exchange programs to be organized next year to promote mutual understanding among the three neighbors, whose ties have been harmed by increasingly rancorous territorial clashes and conflicting historical interpretations.

Shimomura’s trilateral get-together with Chinese Minister of Culture Cai Wu and South Korean Culture Minister Yoo Jin-ryong was the first Cabinet-level meeting among the three countries since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office last December.

Tokyo’s relations with Beijing and Seoul have been badly strained over the past year by the Senkaku and Takeshima territorial disputes, as well as differing historical views of Japan’s invasion of China and colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula in the last century.

“One big achievement of this meeting is that we have come to share the understanding that cultural exchanges are important to develop the ties of our countries,” Shimomura told reporters after the one-day summit.

The three also agreed to hold the next trilateral meeting of cultural ministers next year in Japan. As host nation, Japan will additionally put on an arts and culture festival featuring events and performances from the three countries.

The three sides will designate new East Asia Cities of Culture from 2015.

Japan, China and South Korea launched the trilateral minister-level culture summits in 2007. The Gwangju meeting was the fifth held. The three neighbors also held a ministerial conference on environmental issues in May, but, reflecting its soured diplomatic ties with Japan, China only dispatched a deputy minister.



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