HAMBURG - Greenpeace activists stormed a nuclear power plant in northern Germany and climbed to the top of the reactor to demand its closure.
A team of 80 demonstrators from the environmental group descended on the 26-year-old Stade nuclear plant, west of Hamburg, some arriving in rubber boats down a nearby waterway.
Greenpeace spokesman Roland Hipp said 15 climbers had reached the top of the reactor mid-morning and planned to stay there all day.
They had unfurled a yellow and black banner at the summit which read: "End nuclear power now, shut Stade now." They erected an eight-metre (25-foot) high switch on top of the reactor with an arrow pointing to the "off" button.
The climbers broke away from the main group, running past security guards at an open gate.
After scuffles with some other guards, they scaled the 53 metre (160 foot) high plant by climbing stairs and lightning rods.
Hipp said the climbers were from Germany and Austria. "They are all trained mountain climbers," he said.
The Stade plant, built in 1972, is the oldest nuclear power plant of its type in Germany.
Greenpeace is calling for the immediate closure of Stade and several other plants that are more than 20 years old.
"This technology is dangerous, produces nuclear waste and contaminates the environment," said Michael Kuehn, a nuclear expert for Greenpeace, in a statement. "We have to get away from it."
Greenpeace wants all of Germany's 19 operating reactors to be shut down before 2005.
Gazette (Montreal)COPENHAGEN - Denmark's environment and energy minister Svend Auken said on Monday he would reconsider a controversial draft proposal on windmills, meant to curb new onland wind power projects.
"We will reconsider the draft when the round of hearing is completed," the minister told Reuters.
"I will soon meet with the parliamentary energy committee, and I believe that we will reach an agreement to put a break on development of windmills on land after we all have had the chance to discuss the issue thoroughly," Auken said.
The minister sent a draft out for hearing in July which puts strict restraints on new developments of onland windmills, but a majority in parliament is expected to advise the minister to withdraw the draft.
Denmark's windmill industry has called the proposal an effective hinderance for all new windmill projects which would kill the Danish wind power market.
But Auken said he is optimistic about his case.
"We are facing a very positive problem, because windmill developments on land are seven to eight years ahead of the goal to reach a 1,500 megawatt (MW) wind power within the year 2005. We have already reached 1,300 MW," he said.
"I believe that most agree that this development cannot continue, especially those which are placed inconveniently in the landscape. We have to take actions against that."
He said the ministry would evaluate the issue after the hearing was concluded and after he had discussed the issue with the energy committee.
PHILADELPHIA - Federal scientists have found unsafe levels of cancer-causing radium in the major source for drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people in southern New Jersey, a newspaper reported Sunday.
An eight-year study by the U.S. Geological survey found 33 percent of the private wells tested between 1989 and 1996 had unsafe levels of radium in six southern New Jersey counties, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
In the more heavily developed areas of those counties, the unhealthy levels were found in 65 percent of the water supplies tested, the paper said.
The radium-tainted water is in the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, which supplies water to about 200,000 private wells used by an estimated 500,000 people, the paper said.
Radium is a known cause of nasal and bone cancers.
"The issues associated with radium in drinking water are significant public health concerns," Eric J. Evenson, the USGS district chief in New Jersey, told the newspaper. "It is an issue that warrants public health attention. It is of direct concern for individual well owners," Evenson said.
The study says the radium, which occurs naturally, can seep into the water supply because of pollution from fertiliser from residential and agriculture use.
Some New Jersey townships discovered radium-contaminated groundwater in the mid-1980s, prompting the eight-year federal study. The USGS report was released last month but was not made public.
SIERRA BLANCA, Texas - About 1,500 U.S. and Mexican citizens ended a four-day, 76-mile (122-km) walk on Sunday to fight the building of a low-level nuclear waste dump in this small west Texas town about 30 miles from the border.
The dump, which could be licensed by the Texas Radioactive Regulatory Commission by Sept. 15, would receive mostly medical waste from Texas and at least two other states.
"If the radioactive material leaks into the Rio Grande, it could affect the water that we use in this entire region," said Socorro Castio of El Paso, about 90 miles (145 km) to the west. "I have sore ankles, sore feet, but the issue motivated me to keep going for the sake of future generations."
Opponents say the dump would be located on a fault line and radioactive material could leak into the Rio Grande and underground water used in both the United States and Mexico. Supporters say the waste would be safely sealed into leakproof containers.
Joel Reyes of Ciudad Juarez, which faces El Paso across the Rio Grande, said protesters saw the planned dump "as a racist matter" directed against poor and badly informed Hispanics.
"But (people in Mexico) are starting to learn," he added. "All the small towns in northern Mexico - when we were arriving, the people received us, offering us water, fruit. The bells of the churches tolled. It was very stimulating to us."
Some in Sierra Blanca favour the dump. "It will bring jobs, certainly. Scientists have told us it will be safe," said Angel Natera, one of the town's fewer than 1,000 residents.
The local unemployment rate is about 10 percent, and studies have shown the region to be among the poorest in the nation.
By Caroline Brothers
MEXICO CITY - Demonstrators from both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border began a four-day march to protest against a planned nuclear waste dump in Texas on Thursday, the 53rd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.
Some 50 protesters, many of them students from the University of Texas at El Paso, set off on the 72-mile (115-km) trek late on Thursday. They were heading for Sierra Blanca, the site of a proposed dump for low-level nuclear waste about 20 miles (30 km) from the frontier with Mexico.
Another 50 marchers set out simultaneously from Ciudad Juarez, opposite El Paso on the Mexican side of the border. They planned to meet their U.S. counterparts at Sierra Blanca on Sunday afternoon.
"Hopefully we will be able to create some political pressure, to show that people really don't want this," said Melissa Barba, a 21-year-old student in El Paso, getting ready to brave the scorching desert sun for the protest hike.
"This is environmental racism," she said. "We need to stand up for ourselves."
She said the protest was called "Operation Backbone" because El Paso needed to show some spine.
Marchers will walk during the cooler morning and evening and rest during the day.
Protesters call plans for the dump racist because authorities want to build the facility in an area populated by minorities and low-income families.
The environmental activist organisation Greenpeace and Mexican legislators have repeatedly criticised the proposals, saying they contravene treaties between Mexico and the United States governing cross-border pollution.
Two Texas hearing examiners recommended against building the dump at a hearing on July 7. But Texas state authorities will have the last word on whether the installation, which is likely to attract a large amount of cash, will go forward.
Mexican Environment Minister Julia Carabias said on Wednesday that federal and not just local authorities should be involved in the Sierra Blanca decision.
The Allies dropped the world's first atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the Second World War. Japanese authorities say more than 200,000 people died in the carnage and of radiation sicknesses afterward.
BRUSSELS - Anti-nuclear and environment groups will on Monday protest against the docking in the port of Antwerp of a ship carrying uranium from an Australian World Heritage Area, campaigners for safe energy said on Friday.
World Information Service on Energy (WISE) said in a statement the ore was from the Kakadu area in a remote part of Northern Australia where it was being mined against the wishes of the Aboriginal land owners, the Mirrar people.
The ship, the Arunbank, is expected to dock on Sunday night or Monday morning and the protest is scheduled to start at 1000 GMT in the harbour and be followed by a vigil outside Antwerp cathedral.
The Jabiluka mine, 200 km (125 miles) east of Darwin, has attracted anti-uranium protests by scores of Australians who two weeks ago cut off the water supply to the A$12 billion (US$7.4 billion) mine and chained themselves to vehicles and equipment.
UNESCO said in June it would visit Jabiluka to determine whether the mine poses a threat to Kakadu.
In October 1997 Canberra removed 13 years of limits on new uranium developments, clearing the away for Jabiluka, regarded by geologists as one of the world's richest uranium deposits with estimated reserves of 900,000 tonnes of uranium oxide.
The mine is expected to generate A$12 billion in revenue in its 28-year life, making Australia one of the world's leading uranium producers. Australia has about 30 percent of the world's uranium deposits but less than 10 percent of the market.
Owners Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) have promised A$9 million in benefits to local Aborigines on top of A$210 million in royalties the mine is expected to generate.
IDAHO FALLS - A fire control system at one of the nation's main temporary nuclear waste storage sites accidentally activated, killing one man and injuring 15 others, officials said Wednesday.
A Department of Energy spokesman said the accident occurred Tuesday as employees were doing maintenance work on electrical systems at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL).
The fire suppression system, which uses carbon dioxide to snuff out flames by removing oxygen from the air, filled the room the workers were in with dangerous gas.
"One man was overcome immediately and was pronounced dead at a Pocatello hospital," DOE spokesman Brad Bugger said. "A total of 15 employees were eventually treated. Three still in hospital, two in critical and one in serious condition."
Bugger said the accident was an isolated incident that occurred in a facility housing equipment used to supply electricity to other installations at the laboratory, including an advanced nuclear test reactor used to study the effects of radiation on materials and fuels.
"The advanced test reactor is still operational and was not effected by this," Bugger said.
He added that it is also in a different part of the lab's 890-square mile complex from the nuclear waste storage facility, which last week grabbed headlines when it received a load of radioactive spent nuclear fuel rods from South Korea.
The nuclear shipment drew protests from environmentalists in California and other western states, who claimed the material was too dangerous to move through populated areas.
The Idaho facility is one of two designated sites in the United States for the storage of foreign nuclear waste under the "Atoms for Peace" programme, under which Washington supplied allies with nuclear research reactors and fuel on condition that the spent fuel be returned for safekeeping in the United States.
It also serves as a repository for spent nuclear fuel from the Navy, and houses a research centre involved in studying nuclear waste management techniques along with other energy and environmental issues.
TOKYO - Japan's Aomori Prefecture has decided to approve some shipments of used nuclear fuel to a local storage facility, ending a long dispute with the central government, a prefectural official said on Wednesday.
A ban on fuel shipments imposed by the Aomori governor had delayed the opening of the storage facility and threatened the stable operation of nuclear power plants around the nation.
"Governor Morio Kimura decided to allow the shipment after a meeting with senior prefectural officials yesterday evening," the prefectural official said.
Kimura said last week that central government ministers had made clear in meetings with him that Japan would press ahead with its plans to reprocess used nuclear fuel.
Aomori residents have been concerned that if the reprocessing project fell through, their scenic prefecture on the northern tip of Japan's main island could end up being stuck with spent nuclear fuel forever.
The prefectural official said Aomori would on Wednesday sign an agreement on shipments with Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) and the town of Rokkashomura, where the facility is located.
Talks between the prefecture and JNFL, the operator of the facility, faltered after a 1997 fire and explosion at Japan's sole existing nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo.
Residents had raised concerns about safety of the Aomori storage plant after the Ibaraki explosion, which had followed a series of accidents in Japan's nuclear industry in recent years.
The Aomori unit is part of a major fuel reprocessing facility that is planned to go into operation in 2003.
The shipments stalemate had been threatening the stable operation of Japan's 51 nuclear power reactors, which cover one-third of the nation's electricity requirements, as temporary storage pools at the power plants are brimming with spent fuel.
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) proposed Tuesday to expand the type of alternative fuels available for new light-duty vehicles, which will help cut automobile pollution and fight greenhouse gas emissions.
The expanded alternative fuels will run "flexible-fuel" vehicles produced by Chrysler Corp. and Ford Motor Co., according to the DOE.
The department wants to add new blends of ethanol, hydrocarbons, natural gas liquids, butane and methyltetrahydrofuran (MTHF), commonly known as P-series fuels, to its definition of alternative fuel.
The DOE's proposal was published in today's Federal Register, and the department will take public comment on the new fuel through September 28.
The P-series fuels join the list of alternatives to gasoline that now includes ethanol, methanol, natural gas, propane and electricity, the DOE said.
Chrysler's most popular minivan is equipped with a flexible-fuel engine and the Ford Ranger pick-up truck will have a similar engine in the 1999 model year.
Both companies are expected to have about 250,000 flexible-fuel vehicles on the road during the next two model years.
The ethanol and MTHF will be derived from renewable domestic feedstocks, such as corn, waste paper, agricultural waste and construction wood waste, according to the DOE.
The P-series fuels have the potential to replace about 1 billion gallons of gasoline by 2005, the department said.
"With our nation's increasing reliance on imported oil, it is important that we develop and use clean, domestically abundant, renewable alternative fuels," said DOE assistant secretary Dan Reicher.
Emissions from alternative fuels are generally much lower than those from reformulated gasoline and also are significantly below federal emission standards.