Nuclear power stations had provided around a third of the country's electricity before the disaster at Fukushima, when a huge tsunami swamped reactor cooling systems, sparking meltdowns and radiation leaks. In the months that followed, all of Japan's working reactors were shut down for safety checks. Only two have been restarted. Last week, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan issued a policy recommendation saying Japan should "put every political resource to realise a situation where the number of nuclear plants operated be zero in the 2030s". They listed three principles to achieve this: not constructing new nuclear plants, stopping old nuclear plants after 40 years of operation, and only approving the restart of nuclear plants that had passed safety checks by a nuclear regulator.
The policy paper recommended Japan make greater use of renewable energy, and take further energy saving measures, including the use of smart metering. It also said Japan should develop resources in nearby waters and look to cheaper procurement of liquefied natural gas and other fossil fuels, including shale gas. Germany last year said it would shut down its 17 nuclear reactors by 2022, while in Italy, a referendum rejected any resumption of nuclear energy generation, which was halted after the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl. Switzerland has approved plans to close its five reactors by 2034. However a number of Asian countries are pushing ahead with expanding their nuclear programs.
LARGEST QUAKES -
Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)
This morning -
6.0 KEP. MENTAWAI REGION, INDONESIA
5.1 NORTHERN XINJIANG, CHINA
5.4 SOUTH OF JAVA, INDONESIA
5.3 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
5.5 PHILIPPINE ISLANDS REGION
5.2 FIJI REGION
33,000 flee Guatemala volcano eruption - Long-simmering Volcan del Fuego has exploded outside one of Guatemala's most famous tourist attractions. The series of eruptions on Thursday hurled thick clouds of ash nearly three kilometres high, spewing rivers of lava down its flanks and prompting evacuation orders for more than 33,000 people from surrounding communities.
vacuees were ordered to leave some 17 villages around the Volcan del Fuego, which sits southwest of the colonial city of Antigua, home to 45,000 people. The ash was blowing south-southeast and authorities said the tourist centre of the country was not currently in danger, although they expected the eruption to last for at least 12 more hours. The volcano spewed lava nearly 600 metres down slopes billowing around the Volcan del Fuego, whose name translates as Volcano of Fire.
"A paroxysm of an eruption is taking place, a great volcanic eruption, with strong explosions and columns of ash." Cinders spewing from the volcano were settling a half-inch thick in some places. Extremely hot gases were also rolling down the sides of the volcano, which was almost entirely wreathed in ash and smoke. Flights through the area could be affected. There was a red alert, the highest level, south and southeast of the mountain, where "it's almost in total darkness." Ash was landing as far as 80km south of the volcano.
The Guatemalan Red Cross has set up 10 emergency shelters and was sending hygiene kits and water. "There are lots of respiratory problems and eye problems." Many of those living around the volcano are indigenous Kakchikeles people who live in relatively poor and isolated communities, and authorities said they expected to encounter difficulties in evacuating all the affected people from the area. Officials in the Mexican state of Chiapas, on the border with Guatemala, said they were monitoring the situation in case winds drove ash toward Mexico.
TROPICAL STORMS -
In the Atlantic -
- Tropical storm Nadine was located about 765 mi [1230 km] NE of the northern Leeward Islands. Some strengthening is possible in the next day or two and Nadine could become a hurricane during that time. No threat to land.
In the East Pacific -
- Tropical storm Kristy was located about 235 mi [375 km] SSW of the southern tip of Baja California. Swells generated by Kristy will affect portions of the coast of southwestern Mexico and southern Baja California during the next day or two.
In the West Pacific -
- Super Typhoon Sanba was located about 500 nm south-southeast of Kadena AB, Japan.
As Typhoon "Karen" [Sanba] continues to gain strength while hovering east of Luzon, another weather disturbance has been spotted outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility, the country's weather agency said Thursday afternoon. As of 4 p.m. Thursday, Karen was located at 740 kilometers (km) east of Baler, Aurora.
With maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 160 kph, Karen is forecast to move northwest at 15 kph, and with its present speed, it is expected to leave the Philippine territory by Saturday evening or Sunday morning on its way to southern Japan. Karen may not make landfall in any part of the Philippins since it will only pass over the eastern seas of the country. No public storm signal has been raised.
Karen is expected to enhance the southwest monsoon that will bring rains over the Visayas and Mindanao, particularly the western section. Meanwhile, the low pressure area (LPA) was estimated at 580 kilometers west of Iba, Zambales, still outside the PAR and has 50 percent chance to develop into a tropical storm. Once the weather disturbance develops into a tropical depression, it will be named "Lawin," the 12th tropical cyclone to enter the country this year. The effects of the LPA and the southwest monsoon will bring rains over the eastern section of Southern Luzon. Moderate to heavy rains will be experienced in the regions of Calabarzon, Mimaropa and Western Visayas that may trigger flashfloods and landslides. (Satellite Image)
SEVERE RAIN STORMS, FLOODING, LANDSLIDES -
Utah dam break sends surge of flood water into dozens of homes, businesses. More than three inches of rain fell on the small canyon area of Ivins early Tuesday, near the town of Santa Clara, and the runoff drained into a dry wash, forcing pressure on the dam.
India's monsoon rains pick up, drought abates - India's monsoon rains have picked up to be just 8 percent below average in the season up through Sept. 12, reflecting a revival during the second half of the rainy season.
Weather hampers quake-relief efforts in China - Harsh weather conditions continued to cause problems in quake-hit areas in Yiliang county, Yunnan province, the day after floods and rains again devastated the area and left many residents battling the common cold due to the sudden drop in temperature.
EXTREME HEAT & DROUGHT / CLIMATE CHANGE -
Australia - faces a big dry spell after THEIR WETTEST TWO YEARS ON RECORD, it was claimed today. A dramatic shift in ocean temperatures through the Pacific and Indian oceans is about to cause the dramatic shift in their weather, according to the Senior Meteorologist at The Weather Channel.
Australia is now rapidly drying out, he said this morning. "In July weather patterns started to shift, evident only a month later when the nation recorded its fifth driest August in 113 years of records. The nation's dry August was not just random variability, it was due to changes in water temperatures across the Pacific and Indian oceans. A positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) has now firmly developed off Australia's west coast. A positive IOD refers to a pattern of colder waters off the west coast of Indonesia and warmer waters off the east coast of Africa. This reduces the amount of evaporation and moisture carried from the tropical oceans into the atmosphere over Australia, and this reduction in moisture eventually reduces rainfall through the country."
The effects of the abnormal ocean temperatures are already being felt. "Coolangatta has recorded ITS LONGEST DRY SPELL ON RECORD with 48 consecutive days without rain. Alice Springs is less than a week away from recording its longest dry spell on record while Brisbane has recorded only 0.2mm of rain over the past 54 days. When you combine the positive IOD with an emerging El Niño we are very confident rain will be below average over most of the country through the remainder of 2012, particularly through south-eastern states." Yesterday saw the first rain in Sydney for more than three weeks. Despite warnings of a big dry Sydney is forecast to see showers for most of next week after a mostly sunny weekend.
Rain Eases Drought as U.S. Midwest Corn Harvest Unfolds - The latest update (Thursday) on the nation's worst drought in decades shows that farmers bringing in their weakened corn crops caught some relief with recent rains that soaked much of middle America.
Drought hurt world crops less than many had feared - Searing droughts in the United States and Russia will deplete harvests of wheat, corn and soybeans, the U.S. government said on Wednesday, but global food supplies were not hurt as badly as many had feared. Corn production in the U.S., the world's largest grower and exporter, will drop 13 percent to a six-year low after the worst drought in more than 50 years damaged Midwest fields, the government said. Analysts were expecting an even bigger decline.
US producer prices jumped 1.7 percent in August, the largest monthly rise in three years, sparked by skyrocketing crop prices due to drought and higher energy costs, fresh data released Thursday showed.
One of Canada's biggest hog farmers was forced into receivership by lenders earlier this week, the latest victim of the withering North American drought that has sent feed prices soaring for livestock producers across the continent.