East Asia Theater
At least two people were killed and six wounded by three explosions within an hour on May 26 at government office buildings in Fuzhou, in southern China's Jiangxi province. The targets were the Fuzhou Procurator's Office, the Linzhuan District government building and the Linzhuan Food and Drug Administration office. The attacker was said to ben unemployed man named Qian Mingqi, 52, who was himself among those killed in the blasts. Reports indicated Qian was a farmer angry over the handling of a court case. Feeds he posted on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, protested that his home was demolished in 2002 to make way for a new highway, without adequate compensation: "My newly built home was demolished illegally so that I incurred a great loss. After ten years of futile petitioning, I am forced to take a path I don't want to take. I want to seek justice but there's no justice; jackals and wolves are everywhere in Linchuan district in Fuzhou." During his fight to keep his home, Qian's wife was hung upside down by a demolition team, and died a few days later. His land seized for the new Beijing-Fujian expressway was never built on, and remains vacant. (Spero News, May 28; NYT, May 26)
Engineers at Japan's stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant have abandoned their attempt to stabilize reactor Number 3 by flooding it with water, finding that melting fuel rods had created a hole in the chamber, allowing some 3,000 tons of contaminated water to leak into the basement of the reactor building—raising concerns about groundwater contamination. Plant operator TEPCO now says it will pump the 4,000 tons of water out to be transferred to a waste-disposal facility before pumping in new water and installing a "self-circulating" system. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has approved the new plan—but it appears to carry its own risks. The temperature in reactor No. 3 has been rising since the beginning of the month, reaching more than 200 degrees Celsius (392 Fahrenheit).
Japan will abandon plans to expand its nuclear power industry and instead focus on renewable energy, Prime Minister, Naoto Kan announced May 11 as Japan marked two months since the devastating earthquake and tsunami. As workers continued efforts to bring the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant under control, Kan said he would "start from scratch" on an energy policy that initially foresaw nuclear meeting more than 50% of Japan's energy needs by 2030. Japan, whose 54 reactors now provide 30% of its electricity, had planned to build at least 14 new reactors over the next 20 years. "I think it is necessary to move in the direction of promoting natural energy and renewable energy such as wind, solar and biomass," Kan said. Renewables now make up 20% of Japan's overall supply.
Workers have entered the unit 1 reactor building of Japan's damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant for the first time since a hydrogen explosion hit the facility a day after the devastating March earthquake and tsunami. Twelve staff members stepped in to install duct pipes to six ventillation machines that will filter out the radioactive material in the air, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said May 5. High radiation levels inside the plant have kept workers from entering the facility to repair the plant's cooling systems. The workers—equipped with protective suits, masks and air tanks—entered through a special tent set up to prevent radiation leaks. They are to work in 10-minute shifts. The operation is expected to take four or five days. (AlJazeera, May 5)
Tokyo Electric Power Company on April 17 issued a plan for cooling down the reactors and reducing radiation leaks within six to nine months at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on Japan's Pacific coast. The plan was announced as a pair of remotely controlled robots measured radiation levels inside three of the reactor buildings too high for workers to endure.
Radioactivity levels skyrocketed in the sea surrounding the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan late last week, raising fears that a new leak in the facility needs to be sealed. Radioactive iodine-131 levels hit 6,500 times the legal limit on April 15—1,100 times the previous day's readings, although still below samples taken earlier this month. "We want to determine the origin and contain the leak, but I must admit that tracking it down is difficult," said Hidehiko Nishiyama of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (incorrectly identified by the NY Daily News of April 16 as the "Nuclear and Safety Division").
More than a hundred protesters gathered outside the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) on April 15, with banners reading "No Nukes" and "Nuclear Kills All Life." Demonstrators demanded a halt to Japan's nuclear development plans, as well as protesting the compensation package announced by TEPCO to those affected by the Fukushima disaster—$12,000 to families of two or more members and $9,000 for people living alone. (NTD TV, April 15) The protest came as the government admitted the area around Fukushima could be uninhabitable for nearly a generation. Kenichi Matsumoto, an aide to Prim Minister Naoto Kan, said (in a classically Orwellian construction) that the contamination will "momentarily"* bar the area's human habitability for between "10 and 20 years." (AGI, April 13)
Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei was detained at Beijing airport while attempting to board a flight to Hong Kong on April 3. The artist's wife, assistants, friends, family members and associates were also subsequently detained and interrogated. But Ai himself continues to be held at unknown location. China's Foreign Ministry said only that he is being investigated for unspecified "economic crimes" and that his detention has "nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression." The detention has nonetheless sparked global protests. In London, supporters gathered at the Tate Modern museum on April 11, and climbed into Ai's "Sunflower Seeds" installation—an exhibit of 136 tons of hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds—and scattered posters bearing the message: "Free Ai Weiwei." (CBC, April 11)