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Japanese nuclear plant ‘remarkably undamaged’ in earthquake

The nuclear plant closest to the epicentre of the March 2011 earthquake that struck Japan, resulting in a devastating tsunami and radiation leakage at another facility, was “remarkably undamaged,” according to a report delivered today by the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

“The structural elements of the NPS were remarkably undamaged given the magnitude of ground motion experienced and the duration and size of this great earthquake,” according to the draft report of an expert team of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), following its two-week mission to the Onagawa Nuclear Power Station.

The Onagawa Nuclear Power Station is 120 kilometres north of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that was severely damaged during the seismic event, when the building housing the plant exploded and three of its nuclear reactors suffered a meltdown in what was reported to be the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. A year later, a 19-kilometre exclusion zone still surrounds the disaster site.

The IAEA mission’s objective was to observe how safety structures, systems and components responded to the heavy shaking, which was not possible to study at Fukushima Daiichi because of the damage.

Onagawa, facing the Pacific Ocean on Japan’s north-east coast, experienced very high levels of ground shaking – among the strongest of any plant affected by the earthquake – and some flooding from the tsunami that followed, but was able to shut down safely, the IAEA said in a news release.

Findings from the visual investigation will be added to an IAEA database being compiled by its International Seismic Safety Centre (ISSC), as part of the IAEA’s Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, endorsed by the Agency’s Member States following the Fukushima Daiichi event.

“Information in the data base will allow IAEA member states to measure the performance of their nuclear power plants in the face of external hazards,” the mission’s leader and head of the ISSC, Sujit Samaddar, said, adding that the Centre also sought data from Member States other than Japan.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42664&Cr=iaea&Cr1=

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UN launches sustainable development network to help find solutions to global problems

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today launched a new independent global network of research centres, universities and technical institutions to help find solutions for some of the world’s most pressing environmental, social and economic problems.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) will work with stakeholders including business, civil society, UN agencies and other international organizations to identify and share the best pathways to achieve sustainable development, according to a UN news release.

This initiative is part of the work undertaken in response to the mandate on post-2015 and the outcome of UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), which took place in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, in June.

The Solutions Network will be directed by Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to Secretary-General Ban on the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It will operate in close coordination with the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

“The post-2015 objectives will help the world to focus on the vital challenges of sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network will be an innovative way to draw upon worldwide expertise in the campuses, universities, scientific research centres and business technology divisions around the world,” Mr. Ban said.

The High-level Panel will advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the target date for achieving the MDGs, and it will hold its first meeting at the end of September, in the margins of the annual high-level debate of the General Assembly. It is expected to submit its findings to the Secretary-General in the first half of 2013, and those findings will inform his report to Member States.

The eight MDGs, agreed on by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development.’

According to the news release, given that politics around the world too often focuses on short-term issues while governments often lack the timely information needed for long-term sustainable-development strategies, it is essential that scientists and technology experts outside of government support the development of long-term analyses, demonstration programmes and development pathways.

The SDSN is expected to provide an independent global, open and inclusive process to support and scale up problem-solving at local, national and global levels.

“In the 20 years since the first Rio Earth Summit, the world has largely failed to address some of the most serious environmental and social problems pressing in on us,” Mr. Sachs said. “We can’t afford business as usual. We need to engage the academic and scientific community, and tap into worldwide technological know-how in the private sector and civil society, in order to develop and implement practical solutions.”

Substantial emphasis will be placed on collaboration across countries to analyze common problems and learn from each other’s experiences. The network will accelerate joint learning and help to overcome the compartmentalization of technical and policy work by promoting integrated “systems” approaches to addressing the complex economic, social and environmental challenges confronting governments.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42658&Cr=sustainable+development&Cr1=

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Initiatives from five countries receive UN prize for inspiring environmental action

Projects from Australia, Bangladesh, Colombia, India, and Kenya that inspired and galvanized environmental action are the winners of this year’s World Environment Day Challenge, the United Nations announced today.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) challenged people across the world to pledge an environmental activity for the chance to win a Kia Motors fuel-efficient car in connection with this year’s World Environment Day, which was observed on 5 June.

“Today we celebrate five inspiring projects, submitted for the World Environment Day 2012 challenge, that illuminate the pathway to a transition to a green economy,” said UNEP’s Executive Director, Achim Steiner.

“The most environmentally friendly travel is by train, bus, carpooling, cycle or on foot, but in some countries making an eco-friendly project happen may need a private vehicle. If so, it should be fuel-efficient,” he added. “This is why we are awarding such vehicles to these projects, most of which are run in developing nations with underdeveloped public transport networks.”

Among the winners is Fundacion Ecoprogreso, a group in Colombia that works to protect a mangrove lagoon surrounding the city of Cartagena, organized activities for the Day to raise awareness of the importance of the mangrove ecosystem for the local green economy, especially for ecotourism and sustainable fishing.

Maji Mazuri Centre International, located in Nairobi, runs an initiative called Green Heroes, in which youth focus on organizing and improving waste management in the Kenyan capital’s informal Mathare settlement. Among its events for World Environment Day were a communal clean-up day and a football match that galvanized over 2,000 people.

On Australia’s Sunshine Coast, the World Environment Day Festival is held annually to raise awareness of environmental issues and the unique flora and fauna of the region, as well as promote the adoption of sustainable lifestyles and technologies. It is organized by the Sunshine Coast Environment Council, another winner of this year’s challenge.

A Bangladeshi non-profit organization, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, celebrated the Day through a solar-powered boat rally, a drawing competition on floating schools, an essay-writing competition on floating libraries, an exhibition on a two-tier boat and evening shows of training boats under the theme – ‘The Green Economy in a Changing Climate – Hope Floats.’

The fifth winner, Hand in Hand India, a development organization in the southern city of Chennai, brought together over 500 volunteers to create a colourful 10,000 square foot Rangoli carpet depicting 10 environmental themes. Rangoli is a hand-drawn Indian art which adorns the courtyards of many houses.

Observance of World Environment Day began in 1972 as a way to raise awareness of the environment and encourage political attention and action. This year’s theme for the Day – ‘Green Economy: Does it include you?’ – sought to underscore the need for everyone to play a part in keeping humankind’s ecological footprints within planetary boundaries.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42612&Cr=environment&Cr1=

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