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Japan nuclear meltdown ‘maybe worse than thought’

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Molten nuclear fuel at Japan’s Fukushima plant might have eaten two thirds of the way through a concrete containment base, its operator said, citing a new simulation of the extent of the March disaster.

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said their latest calculations showed the fuel inside the No. 1 reactor at the tsunami-hit plant could have melted entirely, dropping through its inner casing and eroding a concrete base.

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In the worst-case scenario, the molten fuel could have reached as far as 65 centimetres (2 feet) through the concrete, leaving it only 37 centimetres short of the outer steel casing, the report, released Wednesday, said.

Until now, TEPCO had said some fuel melted through the inner pressure vessel and dropped to the containment vessel, without saying how much and what it did to the concrete, citing a lack of data.

“Almost no fuel remains at its original position,” TEPCO said in the report.

Two other reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant also went into meltdown when the tsunami knocked out cooling systems at the plant.

However, only about 60 percent of their fuel dropped through to the concrete floor and caused less damage, the report projected.

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The molten fuel in the three reactors is believed to have stayed cool and stable because water has been injected into the vessels, the utility said.

TEPCO added, however, that it has yet to closely study many areas of the damaged reactors due to high level of radiation and stressed its findings were based on modelling.

The exact position of the fuel believed to have eaten its way through the concrete and to what extent it is being exposed to the cooling water is not known.

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“Uncertainly involved in the analysis is significant due to the uncertain nature of the original conditions and data used,” the report said.

“Using (realistically assumed) conditions for the evaluation, the concrete could have been penetrated, but (the fuel) stayed inside the casing,” it said.

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Fukushima Daiichi has spewed radioactive materials across eastern Japan since it was inundated by the huge waves of March 11.

The world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 has not directly claimed any lives, but has left tens of thousands of people displaced and rendered tracts of land uninhabitable, possibly for decades.

TEPCO and the Japanese government have pledged to bring all the plant’s reactors to a state of cold shutdown by the end of 2011.

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In a secluded region in Russia’s Arctic they are rejecting Putin in rare protest

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Lyudmila Laptander, an activist advocating autonomy for her mineral-rich Nenets region in the Russian Arctic, worries authorities are planning to sacrifice its traditions for the promise of economic enrichment.

"If Nenets is merged with another region, I worry that no one will look after our language or our traditions, and that our small villages in the tundra will be forgotten," said Laptander, 61, a member of the Yasavey cultural group.

The autonomous region on the edge of the Arctic Ocean was gripped by protests in May against the government's plans to integrate it with neighbouring Arkhangelsk.

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FBI investigating Chinese businessman who bankrolled media company linked to Steve Bannon

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A Wall Street Journal expose revealed that a Chinese businessman is under investigation by the FBI after he used funds to bankroll a media company with ties to a former aide to President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon.

"Federal Bureau of Investigation national security agents in recent months have asked people who know both men for information on Mr. Guo’s activities, including the source of funds of a media company linked to him that hired Mr. Bannon in 2018 as a consultant, the people said," according to the Journal. "As recently as last week, the FBI met with one person familiar with the companies tied to Mr. Guo, the people said. The probe has been underway for more than six months, and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn have been involved.

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Mike Pompeo asks Egypt to stop harassing US citizens

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday welcomed Egypt's release of a US citizen but urged the ally to stop harassment of others.

Mohamed Amashah, 24, was freed Monday, nearly 16 months after he was arrested in Cairo's Tahrir Square for holding up a sign seeking the release of prisoners, according to human rights campaigners.

A dual US-Egyptian citizen who lives in New Jersey, he had gone on a hunger strike this year to protest his conditions.

"We thank Egypt for securing his release and his repatriation," Pompeo told a news conference.

"But at the same time, we urge Egyptian officials to stop unwarranted harassment of US citizens and their families who remain there," he said.

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