Top news: Japanese Prime Minister abandons plans to build 14 new nuclear reactors; five hydroelectric dams are approved by Chilean authorities; Greenpeace exposes cover-ups at a German nuclear plant; Turkey faces a potentially devastating cyanide spill.

#Nuclear: The Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced that he wants to scrap plans to build 14 new nuclear reactors, in light of the ongoing Fukushima crisis. The government had intended to supply 50 percent of Japan’s energy needs with nuclear power by 2030, but yesterday Kan vowed to abandon this plan and invest in renewable energies, saying that the country’s energy policies “need to start from scratch”. Junichi Sato, the executive director of Greenpeace Japan, greeted the decision, saying: “This announcement could put Japan’s energy policy on a new path of clean, renewable technologies, what we need now is the will and commitment to see it through.”

#Chile: Five hydroelectric dams have been given the go-ahead by Chilean authorities, despite warnings that they will do irreversible damage to a huge area of pristine wilderness in southern Patagonia. Thousands of protestors took to the streets after a regional environmental panel approved the HidroAysen project on Monday. The dams are expected to take 50 years to build, and to generate 20 percent of Chile’s current energy capacity. A recent poll showed that 61 percent of Chileans oppose the dams, which will flood 6,000 hectares of forests, river valleys and farmland.

#Nuclear: Greenpeace has exposed a leak in the internal pressure reactor vessel of a German nuclear plant that had previously gone unreported. Citing internal documents, Greenpeace has demonstrated how the incident occurred at the Hessian Biblis plant near Frankfurt on 20 October 2010, with only an outer cover gasket preventing a wider leak. A spokesperson for the Environment Ministry denied that there had been a threat, but Greenpeace nuclear expert Heinz Smital argued that a broken seal at the core of a nuclear reactor could not be ignored. “In the German nuclear industry, it is common practice not to report incidents and to put costs before safety,” he said.

#Toxics: A silver mine in Turkey is at major risk of spilling cyanide-contaminated water into the surrounding environment, after the partial collapse of a dam intended to hold it. Experts fear an environmental and human catastrophe if the dam, located in the Kütahya province, were to fail, since cyanide is extremely poisonous. A Greenpeace spokesperson in Istanbul said that samples taken from rivers and soils owned by the mining corporation should be shared with non-governmental organizations immediately, to allow for an independent assessment.

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