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Fukushima nuclear plant starts highly controversial wastewater release




Okuma, Japan — The tsunami-wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s operator says it began releasing its first batch of treated radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean Thursday – a controversial step that prompted China to ban seafood from Japan.

In a live video from a control room at the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings showed a staff member turn on a seawater pump with a click of a mouse, marking the beginning of the controversial project that’s expected to last for decades.

Japan Nuclear Fukushima
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, damaged by a massive March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, is seen from the nearby Ukedo fishing port in Namie town, northeastern Japan on Aug. 24, 2023 before the plant started releasing treated and diluted radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean later that day.

Eugene Hoshiko / AP

“Seawater Pump A activated,” the main operator said, confirming the release was underway. TEPCO later confirmed that the seawater pump was activated at 1:03 p.m. local time (12:03 a.m. EDT), three minutes after the final step began.

TEPCO said an additional wastewater release pump was activated 20 minutes after the first. Plant officials said everything was moving smoothly so far.

Japanese fishing groups have opposed the plan, fearing it will do further damage to the reputation of their seafood. Groups in China and South Korea have also raised concerns, making it a political and diplomatic issue. 

South Korean police arrested 16 people Thursday for entering the building in Seoul where the Japanese embassy is located, the Reuters news agency reported. One of several banners hung by the group said, “The sea is not Japan’s trash bin,” according to Reuters.

North Korea also protested the move Thursday, Agence France-Presse reports. “Japan must immediately call off the dangerous discharge of nuclear contaminated water that seriously threatens the security and future of mankind,” its foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

South Korea police detain university students seeking to enter Japan embassy
A university student is detained while attempting to break into the Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea on August 24, 2023, the day the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan began releasing treated radioactive water from the wrecked plant into the Pacific Ocean


In response to the release, Chinese customs authorities banned seafood from Japan, the authorities announced Thursday. The ban started immediately and will affect all imports of “aquatic products” including seafood, according to the notice. Authorities said they will “dynamically adjust relevant regulatory measures as appropriate to prevent the risks of nuclear-contaminated water discharge to the health and food safety of our country.”

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said later Thursday that his government had demanded China “immediately eliminate” the ban, AFP reported. “We lodged a complaint through diplomatic channels to China,” Kishida told reporters.

There were also protests in Japan itself.

Japan Nuclear Fukushima
A protester holds a sign saying “No dumping radioactive water into the ocean” during a rally against the treated radioactive water release from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant, in front of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) headquarters in Tokyo on August 24, 2023, in Tokyo. It was the day when TEPCO, the plant’s operator, started releasing the first batch of treated and diluted radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.

Norihiro Haruta / AP

But the Japanese government and TEPCO say the water must be released to make room for the plant’s decommissioning and to prevent accidental leaks. They say the treatment and dilution will make the wastewater safer than international standards and its environmental impact will be negligibly small.

Tony Hooker, director of the Center for Radiation Research, Education, Innovation at the University of Adelaide, said the water released from the Fukushima plant is safe. “It certainly is well below the World Health Organization drinking water guidelines,” he said. “It’s safe.”

“It’s a very political issue of disposing radiation into the sea,” he said. “I understand people’s concerns and that’s because we as scientists have not explained it in a very good way, and we need to do more education.”

Still, some scientists say the long-term impact of the low-dose radioactivity that remains in the water needs attention.

In a statement Thursday, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said, “IAEA experts are there on the ground to serve as the eyes of the international community and ensure that the discharge is being carried out as planned consistent with IAEA safety standards.”

The United Nations nuclear watchdog also said it would launch a webpage to provide live data about the discharge and repeated its assurance that the IAEA would have an on-site presence for the duration of the release.

But initial readings showed the tritium concentration in the wastewater was well below the operational limit, the agency said, according to AFP.

“IAEA experts this week took samples from the first batch of diluted water prepared for discharge,” the agency said in a statement. “The IAEA’s independent on-site analysis confirmed that the tritium concentration in the diluted water that is being discharged is far below the operational limit.” 

The water release began more than 12 years after the March 2011 nuclear meltdowns caused by a massive earthquake and tsunami. It marks a milestone for the plant’s battle with an ever-growing radioactive water stockpile that TEPCO and the government say has hampered the daunting task of removing fatally toxic melted debris from the reactors.

The pump activated Thursday afternoon sent the first batch of the diluted, treated water from a mixing pool to a secondary pool 10 minutes later. It then moves through a connected undersea tunnel to go six-tenths-of-a-mile off the coast. Officials said the water moves at a walking speed and will take about 30 minutes to exit from the tunnel.

The operator checked data and the progress on a set of four monitors that show the water volume, pump conditions and any alerts.

TEPCO executive Junichi Matsumoto said Thursday’s release was planned to start small in order to ensure safety.

The wastewater is collected and partly recycled as cooling water after treatment, with the rest stored in around 1,000 tanks, which are already filled to 98% of their 1.37-million-ton capacity. Those tanks, which cover much of the plant complex, must be freed up to build the new facilities needed for the decommissioning process, officials said.

Final preparation for the release began Tuesday when just one ton of treated water was sent from a tank for dilution with 1,200 tons of seawater, and the mixture was kept in the primary pool for two days for final sampling to ensure safety, Matsumoto said. A batch of 460 tons was to be sent to the mixing pool Thursday for the actual discharge.

Fukushima’s fisheries, tourism and other industries – which are still recovering from the disaster – worry the release could be the beginning of a new hardship.

Fukushima’s current fish catch is only about one-fifth its pre-disaster level, in part due to a decline in the fishing population. China has tightened radiation testing on Japanese products from Fukushima and nine other prefectures, halting exports at customs for weeks, Fisheries Agency officials said.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the release is indispensable and couldn’t be postponed. He noted an experimental removal of a small amount of the melted debris from the No. 2 reactor is set for later this year, using a remote-controlled giant robotic arm.

In 2021, the Japanese government announced plans to release the treated water to the sea. Then, on Sunday, Kishida made a rushed visit to the plant before meeting with fisheries representatives and pledging to support their livelihoods until the release ends.

The hurried timeline raised skepticism that it was made to fit Kishida’s busy political schedule in September. But Economy and Industry Ministry officials said they wanted the release to start as early as possible and have good safety records ahead of the fall fishing season.

The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the plant’s cooling systems, causing three reactors to melt. Highly contaminated cooling water applied to the damaged reactors has leaked continuously to building basements and mixed with groundwater.

TEPCO plans to release 31,200 tons of the treated water by the end of March 2024, which would empty only 10 tanks because of the contaminated production of wastewater at the plant, though the pace will pick up later.

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From the archives: Sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer




From the archives: Sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer – CBS News

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Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the radio/TV host and bestselling author who had an impact on millions with her frank talk on sex, died Friday, July 12, 2024 at age 96. In this profile from correspondent Martha Teichner that originally aired on “CBS Sunday Morning” on February 17, 2002, Westheimer talked about championing sexual literacy, having fun being “Dr. Ruth,” and what she was looking for in a companion.

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7/13: Saturday Morning – CBS News




7/13: Saturday Morning – CBS News

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President Biden returns to campaign trail in battleground states as pressure mounts to withdraw; World Series of Poker has drawn a record number of entrants.

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Son of Asia’s richest man gets married in the year’s most extravagant wedding




The youngest son of Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, married his longtime girlfriend early Saturday in what many dubbed the wedding of the year, attended by global celebrities, business tycoons and politicians, highlighting the billionaire’s staggering wealth and rising clout.

The wedding rituals, including exchanging garlands by the couple and walking around the sacred fire, began Friday and were completed past midnight.

The celebrations of Anant Ambani marrying Radhika Merchant took place at the Ambani-owned Jio World Convention Centre in Mumbai and the family home. The marriage culminated months of wedding events that featured performances by pop stars including Rihanna and Justin Bieber.

Guests Attend The Lagna Vidhi Of The Wedding Of Anant Ambani & Radhika Merchant
(L-R) Akash Ambani, Shloka Mehta, Mukesh Ambani, Nita Ambani, Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal Attend The Lagna Vidhi Of The Wedding Of Anant Ambani(R) & Radhika Merchant on July 12, 2024 in Mumbai, India.

Prodip Guha / Getty Images

Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended a reception organized by the Ambanis on Saturday evening.

The Ambanis hosted a “blessing ceremony” for friends and family members to meet the couple and wish them a happy married life.

India Today television news channel reported that the newlyweds touched Modi’s feet as a show of respect and sought his blessings.

Four days of wedding celebrations

The four-day wedding celebrations began Friday with the traditional Hindu wedding ceremony and will be followed by a grand reception to run through the weekend. The guest list includes former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Boris Johnson; John Kerry, the former U.S. special envoy for climate, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin H. Nasser; and Adele, Lana Del Rey, Drake and David Beckham, according to local media. The Ambani family did not confirm the guest list.

Television news channels showed the arrivals of celebrities like Kim Kardashian, who was dressed in red, and professional wrestler and Hollywood actor John Cena.

Kardashian sisters Kim and Khloé took a ride in a motorized rickshaw through bustling Mumbai streets Friday before joining the wedding ceremonies, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Kim and Khloe Kardashians shared photos and videos on social media ahead of the wedding of Anant Ambani.

Kim Kardashian

International guests wore traditional clothes by major Indian fashion designers. They put on embroidered sherwanis – long-sleeved outer coats worn by men in South Asia. Cena came in a sky-blue sherwani and white pants. Nick Jonas wore a pink sherwani and white pants.

Bollywood icons Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Ranbir Kapoor attended the wedding and danced to popular Hindi movie songs. Indian cricketers, including icons Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav, were among the invitees.

Police imposed traffic diversions around the wedding venue from Friday to Monday to handle the influx of guests who flew to Mumbai, where heavy monsoon rains have caused flooding and flight disruptions for the past week.

The extravaganza and the display of opulence that comes with the wedding have led many to raise questions about rising inequality in India, where the gap between rich and poor is growing. The event has also sparked anger among some Mumbai residents, who say they are struggling with snarled traffic.

“It affects our earnings. I don’t care much about the wedding,” said Vikram, a taxi driver who uses only one name.

Asia’s richest man

The father of the groom, Mukesh Ambani, is the world’s ninth-richest man, with a net worth of $116 billion, according to Forbes. He is the richest person in Asia. His Reliance Industries is a conglomerate reporting over $100 billion in annual revenue, with interests that include petrochemicals, oil and gas, telecoms and retail.

The Ambani family owns, among other assets, a 27-story family compound in Mumbai worth $1 billion. The building contains three helipads, a 160-car garage and a private movie theater.

The groom, 29-year-old Anant, oversees the conglomerate’s renewable and green energy expansion. He also runs a 3,000-acre (about 1,200-hectare) animal rescue center in Gujarat state’s Jamnagar, the family’s hometown.

The bride, Radhika Merchant, also 29, is the daughter of pharmaceutical tycoon Viren Merchant and is the marketing director for his company, Encore Healthcare, according to Vogue.

Ambani’s critics say his company has relied on political connections during Congress Party-led governments in the 1970s and ’80s, and under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule after 2014.

The Ambani family’s pre-wedding celebrations have been lavish and star-studded from the start.

Wedding Ceremony Of Anant Ambani And Radhika Merchant
Ambani Family during the Wedding ceremony of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant at the Jio World Convention Centre, BKC on July 12, 2024 in Mumbai, India.

Raju Shinde/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

In March, they threw a three-day prenuptial bash for Anant that had 1,200 guests, including former world leaders, tech tycoons and Bollywood megastars, and performances by Rihanna, Akon and Diljit Dosanjh, a Punjabi singer who shot to international fame when he performed at Coachella. The event was also attended by tech billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.

It was the start of lavish, months-long pre-wedding celebrations that grabbed headlines and set off a social media frenzy.

In May, the family took guests on a three-day cruise from Italy to France, which included Katy Perry singing her hit song “Firework” and a performance by Pitbull, according to media reports.

The family also organized a mass wedding for more than 50 underprivileged couples on July 2 as part of the celebrations.

Last week, Justin Bieber performed for hundreds of guests at a pre-wedding concert that included performances by Bollywood stars Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh and Salman Khan.

Ambani also made headlines in 2018, when Beyoncé performed at pre-wedding festivities for his daughter. Former U.S. Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were among those who rubbed shoulders with Indian celebrities and Bollywood stars in the western Indian city of Udaipur.

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