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Monthly Archives: August 2019

Fukushima workers check tanks for leaks

Written on August 12, 2019 at 17:33, by

Workers at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant are scrambling to check 300 tanks storing highly radioactive water, after one sprang a leak that is feared to have seeped into the Pacific.

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About 300 tonnes of toxic liquid was believed to have escaped from one of the tanks that hold water used to cool the broken reactors, while operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) warned some of it might have flowed into the ocean.

“We are hurriedly checking if some 300 tanks of the same type holding contaminated water have the same leak problem,” a TEPCO spokesman said.

“We have finished pumping out water from the troubled tank, while we have continued removing the soil soaked by the water,” he said.

Spokesman Tsuyoshi Numajiri said on Wednesday that traces of radioactivity were detected in a drainage stream.

“We cannot rule out the possibility that part of the contaminated water flowed into the sea,” he said.

On Wednesday, nuclear regulators said the leak represented a level-three “serious incident” on the UN’s seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), which measures radiation accidents.

The alert was raised from level one, which indicates an “anomaly”.

It is the most serious single event since the plant was declared to be in a “state of cold shutdown” – effectively indicating it was under control at the end of 2011.

The quake and tsunami-sparked meltdowns at the plant in March of that year were ultimately declared to be level seven on the INES scale. The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 is the only other incident to have been given the most serious ranking.

TEPCO has said puddles of water near the tank were so toxic that anyone exposed to them would receive the same amount of radiation in an hour that a nuclear plant worker in Japan is allowed to receive in five years.

The utility did not have a water-level gauge on the 1000-tonne tank, which experts say would have made it a lot more difficult to detect the problem.

Thursday’s safety checks on 300 tanks came after Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) chairman Shunichi Tanaka on Wednesday voiced concern that there could be similar leaks from other containers.

“We must carefully deal with the problem on the assumption that if one tank springs a leak the same thing can happen at other tanks,” he said.

The company – which faces huge clean-up and compensation costs – has struggled to cope with the disaster.

More than two years after the meltdowns, it continues to be beset by difficulties, chief among which is how it should handle the vast amounts of water used to cool the broken reactors.

Around 1000 tanks of varying sizes have been installed at the site to contain it, but experts warn this can only be a temporary fix.

A series of problems, and delays in announcing them to the public, have added to the impression that the huge utility is not on top of the clean-up.

TEPCO in July admitted for the first time that radioactive groundwater had been leaking outside the plant.

This month it started pumping it out to reduce leakage into the Pacific.

The problems have led the Japanese government and the NRA to say they would become more directly involved in the operation at Fukushima.

While no one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the radiation released by the meltdowns, large areas around the plant had to be evacuated.

Tens of thousands of people are still unable to return to their homes, with scientists warning some areas may have to be abandoned.

Russia vows no discrimination at Olympics

Written on August 12, 2019 at 17:33, by

Russian authorities have given “strong” assurances that gay and lesbian competitors at next year’s Winter Olympics will not face discrimination, International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Jacques Rogge said Friday during a visit to the United Nations.

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Gay rights activists have led calls for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Games in protest at Russia’s notorious “gay propaganda” law.

The law, signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, punishes the dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors.

Activists say it can be used for a broad crackdown against gays — fuelling fears participants at the Winter Olympics could be targeted.

However, Rogge said Friday that Russian officials had assured Olympics organisers athletes would not be affected.

“We have received new and strong assurances, both verbally and in writing, that there will not be any discrimination against participants at the Sochi Games,” Rogge told reporters.

“We are reassured by the fact that the Russian Federation accepts and respects the Olympic Charter,” he added.

Under the legislation signed by Putin, foreigners can be fined up to 100,000 rubles (about $A3,346.91), detained for up to 15 days or expelled from the country.

Rogge meanwhile said he expects the climax of the race to host the 2020 Olympics next month to come down to just a handful of votes.

The IOC membership will gather in Buenos Aires for a September 7 meeting to choose the 2020 hosts from a shortlist of Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul.

“The three cities are very close to each other,” Rogge said. “(It) will not be not easy to determine the winner.

“The ultimate choice will be a matter of a difference of two or three votes, no more than that.”

Rogge was joined by tennis’s world number one Novak Djokovic at the UN on Friday as the general assembly agreed to launch the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on April 6 next year.

Medich moves to suppress evidence

Written on August 12, 2019 at 17:33, by

Property tycoon Ron Medich is attempting to suppress evidence of a number of witnesses in his committal hearing for the shooting murder of businessman Michael McGurk.

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Medich, dressed in a navy suit and pink and blue striped tie, appeared calm as the hearing began at Central Local Court on Tuesday.

His co-accused, 23-year-old Christopher Estephan, sat in the dock wearing a grey suit.

Estephan’s mother was in the gallery.

During the first day of the hearing – in which no evidence was called – Medich’s barrister Winston Terracini SC made an application for an interim non-publication order on the evidence of a number of “civilian witnesses” and that of co-offenders Lucky Gattellari, Haissam Safetli and Senad Kaminic.

Mr Terracini said there had been an enormous amount of publicity surrounding the case and “some factual and other reporting nonsense”.

“We don’t want reporting on these matters before the primary witness (Gattellari) gets into the witness box,” he said.

Once the trio have given evidence, Mr Terracini said the order could be lifted and “the media can publish anything they see fit”.

Magistrate Jan Stevenson said she was reluctant to grant the non-publication order in the interests of justice and because of the amount of material already in the public domain.

It would mean no evidence could be reported for at least the first two to three weeks of the hearing, now set down for four to six weeks.

The hearing will decide whether the pair should stand trial for the murder of Mr McGurk, who was shot outside his Cremorne home in 2009.

The crown alleges 65-year-old Medich enlisted the help of one-time boxing champion Gattellari to carry out the contract killing on Mr McGurk after their business relationship began deteriorating in late 2008 and they became embroiled in several legal disputes.

Gattellari then allegedly recruited Kaminic, Safetli and Estephan to assist in the hit.

Safetli, who has pleaded guilty to murdering Mr McGurk, alleges he and Estephan went to the businessman’s home on September 3, 2009.

Upon seeing Mr McGurk drive home, he alleges the then 19-year-old Estephan grabbed a modified rifle, walked up to the businessman’s Mercedes and shot him at close range.

But Estephan alleges he thought they were going for a drive and it was the 47-year-old who fired the gun.

Ms Stevenson adjourned the matter until August 13, when media outlets are set to challenge the application.

Of the five men charged in relation to the killing, only Estephan and Medich are facing committal.

Gattellari and Kaminic were sentenced earlier this year for their part in the murder, while Safetli is due to be sentenced this week.

Djokovic, Nadal advance to Montreal semi-final showdown

Written on August 12, 2019 at 17:33, by

Djokovic, the world number one, was flawless in a 6-1 6-2 demolition of French seventh seed Richard Gasquet while Nadal was equally emphatic in a straight sets win over Australian qualifier Marinko Matosevic.

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Serbia’s Djokovic and Spaniard Nadal will face off for the 36th time after the 11th seed Milos Raonic and local wildcard Vasek Pospisil compete in an all-Canadian semi-final.

Djokovic was imperious against Gasquet as he produced his best performance since returning from a month off after losing the Wimbledon final.

Unleashing his full repertoire of big serves, crushing ground strokes and plenty of touch, Djokovic barely raised a sweat as Gasquet was emphatically dispatched in just 52 minutes.

The crowd then got more entertainment when Djokovic returned to the centre court for what has become his customary celebration dance as the stadium roared its approval.

“It’s a great feeling when you’re playing this well and you beat a quality player like Gasquet,” Djokovic told reporters.

“I’m going to try to memorise what I’ve done today and how I felt and hopefully take it on the court tomorrow … same kind of feeling.”

Nadal was always in control of his quarter-final against a fatigued Matosevic, who had come through two qualifying matches on top of his three main draw victories.

The 12-time grand slam champion never looked like being seriously challenged under the lights and he let rip with a procession of thundering forehand winners on the way to a 6-2 6-4 victory which booked his place in another Masters series semi-final against Djokovic.

“It is always exciting to play against Novak in a great tournament, a Masters 1000,” Nadal said in a courtside interview. “It will be a great match and I’ll try my best as I always do.”

LOCAL FLAVOUR

Local favourite Milos Raonic held his nerve to beat Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis in a thrilling quarter-final to join fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil in the semi-finals.

Raonic, the world number 13, kept his cool in front of a parochial home crowd as he overcame Gulbis 7-6(3) 4-6 6-4 in a two and a half hour showdown.

With the crowd willing him on and jeering Gulbis’ every shot, Raonic claimed the first set tiebreak, before his opponent forced a deciding third set through a brilliant display of shot making.

Gulbis kept swinging in the decider but Raonic’s serve got him out of some difficult spots and when his opponent wobbled, Raonic pounced to seal victory and set up a meeting with Pospisil.

“It’s a great thing, it means a lot, not just to us but to Canadian tennis,” Raonic said.

“But at the same time, it’s another tennis match. That doesn’t change.”

Pospisil won through after Russia’s former world number three Nikolay Davydenko, who had showed signs this week of a return to form, retired while trailling 3-0 in the first set of their quarter-final.

The 71st ranked Pospisil had already beaten American John Isner and Czech fifth seed Tomas Berdych this week in three sets so was happy to finally have a lighter workout.

“Even in those three games, I was really trying to catch my breath,” a tired Pospisil said.

“I felt like I had a bit of sore legs … so it (quick win) came at a great time.”

Andy Murray’s singles campaign may have ended prematurely but the Wimbledon champion and partner Colin Fleming have won through to the doubles semi-finals.

They defeated the fifth seeded Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi and Jean-Julien Rojer to set up a match against the top ranked Mike and Bob Bryan.

(Editing by Julian Linden/Greg Stutchbury)

Socceroos celebrate destination Rio

Written on August 12, 2019 at 17:33, by

Australia sealed its place in world football’s showpiece event with a tense 1-nil victory over Iraq.

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The crowd of over 80,000 fans at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium had to wait until the 83rd minute for match-winner, courtesy of a headed goal from substitute striker Josh Kennedy.

 

Attila Mosonyi reports.

 

Large crowds greeted the Socceroos at Sydney’s harbour foreshore to congratulate them on securing a spot in their third successive World Cup finals.

 

Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop led the victory celebrations at Circular Quay by emphasising the significance of the Socceroos’ achievement.

 

“This is the thing that other countries want to be part of. This is important for Australian football. This is important for Australian sport. This is important for our nation. I want to congratulate our team, they have put in courageous performance on the field and just as importantly they have conducted themselves with pride and humility off the field.”

 

Head coach Holger Osieck has thanked the crowd for their support and promised more to come from his team in Brazil.

 

“I’m very happy for all you guys for your great support and that we could make it to the World Cup. And we will make you proud, for sure!”

 

It’s been a long and tough qualifying campaign for the Socceroos and it all came down to the final 10 minutes of their last Group B match against Iraq.

 

Australia controlled possession from start to finish, but was unable to convert its opportunities.

 

Time and time again, the Socceroos failed to convert and the stoic Iraqi defence held on until half-time.

 

But back again after the break, Robbie Kruse volleyed the ball into the back of the net in the 65th minute.

 

Celebration quickly turned to frustration as the referee disallowed the goal because of a foul.

 

Amid a flurry of substitutions, Coach Osieck brought on Josh Kennedy, replacing prolific goal-scorer Tim Cahill, who was visibly angry with the decision.

 

The substitution turned out to be a master-stoke when Kennedy’s clinical 83rd-minute header sent the crowd wild.

 

Here’s how it was called on SBS Radio.

 

“Josh Kennedy has scored. Delirium at Stadium Australia. Australia have one foot in the World Cup of 2014. Josh Kennedy, expertly with the head. And it’s Australia 1, Iraq nil.”

 

It was Kennedy’s first match for Australia in over a year, and speaking with SBS after the match, he couldn’t hide his delight.

 

“It’s amazing feeling. I guess the boss has been waiting to use me in the last game, so I think it was meant to be, yeah an amazing moment for me and for the boys, it’s a great feeling.”

 

Socceroos captain Lucas Neill is one of four Socceroos players – alongside Mark Bresciano, Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer – who have qualified for their third World Cup.

 

The veteran defender has admitted to SBS that it’s been an emotional qualification campaign.

 

“Relief, overwhelmed, really proud. It’s been a very hard campaign. Six months ago it was looking a little bit iffy, but we stuck together, we played some really good football in the last three games and now we get to realise a dream and that dream is that we are going to another world cup, my third and this is just great for the nation.”