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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Syrian Chemical Weapons Equipment Destroyed, Says Watchdog

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Thursday that Syria had destroyed all of its chemical weapons production and mixing facilities, meeting a key deadline in the disarmament programme agreed upon by the US and Russia. It said its teams had inspected 21 of 23 possible sites in the country, noting that the two remaining ones were too dangerous to be inspected, but that all equipment from these sites had been moved elsewhere and destroyed. “This was a major milestone in the effort to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program. Most of the sites and facilities declared by Syria to the OPCW have been inspected, their inventories verified, equipment for chemical weapons production disabled and put beyond use, and some of the unfilled weapons have also been disabled”, said Ralf Trapp, an independent chemical weapons disarmament specialist. The next date on the programme is November 15, when Syria must submit a plan detailing how it will destroy more than 1,000 metric tonnes of toxic agents and munitions. The OPCW will have to agree to the plan before it is carried out.

Google ‘Outraged’ at Alleged NSA Hack

Google expressed “outrage” on Thursday at the apparent tapping by the US NSA and the British GCHQ of the fibre optic cables connecting its overseas servers and copying of e-mail and other information, according to documents leaked by US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden. The NSA is said to have preferred to intercept the data while it passed through cables in order to face fewer legal restrictions than it would have done if the espionage was carried ou in the US. “We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we have continued to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links. We do not provide any government, including the US government, with access to our systems. We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fibre networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform” said David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer. In a statement, the NSA said it was only focused on “foreign” intelligence collection and that it wasn’t collecting such data outside the US in order to avoid domestic laws.

Japanese Governing Party Says Tepco Cannot Handle Fukushima Decommissioning

The governing party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has said that the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the current operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, should not and cannot decommission the facility wrecked during the tsunami of March 2011. A panel convened by the party says that there are two options for the decommissioning of Fukushima. One option would be for an independent company to step in, while the second alternative would be for the government to step in. Tepco is expected to begin removing spent fuel assemblies from Reactor Four in the middle of November, but experts fear that an accident could lead to a massive release of radiation into the air and the sea. “It’s a totally different operation than removing normal fuel rods from a spent fuel pool. They need to be handled extremely carefully and closely monitored. You should never rush or force them out, or they may break. I’m much more worried about this than I am about contaminated water”, said Shunichi Tanaka, head of the country’s nuclear regulation authority.

Global Emissions of CO2 in ‘Permanent Slowdown’

A report produced by the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre has shown that carbon dioxide emissions increased in 2012 at less than half the average rate of the past decade, showing that global emissions of CO2 could be in a “permanent slowdown”. According to the report, key factors in the slowdown included the shift to shale gas for power in the US and an increased uptake of hydroelectric power in China. The other major decline occurred in the European Union, where the economic recession felt by the bloc saw emissions decline markedly. “It is good news but still not sufficient. We are still having increases every year which are cumulative. Since CO2 lives for 100 years in the atmosphere, we will still not be able to cope with a 2C target for 2050″, said Dr Greet Maenhout, one of the authors of the study.

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