Japan nuclear disaster areas to remain off-limits for decades

Japanese officials have admitted for the first time that certain radiation-stricken areas around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may remain uninhabitable for decades. Japanese media this week reported that embattled Prime Minister Naoto Kan is to visit affected areas within days to tell residents and local officials that it will remain too dangerous to return to parts of Fukushima Prefecture in the foreseeable future.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, “We cannot deny the possibility that there will be some areas where it will be hard for residents to return to their homes over a long period of time.”

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2002 Image: KEI.

The dangers of radiation exposure in certain areas are expected to remain unacceptably high well after the plant finally undergoes a cold shutdown in the coming months. A final decision on which areas are to be declared off-limits will be made following detailed radiation monitoring and the creation of a comprehensive decontamination plan. Japanese officials have so far declined to specifically name any areas likely to be affected.

Scientists have for months warned of such an eventuality following the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima site in March. The government, criticised for its management of evacuations in the wake of the disaster, had hoped to lift current evacuation orders for most areas around the plant. However, it cannot do so amidst dangerously elevated radiation readings, including in the town of Okuma, situated about three kilometres from the Fukushima site, where cumulative radiation levels are over 25 times higher than government-mandated limits.

Location of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan Image: Saneef.

Media reports have also focused on uncertainty surrounding compensation for the many thousands of residents affected by the ongoing evacuations. The government may possibly purchase or rent the properties of those who cannot return to their homes and businesses.

Although the plant operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, has recently claimed radiation leaks from all three reactors have declined, concern continues to mount over the true scale of contamination. Scientists have detected widespread contamination of topsoil on agricultural land, further jeopardising the future habitability of significant areas, and uncertainty remains as to the true extent of radioactivity in numerous areas.

“Caesium-137, the main radioactive element thrown out during the various explosions, has a half-life of 30 years, and it is not going to disappear overnight,” said Didier Champion, a French nuclear safety expert.

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Apple executive Steve Jobs resigns

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, has chosen to step down from his post as CEO of the company. The former Chief Operating Officer, Tim Cook will be succeeding Jobs as CEO. Jobs resigned in a letter to Apple’s board of directors stating, “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s C.E.O., I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.” In that same letter, Jobs stated that his desire was to remain as chairman of the board.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs has been fighting pancreatic cancer since 2004 and has been on medical leave since January of this year. This was Jobs’ third period of medical leave. He briefly made an appearance in March and June to unveil the iPad 2 and the iCloud, an online cloud computing service. In part of his resignation, Jobs left this farewell, “I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.”

Tim Cook was personally recommended by Jobs to take over as CEO and has been serving as interim CEO since the beginning of Jobs’ medical leave. Before his post at Apple, Cook held positions at IBM and Compaq. He is known for staying out of the spotlight. Due to an operational overhaul by Cook, he is credited with the success of the iPad and MacBook Air. He also stood in Steve Jobs’ place while the CEO underwent liver transplant surgery. He received $59 million for his performance in the position.

Analyst Charles Golvin predicts that the resignation will not begin to affect Apple performance for 1.5 to 2 years. Many of the new products are already under development and Jobs will continue to steer the company from his position as chairman of the board. Art Levinson, chairman of Genentech and a member of the board, adds, “Steve will continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration”. A contrary view is offered by Charles O’Reilly, a management expert at Stanford University, who stated, “Great companies rarely go from strength to strength”. Richard Doherty attributes Steve Jobs’ success as the ability to hold off on a product until it is perfect. He states “A lot of products could have gotten to market earlier, but he wanted it better.”

In light of the revelation, Apple shares (AAPL) slid $19.37 in after hours trading—a drop of over 5%. Since market open, Apple shares rose to $373.72, a drop of only $2.46 since Wednesday’s close.

Strauss-Kahn case dismissed

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was freed of sexual assault charges yesterday after the New York courts found the accusations against him not credible. After the shocking arrest three months ago when Nafissatou Diallo accused Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, of assaulting her, the prosecutor deemed the accuser not credible due to previous false rape claims.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. Image: International Monetary Fund.

The New York Times quoted Strauss-Kahn saying the case has been “a nightmare for me and my family”. Taiwan News also quoted Strauss-Kahn who said, “I want to thank all the friends in France and in the United States who have believed in my innocence, and to the thousands of people who sent us their support personally and in writing. I am most deeply grateful to my wife and family who have gone through this ordeal with me.”

On May 14, Diallo claimed that Strauss-Kahn forced her to interact in sexual activity in his hotel suite. DNA on Diallo’s clothes confirmed an interaction but whether the encounter was forced or not was unsure. In July, she falsely told reporters she was assaulted in her homeland which erased her credibility.

Diallo and her legal team made a last attempt in the criminal case, filing a motion on Monday asking that Mr. Vance’s office be disqualified but early Tuesday morning Justice Obus denied the motion. The encounter between Diallo and Strauss-Kahn was deemed to be consensual leading to Strauss-Kahn’s freedom.

Strauss-Kahn is undergoing accusation in another sexual case in France. His lawyers have said this is also a false account.

2nd Boeing-Built GPS IIF Satellite Enters Service with US Air force

Boeing today announced that the second of 12 GPS IIF satellites the company is building for the U.S. Air Force has achieved operational acceptance and entered service. With testing complete, GPS IIF-2, now called SVN-63, is the newest satellite to join the active 31-satellite GPS constellation operated by the Air Force 50th Space Wing and the 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo.

“The Air Force and allied military forces around the world use GPS devices in virtually every system to improve their capabilities and effectiveness while reducing risk to the warfighter,” said Air Force Col. Bernard Gruber, director of the GPS Directorate. “This next-generation GPS IIF satellite has been set healthy and is ready to begin providing a strong, clear and secure signal.”

Boeing technicians examine the GPS IIF-1 satellite shortly before its shipment to Cape Canaveral for its May 2010 launch. The upright frames protect the satellite’s precision antennas during shipping. Photo credit: The Boeing Company.

Boeing is responsible for the GPS ground and space segments, providing an integrated system solution for GPS IIF and for the operation of the entire constellation. As a prime contractor for GPS satellites for more than three decades, Boeing has delivered 40 spacecraft that are successfully populating and sustaining the GPS system. Boeing GPS satellites have demonstrated reliable performance and exceeded their operational design life. GPS IIF will form the core of the GPS constellation for the next decade or longer.

“GPS is deeply woven into everyday life and is the foundation of global, civil, commercial and defense applications for more than 1 billion users worldwide,” said Craig Cooning, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems. “Boeing has a long legacy of support on the GPS program to the U.S. Air Force, and the delivery of this new IIF satellite augments the constellation’s ability to provide highly accurate, three-dimensional position, velocity and timing information 24 hours a day in all weather conditions.”

Launched on July 16, SVN-63 immediately entered verification testing using the Boeing-developed Operational Control Segment (OCS) system and government GPS ground assets and receivers. The OCS, which gained full operational status with the Air Force in April, enables an expanding set of services and capabilities, including improved anti-jam capabilities for warfighters and improved security for all users.

The flexible design of the OCS system enables new generations of GPS satellites, including GPS IIF, to be efficiently added to the constellation. On-orbit testing for the SVN-63 spacecraft took less time than for the first IIF satellite (SVN-62) because the testing on SVN-62 included a set of one-time, system-level design validation tests that involved the space vehicle, the OCS, and user equipment.

Boeing is building 10 additional GPS IIF satellites with the pulse line at its Satellite Development Center in El Segundo. The IIF pulse line efficiently moves a satellite from one work area to the next in a steady rhythm. Adapted from Boeing commercial airplane manufacturing operations, the pulse line will enable Boeing to deliver the spacecraft faster, more efficiently and with higher quality. Launch of the third GPS IIF satellite will be determined by the Air Force in the coming months.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world’s largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $32 billion business with 64,000 employees worldwide.

Boeing rolls out first 787 Dreamliner to go into service

Three years after it was first due for delivery, Boeing has rolled out the first 787 Dreamliner that is to be delivered to a customer. Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) were to take delivery in May 2008, but will now receive the aircraft next month.

The plane promises increased fuel efficiency as it is the first model to be built out of plastic and carbon composites, more lightweight than conventional materials. Boeing says they have 800 orders at $200 million per aircraft. Launch customer ANA have ordered 55.

The first flight of a B787, back in December 2009

Delayed by Boeing’s outsourcing system to a variety of subcontractors, two models have been developed. The 787-8 holds between 210 and 250 passengers; the 787-9 holds 250 to 290. Airlines choose the seating layout they want.

After the 787, already bearing ANA’s livery, arrives in Tokyo next month, the airline will use its first commercial flight for a special charter from Tokyo to Hong Kong. “We plan to use the 787 to expand our business, particularly our international routes,” says ANA senior vice president Mitsuo Morimoto. “We plan to increase our revenue from international route significantly and the 787 will play an instrumental role in this,” he adds, noting flights to Europe or the US are possibles for 787s.

“We are rolling out the first delivery airplane, the first 787,” enthused Scott Fancher, 787 project manager and Boeing vice president. “That’s an amazing thing for those who have worked on the program five, six, seven years, here at Boeing and our partners around the world.”

Boeing says they must increase the tempo of production from two a month to ten, if they are to meet customer demand. “It’s an extraordinary challenge, no one has ever built a wide body aircraft at the rate of 10 per month before,” claims Flight International writer John Ostrower.

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