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‘Germany should be decriminalised abortion during first 12 weeks of pregnancy’
Berlin, April 15: An independent experts commission recommended Monday that abortion in Germany should no longer fall under the country’s penal code and be made legal during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Currently, abortion is considered illegal in Germany but not punishable if a woman undergoes mandatory counseling and a three-day wait period before she has the procedure.
Germany’s progressive government coalition of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’ Social Democrats, the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats, had tasked the experts commission to look into the issue of abortion, which has been a hotly debated topic over decades.
Germany’s approach to abortion has been more restrictive than in many other European countries. Some German women have traveled to neighboring countries such as the Netherlands – especially during later phases of their pregnancies when abortion is considered completely illegal in Germany except for very grave cases – to have abortions there.
Other European countries are in very different places in their approach to abortion. France, for example, inscribed the guaranteed right to abortion in its constitution last month, in a world first and a powerful message of support to women around the globe. Meanwhile, Poland’s parliament held a long-awaited debate last week on liberalizing the country’s law, which is more restrictive than Germany’s, although many women terminate pregnancies at home with pills mailed from abroad. While the German commission’s recommendation for the government to decriminalize abortion is non-binding, it is likely to heat up discussion over the issue in the country again. It could eventually also lead to the current regulation being reformed by parliament, but at this point it is not clear if and when that would happen. (AP)

Operator of Japan’s wrecked nuclear plant set to restart another plant
Tokyo, April 15: The operator of the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said on Monday that it has obtained permission from safety regulators to start loading atomic fuel into a reactor at its only operable plant in north-central Japan, which it is keen to restart for the first time since the 2011 disaster. Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, or TEPCO, said that it obtained the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s approval to load nuclear fuel into the No. 7 reactor at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata and it was to start the process later Monday. The loading of the 872 sets of fuel assemblies is expected to take a few weeks. The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, which is the world’s biggest, has been offline since 2012 as part of nationwide reactor shutdowns in response to the March 2011 triple meltdowns at the plant.
Reactors 6 and 7 at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa had cleared safety tests in 2017, but their restart preparations were suspended after a series of safeguarding problems were found in 2021. The Nuclear Regulation Authority lifted an operational ban at the plant four months ago.
TEPCO, heavily burdened with the growing cost of decommissioning and compensation for residents affected by the Fukushima disaster, has been anxious to resume its only workable nuclear plant to improve its business. TEPCO is also struggling to regain public trust in safely running a nuclear power plant. Prime Minister Kishida Fumio’s government has reversed earlier plans for a nuclear phaseout and is accelerating the use of nuclear power in response to rising fuel costs related to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and pressure to meet decarbonisation goals.
During his visit to Japan in March, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency chief, Rafael Mariano Grossi, expressed his agency’s support for increasing Japan’s nuclear power capacity as the country looks to it as a stable, clean source of power. TEPCO in a statement said it will ensure safety as the plant starts back up. “We will steadily put forward each step, and we will stop when we find issues and take necessary measures.” The restart, however, remains uncertain because it is subject to the local community’s consent. A Jan. 1 earthquake in the nearby Noto region rekindled safety concerns.
Niigata Gov. Hideyo Hanazumi has yet to make clear whether he will agree to restart No. 7 reactor. Citing extensive road damage caused by the Noto quake, Hanazumi raised questions about the current evacuation plans in communities near the plant and called for extensive debate on safety measures. (AP)

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