Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Continues

Immediately after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, pundits were claiming it was a ‘success story’. That talking point vanished in the first days, and later ‘not as bad as Chernobyl’ began to lose ground.

If the accident were one tenth the severity, it would still emerge over time as a strong argument for abandoning nuclear power as an answer to our energy needs. Nuclear pollution doesn’t go away, and it concentrates in soil, water and food. Fukushima is not under control yet, as today’s news shows…

Another leak at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant has been pouring radioactive water filled with high amounts of cesium into the Pacific Ocean for an unknown period of time, but Tokyo Electric Power Co. was able to plug the leak.

Radioactive materials are also apparently penetrating the silt fence installed in the sea near the crippled plant, raising concern that a wider area of the Pacific may be contaminated.

Cesium-137, a byproduct of nuclear decay, is one of the bad ones. The talking point that ‘it’s only radioactive iodine, no big deal’ is on its way out.

‘No immediate risk’ may become a bitter joke before this is all over…

“This is an extremely serious problem,” Goshi Hosono, special adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, told a news conference Wednesday attended by Tepco and government officials to explain their ongoing efforts to contain the nuclear crisis.

The Telegraph is describing the condition of the No.1 reactor as ‘a meltdown’.

There were six special advisers to Prime Minister Kan. One of them, Toshiso Tosako, resigned last month with tears in his eyes after the government decided to raise the acceptable exposure limit for schoolchildren in Fukushima.

Japan’s problems are the world’s problems. Partly because radioactive pollution doesn’t respect borders, and partly because the energy crisis and global warming are the world’s problems to solve.

Antinuclear activists in Japan will find support from Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is out front in the clean energy race…

In mid-March, Merkel stunned the German public and other governments by announcing an accelerated phasing out of all 17 German nuclear reactors as an immediate reaction to the Fukushima disaster in Japan. The chancellor now says she wants to slash the use of coal, speed up approvals for renewable energy investments, and reduce CO2 emissions drastically. That means that the 81 million Germans living between the North Sea and the Alps are supposed to cover their huge energy needs from wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass within a few decades. Indeed, by 2030 green electricity could be the dominant source of power for German factories and households.

“We want to end the use of nuclear energy and reach the age of renewable energy as fast as possible,” Merkel said.

Japanese authorities have changed their plans to increase nuclear power, and will build up renewable sources.

Naoto Kan said Japan needs to “start from scratch” on its long-term energy policy after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was heavily damaged by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami and began leaking radiation.

Nuclear plants supplied about 30 percent of Japan’s electricity, and the government had planned to raise that to 50 percent by 2030.

Kan told a news conference that nuclear and fossil fuel used to be the pillars of Japanese energy policy but now the government will add two more pillars: renewable energy such as solar, wind and biomass, and an increased focus on conservation.

This is the challenge for our century. America put a man on the moon. We’ve spent a long time listening to politicians who have nothing to offer but fear. We can turn around and start leading again, and join with other countries in researching and building safe, diverse and renewable energy solutions.

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4 responses

  1. This is shaping-up to be a ‘worst-case’ scenario… But even the ‘worst case’ isn’t all that bad. I’d gladly accept an accident of this magnitude once in the world every thirty years, it’s much-preferred to coal’s devastation.

    Nuclear is only a hazard when it fails AND the redundancy fails. Coal is a problem even when it works right.

    The cesium in the ocean is no big deal, it will dissipate to levels that Just Don’t Matter; it will be a local issue. Trust me. There’s not enough nuclear fuel in that whole plant to foul the Pacific even if ALL of it ended up in the water.

    The exclusion zone is an economic hardship and personal tragedy for those who will have to leave homes, but the levels of exposure look to be well-below those that will cause any measurable increase in mortality.

    Imagine if these plants had been upgraded to modern designs… We’d all be cheering how safe nuclear has become, “it weathered a 9.0 quake and a massive tsunami and nothing bad happened.”

    I’ve done the reading. I think it’s time to replace aging nukes with modern ones that are over 1,000 times safer, create less waste, and produce more energy. At the same time, we need to keep pushing R&D on wind, geothermal, and solar. The reality is that we can’t rely solely on renewables yet, even our most ambitious plans cost a fortune and only provide a fraction of the power we need.

  2. mangeek is a Total IDIOT! It is not the original uranium that is so dangerous to the World and ALL FUTURE generations of LIFE on Earth; but, the spent Fuel Rods get “converted” to Very Dangerous “Weapons” Grade Radiation [which is "Why" Iran wants nuclear, for the "Bad" residue.....]Which has to be “Expensively” stored…for…Thousands of years. Idiot for Sure!

    1. Gerald, welcome to our site.
      We have a policy of no name calling. We do like to post various points of view and encourage discussion, and the problem of storing spent nuclear fuel is a major downside to nuclear.

  3. One problem with nuclear power in the US is economics, because of the capital costs, uncertain costs of decommissioning and disposing of spent fuel rods, as well the possiblity of a super-expensive accident, private capital is mostly unwiling to invest. Hence they ask for legislated caps on damages and for taxpayers or nearby residents to take the risks which leads to opposition.

    I recommend avoiding too quick a judgement on nuclear power and seek the latest info. I think there are reasonable concerns on both sides and folks too quick to form opinions on both sides too.

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