We all remember the Fukushima Daiichi disaster that took place in Northern Japan on the 11th of March 2011, the aftereffects of which are still being felt as the Japanese government continues to grapple to deal with the tons of radioactive soil, water and waste they need to store or dispose of. The surrounding communities are still suffering from their radiation exposure and displacement as 36,000 people have not returned to their homes (according to Fukushima prefecture) despite government announcements allowing return, and compensation claims are still being processed.
The Fukushima accident was the second worst nuclear accident in the history of nuclear power generation. It was the result of tsunami waves generated by the powerful earthquake that shook Japan on the same day damaging the backup generators of the plant. Japan is an earthquake prone country and tsunami waves of this size have historical precedents in the country. Despite the reactors shutting down, the power loss caused the cooling systems to fail and the reactors’ cores to melt down, release radiation and create holes in their containment vessels exposing the nuclear materials and resulting in explosions in the following days that released further radioactive materials.
At least 600 square km of land was initially evacuated with 47,000 people leaving their homes surrounded by a wider zone where residents were asked to remain indoors. In the following months radiation was found in the local food and drinking water, and ocean water near the plant was discovered to have been contaminated with high levels of iodine-131. An additional corridor of land covering roughly 207 square km was also designated for evacuation in the months following the disaster raising the number of evacuated people to 150,000.
Apart from the contamination of the soil, plants, animals and groundwater in the surrounding areas, the Fukushima disaster is the single largest accidental (in other words excluding bomb testing) release of radioactivity into the ocean the results of which it is too early to tell.
Why are we still talking about nuclear energy?
Nuclear energy, an ominous spectre to those who grew up in the shadow of Chernobyl, is still around. Why? Even worse, several countries are either considering or in the progress of building new nuclear power plants, one of them the UK. Even worse than that, the temptation seems to be strong for liberal environmentalists to be seduced by its lure and start touting it as the solution to climate change. Case in point last year’s defection of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) newspaper “Hour Glass” editor to a pro-nuclear power propagandist lobbying “environmental NGO”.
Trapped in the panicked rhetoric of an “urgent climate emergency”, people and states are grasping for quick fixes. And what is better than promising an easy, painless “techno-fix” in the form of a technology that already exists? That being nuclear energy, in case you were wondering. Nuclear energy looms in the imagination as the perfect solution to our climate change problems. Perfect as in needing no change or sacrifices on our part so we can continue to live our lives of comfort in the Global North, as nuclear energy promises to provide us all with unlimited clean energy. Plus living in the atomic era is sexy, is it not?
Continue reading “Don’t nuke the climate”