Fallout from Fukushima

The whole world has followed the incredible misfortunes of the Fukushima nuclear generating station. The earthquake that hit Japan was devastating, but the Fukushima station survived . . . only to be overwhelmed by the large tsunami that incapacitated backup power generation systems designed to prevent nuclear fuel rods from overheating following a power failure.  The heroic efforts of the plant technicians have so far (March 18) prevented a core meltdown, and the radioactive fallout – although serious – is not likely to have widespread consequences.

Undoubtedly, there are lessons to be learned from Fukushima: plants should not be built on the coast in seismically active areas because of the risk of being flooded by a resulting tsunami. Still this event will affect the willingness of many countries to construct these very costly installations. After the Three Mile Island incident in 1979, the US adopted stringent safety standards for the construction of new nuclear power stations, and none have been built since then.

James Lovelock, a scientist with unimpeachable credentials on climate change, has consistently promoted nuclear power as the only way to generate electricity while lowering the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In 2004 he expressed the view that

“We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources [wind, solar and tidal]; civilisation is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear – the one safe, available, energy source – now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet.”

In a more recent address (2008) Lovelock re-iterated:

“I fear that the worst may happen and our survivors will have to adapt to a hot and uncomfortable world. To retain civilisation then, they will need more than ever a secure and reliable source of energy to power the adaptation and for this there is no sensible alternative to nuclear energy.”

George Monbiot also recognizes that we need nuclear energy plants to replace fossil-fuel powered generating stations. Monbiot is concerned by the recent decision of the Chinese Government to suspend approval of nuclear construction pending review of safety standards. He refers to this decision as “the nuclear disaster unfolding in China.” His concern is that China will press forward with its previously declared program of construction of coal-powered plants.

The most lasting fallout from Fukushima could be that nuclear power construction will stall, and the world will not achieve a timely reduction in the use of fossil fuels for the generation of electricity.

Peter Jones

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4 thoughts on “Fallout from Fukushima”

  1. Absurd reasoning. If global warning represent a progressive danger to biodiversity, nuclear accidents can become its worst enemy in no time.

    While it’s possible to counter global warming by replanting trees, it’s not even possible to counter nuclear fallouts. The dangers of nuclear energy far exceeds that of coal burning. The more nuclear power plants are built, the higher the risks of more frequent accidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima.
    While humans can always engineer ways to survive the visible effects of global warming, how could anyone survive food chain contamination with radioactive isotopes, let alone the food and water shortage that would result from it?
    I live in Japan at the moment and I cannot buy any process food or go to restaurants anymore. I have to buy locally made veggies when available, spring water from southern Japan (in limited supply). My entire lifestyle has been affected and I don’t even live anywhere near Fukishima, but way south. I had to stop eating fish and sea weeds, beef and dairy products such as cheese and milk, as they are mostly made in Northern Japan where radioactive fallouts are highest.

    If a complete change of lifestyle is not a concern to anyone, what about food and water shortage. Most people in Japan cannot buy more than 2 liters of water per day due to shortages.

    Also climate change is nothing new. Humanity has gone through warm periods and ice ages, and we have adapted pretty well even during the stone age.
    But will humans ever adapt to high doses of radioactivity? Unfortunately that’s physically impossible. Our intelligence might allow us to adapt to progressive changes in the environment, but our body won’t adapt to cell and DNA damaging ionizing particles in our environment.

    While the earth could survive through multiple ice ages and global warming, it cannot survive the ultimate life destroyer known as radioactivity. We have created a monster. Plutonium for instance did not exist on this planet and now there is enough of it, within reactors, reprocessing plants and nuclear dumps, to destroy life on this planet entirely and many times over, for 100 thousands of years.

    Accidents do happen. What will be next? A super volcano that effect other nuclear reactors? A huge solar storm as predicted for 2012 going through a hole in the magnetic shield of the earth and shutting down the power grid and again affecting multiple nuclear plants? We don’t know what can happen… It could even be a comet or sabotage, a sophisticated and targeted computer virus like Stuxnet. Is the risk worth it?

    Answering this question is hard for those not affected by Fukushima at the moment. Most people could care less once their attention is diverted to something else by the mass media.

    However there is another question worth asking: In a democracy, can we expect workers to go die trying to shut down a troubled nuclear plant? Can we send in the military like did Gorbachev in the ex soviet union and plug the radioactive leaks in a matter of days or weeks?
    Apparently not… Japan hasn’t been able to send its military as suggested by Michio Kaku as the ultimate solution. Whenever there is a radiation spike workers are evacuated. No one actually wants to go die in the plant, or sacrifice lives. No politician wants to take the risk of being held responsible for death due to intense radiation exposure. This is why Nakao Kan, the prime minister looks nothing like a commander in chief.

    But in the meantime, radioactive fallouts are not stopping and could very well get worse, pending more incidents in reactor 3 (MOX fuel), 5 and 6.

    At some point humans lives will need to be sacrificed to end this ongoing crisis. It may turned out to be unavoidable. At the moment, they (decision makers) are just trying to avoid the unavoidable, by doing very little, and hoping for the best case scenario or a miracle to unfold.
    Should they come to accept the need to bury these reactors quickly, lives will be sacrificed, lies will be manufactured, and the entire nuclear lobby will find it hard to justify the risks and the threat it poses to democracy and human lives.
    But in the meantime, while the bureaucrats ponder how to protect the nuclear industry, and stop the crisis, Fukushima is constantly spewing radioactive isotopes in the ocean and atmosphere. The cumulative affects could have far reaching consequences that might turn out to be as detrimental to the nuclear industry as sacrificing human lives to put an end to the crisis.

    This crisis has become a chess game for the bureaucrats. They are faced with 2 choices:
    1) Contaminate the entire northern hemisphere and wage a powerful media disinformation campaign to save the nuclear industry
    2) End the crisis quickly to stop contamination by implementing the Michio Kaku solution: Send the Japanese military and bury the reactors, then deal with the wave of leukemia, death, post traumatic syndromes in a way that doesn’t affect governments and the nuclear industry. How could that be done?
    By glorifying the patriotism of those who saved the world while ignoring their real plight. The same has been done with the 911 first responders. Even though they are now suing the government and dying of leukemia and other weird syndromes (due to nano-particles, which according to independent scientist are the byproducts of highly sophisticated explosives ), their voice has been mostly unheard in the mainstream media. Should their voice be heard, it would open a debate about these nano-particles and in turn the inside job theory that threatens the establishment and our entire manufactured world view.

    Unfortunately the nuclear industry and its lobby might prove so powerful that whatever grave implications from Fukushima are revealed, dissent will be buried in a massive disinformation campaign that has already well started. Let’s hope the citizen of this world are smart enough, starting with the Japanese (I highly doubt it), to realize all that is at stake now, and for future generations.

  2. Nuclear energy is already present in the Earth, we can tap into it for geothermal energy. Just need to fund it! We haven’t even tapped the surface, so to speak, of our world’s natural & renewable resources- including human ingenuity. When the funding is there, the innovations will follow. One of the main setbacks appears to be the relative price of renewable power vs. conventional. For example, it might be 6 cents for a kilowatt hour of coal power, but 10 cents for geothermal. But when the real cost of coal is added in…
    As for nuclear- I would rather live in the dark than subject my children to a world where the air, water, and earth are poisoned. Cancers, horrible birth defects, death. Not just for us, all complex organisms & so forth, are affected by radioactivity.

  3. Most of Earth will become a desert and most of humanity will perish without a massive and immediate increase in nuclear power plants.

    Even those who only care about nature should understand that radiation is no threat whatsoever to natural ecosystems and is much preferable to the environmental degradation caused by NOT using nuclear power.

  4. I believe that it is evil to promote nuclear power. Reason: two entities are never mistake free: 1) machines 2)humans. Mistakes can and will be made. We cannot afford mistakes to be made with regard to nuclear power. We need to develop safe alternative energy sources RIGHT NOW>

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