Japanese earthquakes and nuclear disasters
Japan is a nuclear bomb that ticks away, unbeknownst to the world. I say this because of a peculiar and rather dumb circumstance. Japan, one of the most seismically active places in the world, is also home to one of the greatest densities of nuclear power stations. That situation strikes me as not particularly bright or foresighted. In fact, in my title I was going to say “nuclear accident”, but decided against it, because there is nothing accidental about nuclear “accidents” in a nation so prone to earthquakes that actually builds nuclear reactors. In a very real way, Japan is asking for nuclear meltdowns on its soil.
In the wake of the Japanese earthquake on Friday, 10 out of 54 of Japan’s nuclear power stations, have been shut down. One of them, Fukushima Daiichi Plant Unit 1 is showing radiation levels in its control room of 1,000 times normal. Some reactors are running hot, because of failures of their cooling systems, whose power generators have been knocked out by the tsunami. Should emergency cooling efforts fail, these reactors could heat up so much, that they meltdown, releasing vast amounts of radioactive material into the surrounding territory. Indeed, Japan could face multiple Chernobyls, at once, if things go badly.
Japan planned for earthquakes, by building its nuclear plants on solid bedrock. Clearly, however, this precaution is not enough and has given a false sense of security.
Now, 30 per cent of Japan’s electricity comes from nuclear power. That percentage should be zero. It is irresponsible of Japan to build nuclear power stations when their nation is so seismically active. Not only that, but Japan is endangering much of Asia, with its nuclear policy. Should any of its reactors actually meltdown, radiation could be spread far afield, just as it was with Chernobyl. The only thing between the world and disaster, will be the nuclear reactor’s containment vessel: will it hold? There is no knowing.
It seems to me that a nation like Japan, so endangered by earthquakes, should not be permitted to build nuclear reactors of the conventional fission variety. Only in some future time, when fusion reactors become possible (which cannot meltdown), should they be allowed to have nuclear reactors. Japan may consider the implementation of nuclear power a sovereign decision, but it is one with potential effects on many other countries. So, it would seem reasonable, and foresighted, for the international community to require Japan not to build nuclear reactors, and to decommission those it has. Japan will have to find other ways to make electricity – or safer designs of nuclear reactor, that cannot meltdown, should those be possible.
The Japanese earthquake and its consequent nuclear problems is a stark reminder that a nation has not only a responsibility to its citizens, but to the world outside its borders. Japan, in having nuclear reactors, in an earthquake zone, is not fulfilling those responsibilities. I think it is time to have a word with Japan about its nuclear power generation. If none of the reactors melts down this time, nothing might be done. Yet, a lucky escape is not something that can be expected every time an earthquake strikes. Japan should be put on notice that its nuclear power facilities are a danger to the world, and should be phased out, in favour of safer alternatives. If they do wish to have nuclear power, I understand that pebble bed reactors are a safer design – so that might be considered. Whatever is decided, it should be done, immediately, for one thing is sure: one day, Japan will have a nuclear meltdown, if it insists on maintaining conventional fissile reactors, in its earthquake prone borders.
After all the clearing up is done and the losses in people and infrastructure totaled, it will be time to prepare for the next earthquake – and that means making Japan’s nuclear power programme either a whole lot safer – with new designs of plant – or abandoning it altogether.
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