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Fears After  Fukushima

Flickr | IAEA ImagebankFukushima is now synonymous ‘nuclear power’ and ‘disaster’. The place was once just a normal town which was then catapulted to fame after the nuclear power plant it housed suffered serious damage in 2011. During the time, people were already on edge about nuclear power due to the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and conversations regarding the future of energy, and nuclear energy in particular, had been intense ever since then.

Flickr | Mike SteeleIt didn’t stop nuclear power being promoted as the future. It was constantly emphasised that the positive possibilities of nuclear power outweighed the cons, the ease and magnitude with which nuclear power could be created was a key point for scientists and governments. Talk had also shifted to climate change, known then as global warming, and how we were in desperate need of alternate energy sources. Nuclear power was at the centre of those talks as it has low operating costs and does not depend on weather conditions; it can be produced throughout the year. It was also legally considered renewable since its carbon emissions are so low, and breeder reactors can constantly replenish the available supply of nuclear power.

Now though, we now know that nuclear power is not renewable since the Uranium used to create it is limited in number. It is still something that could be created in a renewable way yet it will remain dangerous due to the radiation produced.

To this day, the Fukushima nuclear plant has wreaked havoc on the planet and therefore on us. The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was caused by a tsunami following the Tōhoku earthquake which also killed 19,000 people. It confirmed the many trepidations people had surrounding nuclear plants. Three of eleven reactors were damaged by the tsunami, they then overheated. All three cores largely melted in the first three days, releasing radioactive waste.

Flickr | Live Action HeroTo help solve the issue of fixing the base of a leaking nuclear reactor, robots were designed to monitor and collect data on the damage from inside on of the most dangerous parts of Fukushima Daiichi’s reactors. Japan assured its people and the world that it was able to contain the issue and for years, people believed them. Life continued as normal. Workers were eventually allowed to resume work in normal clothing and safety houses had been built for them to stay in.

However, recent discoveries prove that so much more needs to be done to secure the people and environment of Japan. Not even the robots helped. They couldn’t actually function in the debris, the fuel and heat. The level of radiation was underestimated and contributed to the ‘death’ of the robots. The failed attempts at securing the site questioned the effects that the radioactive could cause.
Recent news has revealed that Japan has no more storage space for the nuclear waste created by those three damaged reactors and they may still also be leaking into the seas but there is no sure way of telling or of stopping it. This has thrown the world into chaos as there is no way to monitor the amount of radioactive waste entering our oceans and affecting people worldwide. In surrounding areas, higher cancer rates have been linked to the incident.

Flickr | IAEA ImagebankEven after these revelations, plans for to restart an old plant were granted permission and is currently under construction. It will be the largest nuclear plant in the world and has understandably created some tensions. Evacuees of Fukushima are outraged as they are still feeling the consequences of having their lives turned upside down in 2011.

As stated in The Guardian Hiroko Matsumoto, who lives in temporary housing, told Kyodo news “It looks like things are moving forward as if the Fukushima nuclear crisis is over”. Almost 7 years on, Hiroko is one of many still in temporary accommodation. In a recent poll, the majority of Japanese civilians voted in opposition of the restart and the reputation of ‘clean’ nuclear energy never recovered after 2011. Japan still aims to have nuclear energy powering 20% of the country by 2030 in order to meet climate change commitments. This rationale seems to be counterintuitive considering the amount of toxic waste and energy produced if nuclear power does go wrong again.

Flickr | mariusz kluzniakRenewable and sustainable energy has become a modern industry, and a big one at that.  All across the world, solar and wind power have become cheaper as the years have passed, making them more widely used than ever predicted. It’s become easier to harness the power of both on larger scales and at lower costs. It is predicted that people will be paying 20-30% less in energy costs if we go the down the renewable route. About 50% of Las Vegas homes run on solar power thanks to successful solar projects, making the most of the desert. People tend to show a preference for the lower risk and renewable forms of energy which overshadows the future of nuclear power.

Fears of long term radiation hazards and poisoning have affected civilian’s views across the world. Many petitioned against nuclear energy. Places like Germany and Hawaii intend to completely phase out the use of nuclear power as the cost of cleaning up can reach up to a billion pounds and takes decades to complete. Japan is estimating the Fukushima clean up to take up to 40 years.
This hasn’t stopped the construction of nuclear plants, so we will have to wait and see what the future hold for such operations. After fossil fuels, we must and can do better for our planet and for ourselves. We can only hope we have learnt from previous engineering mistakes and our environment doesn’t suffer at the hands at our energy sources yet again.


By Hanna-Johara Dokal - Online Journalism Intern

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