Fukushima 18 Months Later

Japan is still reeling from Fukushima meltdown, but disaster might spark a renewed interest in renewable energy…

Fukushima 18 Months Later

After a tsunami took down safety mechanisms in a disaster that couldn’t have been predicted but could have been better prepared for, the surrounding environment is still in a state of disorder. Lakes across Japan are being severely polluted by radioactive mud which has formed as a result of the fallout, and it is getting into the food supply, through once in demand fish and shellfish are now considered unsafe to eat.

There are attempts to control the pollution but they are damage limitation now. While dams are being built upstream and caesium absorbing zeolites installed in lakes, the pollution is already there and is going to be hard to reverse. Like most of these disasters, the key element in the hope for renewal of the environment is time. However, the swift efforts to act on this issue are pivotal to this hope too; as long as the radioactive sand is being sent downstream there is a very high chance that the aquaculture will also become toxic.

The disaster has highlighted the safety problem with the nuclear power program, which was providing 30% of the country’s energy. It is often argued that nuclear power is actually cleaner than fossil fuels and this is the case – as long as there isn’t a disaster such as this, in which instance it is the dirtiest, most dangerous power source imaginable. These disasters need to be avoided if nuclear power is continued to be used, but as we cannot control natural events such as tsunamis, perhaps it is time to look for other fuel sources.

Renewable energy currently makes up just 1% of Japan’s energy provision. However, there has been a lot of talk about increasing this, though if it makes up the deficit left by the ruined Fukushima 1 plant would be very surprising. The government appear to have U-turned on the subject, leaving behind the ideals that brought them into power, but Mr Masayoshi Son is standing up for renewable. He stated recently at the opening of a solar park that renewable energy is the cheapest to run in the long run, as well as having the least impact on our delicate environment. He said that there are renewable energy solutions for rain, sun and wind, which covers most of the possible weather formations. Renewable energy has no fuel requirements, and has the least negative impact by far.

It’s not just the rivers, but the caesium isotopes as well as radioactive iodine have leeched into the Pacific Ocean in large quantities, and have been found in traces worldwide, which shows how large scale these sorts of problems can become. Some of the material releases occurred when the reactor was vented of a build-up of hydrogen gas in a last ditched event to prevent the explosion that caused all this trouble, in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

The disaster is thought to have been avoidable. For one thing, there was an ignored study of the effects a tsunami would have made on the safe operating of the power station but the prediction of serious waves causing serious problems was brushed aside. The reactors will be decommissioned following the incident, but not completely until 2052, a long wait for something that locals no doubt want to see the back of. The Tokyo Electric Power Company is being blamed for a lax attitude to safety that caused the accident and it’s devastating effects, but blame does not undo the problem. Let’s just hope Fukushima is a lesson to other nuclear power stations, and this never happens again.

Sam writes for businessenergy.com and has a keen interest in the environment and the different ways we can all be reducing our carbon footprint

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