More Than A Japanese Catastrophe

We can all sympathize with the Japanese people in this, their darkest hour since Nagasaki and Hiroshima. No amount of technological expertise could prevent the devastation and enormous loss of life that occurred over the last few days, following the huge earthquake and accompanying tsunami, sweeping all before it like matchwood in a mill race.

Added to these horrors is another; the conceivable meltdown of three nuclear reactors with potentially catastrophic results, not just for the people of Japan, but possibly for the whole planet.

Scaremongering? I think not.

If you are less than twenty-five years of age, you weren’t even born when the world’s worst nuclear accident occurred. In 1986, the number four reactor at a nuclear power station in what is now Ukraine blew up, sending clouds of radioactive dust into the atmosphere. That was Chernobyl. You might have heard of it.

While the media made much of the event (when it eventually became known in the West) official sources, both here and in Russia, played down the effects of the accident. It’s now thought over one million people were effected as a result of the Chernobyl explosion by four hundred times the amount of radiation as was released from the bomb exploded over Hiroshima.

A report into the nuclear accident at Chernobyl concluded serious human error was the cause. The potential nuclear problems in Japan have resulted from a freak natural event. Neither of these can ever be ruled out when dealing with a power source so dangerous it has the ability to kill or maim us all.

Nuclear industry lobbyists are already hard at work playing down the likely scenarios unfolding at Fukushima. They would, it’s their job. Only today, US President Obama has poo-pooed any freeze on new nuclear power development programs in the United States.

Why?

The Japanese are world leaders in nuclear technology. Just a few days ago, interviewed on American TV, a leading US nuclear expert clearly stated that if a similar incident were to occur in the US, they would immediately turn to the Japanese for technological assistance.

Yet the Japanese are in trouble. Their reactors are presently out of control and on the verge of meltdown.

Nuclear energy is not renewable energy. Uranium, mined mainly in Australia, is a rare element. It’s incapable of being safely stored after use. We don’t need it. The only people on this planet who need nuclear energy are the corporations that grow rich off it. All our energy requirements can be met through a mix of solar-thermal power plants, wind farms, hydroelectric power, and the various uses of biomass. Germany is set to become the world’s first major renewable energy economy by 2050, though the nuclear industry is doing everything possible to prevent it.[1]

Meanwhile, America stagnates as corporate-controlled politicians kill off any environmental legislation that might cause corporate pockets to be picked, and bolster the nuclear industry to the tune of $54 billion tax dollars this year alone.[2]

In the UK, it’s not generally known how badly the Chernobyl incident effected the British Isles, even though it was 1,400 miles away. Politicians played down the radiation hazard that fell upon the nation, and much was brushed under the political carpet.

It was twenty-five years ago, but a May 2010 article from ‘Wales Online’ clearly indicates problems still exist, particularly for Welsh sheep farmers:

Latest figures show 369 UK farms continue to be restricted in the way they can use land and rear sheep because of fallout from the world’s worst nuclear power accident. But the vast majority of the restricted farms – 355 – are in Snowdonia, involving 180,000 of the 190,000 affected sheep.

When the disaster happened in April 1986, some 9,700 farms and more than four million sheep were under restriction across the UK after downpours rained radioactive material onto land across northern Europe. Bans in Northern Ireland were lifted in 2000.

For the hundreds of Welsh farmers still living with Chernobyl’s legacy, the restrictions mean their animals are only allowed to enter the food chain after rigorous safety tests. It is understood the restrictions could continue for many years to come.[3]

Lobbyists will argue that nuclear power stations are much safer now than twenty-five years ago. They may be right, but none are built to withstand the forces unleashed on Japan this week.

In the span of a human lifetime, natural disasters occur rarely, but looked at through geological time-spans they happen with unnerving frequency. Add to that the inherent ability of human beings to make mistakes, and every nuclear power station on the planet becomes a potential catastrophe in the making.

In the space of thirty years we’ve experienced Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and now, Fukushima. At least, those are the ones we’ve heard about.

It’s time we said a loud and insistent, “NO!” to nuclear power, once and for all.

[1] “Germany: The World’s First Major Renewable Energy Economy” Renewable Energy World, April 3rd 2009

[2] “Obama’s nuclear power policy: a study in contradictions?” CSM, February 4th 2010

[3] “Farms still suffering Chernobyl restrictions” Wales Online, May 10th 2010

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6 Replies to “More Than A Japanese Catastrophe”

  1. I’ve been thinking that this day will come sooner or later even without natural disaster. And it is going to happen at the scale beyond my thought. But even now people never know what’s happening around them.

    I know there has been cosy relationship between companies, bureaucrats and politicians. And they can control the media and academics.

  2. masa – it’s good to hear from you and know you’re alright. I noted you hadn’t posted on ‘Andante Photography’ since two days before the ‘quake, and hoped you were okay. You are right people don’t know what’s going on around them, usually because they fail to look.

  3. If we don’t learn from this – then we deserve all that will come to us.

    This is a cue for “the people” to protest in massive numbers and in no uncertain terms, all over the planet. If nukedom doesn’t end now, we will…. at some point in the not too distant future.

  4. “All our energy requirements can be met through a mix of solar-thermal power plants, wind farms, hydroelectric power, and the various uses of biomass.”

    Those sources account for less than 8% of the US’s energy production. And that’s being generous as most biomass is actual paper factories burning waste and ethanol in cars.

    Any energy policy has to address the realities of this graph –

    Renewable energy is not remotely able to address the US’s energy needs from both a supply side (how’s it is produced) and demand side (how it’s consumed). Look at the graph. Any attempt to change this graph will require massive investment and subsidies.

  5. ncrow – no-one in their right mind would suggest it was easy. Neither was landing men on the moon. That, too, required massive investment and subsidies. Then, the American spirit was up to the task. Perhaps, it isn’t now?

    Germany has a plan to achieve 100% renewable by 2050 (without nuclear), though the nuclear lobby is doing its best to wreck the scheme.

    (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12769810)

    Of course, Germany hasn’t allowed its energy superstructure to decay, like America has done.

    All it takes is the will to succeed. Personally, I don’t believe America has that will anymore. I hope I’m wrong.

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