August 26, 2013
Fukushima shows us how a nuclear disaster can continue forever.
More than two years after the catastrophe, Japanese officialdom has raised the severity of the calamity from one to three (on a scale of seven). The threat elevation is due to massive amounts of radioactive water leaking out of the site.
“The quantities of water they are dealing with are absolutely gigantic,” nuclear consultant Mycle Schneider told the BBC. “It is much worse than we have been led to believe, much worse.”
This is having an impact on everything from the water supply to the surrounding oceans.
“Our biggest concern right now is if some of the other isotopes such as Strontium-90, which tend to be more mobile, get through these sediments in the groundwater,” scientist Ken Buesseler said. “They are entering the oceans at levels that then will accumulate in seafood and will cause new health concerns.”
The horror stories just keep on accumulating, as Harvey Wasserman documents for The Progressive.
“A plague of damaged thyroids has already been reported among as many as 40 percent of the children in the Fukushima area,” he writes. “Cesium-137 from Fukushima has been found in fish caught as far away as California.”
It’s not shocking, then, that Fukushima is causing the world to take a long, hard look at nuclear energy.
“It has profoundly shaken confidence in the future of nuclear power, from Taiwan—where earlier this month MPs resorted to fisticuffs as they debated a referendum on a new nuclear power station—to Berlin,” The Guardian notes.
“The kind of cascade of devastating events that hit Fukushima hadn’t previously been factored into risk probability assessments,” the paper says. “Now regulatory authorities all over the world have been forced to consider whether, however unlikely, more than one accident could happen in quick succession, and what the consequences would be.”
The continuing calamity has put a crimp in Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s grandiose plans to go in for a full-scale nuclear revival.
“Even before news of the new leak, a majority of the public was against restarts, according to a Kyodo News poll taken July 13-14, with 51 percent opposing and 40 percent in favor of reviving Japan’s nuclear program,” Bloomberg News reports. “The latest revelation could further sway sentiment against nuclear power, according to Koichi Nakano, professor of politics at Sophia University in Tokyo.”
However, for something that has such ongoing significance, there’s comparatively little current coverage of Fukushima in the American media.
“Unlike other environmental catastrophes like BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Fukushima crisis offers little to film,” Eric Ozawa writes for The Nation. “And so the story, when it gets reported, rarely gets the attention it deserves.”
Don’t let that fool you, though. Fukushima is one of the most consequential events of recent years and has huge implications for the types of energy sources we choose—and the type of world we’d like to live in.