Memorializing the “Non-Catastrophic” Fukushima nuclear disaster

On April 23, 2012, the editorial board of the Washington Post proclaimed that the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan was “non-catastrophic.” The writers eagerly promoted nuclear power while omitting inconvenient deal-breakers such as cost, waste, safety, health risks and human rights.

The board taunted Germany and Japan – and the anti-nuclear movement – for looking to renewables but misrepresented Germany’s successes.

They showed a shocking disregard for the suffering in Japan due to a very real catastrophe that is by no means over. And they utterly ignored those who have already paid the price for the nuclear fuel chain, like indigenous uranium miners, and its newest victims, the children of Japan whose future has been stolen.

The following rebuttal can also be found, with more detail, on the Beyond Nuclear website.

 

 

Washington Post (WP): Nuclear “is the only proven source of low-emissions ‘baseload’ power.”

FACT: Renewable technologies can and do deliver baseload power. In many regions, peak wind and solar production match up well with peak electricity demand. Numerous case studies, including by theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predict that 80%-100% of the world’s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century. 

 

WP: Germany and Japan are “giving up all of that guaranteed, low-carbon electricity generation in an anti-nuclear frenzy.”

FACT: Nuclear energy is “guaranteed” only as long as the electrical grid is reliable and when natural disaster struck in Japan, nuclear energy wasn’t so “guaranteed” but instead worsened the crisis. In Germany, renewable energy is revitalizing home-grown industries like steel and more people there work in the renewable sector (370,000 and growing) than in the nuclear (30,000) and coal industries (20,000) combined. No “frenzy” necessary.  

 

WP: Nuclear power is “low-carbon electricity”.

FACT: This common nuclear industry propaganda line conveniently ignores the significant carbon emissions caused all along the nuclear fuel chain by uranium mining; milling; processing; enrichment; the transport of fuel; the construction of nuclear plants; electricity generation (which releases radioactive carbon dioxide); and the still inadequate permanent management of waste.

 

WP: “With all but one reactor offline, [Japan’s] consumption of crude and heavy fuel oil for power generation has roughly tripled.”

FACT: Japan has long been the third largest oil consumer in the world, but, unlike the US, Japan is looking at a rapid and meaningful deployment of conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy immediately and may introduce a feed-in tariff to speed it along. 

 

WP:  Germany’s “electricity sector emits more carbon than it must after eight reactors shut down last year.”

FACT: In fact,  the opposite is happening. Germany reduced its carbon emissions in 2011 by 2.1 percent  despite the nuclear phaseout. In addition, the EU emissions trading system caps all emissions from the power sector. While eight nuclear power plants were shut down, solar power output increased by 60 percent.  

 

WP: With Germany and Japan “making the paths to their emissions goals more difficult, anti-nuclear activists justify this mess by insisting that renewable energy sources will pick up the slack. But that raises major questions of feasibility and cost.”

FACT: Japan recognizes that rewnewables can be deployed fast, cheaply, reliably, cleanly and, above all, safely and is looking to implement a feed-in tariff to encourage development. Germany’s home-grown small-town energy revolution is underway, with more than 100 rural communities becoming 100% renewable. At least 50% of renewable energy on the German grid is provided by individuals and farmers.  As to cost, a 1,000 MW reactor costs up to $15 billion to build while a 1,000 MW deepwater wind farm is priced at $6 billion with no fuel costs, disaster recovery fund or long-lived toxic waste liability. When nuclear disaster strikes, the fiscal cost is also catastrophic, with Japan’s current “clean-up” cost estimated at $257 billion.   

 

WP: “Japan could still reduce carbon emissions by 25 percent of its 1990 levels by 2030 without nuclear power. Yet even if that’s true, it’s hardly a reason to let all of that existing nuclear infrastructure and know-how go to waste.”

FACT: Since December 2, 1942, when a team of scientists created the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, the industry’s entire infrastructure has gone precisely there – to waste: 67,000 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel – and at least another 10,000 metric tons of radioactive waste from nuclear weapons – with nowhere to go.

 
 

WP: Germany “will instead rely on electricity imports from neighbors running old, reliable coal, gas and, yes, nuclear plants for years to come.”

FACT: Even after shutting its eight oldest nuclear power plants, Germany is still a net exporter of electricity. In 2011, Germany exported 6 TWh more than it imported. Additionally, German electricity exports to Europe’s nuclear power house France increased throughout 2011.   

 

WP: The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was “scary but ultimately non-catastrophic.”

FACT: The Post is writing in the past tense about an accident that is not over. The extent of radioactive contamination is still unknown and growing. Unit 4 at Fukushima Daiichi remains precarious and could cause further, and greater, harm, with its high-level radioactive waste pool on the brink of potential collapse.

To the existing human suffering in Japan will be added, over time, countless people who will sicken and die prematurely as a result of their exposure to the Fukushima radiation. In addition to cancer, likely negative health effects can include birth defects, spontaneous abortions, brain tumors, diabetes, heart disease, and genetic and teratogenic mutations. Emotional suffering should not be dismissed. The Postwriters would do well to imagine their own children forbidden to play outside; evacuated hundreds of miles away; or shamed into consuming radioactively contaminated food and milk.

In Japan, stress, grief and guilt have split families and entire communities apart. Farmers and fishermen have lost their livelihoods due to radiological contamination of land and sea. Thousands are being forced to accept permanent exile from their homes, jobs, friends, land and everything they once knew. With a 20km (12.4 mile) area around the stricken reactors a “dead zone” for a minimum of decades and potentially centuries, it is hard to know what more the Post editorial writers need to qualify as “catastrophic.”

 

WP: “Maintaining existing reactors — and, we would argue, including next-generation nuclear technology as a component in forward-looking anti-carbon policies — doesn’t rule out a promising future for renewables, too.”

FACT: Actually, it does and has. In 1953, the Eisenhower Administration scrapped the last three years of the Truman Administration’s Paley Commission energy policy work and its recommendation to develop the nation’s energy independence through solar power. Instead, Eisenhower, listening to a different set of policy advisers, launched the Atomic Energy Act and the myth of the “Peaceful Atom.” The lion’s share of energy subsidies and research and development dollars have gone to the US nuclear sector in the past 60-plus years, stunting growth in the renewables sector and critically retarding their deployment now when they are most needed for climate change.

 
 

In order to address global carbon emissions, a new reactor would have to be built somewhere in the world every two weeks, an economically unrealistic, in fact impossible, proposition. According to a 2003 MIT study, “The Future of Nuclear Power,”  such an unprecedented industrial ramping up would also mean opening a new Yucca Mountain-size nuclear waste dump somewhere in the world “every three to four years,” a task still unaccomplished even once in the 70 years of the industry’s existence.

The lessons of Fukushima demonstrate that, in a crisis, nuclear power can fail, dramatically compounding, rather than alleviating, a national emergency. The destruction of human and animal lives and the environment is too high a price to justify continued use, when quicker, safer, cheaper, non-carbon emitting alternatives are ready and available.

Like many in Congress who are lavished with campaign contributions and lobbying dollars by the coal, oil and nuclear industries, the Postrefuses to let go of 20th century thinking and the unwieldy, expensive and polluting energy technologies that forward-looking countries have chosen to phase out. Germany sees a bright business future and a revitalized economy in renewable energy investment. The Post argues that the US should continue to languish behind, clinging to dinosaur technologies that have no place in a modern world where global survival now hangs in the balance.

 

The editors urge that we build more reactors, and continue to use our existing, aging and vulnerable ones, thereby risking another Fukushima – or worse – in the US or anywhere in the world. The newspaper makes this case simply to prop up a failed, dangerous and expensive industry. It is an unacceptable argument from every perspective; financial, climatological, environmental, moral, ethical, technological and practical.

Linda Pentz Gunter is a founder of Beyond Nuclear and its international specialist. For more, see www.beyondnuclear.org

Related Articles Continued on Page 2…

Useful news and research on the energy and electricity industries.

About author
Originally from England, Linda Gunter founded Beyond Nuclear in July 2007. Linda holds a BA Honours degree in English and Italian Literature from Warwick University, researches the French nuclear sector; human rights and the uranium fuel chain; and the nuclear power-nuclear weapons connection and serves as an organization spokesperson in these areas.
Read More About , ,
1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. EliahuGoodman@Gmail.com'

    We must all protect ourselves in the best way we possibly can. Kelp, organic miso, Potassium iodide and other supplements are important, however, the best is Spirulina because it leaches heavy metals out of the body. For the best that we’ve found, try http://www.NewPhoenixRising.com/SpiritSong

    Spirulina has been extensively tested and used for radiation exposure. The testing is not just in a laboratory setting but in real world settings. Most notably in recent times during and after the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. With so many people focused on what to do about potential radiation exposure here in the U.S. with the Japanese disaster, it seems appropriate to revisit this information. This article is a brief summary of what was learned from that previous experience.

    Chernobyl was a huge disaster which not only affected hundreds of thousands of people, but is still affecting many people as well as the environment. Many years later, millions of people are still living in radioactive areas. In over 11,000 square miles, there is water, food and soil contamination. When the meltdown happened at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, the neighboring state of Belarus received about 70% of the fallout and was heavily affected as a result. Over 160,000 children and 150,000 cleanup workers were exposed to radiation poisoning which produced higher incidences of leukemia, anemia, thyroid disease, various cancers and compromised immune systems.

    Due to donations of Spirulina from other countries, much work was done with those most affected including many children. Some of the most significant results were:
    Enhanced immune systems
    Reduced radioactivity
    Regeneration of bone marrow
    Regeneration of the liver
    Increased white blood cell counts
    Reduced urine radioactivity levels

    In fact, the radioactivity in children’s urine samples was decreased by 50% in only 20 days! This was achieved with a dose of only 5 grams per day (about a couple of teaspoons). One of the amazing things the researchers found was that the healing effects were occurring even with advanced cases and even when the exposure to radiation was on-going through contaminated food and water. Other findings were that allergic reactions decreased and heavy metals loads in the body were decreased. A 1993 report concluded: Use of Spirulina decreases radioactive dose load received from food contaminated with radionuclides, Cesium-137 and Strontium-90. Spirulina is favorable for normalizing the adaptive potential of children’s bodies in conditions of long-lived low dose radiation.

    Additionally, Spirulina was found to assist in absorption of other nutrients (from other foods) and lessen the damage to kidneys from toxic loads which is important since the kidneys are among the first organs to be affected by radiation. These research findings were impressive enough that a Russian patent was awarded for Spirulina as a medicine to reduce allergic reactions from radiation sickness.

    The bottom line on all the research is that we still don’t know all of the answers as to why Spirulina does all of the things it does, we just know that it works! As a caution, Spirulina is a crop, so at different times of the year, the nutritional profile will be quite different. There has also been a big influx of cheap Chinese Spirulina into the US market in the last 10 years. It has been found to contain high amounts of lead and other heavy metals. With everything that’s going on in the world today, it’s wise to have some BioLumina (Spirulina with the highest nutritional profile) in your diet!

    References:
    1.Loseva, L.P. and Dardynskaya, I.V. Spirulina- natural sorbent of radionucleides. Research Institute of Radiation Medicine, Minsk, Belarus. 6th Intl Congress of Applied Algology, Czech Republic, Sep. 9, 1993.
    2. Sokolovskiy, V. Corres. from the First Secretary BSSR Mission to the United Nations, May 20, 1991.
    3. Belookaya, T. Corres. from Chairman of Byelorussian Committee “Children of Chernobyl” May 31, 1991.
    4. Qishen, P. et. al. Radioprotective effect of extract from spirulina platensis in mouse bone marrow cells studied by using the micronucleus test. Toxicology letters. 1989. 48:165-169.
    5. Evets, P. et. al. Means to normalize the levels of immunoglobulin E, using the food supplement spirulina. Grodenski State Medical Univ. Russian Fed Comm Patents and Trade. Patent (19)RU (11)2005486. Jan. 15, 1994.
    6. Loseva, L.P. Spirulina platensis and specialties to support detoxifying pollutants and to strengthen the immune system. Research Institute of Radiation Medicine, Minsk, Belarus. Presented at 8th Int’l Congress of Applied Algology, Italy Sep. 1999.

Submit your comment

Please enter your name

Your name is required

Please enter a valid email address

An email address is required

Please enter your message

*

Enformable © 2014 All Rights Reserved

More in Editorials, Featured, Fukushima Daiichi
mount-nebo-jordan
Russia France and Japan competing to building nuclear plant in one of world’s driest countries

Much of the nuclear push in recent reports has focused mainly in other 3rd world countries to build NPPs, which is often fueled by claims that, the only way to sustain their existence...

Close