It seems like it’s not all devastating. This article in the New York Times talks about Germany’s efforts to phase out nuclear power and replace it with renewable energy sources by 2022. Although it seems like there are critics of the project, who argue that the project could fail and lead to devastating economic consequences for the country, Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending the project, and seems very optimistic.
The most important part of this article however is that this entire project was set up in response to the The Fukushima power plant disaster last year. This is a prime example of how the disaster has served as a wake up call for governments around the world to phase out nuclear energy.
I also found the conclusion of the article very interesting, and it tied into a lot of what Kennette Benedict (and other symposium speakers) said. While many countries of the EU have plans to phase out nuclear energy, Britain, France, Poland, and the Czech Republic all remain committed to nuclear power. From here, it seems like there is going to be a clear divide between countries that will phase out nuclear energy, and countries that will further enhance it.
In Lochbaum’s speech at the symposium, he stated that nuclear disasters happen because of the failure to comply with established safety protocols, and the insufficient margins for these safety protocols. This seems to be a recurring subject in many of the speeches we have heard– there is simply not enough effort put into the safety protocols of nuclear power plants. Although unacceptable, I guess I can understand the logic of these people who are making these protocols (kind of..not really). A lot of money has to be put into these protocols, and the chances of a disaster actually happening are very slim. From an investor’s perspective, it may not seem to be worth it to implement protocols for a disaster that probably won’t happen. I guess for many people around the world, the horrific events that happened at Chernobyl, or even Fukushima, are still a little bit surreal. That being said, the risk of these disasters is obviously too large.
I found David Lochbaum’s speech at the symposium particularly interesting because of the way he criticized the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Lochbaum said the the NRC needs to be able to look Americans in the eye at the wake of a disaster and say “we did everything possible.” At this point, the NRC cannot do that. Many power plants in the U.S. are not fully equipped for a disaster, and the NRC has failed to implement these rules in some places. However, Lochbaum concluded that the NRC is necessary, and has prevented some disasters in the past. Hopefully the Fukushima disaster can serve as a wake up call for the nuclear power plants around the world to implement extreme safety protocols.
Professor Jody Bourgeois explained that the nuclear power plants underestimated the size of a potential earthquake and tsunami. Fukushima Daiichi only modeled for tsunamis that were 5.7 meters high, while the 3/11 tsunami was 12 to 13 meters high. Their generators were of course flooded because it was more than twice the amount of water they had anticipated.
I’m sure there was some sort of economic incentive that prevented the under estimation of a potential earthquake or tsunami. But this really angers me because it is a problem that could have been so easily avoided that was rooted in carelessness. I hope that the mistakes made this time will serve some purpose, and not only nuclear reactors, but all organizations will update their earthquake protocol and make sure a disaster like this will not happen again.
Professor Daniel Aldrich talked about anti-nuclear protest that has been sweeping Japan. I have been following this movement for a while online now, and I am still amazed that such a thing even existed. When I was watching the news and hearing about the protest for the first time with my family, I remember my mother’s first reaction to hearing that 45,000 people congregated in Tokyo in protest was, “but, we’re so shy.”
Really, a protest of this size never happens in Japan. it’s just simply not part of the culture to speak out in anger like this. I think this may be the beginning of a green energy movement in Japan. Although it is difficult to think that we will suddenly take down all of our nuclear power plants, I think the dangers of nuclear energy is finally becoming common knowledge, and will definitely lead to some sort of change.
I hope that Japan will rise up to be the leading figure of green energy as a first world nation.
One of Professor Daniel P. Aldrich’s points that stood out to me the most was his claim that nuclear reactors were strategically built in communities that lacked civil societies and organizations having the organizational power to reject such a project. I do agree to a certain extent with his claims, but I do believe there are other factors that play into the siting of these nuclear power plants.
First, towns with less civil societies usually have a smaller population, and is often in more rural areas where there is more space for something like a large nuclear power plant to be built. Perhaps it wasn’t just that TEPCO was targeting weak communities, but that weak communities had the space for these power plants to be built in the first place.
I also feel like the way Professor Aldrich phrased it made it seem like TEPCO was purposely looking for weak communities, but perhaps it was more that nuclear power plants had been planned to be built in communities that were more resistant, and after plans failed, they tried other areas.
Of course I have no proof of this– they are just ideas. But I have seen a number of press conferences with the leaders of TEPCO where angry Japanese reporters and citizens are just yelling at them, and the leaders basically stop answering questions or dodge around them. Perhaps at this point what we need is not another reason to make TEPCO the bad guy, but to have a better way of communicating with them without getting angry.
That being said, the way TEPCO has dealt with and prepared for this disaster is inexcusable, and I do believe that this immense Japanese anger can somehow be used to start a revolution that will abolish nuclear energy from Japan.
What I know:
Foreigners residing in Japan fled the country with no plans to return. Pets were left to die in evacuated areas, and over 90,000 people were displaced from their homes. Massive glorification (that was righteous) of the workers of the nuclear power plant who have been risking their lives to stabilize the reactors. The Japanese public being afraid of the radiation in their food. Anti-nuclear power protests sweeping through the country. Many are calling it the beginning of sustainable energy movement in Japan.
But the most prominent thing I have noticed is the anger of Japanese citizens toward their government. Many are skeptical of the information the government is releasing– about how stable the reactors are and to what extent we should be worried about radiation. In December, the government declared the 3 nuclear reactors were stabilized, but the public was still skeptical. Many believe the government is trying to appease the public.
What I want to know:
What information was real and what was not. How bad the situation is now. What I should be worried about as a Japanese citizen. What I can do.