is not a drill: soldiers with anti-radiation gear look for evacuees
village near the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Two
meltdowns are believed
to have occurred in that plant alone.
Asahi Shimbun, Japan
Quake-Prone Japan Must
Reconsider Use of Nuclear Power
of its scarce natural resources, Japan has made nuclear power a pillar of its
energy policy. And Japan has persisted on this path, even after the Three Mile
Island accident led the U.S. to suspend new plant construction … we have to return
to square one and delve into such fundamental questions as how far, in this
quake-prone country, the safety of nuclear power plants can ever be secured.'
The massive earthquake that
ravaged the Tohoku region on Friday has resulted in Japan's first state of
emergency issued for nuclear plants, which included the evacuation of a
neighborhood. The situation is a fresh reminder of the latent danger nuclear
power stations pose, and shatters assurances we have heard that because they
are carefully designed, nuclear power plants are safe. In the wake of the
earthquake, the nuclear plant failures raise a fundamental question: How can
earthquake-prone Japan coexist with nuclear power?
The emergency core cooling
system (ECCS), which, in case
of accident, pours cooling water into the nuclear core, was considered central
to safety systems on these types of reactors. When an earthquake hits, reactors
automatically shut down. But that alone doesn't prevent an accident, since the
nuclear fuel continues to emit heat. If the core isn't properly cooled, it
could melt the fuel and trigger a disastrous explosion.
Posted by WORLDMEETS.US
In 1979, so much cooling
water poured out of the core of the Three Mile Island plant
in the United States that it almost triggered a catastrophe. The situation at
Japan's reactors is now approaching that situation.
Since nuclear power
generators were first developed, the question of safety has revolved around the
reliability of the ECCS. In Japan, a nation very advanced in the field of
nuclear power generation, the ECCS failed - and at more than one reactor. Those
failures were caused by a power outage.
Nuclear power stations
generate electricity, but when power is cut during an accident, everything in
the plant stops. The reason they are equipped with multiple emergency power
generators is to make sure that one way or another, the ECCS continues to
The current crisis
demonstrated the need to change this design concept.
Since the Great Hanshin
Earthquake struck the area in and around Kobe in 1995, the government has
taken positive steps to strengthen nuclear plant quake-resistance standards. Later
on, steps to further enhance this resistance were taken, but this was
confronts unimaginable destruction after a 9.0 earthquake and huge tsunami.
While the structure of these
plants may be sturdy, the process they use to generate power involves a
complicated facility that depends on a tremendous number of parts and
components. It's very hard to predict the kind of damage a huge earthquake will
inflict on these nuclear structures, and it's impossible to forecast when and where
such a huge tremor will hit.
Because of its scarce natural
resources, Japan has made nuclear power a pillar of its energy policy. And
Japan has persisted on this path, even after the Three Mile Island accident led
the U.S. to suspend new plant construction, and the Chernobyl disaster in the
former Soviet Union led Europe to end its reliance on nuclear power in 1986.
In the meantime, Japan has
been slow to boost its use of natural renewable energy sources.
Revisions to the country's
Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy are currently being studied, but the
likelihood is that Japan will likely adhere to its current policies.
Friday's earthquake halted
operations at many nuclear plants and it will take some time for them to resume.
We should be aware that ironically, our reliance on nuclear power has created a
risk to our energy supply.
In preparing for the danger
of earthquakes, we must be humble. In our discussions on these issues, we have
to return to square one and delve into such fundamental questions as how far, in
this quake-prone country, we should count on nuclear power, and whether the safety
of nuclear power plants can ever be secured.
Unless we do this, after enduring
fear of radiation and the devastation triggered by the killer jolt, many people
will question our dependence on nuclear energy.
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