News / Asia

Analysts Debate the Safety of Nuclear Power Plants

The Fukushima nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture in northeastern Japan (2008 file photo)
The Fukushima nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture in northeastern Japan (2008 file photo)
TEXT SIZE - +

Authorities in Japan have evacuated the area around a nuclear power plant after its reactor's cooling system failed following Friday's massive earthquake. Pressure began building overnight at the Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo, prompting officials to consider venting radioactive vapor on Saturday. The situation has prompted analysts to debate whether nuclear power is safe to use in earthquake-prone regions.

Japan has 55 nuclear power plants that produce nearly one-third of the country’s electrical output. Its also lies in one of the most seismically active zones in the world, known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Nuclear waste specialist Kevin Kamps at nuclear watchdog Beyond Nuclear says these two factors put Japan at a big risk. "An earthquake that damages multiple levels of the safety systems can lead to a troubled situation very quickly."

Kamps said the worst case scenario for the Fukushima Daiichi plant would be what happened at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in 1986, when the radioactivity escaped to the outside environment, causing environmental and health hazards across portions of Europe. He said Japan should consider other energy options.

"There are much safer sources of electricity; renewables, like wind and solar, could not suffer catastrophic disasters like this that endanger entire regions with hazardous radioactive releases."

Analyst Jeremy Gordon with the World Nuclear Association, however, said overall the situation is not one in which Japan would need to abandon this major source of electricity. He said Japan's nuclear plants are built with multiple safety layers and earthquakes in mind.

"The engineering standard goes so far beyond what you would ever expect, and the regulations go far beyond what you would ever expect. The end result is that the power plants are extremely robust."

Gordon said a powerful earthquake that struck the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in 2007 is an example of the effectiveness of nuclear power plant safety measures.

"They were hit really hard and there was damage within the plant and it took a long time to repair everything. But the safety system stayed in place and there was no nuclear risk from that earthquake."

Kamps said the Fukushima Daiichi situation, though, should be a wake-up call to the Japanese government and the world about the dangers of nuclear power plants. This can include radiological contamination of the environment and genetic damage, cancer and a wide spectrum of disease within people.

"A nuclear disaster anywhere is a nuclear disaster everywhere. We saw that at Chernobyl with significant nuclear fallout blanketing Europe in all directions for many hundreds of miles. We even saw fallout here in the United States," said Kamps.

But Gordon believes Japan has no other sustainable energy options. "It's been using nuclear power since 1966 and its main reason for doing that is because it doesn’t have any energy resources of its own at home. It doesn't have coal. It doesn't have gas. So it needs a sustainable and controllable domestic source of energy."

Greenpeace nuclear policy analyst Jim Riccio says the consequences of nuclear power need to be considered. "I think it's a good reminder, we've been focusing a lot lately on the downsides of nuclear in terms of its finances, there are other downsides beside the financial downside, potential for a meltdown and I think it should give people pause before they pursue new reactors here in the United States and around the world."

The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that 20 percent of the world's nuclear reactors are in areas of significant seismic activity.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid