Saturday, June 18, 2011

Al Jazeera English on Fukushima

Al Jazeera English, June 18, 2011 "UN nuclear report shows Japan safety flaws" reports about the IAEA's assessment updated on June 2. "Japan safety flaws" refers to that those nuclear facilities were not prepared for tsunamis. Here's a catch: IAEA never examines whether the earthquake (not the tsunami) affected the plant. It is because if it is true that the earthquake affected the plant, all the nuclear facilities in Japan are essentially unsafe (actually conscientious academics and engineers subscribe to this view). This may sound ridiculous since there is no such a thing as an absolutely safe machine, but the authorities think that way.

But Al Jazeera's other article titled "Fukushima: It's much worse than you think," written by Dahl Jamail shows a grimmer (rightly so) picture.

Dr Shoji Sawada is a theoretical particle physicist and Professor Emeritus at Nagoya University in Japan.

He is concerned about the types of nuclear plants in his country, and the fact that most of them are of US design.

"Most of the reactors in Japan were designed by US companies who did not care for the effects of earthquakes," Dr Sawada told Al Jazeera. "I think this problem applies to all nuclear power stations across Japan."

Using nuclear power to produce electricity in Japan is a product of the nuclear policy of the US, something Dr Sawada feels is also a large component of the problem.

"Most of the Japanese scientists at that time, the mid-1950s, considered that the technology of nuclear energy was under development or not established enough, and that it was too early to be put to practical use," he explained. "The Japan Scientists Council recommended the Japanese government not use this technology yet, but the government accepted to use enriched uranium to fuel nuclear power stations, and was thus subjected to US government policy."

Actually this article focuses more on how the US is reacting to the Fukushima disaster. It introduces physician Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano's essay "shedding light on a 35 per cent spike in infant mortality in northwest cities that occurred after the Fukushima meltdown, and may well be the result of fallout from the stricken nuclear plant." Jamail's article questions why the US government doesn't take the contamination caused by the Fukushima accident more seriously.

A supplement: not only those old reactors, but also the newest ones are not safe. A big aftershock in April crippled the emergency power generators at the Higashidori facility--the newest nuclear power plant in Japan, and it was not caused by a tsunami, but an earthquake.

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