The environmental threats for Japan are escalating: As if it is not enough for the poor people of Japan to have suffered the earthquake, followed by the tsunami which caused much more loss of lives, and devastation, than the earthquake,it now faces a potential nuclear disaster.
The effects of a major nuclear disaster will go on for many years, affecting the health of all people in the area to a profound degree, but also affecting people all over Japan, and indeed, the whole world.
There is a situation of national emergency at the Onagawa Nuclear Reactors, and at the Fakushima Daiichi nuclear plants No 1, 2 and 3. These plants in Fakushima are about 270 ks north east of Tokyo. They are run by the Tokyo Electric Power Company.
Level Four Disaster: The situation at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Stations has been rated at level four out of seven points, on the scale determined by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Level Four rating by the International Atomic Energy Agency indicates that it is an “accident with local consequences”.
The Japanese Government, on BBC news through the night in New Zealand, were reported as trying to allay fears about a nuclear disaster, saying that no melt-down was imminent, but that levels of radiation which were emitted were ‘higher than safety levels’. Their concern caused them to evacuate around 200,000 people in the vicinity of the nuclear reactors.
The cooling systems have failed at several Fukushima plants, and it has been reported that the cooling systems of several other nuclear plants have also failed, due to power being cut off to the power plants. This has caused an enormous heating up of the radio-active materials inside, which rely on the proper cooling system in order to avoid over-heating and possible melt-down.
One explosion occurred on Saturday, at one of the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plants, due to pressure building up in the core of the reactor. A second explosion is imminent at the Fukushima Daiichi No 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Yukio Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Japanese Government, has also warned of a meltdown at the No 3 reactor, according to our own television one news this morning.
Around 200,000 people have been evacuated from the Fukushima area. Many people have been issued with iodine tablets to help prevent radiation poisoning.
Radioactive steam has been released deliberately into the air in an effort to try and avoid another explosion. By releasing a certain amount of radio-active steam, the pressure inside the plant’s core has been reduced. BBC footage showed a cloud of toxic gas arising from the most at risk nuclear plant in Fukushima.
However, some experts are doubtful that the release of some of the toxic gas will avert a melt-down, as the heat inside the plant is phenomenal. Temperatures of up to 1200 C have been implied by BBC reporters, and these temperatures have resulted in Zirconium Oxide, as well as radio-active caesium being released into the environment. Zirconium is the material which lines the fuel rods of the reactor, and when these rods get to a temperature of 1200C, is causes the zirconium to oxidize. If temperatures continue to rise, then melt-down will occur when the temperature reaches about 2200C. If this happens, then the Japan nuclear disaster 2011 will become a major, international nuclear disaster.
The radio-active by-products inside generate enormous heat all by themselves, even without the uranium fuel supply, which has been cut off. So it is very difficult to cool with the cooling system shut down.
Sea water and boron has been poured into at least three of the reactors, in an effort to reduce the temperature. However, reports on BBC through the night indicated that this was not working.
BBC reporters questioned the use of nuclear power in an earthquake-prone, and tsunami-prone, country like Japan. Many people communicated with BBC to say that they were alarmed that nuclear power plants existed there in the first place.
One correspondent said that he thought that someone involved has been criminally negligent in not making the nuclear plants safe enough to withstand the damage of a major earthquake and 10 metre tsunami.
One correspondent who has lived in Kent, United Kingdom, said that there is always a danger from nuclear power plants. He said that while he and his family lived in Kent, near a nuclear power plant, a situation which was potentially very dangerous had occurred, but that the government, under Mr Macmillan, had kept the information hidden from the public at the time. He says that you never really can tell if the government is telling you the truth about the risks inherent in having nuclear power.
The risks in having nuclear power really are ongoing. Even if you can be sure of containing the toxic byproducts in your own life-time, these toxic radio-active materials will exist in their man-made containers for thousands of years to come. The containers themselves will not live forever, no matter what. When they break down, they will let all their poisons into the environment. We might not be around, but our children and their children, will be, if we are all lucky enough to survive nuclear explosions in the meantime.
Let us hope and pray that these disasters might prompt the United Nations to ban all nuclear power all over the world.
Japan is the third wealthiest industrial nation in the world. A government spokesman said that they need to use nuclear power so that they have enough for all their needs.
But: The emphasis should not be on wealth for nations, it should be on health for nations.
Nuclear power should be banned. Instead, solar panels could be put on all houses. All countries should lower their expectations of material wealth and adapt to a sustainable, environment friendly economy which uses minimal and responsible use of power.
TRUE WEALTH IS HEALTH. Our motto should be Health for All Nations.