Greenpeace International offers view of nuclear free future
The leader of Greenpeace International's Nuclear Campaign briefly analyzes Fukushima Daiichi's nuclear emergency and looks ahead to a future free of nuclear power plants.
Jan Beranek, head of Greenpeace International's nuclear campaign, said the Fukushima nuclear disaster damages the nuclear industry's claim that technology can prevent disaster.
"The industry was telling us things like what has happened at Fukushima could not happen because there was so much advanced technology involved. They said that we learned the lesson at Chernobyl and it will never happen again."
"We must ask ourselves if we could have avoided the disaster by choosing renewable energies," he said. He cited alternatives to nuclear energy including wind, solar, geothermal, and ocean wave energies.
“The advantages of not putting the whole bet on one single technology, but on a wide range of ten or eleven technologies available are huge. Renewable energy offers a sustainable path to quit dirty, dangerous fuels by transitioning to renewable energy and energy efficiency," he said.
"I think this (the Japanese nuclear emergency) will inform us for a long time to come," Beranake said. "And this is the time to switch our investments to sustainable affordable renewable energies."
Beranek said he couldn't give any additional insights into the situation at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. "There is almost no transparency at all and the question remains if the Japanese officials know what’s going on and hide it from the public or if they are as lost as we are. And the question is which of these is worse."
"Of the models we’ve been discussing with experts, even in a worse case scenario of release of radiation from the reactors or spent fuel rods, the radiation will stay lower in the atmosphere. It won’t be a fire going on for weeks, like at Chernobyl. So the cloud would not travel thousands and thousand of miles away but would deposit radiation fallout within several hundred kilometers of the site. This is a hypothetical worse case scenario.
"The best case scenario is that the people who are now putting their lives and health at stake to restore the cooling of the reactors and the radioactive spent fuel will be able to get control of the situation and the deepening crisis will be stabilized. We know that there is severe damage to the structures of the reactor, but we can hope that the radiation leakages are still relatively limited. Even though the radiation around the reactors is alarmingly high, we can hope that the radiation in the surrounding areas is not life-threatening. Of course, that would still require the engineers and the firefighters involved to spend lots of efforts in the week and months and coming years before the radiation levels are decreased to manageable levels. Then we can proceed with some dismantling with the whole mess."
Greenpeace International's portraits of a renewable energy future:
Solar photovoltaic power. In this photo, Barack Obama's grandmother, Mama Sara Obama, poses with solar installation trainees in her village in Kenya. Greenpeace and Solar Gen offered to install solar panels on her roof.
Concentrated solar power can also provide power for large communities, Greenpeace says. By concentrating the solar heat on one point with large mirrors, it heats the top of the tower to temperatures hot enough to melt steel. The heat is then used for power generation or energy storage.
Wind power at a Guazhou wind farm near Yumen in Gansu province. China has set a target for renewable energy consumption of 15 percent of the market by the year 2020. Photo from Greenpeace International.
Geothermal is a third source of renewable energy. It uses heat coming from the Earth's core, and transforms it into electricity. Iceland, pictured here, is one of the countries in the world the most advanced in geothermal. The amount of volcanoes and heat sources in the country make geothermal the most simple source of electricity. Photo from Greenpeace International.