Nuclear Energy still looking good for climate change reduction post–Fukushima

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In contrast, from Fukushima 2011, “Probably no one has received radiation doses where they are going to get sick,” said Moulder in an April 2011 radio interview. The visible wreckage and the deaths of at least 18,000 — which was compared to Hiroshima and Nagasaki — came from the earthquake and tsunami, not from the nuclear accident.

The actual exposure to radiation from the Fukushima accident is so small it may not even be statistically significant, whereas other toxins exposed by the earthquake and tsunami pose a greater risk (Scientific American, March 2, 2012).

Gen Suzuki, Radiation Specialist, Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission put it succinctly (Nuclear Aftershocks). The average risk of getting cancer in Japan is 30%. If someone were exposed to radiation from Fukushima at 20 microsieverts their risk of cancer might go from about 30% to about 30.2%.

But is this information getting through?

I spoke via Skype with a city Councillor in Fukushima Prefecture Kensuke Tadano on the edge of the exclusion zone. He described the dilemma all Japanese people are facing — how to know what is safe and what isn’t? The primary symptom both he and our translator in Tokyo reported is conflicting and/or confused information from the Japanese government.

I can’t help wondering if government officials themselves aren’t also battling ghosts of atomic bombings as they attempt to deal effectively with the massive destruction of the earthquake and tsunami, plus the Fukushima accident.


Nuclear Accidents in Perspective

How should one verify facts? Below I give a few examples of issues clouded by controversy, where there should be none. (Difficult when one is in the situation, but easy to see from the outside.)


  • Greenpeace and other unsubstantiated reports claimed one million deaths from the Chernobyl nuclear accident, for all time, but a careful review of the scientific literature indicates the death toll is estimated to be more like 4,000. See United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and Theodore Rockwell.
  • The stress and upheaval of leaving one’s home and community may be far more damaging health–wise than the risk of what amounts to few additional CAT–scan’s worth of radiation. (Scientific American, March 2, 2012)
  • Both Chernobyl and Fukushma were given the same rating (7), which confuses journalists and the public into thinking they are equivalent, when this is not true.
  • The Chernobyl reactor didn’t have a containment vessel. Fukushima Dai–ichi did and the release of radioactive materials from the Japanese reactor was 1/10th that of Chernobyl. (Nuclear Aftershocks)
  • Dr. Gregory Jaczko, theoretical physicist and chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, reversed his initial position on Fukushima and confessed he over–reacted to the accident. He said even with the release of radioactive materials and high exposure for some workers, there is “nothing that is going to lead to an immediate loss of life.”

Before the Fukushima Dai–ichi nuclear accident, Japan had supported the Kyoto Protocol to reduce human–made greenhouse gases. As part of this strategy, they had planned to increase nuclear energy production to 40% of their electrical needs by 2017, and 50% by 2030.

Instead, over the past year, in response to public desire, Japan has been gradually shutting down all of its nuclear power plants. As of this writing between three and six are still operational, with all to be closed by May 2012.

Citizens and corporations have voluntarily reduced energy consumption and the nation has reverted to fossil fuels. Importing coal and oil has caused Japan to suffer trade deficits for the first time in decades.

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