SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Continuing Coverage of Japan’s Nuclear Crisis
Six years have now passed since the tragic Fukushima nuclear disaster occurred in Japan. The ongoing situation is far from stable and this dangerous situation has yet to be fully brought under control — the stabilization and clean-up of the site has posed exceedingly difficult challenges and the price tag continues to climb with estimates of nearly $200 billion. Clearly, the nuclear crisis in Japan has affected the world — it is a shared problem with no easy solution in sight. Of 54 operating reactors at the time of the accident, only two have restarted.
On March 11, 2011 a massive earthquake followed by a devastating tsunami struck Japan, killing nearly 20,000 people and displacing hundreds of thousands. Those natural disasters, combined with other human-factors, led to a large-scale, triple nuclear reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, which also forced thousands to flee their homes. Even six years later, more than 70,000 people from that area still remain displaced from their homes–thousands will never be able to return in their lifetimes. In terms of the health impacts from the disaster, a report by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) predicted that residents of the Fukushima area and the rest of Japan will experience more than 10,000 excess cancer deaths as a result of radiation exposure from the accident.
Unfortunately, not enough progress has been made to protect communities from the current fleet of nuclear reactors. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) issued a report for the 5th anniversary, “Preventing an American Fukushima,” about the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) inadequate response to the Fukushima disaster; the NRC rejected or watered down many of the recommendations its own task force and others made to make U.S. reactors safer in light of Fukushima.
Many legal challenges were filed related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster with the NRC by a coalition of groups across the country, including SACE. Some past examples include, but are not limited to the following:
- SACE joined 36 other clean energy groups in submitting a formal petition for rulemaking to the NRC seeking adoption of new regulations to expand emergency evacuation zones and improve emergency response planning around U.S. reactors.
- After the NRC approved in a 4-1 decision the Vogtle combined operating license in February 2012, SACE and others filed an appeal challenging the decision and the AP1000 reactor design certification for failing to consider the lessons learned from Fukushima.
- In November 2012, attorneys representing nine national and regional organizations, including SACE, argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The oral argument stated that the NRC violated federal law when it issued a license for two proposed new AP1000 reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant near Waynesboro, Georgia without fully taking into account the potential for a Fukushima-like disaster. In May 2013, the Court sided with the NRC, which we believe was incorrect.
- In August 2011, 25 organizations, including SACE, filed 19 separate legal challenges to the NRC, arguing that federal law requires the agency to halt new reactor licensing and license renewals until stronger regulations are in place to protect the public from severe accidents. SACE filed new Fukushima-related contentions for Watts Bar 2, Turkey Point 6 & 7, Vogtle 3 & 4, and Bellefonte 3 & 4.
- In April 2011, 45 groups, including SACE, filed a petition to the NRC to suspend all licensing proceedings until a thorough study of the Japanese disaster is conducted as was done previously in 1979 when the accident at Three Mile Island occurred. They also called for an independent investigation. Read the press release and an article by the International Business Times.
- Also in April 2011, a coalition of organizations, including SACE, filed a petition with the NRC to suspend its fast-track approval process of Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor, until design problems are resolved. Facing South published a detailed article on the process.
- A short interview on PRI’s Living on Earth with the Institute for Energy & Environmental Research’s Dr. Arjun Makhijani about the seriousness of the situation six years into “clean up” is a must-listen segment putting the severity in perspective: “Fukushima is possibly the longest running, continuous industrial disaster in history. It has not stopped because the risks are still there.”
- Fairewinds Energy Education has extensive information about Fukushima, including video series, Arnie Gundersen’s Japan tour photo journal for the 6th anniversary and their Fukushima@5 video.
- The World Nuclear Industry Status Report (released July 2016) has extensive information on the status of the Fukushima Dai-ichi facility and how Japan has made significant gains in renewable energy.
- “5 Years Living With Fukushima” was released for the 5th anniversary by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW); it predicts that residents of the Fukushima area and the rest of Japan will experience more than 10,000 excess cancer deaths as a result of radiation exposure from the accident.
- The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) issued a report for the 5th anniversary, “Preventing an American Fukushima,” about the NRC’s inadequate response to the Fukushima disaster; the NRC rejected or watered down many of the recommendations its own task force and others made to make U.S. reactors safer in light of Fukushima.
- “Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster,” a gripping book documenting the disaster co-authored by Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) Dave Lochbaum, Ed Lyman, and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Susan Stranahan. View the webinar SACE hosted with the co-authors.
- UCS’ All Things Nuclear blog covers many nuclear topics, find Fukushima-specific posts here.
- Beyond Nuclear has several Fukushima-relevant publications including a press release on the sixth anniversary of the accident and the radiation concerns for women and children, “The Thunderbird: A closer look at Fukushima,” which includes numerous articles including aspects that affect nuclear reactors here at home and their earlier “Freeze Our Fukushimas” campaign in which the NRC was asked (and has rejected the request) to suspend operating licenses at the now 22 remaining General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors identical to Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactors units 1, 2 and 3. Here in the Southeast, we are home to many of these problematic reactor designs.
- The Guardian has a compelling video, “Fukushima, Japan four years on: Nuclear power and humans cannot coexist.”
- The Citizen’s Commission on Nuclear Energy in Japan released “The State of Affairs and Ongoing Challenges of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster—a Civil Society Response Towards Recovery,” for the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR 2015) in Sendai, Japan.
- Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS) continues to track the nuclear crisis in Japan.
- NRC’s “Japan Lessons Learned” webpages, which discusses various aspects of the disaster and the implications on nuclear power plant operations here in the U.S., implementation measures, and more.
- Interactive map from Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) that shows the 50-mile radius and evacuation zones around nuclear power plants here in the U.S.
- Collection of videos of San Diego conference that occurred June 4, 2013 that included former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, former NRC chair Gregory Jaczko, nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, and former NRC commissioner Peter Bradford. Discussion includes Fukushima, new licensing of U.S. reactors, and San Onofre.
- BBC News video, Why Japan’s ‘Fukushima 50’ Remain Unknown, explains the stigma that Fukushima workers and evacuees face nearly two years after the accident began.
- SACE participated in numerous media interviews commemorating the Fukushima anniversary and related issues: KCRW’s “To the Point” radio program, DemocracyNow! national TV broadcast and PBS’s NewsHour.
- Special report in The Economist, “Nuclear energy: The dream that failed.”
- Report by Physicians for Social Responsibility, “Nuclear Power and Public Health: Lessons from Fukushima, Still Dangerously Unprepared,” warns that first responders in the U.S. are dangerously unprepared for a Fukushima-style disaster.
- Greenpeace “Lessons from Fukushima” report, co-authored by Fairewinds nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, which claims that the accident marked the end of the “nuclear safety paradigm.”
- Gripping PBS Frontline episode, “Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown,” that documents what was actually happening.
- The New York Times reports on the NRC’s questionable ties to the nuclear industry.
- The UK’s Guardian’s list of 33 nuclear power plant incidents/accidents worldwide – with the average being approximately 1 every other year since 1952.
- Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) is a public interest group based in Japan that provides information and works toward a nuclear-free world.