A tragic anniversary: Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster – 5 years later

This blog was written by Sara Barczak, former Regional Advocacy Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | March 11, 2016 | Energy Policy, Nuclear

March 11, 2016, marks the 5th anniversary of the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that killed thousands of people and triggered a triple meltdown at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power facility in Japan, subsequently forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

Life has still not returned to normal – tens of thousands of residents impacted by the natural and human disasters are still displaced, the long-term health of many has been compromised, hundreds of billions of dollars in damage has occurred (over $100 billion alone estimated for continued clean up thus far at the nuclear complex) and nearly all of Japan’s reactors remain closed (only 2 of the country’s 43 are in operation given a Court order this week ordering 1 to shutdown and another not to restart). The Fukushima-Daiichi facility itself is still leaking radiation and the eventual, extremely complicated decommissioning is expected to take at least 40 years and with staggering cost estimates.

To honor those who were lost and those that are still struggling, we encourage you to take the time to learn more. For instance, Fairewinds Energy Education has extensive information including their latest video report, FUKUSHIMA@5 with nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen, who has served as an expert witness for SACE several times, including regarding TVA’s now abandoned plans to complete the “zombie reactors” at the Bellefonte site in Alabama. In the compelling video, Mr. Gundersen describes the reactor flaws that led to the meltdowns in Japan and discusses how U.S. nuclear industry and regulators suffer from the same weaknesses that contributed to Japan’s ongoing radiological catastrophe. For those of you in Georgia, please join our allies in Athens this Saturday for a special screening and educational discussion.

In terms of the health impacts from the disaster, a new report just released by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) 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 has a recent blog about their new analysis of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’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. Read the report, “Preventing an American Fukushima,” here.

Fukushima represents a tragic reminder that though the risks of having a devastating accident may be small, nuclear power technology can be incredibly unforgiving with lasting impacts that can affect many generations. Thankfully, there are actual clean, safe and affordable energy choices available today including renewables such as solar and wind and energy efficiency and conservation that can power our future and spare future generations from harm.

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