Catastrophic Natural Disaster in Japan and Nuclear Concerns

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

Guest Blog | March 12, 2011 | Energy Policy, Nuclear

Our prayers and thoughts are with the Japanese people as they deal with the aftermath of the recent massive earthquake and tsunami. As all of you have been witnessing through news reports, the difficulties that lie ahead over the next days, weeks and months are staggering. Incredibly catastrophic destruction has occurred affecting all aspects of the nation’s infrastructure. If you are able to help provide aid, please do so.

There are serious concerns about the developing situation at some of Japan’s nuclear power plants. News reports and government updates are quickly occurring and the realities on the ground are changing by the minute.

Reports state that Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station reactor units 1, 2 and 3 (there are 6 total reactors at the site) have reported trouble. Offsite power has been lost and the emergency backup diesel generators are inoperable. Fukushima 1, which was designed by General Electric and entered commercial service in 1971, is apparently experiencing the most significant difficulties. Tokyo Electric Power, the operator, has reported that it also lost its ability to control pressure in some of the reactors at a second plant, known as Daini, about 10 miles away.

A New York Times article mentions that evacuations are occurring up to 6 miles around the plant and the Union of Concerned Scientist’s Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer who has worked at several nuclear power plants in the United States, along with other experts outlined the concerns with the loss of coolant and possible outcomes if stability cannot be restored. According to the report, a Japanese nuclear safety panel said radiation levels were 1,000 times above normal in a reactor control room after the massive quake damaged the plant’s cooling system. Some radiation had seeped outside the plant, with levels just outside the facility’s main gate measured at eight times normal, Public Broadcaster NHK quoted nuclear safety officials as saying.

A Reuters report just released, provides an extensive, current overview. Over 3000 people have been evacuated and radioactive releases are imminent.

Here are some resources to help you stay up-to-date:

The developing situation is being tracked by the Union of Concerned Scientists including a blog by Dr. Ed Lyman. A factsheet by the Nuclear Information Resources Service provides additional input, Beyond Nuclear is closely following the situation. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is also tracking the possible impacts of the tsunami here in the U.S. especially at nuclear power plants in California and nuclear waste and nuclear materials sites elsewhere. Information from the Nuclear Energy Institute, the lobbying arm of the nuclear industry, can be found here. U.S. Congressman Edward Markey has issued a press release about the Japanese disaster including an inquiry to the NRC on possible impacts to the U.S. nuclear power infrastructure.

Again, please keep the Japanese people in your thoughts and prayers. This dire situation will require all of our help and support across the world.

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