by Johnny Tang
On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake shook only 19 miles away from Fukushima. The forty years old nuclear energy plants with inadequate safety features in Fukushima was soon hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The cooling system lost its ability because of a major power outage after the earthquake. Insisted for several hours, one of the nuclear units exploded and leaked radioactive substance into the ocean. With a tremendous impact for the Japanese society, more than 385,000 people under 18 years old took the radioactive medical test and “tens of thousands of Fukushima residents remain in temporary housing more than four years after the horrific disaster of March 2011.” (Hunziker, 2015)
Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, by Hunziker, R.
Fukushima accident totally changed the power energy structure in Japan. By huge pressure from the Japanese citizens, the government was forced to shut down all of the nuclear plants in Japan. On August 6, 2013, the last operating nuclear reactor in Fukui has been stopped. After this time, all 50 of the Japanese nuclear power plants have been set offline. Before this accident, nuclear power covered more than thirty percent for the total electricity of Japan. As a result, Japanese government has been seeking other sources for two years.
On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, over four years after the Fukushima disaster happened, the storm of potential nuclear disaster seems to have settled in the United States. Supported by the most running nuclear power plants in the world, nuclear power shares approximately twenty percent of the electricity generation in United States. However, there are lots of reports aimed at warning the Nuclear Regulation Committee and the US government to enhance the protocol securing the safety of the local nuclear plants. (IAEA, 2014)
The most important fact is that the nuclear plants in Fukushima and lots of nuclear plants in United States are technically homogenous. The plants exploded in Fukushima was designed by GE, Boise and Tokyo Electric Power Company. Two of the nation’s top nuclear power experts and a Pulitzer Prize winner of the Three Mile accident, Lochbaum, Lyman and Stranahan (2014) clearly pointed out this issue in their book “Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster.” “[I]f exposed to similarly complex challenges [such as the earthquake near Fukushima,] all 100 operating reactors in the United States would likely have similar outcomes.” This accident is not a case which should be determined as a Japanese nuclear accident, it is an accident unfortunately happened in Japan. Since the nuclear power plants consumes a huge amount of water, over fifty percent of them in US are located near oceans or large lakes. Those plants could have the same outcomes if an unpredicted natural disaster happened nearby.
Nuclear plants in US and the whole world, data collected from U.S. Energy Information Administration
Faced with an existing tragedy, the mindset of both United States and Japan still tend to avoid the higher maintenance instead of the “small” probability of a world-wide accident. As Paine (2014) cited the conclusion of a NRDC report, it says that the vulnerability of potential explosion and spread radioactive to the surrounding area still exists. With the hang up of expanding the safety zone for people living close to those plants, more and more people would be effected if such an accident happened. After the nuclear disaster happened, US government warned every American to stay away from the nuclear plants at least 50 miles.(Brandt, 2014) However, such as the Limerick Generating Station which is of the same design as Fukushima’s, the total population of people living within 10 miles has increased by 45 percent. It is a growing urgent issue for those people living near nuclear plants to know what they should be worried about.
As a person who lives in United States, there are several things we could do to protect ourselves. The first thing is to check whether your home is in the evacuating zone. Based on different types of accident, the range could vary. A critical zone required by NRC is considered as a circle with 10 miles radius and a more recommended evacuating zone could be 50 miles. Based on the current situation, it is better for all of people living within 10 miles from the nuclear plant to push the local government set a proper safe zone to stop increasing human population living in this area.
Hunziker, R. (June 16, 2015) What’s Really Going on at Fukushima? Progressive Radio Network. Retrieved from http://prn.fm/whats-really-going-on-at-fukushima-by-robert-hunziker/
Lochbaum, D. Lyman, E. and Stranahan, S.Q. (2014) Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster.
CNN Staff. Japan shuts down last nuclear reactor — for now. CNN World News. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/15/world/asia/japan-nuclear-reactor-shutdown/
Paine, C. (March 7, 2014) Report Shows U.S. Nuclear Regulators Still Ignoring Lessons of Fukushima Disaster. EcoWatch. Retrieved from http://ecowatch.com/2014/03/07/u-s-nuclear-gnoring-fukushima-disaster/
Brandt, E. (April 16, 2014) NRC rejects bid to expand evacuation zones around nuclear plants. The Times Herald. Retrieved from http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20140426/nrc-rejects-bid-to-expand-evacuation-zones-around-nuclear-plants
Negin, E. (Nov 05, 2014) Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster Warns It Could Happen Here. The Blog. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elliott-negin/fukushima-the-story-of-a_b_4869476.html
U.S. Energy Information Administration. What is U.S. electricity generation by energy source? Retrieved from: http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3