Being Victim of Nuclear Disaster

 

Aftermath of Tsunami Hit Nuclear Power Plant

Eight months have passed since the disastrous accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, but radiation continues to leak and threaten the life of children there and in surrounding prefectures.  Some people go out wearing a mask with an open umbrella. It is not because it rains, but because they are afraid of inhaling airborne radionuclides.  No students play in any of the school fields.  Do you know why?  It is because scientific research shows that radiation has accumulated there.  Children are not allowed even freely to play outside.  Under such circumstances, some families in Fukushima have chosen to move to other parts of Japan.  According to the Ministry of International Affairs and communications of Japan, the number of people who have moved away is 16,820, a 77% increase over the last year.  Yet starting a new life in a different area does not mean a life happily ever after.  Children from Fukushima are being bullied at their new schools, and troubles continue to follow them. It matters little where they live.

Compounding these difficulties is the fact that information on radiation has been causing confusion throughout the world.  The differences between the information from Japanese media and that of foreign media or private research show that the Japanese ministries and Tokyo Electric Power Company, TEPCO, are hiding the truth about the details of this disastrous accident.  To make matters worse, this confuses people about which information they can trust. Because of this, the area has been hit by harmful rumors.  For example, one report now states the core melted within four days after the accident, two months earlier than the government reported.  Also, some institutions reported that the meltdown could have been prevented if TEPCO had begun cooling with water five hours earlier than they did.  Some media insisted that the reason they did not was that they did not want to make the plant useless because TEPCO had invested too much.  According to a report by Masayoshi Son, president of Softbank, one of the largest companies in Japan, the radiation levels are two times higher than levels reported by the government.  Furthermore, while the Japanese government orders residents living within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant to evacuate, the United States government stipulates within 50 kilometers.

Japan is the only nation which was the victim of atomic bombs.  On August 6, and August 9, in 1945, the bomb killed about 140,000 people instantly and about 360,000 people from radiation poisoning.  Every year on these days, Japanese people light memorial candles for those who died.  The people in this country who have suffered radiation once are going through this suffering again.  The United States has stopped building new nuclear power plants after the Three Mile Island Nuclear accident, and Germany has decided to phase out nuclear energy.  On the other hand, Japan has come to depend on nuclear energy more and more.  Furthermore, the three large nuclear power plant producing groups in the world, “Toshiba and Westinghouse,” “Aleva and Mitsubishi” and “GE and Hitachi” are composed of leading Japanese companies.  There is a proverb in Japan: 仏の顔も三度まで, which translated means, “Even Buddha may be upset if his face is hit three times.”  Despite the nuclear tragedies Japanese have experienced, our government and companies are still actively building and participating in nuclear energy proliferation.

Vietnam adopts a lot of Japanese technology.  According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, the governments, based on their mutual deep friendship, will cooperate to construct a nuclear power plant with the highest levels of safety by using the lessons of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and Japanese techniques.  We have doubts about the decision.  The construction of a nuclear power plant in Vietnam is under way with the cooperation of the Japanese government even though Japan understands firsthand the threat of radiation and a nuclear explosion.

Is there a big risk to construct a nuclear power plant in a developing nation when accidents can still occur in Japan, considered an advanced nation and technology superpower?  We cannot help but feel these arguments to build nuclear power plants emphasize only the advantages—that nuclear power plants make the cost of power generation cheap and does not lead to global warming.  We should send out a message for the world about the danger of nuclear power and the risks of using it.

THE TRUTH OF NUCLEAR ENERGY

It is said that it costs about 6.25 billion dollars to manufacture a nuclear power plant.  Considering 91 nuclear power plants are under construction in the world as of January 1, 2011, the scale of the global market is summed up to about 600 billion USD in the next 20 years.  A few companies that have the know-how to plan a plant in terms of economics dominate the industry.  Since the main nations that export nuclear power plants are the United States, France, and Japan, each nation will sell nuclear power plants at about 200 billion dollars over 20 years, or 10 billion dollars per year.  Since the Japanese GDP is about seven trillion dollars, the market equals 0.15 percent of GDP.  Hitachi’s revenues from the sale of nuclear power plants is equivalent to 2 percent of its consolidated sales, Toshiba 9 percent, and Mitusbishi 11 percent (『Gyokai Chizu 2012』(Toyokeizai Shimbunsya)).  Statistically, the industry is not so large, but the Act on Compensation for Nuclear, established following the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act, states that even if a nuclear accident occurs, only the electric utility is liable, not the manufacturer.  Even if there is clear manufacturer liability, usually the electric utility assumes liability.  This is why manufacturers find the industry very convenient.

In addition, there are advantages for nations to convert plutonium to atomic bombs.  First, they can sell atomic bombs to developing countries.  Second, nations that have atomic bombs have an advantage in the case of war.  Ishiba Shigeru, former Minister of Defense for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said that Japan should not renounce nuclear power.  Nuclear power plants are necessary for maintaining the capacity to develop nuclear weapons.  The first atomic bomb (Trinity) and the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki (Fat man) were made from plutonium.  An editorial in the Yomiuri newspaper (September 7, 2011) provides a fresh perspective.  “The current world climate demonstrates that it is permissible to use plutonium as it acts as potential deterrent to nuclear weapons.”  On the other hand, the construction and administration of nuclear power plants always carries some risk. First, natural disasters may cause power plant accidents similar to Fukushima.  We cannot control natural disasters, so we should reinforce power plants and keep them safe to avoid accidents.  Second, there are dangers from design and operation error.  Incomplete risk management causes this. Man-made error caused the biggest nuclear power plant disaster at Chernobyl.

In the train accident which occurred in Zhejiang China in July, 2011, there were 40 fatalities.  Later in September, a signal trouble and man-made error caused a subway accident in Shanghai.  The signal management company of both accidents was CASCO, and it has about a 60% market share in China.  If management does not improve, more severe accidents may occur.  China, which is expected to be an exporting country of nuclear plants in the future, must face the fact that their risk management record is poor.  Not only China but any emerging country which imports nuclear plants to accelerate economic growth, needs to realize this.

The risk is great.  If radioactive leakage occurs, there is a much higher risk of radiation exposure.  Approximately 2.7 million people suffered from the Chernobyl accident and cases of cancer increased.  Tokyo Shimbun (August 28, 2011) says that cases of cancer increased tenfold in Turkish villages on the coast of the Black Sea, about 800 miles away from Chernobyl. Therefore, the radioactive leak of nuclear power plants poses carcinogenic risk to humans.

The risk is great.  If radioactive leakage occurs, there is a much higher risk of radiation exposure.  Approximately 2.7 million people suffered from the Chernobyl accident and cases of cancer increased.  Tokyo Shimbun (August 28, 2011) says that cases of cancer increased tenfold in Turkish villages on the coast of the Black Sea, about 800 miles away from Chernobyl. Therefore, the radioactive leak of nuclear power plants poses carcinogenic risk to humans.

As stated above, nuclear power plants have many problems.  However, many countries depend on them for the supply of electricity.   Is there any possibility of supplying electricity without relying on nuclear power plants? We can look at the movements of Germany and Sweden for examples.

SOME NATIONS THAT HAVE ADOPTED A NEW POLICY

In Germany, after the accident at Fukushima, anti-nuclear power plant demonstrations occurred in various places. As a response, a measurement was approved to phase out all the nuclear power plants by 2022.  At present, 17 plants exist in Germany and 8 have already been shut down.  Germany reacted swiftly after the accident.  Germany, however, relies on nuclear power plants for 22 percent of its supply of electricity.  Consequently there are doubts whether Germany can really abandon this energy source or not.
Sweden, which is blessed with vast forest resources that covers 70% of this country, has aggressively developed biomass energy since the 1980s.  As a result it is becoming the

Wind power generation

main source of energy.  Originally, the idea of biomass energy came from global warming.  Sweden has been dealing with global warming for about 40 years and the country has reduced CO2 emission rates by 30% since the Guideline for Climate Change was adopted in 1993 and the government began levying taxes on CO2 and nuclear plants energy.Germany has a positive attitude toward renewable energy.  In September 2010, Germany made a policy to provide 80% of its own electricity with renewable energy by 2050. In 2008, the annual electricity consumption was about 545TWh, and production was about 590TWh.  It shows that the amount of energy production is higher than consumption.  The amount of annual electricity production of one nuclear power plant is about 6TWh so Germany can cover it using renewable energy.  Moreover, Germany has a trade surplus on electricity.  In 2007, Germany exported 45.35TWh and imported 32.97TWh. Germany has had a big role exporting electricity in Europe.  Germany bought electricity from France, Czech Republic and others because the cost is low, not because the country relies on other countries energy.  Germany expressed the opinion that abandoning nuclear power is stable and reliable taking into consideration the risk of accidents and extra expenses to build new plants.  Therefore, Germany can generate enough energy by itself even if it prohibits the use of nuclear power. Last and not least, Germany’s Prime Minister Angela Merkel declared that Germany would not import nuclear plant energy.

Sweden in addition, limits nuclear energy with various taxes and promotes renewable resources with subsidies. For instance, because of the tax on the nuclear power plants, the industries that depend on them must pay 5.9 billion yen.  Under existing circumstances, the cost of the natural energy is lower than that of nuclear. In effect, Sweden, using natural resources, is making use of the taxes to accelerate its no-nuclear policy.

As we stated before, Germany and Sweden actively deal with the energy problems by their own means.  It is very important to deal with energy problems in a way appropriate for each country.  Japan must also develop a way to exit from its dependence on nuclear energy.

DAWN OF A NEW INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION

As the only country severely damaged by two atomic bombs and as the sole country that has been a victim of a large –scale accident, Japan has a duty to prevent the spread of nuclear power plants.  Japan can exert a great influence because it has had such specific experiences and it occupies an important position in the world.  Therefore, Japan needs to lead other countries in the direction of abandoning nuclear power plants and to take the initiative in the UN.  In order to achieve this, Japan should establish a new institution in cooperation with developing countries to create a base to deal with the energy problems in the world.

We propose an international organization that addresses the faults of the present International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  The new organization’s role would be divided into two major functions: first, to provide energy solutions other than nuclear to emerging countries and second, to ban the exportation of nuclear power plants.

The present International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), established as an “Atom for Peace” organization, made no references to the use of nuclear power plants and only prevented the use of nuclear energy being transformed into weapons of mass destruction.

Even after the world saw the catastrophe at Fukushima, policy-making on new regulations ended in stalemate.  Even though an action plan was devised on nuclear safety, the agreements were not mandatory making it fairly weak.

Emerging countries, which expect 9% to 10% growth yearly, are not making good use of their abundant natural resources.  Nuclear energy is being chosen as a substitute due to the fact that these countries do not have insufficient skill or technology to effectively utilize their existing raw natural resources.  We strongly believe that Japan and similar industrialized countries should use Sweden and Germany as role models and provide new solutions to these countries.

Also, the exporting of nuclear power plants has to stop.  While nuclear energy is “green” and generates a tremendous amount of energy, the risks of an accident and the impact on the environment must be taken into account more seriously.  This is especially important because emerging countries are still developing and relying on most of their resources and technology from outside.  Imports should consist of skill and technology not nuclear plants that put the people in danger.  We believe the success lies in regional policies that combine renewable energy and storage battery cells, as well as the usage of resources that are preserved and untouched.

This new organization regulates the export and import of nuclear power plants, and we propose three regulations for exporting countries and five for importing countries.  First, exporting companies must reveal all information about the plant.  Secondly, exporting countries must propose a management method and take responsibility for how countries deal with the plant. Exporting countries must share knowledge and experience so the importing countries never make the same mistakes.  Third, the exporting countries must take responsibility for how to react when an accident occurs and how to deal with radioactive waste.  Oppositely, importing countries must accept a periodic inspection consisting of randomly selected researchers.  Then they must abide by strict safety standards that are continuously renewed according to each inspection.  Thirdly, they must show how they are going to deal with the radioactive waste.  Fourthly, they must show that all people in the area agree to the plant being constructed near where they live.  Last of all, they must not pay any money to the people living in the area where the plant is going to be constructed.

This new international organization ultimately needs to be accepted by all nations of the world.  In order to increase the influence of the organization, it is necessary to increase the number of member countries. However, some nations using nuclear power even opposed the measure to strengthen the IAEA, such as the United States and Russia.  These governments cannot be expected to be founding members.  On the other hand, there are countries that are already using renewable energy, for example Germany, Canada, Denmark, Singapore, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and Sweden.  Sweden has biomass technology that can be applied around the world.  Arab Emirates has developed a wide range of renewable energy like solar, wind and photovoltaic, and there are great hopes for the same development in the Middle East and Africa.

Countries that do not have technology, such as Vietnam and Indonesia, have few large refineries.  Indonesia cannot use the geothermal resources effectively.  Libya and Nigeria are rich in oil resources but political instability and insecurity prevent it from effectively using its natural resources.  With this in mind, we think it could be easily this organization that assembles the technology from all over the world and presents a way to safely and effectively use these alternative sources of energy.

Anti-nuclear demonstration in Tokyo

Therefore, it is obvious that all countries – including advanced countries, emerging countries and developing countries – can profit by joining the new international organization.  So, each member will pay allotted charges like IAEA.  Japan should take the lead and pay the expense and do its best to turn the project into reality as soon as possible.  The ordinary budget of the IAEA in 2010 was 300 millions euros. Considering it would have excellent research facilities, we can estimate costs for this new organization to be about 100 million to 200 million euros. Is this too expensive compared to the total damage at Fukushima that is estimated to cost about 40 billion euros?  Japan has a fundamental responsibility to display leadership and make this a reality.  The nuclear accident happened in Japan and the world was struck with terror.  Therefore, before this plan is dismissed as our daydream, we really hope that this opinion initiates debate on the subject and that the whole world moves to participate in the dialogue.

 

We would like to express our appreciation to the following people.
Thank you Mr. Fykes for helping us out with our editing and proofing.
Thank you to Mrs. Mogami for letting us use her office.
Thank you to Mr. Hikita, Mr. Yokoyama, Mrs. Goto for leading us and helping our editing.
Thank you to the Mitacampus OB for their over all support.

 

Written by
Daiki Yokoi / Yuta Osada / Ken Aramaki / Saki Maruyama / Misa Azuma / Akiyo Yokoyama / Syunsuke Murata / Ryohei Iseki / Taisuke Oshima / Takeshi Ishikawa / Kyoko Kaihara / Masataka Matsuya / Syota Nishioka / Daichi Kashiwabara / Maiko Inada


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