The 11 March marks the eleventh anniversary of the terrible accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. With the world’s attention now focused on the dangers posed to nuclear plants by the conflict in Ukraine, Nuclear Free Local Authorities also want to highlight the dangers posed to coastal nuclear plants by the sea.
Operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was hit by two natural disasters, an earthquake closely followed by a tsunami, on 11 March 2011. When the earthquake was detected, the reactors automatically shut down, cutting off the electricity supply; this in turn caused diesel electric generators to kick in to provide power to the essential coolant system. However, the 46-feet high tsunami which followed overwhelmed the sea defences, shutting off the generators and flooding reactors 1 to 4. Without coolant, a disaster unfolded with three nuclear meltdowns, three hydrogen explosions and a release of radiation from reactors 1, 2, and 3.
Atmospheric radiation forced government authorities to evacuate 154,000 people from the surrounding area over a 20-mile radius; the accident was classed as a Level 7 incident on the International Nuclear Event Scale for its overall impact on neighbouring communities – the same designation given to the disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. Radiation was carried in the air and in the oceans for many miles, and fishing in contaminated water remains prohibited to this day.
In a 2018 report, written for the NFLA by renowned independent radiation expert Dr Ian Fairlie, it was revealed that Japanese authorities attributed the deaths of nearly 2,000 people to the effects of the evacuations necessary to avoid high radiation exposures from the Fukushima disaster, including at least 56 from related suicides, and evidenced the significantly increased rates of diseases, mental illness, despair and societal detachment amongst evacuees.
Many Japanese remain displaced from their original communities and are still fearful of the long-term health impact of radiation exposure, with a recent compensation case filed against TEPCO by six young adults who have suffered from thyroid cancer.
There is also the costly and problematic legacy of clean-up, including the millions of tons of seawater, used to cool the irreparable reactors and now contaminated and stored in barrels. The Japanese government now intends to build an underwater pipe out to sea and discharge the radioactive water there. The NFLA stands in solidarity with the many Japanese who are bitterly opposed to the plans, especially the local fishing community.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair, Councillor David Blackburn, said:
“British anti-nuclear activists will I am sure mark this anniversary sombrely. Although we see in Ukraine, nuclear power plants threatened by the conflict, we ignore at our peril the dangers posed to such facilities by our natural environment.
“As at Fukushima, most British nuclear power plants have also been located on the coast. Building is now underway at Hinkley Point C, and there are plans to develop further new large and smaller plants at various other sites by the sea, most notably at Sizewell and Bradwell.
“The NFLA remains implacably opposed to any new nuclear plants, on grounds of cost and safety, and because of the toxic legacy of decommissioning and waste they bring. However, we must also oppose them because, although they damage our environment, in coming decades these plants might in turn be threatened by the sea. Nuclear sites are being impacted by coastal erosion and rising sea levels caused by global heating, and military nuclear bases, including those where Trident missile submarines are based, are also under threat.”
“There has been recent excellent research on this subject and the NFLA is inviting all of those interested in the subject, particularly Councillors and anti-nuclear campaigners from coastal communities, to join us for a special webinar in April.”
Councillor Blackburn will be chairing the NFLA webinar ‘Might the sea have them? Climate change and coastal nuclear infrastructure’ on Wednesday 6 April, 6-7pm with Dr Sally Brown from Bournemouth University and NFLA Policy Advisor Pete Roche.
The link to book a place on the webinar can be found at:
For more information please contact: Richard Outram, Secretary, NFLA email Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org / mobile 07583 097793
Notes to Editors
Link to Dr Ian Fairlie’s report for NFLA: ‘Policy Briefing 172: Evacuation after Severe Nuclear Accidents’, dated 8 February 2018
Additional link to the webinar in 6 April: