The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) commemorates today the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster – one of the worst of its kind in the history of nuclear power.
NFLA send its deepest sympathies to all those who died as a result of the earthquake and tsunami on March 11th 2011, and those who have died in ‘nuclear disaster related deaths’ as a result of the huge damage to four nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Over 100,000 people evacuated as a result of the radiation release from Fukushima are still not allowed to return to their homes, and environmental damage to the area requires a large exclusion zone to be maintained for years to come.
Five years on, there remain huge issues in the clean-up of the Fukushima site. A major study by the Japan Citizens Nuclear Information Centre (CNIC) notes four key issues on the fifth anniversary (1):
- After 5 years, still very little is known about the causes and effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster – for many of the breakdowns that occurred in Fukushima Reactors No.1 to 4, it is still unknown how, for what reasons, and in what sequences they occurred, including those of the nuclear reactors, containment vessels, and other nuclear facilities.
- Amidst continuing damage, major questions over health and safety remain unanswered – there remains real concern over worker health and safety on the site. There have also been high suicide rates and mental health problems amongst communities who were evacuated. There is real stress amongst evacuees over whether they should return home following ‘decontamination’. The Japanese Government aims to withdraw the evacuation orders by March 2017, provided that the annual air dose rate is no greater than 20 microsieverts. However, in the view of CNIC, the reference rate of 20 microsieverts a year is “unspeakably high”.
- The possibility of an increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer among children exists – statistical research suggests that the incidence of juvenile thyroid cancer has been on the increase. The truth will start to become clearer in the near future.
- There is no imminent prospect for the construction of intermediate storage facilities for radioactive waste – five years on from the disaster no sites for the storage of intermediate level waste exceeding 8000 Becquerels / kilogram has been identified in the five nominated prefectures to host it. Throughout Fukushima Prefecture, there are heaps of contaminated radioactive rubble and refuse packed in flexible container bags. These are waste materials that are supposed to be stored at an intermediate storage site. There also exists 760,000 tonnes of contaminated water on the site, with more contaminated water having to be dealt with every day.
In Japan, an opinion poll for NHK Japan found that 70% of the Japanese public is in favour of completely or partially abandoning nuclear power plants in the country. Only 3% were in favour of building new nuclear reactors. (2) This week a Japanese court issued an injunction to halt operations at Kansai Electric Power’s Takahama No.3 and No.4 nuclear reactors, siding with local residents worried about the safety of the plant. This leaves just one nuclear site operating in Japan. (3)
For NFLA, the impacts of the Fukushima disaster, and the earlier Chernobyl disaster, have been huge on nuclear policy. They have hindered the increase in the construction of new nuclear reactors and pose many serious questions around the environmental, health and safety effects of nuclear power in the event of a major nuclear accident.
Next week, NFLA will be joining with other groups to bring key independent experts to meetings in Westminster and Manchester to consider the impacts of these disasters and why they have influenced the national and international development of renewable energy. In Westminster, the Green Cross International Chief Executive and President Professor Dr Alexander Likhotal will be presenting a statement by Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union at the time of the Chernobyl disaster. This follows on from comments made by Naoto Kan, former Prime Minister of Japan, to a NFLA / NCG joint seminar in January 2016. (4)
In Manchester, speakers include Professor Tim Mousseau of the University of South Carolina, Dr Angelika Claussen of IPPNW Germany, independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment Dr Ian Fairlie, Fukushima NGO ‘Chikyumura / Village Earth’ representative Yayoi Hitomi and Reinhard Uhrig of Global 2000 / Friends of the Earth Austria.
With prospects for Hinkley Point C now under serious doubt, amidst prolonged criticism of it across the UK media, the joint conference will advocate the prospects for an energy future consisting of a wide renewable energy mix, decentralised energy and energy storage. (5) (6)
NFLA Chair Councillor Ernie Galsworthy said:
On the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster my deepest sympathies go out to all the people affected by this disaster, one of the worst of the nuclear age. It is clear that five years on huge environmental, social, health and political problems exist in making safe the site and the wider area. Fukushima is a warning to all of us about the hazards and risks of nuclear power. Next week we will hear from speakers on the continuing impacts of Fukushima and Chernobyl and how we can move away from nuclear towards clean, low carbon renewable energy solutions. With new nuclear at Hinkley Point now looking so fragile it is essential alternative energy futures are advocated. NFLA has always sought to do that and encourages the interested public to attend its upcoming conference.”
For more information contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary on 07771 930196.
Notes for editors:
(1) Japan Citizens Nuclear Information Centre Briefing five years on from the Fukushima disaster, February 2nd 2016 http://www.cnic.jp/english/?p=3271
(2) Sputnik News International, February 11th 2016 http://sputniknews.com/asia/20160211/1034557555/nuclear-power-fukushima-poll.html
(3) Reuters 9th March 2016 http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-japan-nuclear-courts-idUKKCN0WB0KF
(4) NFLA Media Release, January 27th 2016 https://www.nuclearpolicy.info/news/NFLA-welcomes-reported-delay-in-final-investment-decision-for-hinkley-point-as-it-prepares-to-bring-concerns-over-post-fukushima-new-nuclear-to-westminster-with-a-seminar-led-by-former-japanese-pm/
(5) UK Beyond Nuclear Conference, co-organised by NFLA https://www.nuclearpolicy.info/events/
(6) Torch 2016 update report on the impact of the Chernobyl disaster on Europe by Dr Ian Fairlie https://www.global2000.at/sites/global/files/TORCH%20-%20The%20other%20Report%20of%20Chernobyl.pdf