Abby Scher on the race to elect Maine's next Governor
By Amit Pal
Three years after the catastrophe, Fukushima is a gaping wound that refuses to heal. “Several thousand employees are locked in a daily—and dangerous—scramble under harsh conditions to keep the site as safe as possible, making a myriad of repairs and building tanks for the vast amounts of contaminated water,” AFP reports. “The company poured thousands of tons of water onto runaway reactors to keep them cool, and continues to douse them, but has to store and clean that water in a growing number of temporary tanks at the site.” The Japanese people have expectedly soured on nuclear power and have made sure that only a handful of Japan’s fifty-odd reactors have been restarted after all of them went offline following the tsunami. On March 9, thousands of people demonstrated all over Japan to show their anger. “I am here today because I want to rid the planet of nuclear power as quickly as possible,” said Fumiko Ichikawa in Tokyo. Japan’s inability to fully recover should be of huge concern to us in the United States, especially since many of the same factors are at play here. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was so unnerved by the disaster that it deliberately downplayed its relevance for the United States, an NBC News investigation reveals. “The e-mails, obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, show that the campaign to reassure the public about America’s nuclear industry came as the agency’s own experts were questioning U.S. safety standards and scrambling to determine whether new rules were needed to ensure that the meltdown occurring at the Japanese plant could not occur here,” NBC reports. For example, officials refused to divulge to reporters that the commission was nervously analyzing whether the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in California could withstand a similar-sized tsunami as the one that hit Fukushima. “The U.S. nuclear industry has claimed that our nuclear power plants are not vulnerable to severe earthquakes and tsunamis,” states Beyond Nuclear’s Paul Gunter in a press release. “In reality, thirty-four U.S. reactors located downstream of fifty major dams could suffer a prolonged and potentially catastrophic loss of power caused by a dam break and the resulting inland tsunami.” As Gunter points out, the American nuclear industry is rife with the same conflict-of-interest issues as the Japanese one. “The Japanese Diet reported that Fukushima was a ‘man-made disaster’ caused by the collusion of government, regulator and industry to protect a nuclear production agenda,” Gunter states. “ ‘Nuclear regulatory capture’ by industry here in the United States has put financial protectionism, aging reactor systems and the roll of the dice on converging courses for an American Fukushima.” Kids in the Fukushima area have been adversely affected. “The impact, three years on, is now starting to show, with children experiencing falling strength, lack of coordination—some cannot even ride a bicycle—and emotional issues like shorter tempers, officials and educators say,” Reuters reports. Fukushima has taken its toll on some Americans, as well. Sailors aboard the USS Reagan, which went to help Japan in the aftermath of the calamity, have reportedly been poisoned by the radiation fallout. No more Japanese or Americans—or people of any other nationality—should suffer the same fate. The world needs to move away from nuclear energy.