Essay: The Fukushima disaster and nuclear power

Since the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, many problems have been discussed due to the nuclear power plants in the Fukushima region. This disaster caused many people to die and will affect future generations. However, what do we know about the nuclear power plants? Do we even care about them? Most of the people in Japan do not understand what is actually happening to Fukushima after the disaster because of the lack of specific information. Also, news outlets such as the Local French news paper gave wrong impression of Japan need to know exactly what is true and what is not before making such ironic images of Japan. Moreover, every single person needs to try to improve this issue.

Nuclear power plants are some of the most impressively complex energy systems ever designed. According to the OECD Glossary Statistical Terms, the definition of a nuclear power plant would be ‘a facility that converts atomic energy into usable power. In a nuclear electric power plant, heat produced by a reactor is generally used to drive a turbine, which in turn drives an electric generator.’ The veteran anti-nuclear activist and author Stephanie Cooke has argued that the reactors of Fukushima themselves were extremely complex machines with an incalculable number of things that could go wrong. When an accident happened at Three Mile Island in 1979, another fault line in the nuclear world was exposed. One malfunction led to another, and then to a series of others, until the core of the reactor itself began to melt, and even the world’s most highly trained nuclear engineers did not know how to respond. The accident showed serious shortages in a system that was meant to protect public health and safety. Also, there are concerns that a combination of human and mechanical error at a nuclear facility could result in significant harm to people and the environment. The authors Carl Behrens and Mark Holt argue, ‘Operating nuclear reactors contain large amounts of radioactive fission products, which if dispersed can pose a direct radiation hazard, impure soil and vegetation, and be absorbed by humans and animals. Human exposure at high enough levels can cause both short-term illness and death, and longer-term deaths by cancer and other diseases.’ In fact, the cesium contamination is increasing in water at port of Fukushima plant. After shutting down, for some time the reactor still needs energy from outside to power its cooling systems. Normally, this energy is provided by the power grid to which that plant is connected, or by emergency diesel generators. Failure to provide power for the cooling systems, as happened in Fukushima I (Daiichi) plant, can cause serious accidents. As the Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials said in June 2011, ‘Nuclear safety rules in the United States do not weigh enough the risk of a single event that would knock out electricity from the grid and from emergency generators, as a earthquake and tsunami recently did in Japan.’
In Japan, many government agencies and nuclear companies have promoted a public myth of absolute safety that nuclear power proponents had cherished over decades. The tsunami that began the Fukushima nuclear disaster could have been expected and in March 2012, according to the New York Times, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda accepted that the government shared the blame disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, saying that officials had been blinded by a false belief in the country’s technological infallibility.’ and were all too soaked in a safety myth. Also, in Japan, a national program to develop robots for use in nuclear emergencies was ended in midstream because it smacked too much of underlying danger. Japan, supposedly a major power in robotics, had none to send in to Fukushima during the disaster. Similarly, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission demanded in its safety guidelines for light water nuclear facilities that the potential for extended loss of power need not be considered. However, it was exactly such an extended loss of power to the cooling pumps that caused the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear facilities. The overall goal of the Japanese government should be to provide a factual assessment of the nuclear power industry, as well as to raise questions about safety and security, placing nuclear power in the larger context of how to meet energy needs with the least harm to communities and the environment.
From the perspective outside of Japan, the reaction to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has been widespread. Many countries have advised their nationals to leave Tokyo, citing the risk associated with the nuclear plants’ ongoing accident. The Professor Morse, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of California, Berkeley and Youichi Enokida, a chemist from Nagoya University, said, ‘There would be at least six months of emergency stabilization, about two years of temporary remediation and up to 30 years of full-scale clean-up.’ Professor Morse also argues, ‘The high levels of ground contamination at the site are raising concerns about the viability of individuals to work at the site in coming decades.’ Furthermore, John Price, a former member of the Safety Policy Unit at the UK’s National Nuclear Corporation, has said that it might be 100 years before melting fuel rods can be safely removed from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.
The reaction to the publics, experts on the ground in Japan agree that mental health challenges are the most significant issue. Stress, such as that caused by dislocation, uncertainty and concern about unseen toxicants, often manifests in physical ailments, such as heart disease. So even if radiation risks are low, people are still concerned and worried. Behavioral changes can follow, including poor dietary choices, lack of exercise and sleep deprivation, all of which can have long-term negative health consequences. People, who lost their homes, villages and family members, and even just those who survived the earthquake, will likely continue to face mental health challenges and the physical ailments that come with stress. Much of the damage was really the psychological stress of not knowing and of being relocated, according to U.C. Berkeley’s McKone. Also, the news of the contamination of foods with radioactive substances leaking from the Fukushima nuclear reactors damaged the mutual trust between local food producers including farmers and consumers. Many rumors that were discriminatory to Fukushima and other messages damaging Fukushima people could be found on the Internet. According to the Mainichi Daily News, the source of cesium was found to be rice straw that had been feed to the animal, but a notice of the Japanese government that was sent to cattle-farmers after the nuclear accident made no mention to the possibility that rice straw could be contaminated with radioactive materials from the plant.
Media coverage of the event has been described as taking an irrational approach which generated the worst of humanity” because many anti-nuclear groups tried to make political points out of the issue. In addition, the main story should have been on the 19,000 people killed by the tsunami and the thousands of missing individuals. However, public attention was drawn away from the needs of major restructuring, housing, developing the transportation system, and helping people who suffered because of the tsunami.
It is true to be said that people should have immediately evacuate from those places, which had such difficult situations. However, what’s next? As long as we are safe, we do not need to care them? This was the great opportunity for me to learn many information what Fukushima is still suffering against the nuclear power plants and its affections. We still need to keep focusing on this huge issue in order to save our future.


Behrens, Carl, and Mark Holt. ‘Nuclear Power Plants.’ Vulnerability to Terrorist Attack.
Cooke, Stephanie . In Mortal Hands: A cautionary History of the Nuclear Age. Black Inc.,
Funabashi, Yoichi. “The End of Japanese Illusions.” New York Times. March 11, 2012.
Glossary of Environment Statistics. United Nations. New York. 1997.
Harmon, Katherine. “Japan’s Post-Fukushima Earthquake Health Woes Go Beyond Radiation Effects.” Scientific American. March 2, 2012. http://
The Local France news in English. ‘Japan angered by French Fukushima cartoons.’
Septermber 12, 2013.
japan-outraged-by french-fukushima-cartoons.
Mainichi Daily News. ‘Nuclear plant accidents threaten relations between food
producers and consumers.’ October 25, 2011.
Mark, David, and Mark Willacy. “Crews ‘facing 100-year battle’ at Fukushima.” ABC News. April 1, 2011.
Markinen, Julie, and Ralph Vartabedian. ‘Containing a calamity creates another nuclear nightmare.’ April 9, 2011. environment/
Storm van Leeuwen, Jan Willem. ‘Nuclear power insights.’ the energy balance. 2008.
Tabuchi, Hiroko. “Japanese Prime Minister Says Government Shares Blame for Nuclear Disaster.” New York Times, March 3, 2012. 03/04/world/asia/
Wald, Matthew. “U.S. Reactors Unprepared for Total Power Loss, Report Suggests.” New York Times, June 15, 2011. /2011 /06/ 15/

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