Written by Sue Prent
There is an atmosphere of bitter irony attached to the decision by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration to rush restart of the country’s dormant nuclear reactors despite distrust of nuclear energy and fervent disapproval by more than 70% of Japan’s citizens.
Last week, Sendai I became the first reactor to return to service after four years of inactivity following the triple meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactors.
While the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown radiation releases are ongoing and its owner TEPCO is spewing millions of gallons of highly toxic radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese government and Kyushu Electric Power Company, operator of the Sendai reactors, barely allowed the 70th anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to pass, before pushing Sendai I into service.
“The NRA [Nuclear Regulatory Agency] has failed to apply robust safety measures to the Sendai reactor… the NRA approved an assessment by Kyushu Electric Power, which excluded major seismic risks at the Sendai plant and violated the NRA’s own post-Fukushima safety guidelines; an analysis commissioned by Greenpeace Japan in February showed that the NRA also accepted a flawed volcano risk analysis from Kyushu Electric Power for the active volcano Mt. Sakurajima, located only 50km from the reactor site.”
As if to validate citizen and environmental concerns, Sakurajima, an active volcano only twenty-five miles from the Sendai reactor site appears poised for an imminent and possibly major eruption.
The inherent tragedy in Japan’s official push to restart its reactors lies in the false premise used to justify its re-commitment to nuclear energy. Continuing to carve out a place for nuclear power in the country’s energy profile will satisfy the banks, who funded the idled nuclear reactors, and will undermine the growth of wind, wave, and solar power which have the real potential to move Japan away from costly and polluting fossil and nuclear fuels. Follow the nuclear banking debacle with Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen.
More disturbing, the new generation of so-called more efficient reactor technology long imagined by the nuclear industry never materialized in operation, so once the aging and seismically unqualified reactors go online again, the volume of radioactive waste will continue to grow without important seismic qualifications and a safe and secure long-term disposal location or plan for such extensive highly toxic radioactive waste.
In an island nation where every square foot of property must be thoughtfully conserved and where land is subjected to devastating tsunamis and destructive earthquakes, what to do with nuclear waste that must be protected and sequestered for millennia represents an even larger problem for Japan than for any other country currently facing the challenge of storing waste for 250,000 years.
Japanese culture reflects a keen appreciation that nature has two distinct aspects, one which is beautiful and serene; and a second, fraught with terrible potential for destruction. It is a part of an ancient Pacific heritage to accept that nature will periodically sweep away the artifacts of human ambition. So profound is this paradox that it has found unrivaled expression in the greatest creations of traditional Japanese arts.
Setting aside the critical lessons of the flawed nuclear paradigm that created the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown in order to preserve corporate profitability flies in the face of Japan’s traditional wisdom and invites intercession by the scolding hand of nature.
After all the Japanese people endured as a result of human folly during the past seventy years, it is no wonder that the long-suffering people of Japan are overwhelmingly opposed to a nuclear future.
Why have they been so callously overruled?