Volatile nature of nuclear power exposed in Japan
THERE’S has been a renewed debate in Australia about the advisability of nuclear power with supporters arguing that it is a very safe and regulated industry now.
With the earthquake in Japan damaging two nuclear plants it is time to tell the other side of the story. On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, The Guardian reports the Japanese government was warned long ago about the risks it faced in building nuclear reactors in an earthquake zone. http:// www. guardian. co. uk/ world/ 2 0 1 1 / mar /12/ japan-ministers - ignored-warnings-nuclear.
In 2007, Prof of Urban Safety at Kobe University and seismologist, Ishibashi Katsuhiko, said specifically, ‘‘ that such an accident was highly likely to occur. Nuclear power plants in Japan have a ‘ fundamental vulnerability’ to major earthquakes".
According to Katsuhiko, the problem is that Japan began building up its atomic energy system 40 years ago, when seismic activity in the country was comparatively low. This affected the designs of plants which were not built to robust enough standards, the seismologist argues. Apart from a few technical issues, Chernobyl was basically about human error.
The problem in Japan would seem to be about technical design except that in 2002, the president of the country’s largest power utility being forced to resign after he and other senior officials were suspected of falsifying nuclear plant safety records.
What are the lessons Australia can draw from the Japanese experience? The line that the technology is almost foolproof is revealed to be a foolish because people with a vested interest will always be tempted to cover up accidents.
So there will be accidents in storage of nuclear waste; accidents in accounting for all the plutonium; accidents in that the countries we sell our uranium may not honour their non-proliferation agreements. And so on.
All in all nuclear power is one big accident waiting to happen.
JENNY STIRLING, Qld Greens spokeswoman.
DANGER LURKS: The Okuma nuclear power plant before and after an
explosion brought on by the earthquake