Counting the human cost of nuclear power development
THERE ARE certain images we come across that have a powerful impact. This week one such photo was making the rounds online. It is an image of a small Japanese child, perhaps two years of age donned in a warm winter jacket. A woman, presumably his mother, stands behind him holding his arms by the wrists spread out in the air on either side of him.
A man wearing a white coat, a white cap and a white mask over his mouth and nose squats in front of the boy just over a metre away. In his outstretched hand he holds a metal device he is pointing directly towards the child's chest.
It is a photo of a child who was living within the exposure area around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant following the devastating earthquake and tsunami. He was being screened for potential nuclear radiation exposure and one look at his face reveals he is utterly scared and confused.
An image as powerful and moving as this will undoubtedly leave you wandering if we're on the right track when it comes to finding alternative power sources. There is a real human cost involved with the development of nuclear power, not since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 has it been quite so apparent.
The earthquake and tsunami were of course a natural disaster against which humans had no power. What we do have power over is whether or not, and indeed where, we continue to construct and develop nuclear power plants which have proven they can be time bombs sitting idle until some human error or a destructive event from mother nature unleashes it.
There is one clear question that comes of all this - is the development of nuclear energy worth the potential human cost? Are the immeasurable immediate and longer term impacts on the human victims worth its continuation?
When does the time come to say perhaps it's time to take that intelligence and really begin to focus on and explore other options? We hear enough about alternatives like wind farm energy to know that these are already being explored and put into use.
Why then simply accept the further development of nuclear power as an inevitable fact without question? We're all working to save this planet and secure the future of the human race and the need to create new and renewable sources of energy is undeniable.
This week a top government spokesperson in Japan revealed the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant must be scrapped and ' abnormal levels' of radiation had again been detected in milk and spinach taken from up to 140km from the plant.
The financial cost of any such disaster is always massive, and most recently the World Bank has put the potential cost of the earthquake and tsunami at $US235 billion. Add to the equation a nuclear plant that has been rendered useless and it only increases the sense that the cost both financially and otherwise may be getting too high.
With more and more countries looking to embrace and develop nuclear power in the future, perhaps now is the time to ask these questions before we go one step too far.
Already the United States has revealed they will be reassessing where future nuclear power plants are built.
That is at least a start and something of an acknowledgement that the time has come for all countries to be reviewing their nuclear situation.