Nuclear Refugees

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World in Danger: From Fukushima to California

 

Is the world ready for nuclear refugees?

This was all I could think of on our way home from the talk, World in Danger: From Fukushima to California, held in Berkeley, CA last Sunday (November 22). 

Now that the world has been facing more catastrophes than ever, with natural disasters happening almost daily over the last decade, causing countless deaths everywhere, we must all be present – mindful of each other. We must all look around, assess and reassess what else could be out there that we put up to make life easy then (when we did not know any better) but could cause a lot of danger to us now or in the future.

The talk focused on nuclear plant disasters. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen presented these four conclusions (in bold) concerning the nuclear disaster that is Fukushima:

 

1. Meltdowns are going to happen frequently.

Disasters are going to be more frequent. We have never experienced so many catastrophes, and increasing year after year, so much so that we have embraced it as the new normal. What does this mean? In 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (located in the Pacific Ocean Coast) suffered severely from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. This was dubbed the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. A study estimated human mortality at 10,000, plus 1500 from cancer from the accident. A separate study on thyroid cancer concerns among the children of Fukushima is also being faithfully and meticulously monitored. With earthquakes and tsunamis happening more frequently than ever, we can almost be sure meltdowns are going to happen just as frequently.

 

2. Increased Disaster Severity.

Consequences are getting worse. Gundersen showed us this photo of Chernobyl’s “elephant foot”, and added there would be so much radiation if it was in the room where we’re in for the talk.

Elephant's foot, Chernobyl Disaster, 1986.

Now, in Fukushima, the tsunami knocked out the pumps along the water in the Power Plant, and without the Ultimate Heat Sink, the meltdown happened. Again, thousands died and the survivors barely really survived, especially with the threat of cancer. That nuclear power plant must have been so solid and “too big to fail”, but, as Gundersen puts it, “there is nothing Mother Nature can throw at us that could not destroy us.” Let us remember that there are still so many nuclear power plants around the world. Just a big tap from Mother Nature and we wouldn’t know what would happen next.

 

3. It could have been much worse.

Gundersen believes that it is the combination of luck and courage that saved the people of Japan during the Fukushima disaster. He said there could have been much more damage had the accident happen in the middle of the night, and had direction of the wind been different. He also heralded the courage of the manager and the team who stayed there as the incident takes place. The lesson? When caught in the middle of a natural catastrophe and technological failure, we should stand firm and be bold.

 

4. Radiation has no border.

Nuclear plant disasters are, well, disastrous. The Fukushima nuclear plant, long after the disaster, remains a threat. Gundersen mentioned a leak of 400 tons of radioactive waters a day into the Pacific Ocean. [What could have been happening to marine life all these years?]  And this is just one. Imagine how many more Fukushimas would be if massive earthquakes happen where nuclear power plants are? Diablo Canyon, which was also highlighted in the talk by another speaker, Mary Beth Brangan of EON-Ecological Options Network, apparently still holds tons of nuclear waste.  It is even branded as California’s Fukushima.

Video Credit: Business Insider

 

I sharply remember one of Gundersen’s lines — nuclear is the only power in the world that could wipe out the human race.

With all these talks about refugees, especially them not being welcomed to certain places, it makes me think. What if the same thing happens to us? What, if by a devastating stroke of misfortune, a meltdown happens (or a leak that causes severe radiation) that people near these nuclear power plants would be forced to move to your country because they need to live? Would you welcome them and make sure they survive? Or what if it is you who would have to move because you need to live? How would you feel if people wouldn’t want to take you in because you pose a threat because of the radiation you could be carrying? Is the world ready for nuclear refugees?

We do not want another Fukushima.

 

Take a stand now.

 

Iva Maurin

Iva Maurin

Iva is a Communications Specialist with an over-a-decade experience in environmental community work in the Philippines. As an environment educator, she focuses on events organization and IEC materials development. She’s now based in California and works in publications in San Francisco. She’s also the Creative Content Editor for the Global Filipino Network.
Iva Maurin
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