Ten years after the Fukushima disaster, recovery continues

Mar 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm The northeast coast of Japan was shocked by one of the strongest earthquakes on record in the region. It measured 9 on the Richter scale and caused a tsunami with waves up to 40 meters high along the main island of Honshos. Entire houses and cities were wiped out. 18,000 people though.

The crisis deepened when a giant wave swept through the Fukushima nuclear power plant and flooded the emergency generators that were put into operation to cool down the reactors that shut down when the earthquake struck. The temperature of the nuclear fuel rose, and there were a number of chemical explosions and radioactive material leaked into the atmosphere and the Pacific Ocean. Panic broke out.

Ago The Japanese government pumped more than 2,000 billion SEK into the clean-up after the accident. The work continues today. It is estimated that tens of thousands of workers will be required over the next 30-40 years to safely transport nuclear waste and more than a million tons of radioactive water.

Tsunami disaster after the earthquake that erupted over Miyako city on March 11, 2011.

Photo: Mainichi Shimbun / Reuters

The area closest to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant remains besieged by the high levels of radiation. Here, the radiation is fifty times higher than what is considered safe. Residents wishing to visit their homes must wear protective clothing and should not stay overnight.

In other areas, the researchers claim the risk is low because the residual radiation will cause cancer and other diseases. But there is suspicion among the population. Many have not yet returned home. Some decide to stay elsewhere forever, either out of fear of the radiation or reluctance to return to a place with bad memories.

Decontamination of radioactive contamination in Fukushima District 2018. Decontamination devices collect radioactive soil and seal it in bags.

Decontamination of radioactive contamination in Fukushima District 2018. Decontamination devices collect radioactive soil and seal it in bags.

Photo: Thomas Carlson

At the same time, there is a heated debate about the future of Japan’s electricity supply. Since the accident, the share of nuclear energy in the energy mix has drastically decreased. In 2011, Japan had 54 reactors in operation and nuclear power accounted for a third of the country’s electricity supply. Not so controversial, two-thirds of Japanese supported nuclear power.

After the accident Most nuclear power plants have shut down, and today only four are in operation. Many prominent politicians, including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, believe that very few countries should achieve the goal of climate neutrality by 2050. Supporters of nuclear power point out that Japan is poor in natural resources. Admittedly, they are investing heavily in wind and solar energy. But to achieve its goal, nuclear power must once again take up a larger share of the energy mix, they say.

Opponents of nuclear energy demonstrate in Tokyo on March 7 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Opponents of nuclear energy demonstrate in Tokyo on March 7 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Photo: Philippe Fong / AFP

But the issue is politically sensitive. Since the accident, public opinion has wavered and the majority of Japanese are now against nuclear power.

Read more: The cleaning process has just begun in Fukushima

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