Fukushima Continue to Rock Japan

Sarah Rockwood, Staff Writer

In March 2011, the world was devastated when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit Japan, the strongest ever recorded there.  It triggered a massive tsunami that barraged the coastline and resulted in thousands of deaths.  To make matters worse, the tsunami also generated a level seven nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant just 150 miles North of Tokyo.

More than two years after the tragic incident, the dilemma is still a pressing issue.  Residents near Fukushima were forced to evacuate during the meltdown and haven’t been able to return home since.  Some doubt that they ever will.  Now the Tokyo Electric and Power Co., a private, for-profit company, is cracking down on the problems the unstable plant poses to Japan and the rest of the world.  The cleanup won’t be easy, or even successful, and the unresolved mess of Fukushima illustrates why nuclear energy should be abandoned.

Many people forgot about the meltdown once the excitement died down and Japan started to recover, but the situation is still far from being stabilized.  The tsunami not only caused the meltdown, but also destroyed many of the plant’s previous safety systems.  The 19-foot wall that was supposed to protect the plant from major damage was demolished and it hasn’t been repaired.  The framework of the buildings partially collapsed, and it hasn’t been fortified.  The plant is much more vulnerable to damage now than it was two years ago; any repeat of the same catastrophe would have far greater consequences.

In order to keep the reactors cool, pipes full of radioactive waste must be run through the Pacific Ocean.  But a leak in the tanks has led to several hundred tons of radioactive water being spilled into the Pacific.  Fish in the surrounding waters now contain concentrations of the radioactive element Cesium which are 250 times the amount allowed by the Japanese government. This contaminated water is spreading across the Pacific Ocean and could affect the West Coast, including California.

Starting in November, TEPCO adopted a year-long plan to remove the 100,000 fuel rods still located in reactor four.  Japan has been under much pressure to stabilize the situation in Fukushima because it threatens many nations around the world.  Even the West Coast might be endangered by nuclear runoff.

But the plan to remove the threat from reactor four only scratches the surface of the real problem.  The fourth reactor was offline when the tsunami hit, and didn’t actually meltdown.  Reactors one, two, and three are the unstable danger zones. They caused an actual meltdown and are currently inaccessible to humans.  The radioactivity is so severe that no one has been inside since the meltdown and the exact location of the fuels rods is unknown.  That means there are hundreds of tons of nuclear fuel unaccounted for and unreachable.  There is currently no plan to remove the rods in these three reactors aside from praying that nothing happens until the technology to do so is developed.

The pressing threat of another Fukushima meltdown brings the danger of nuclear technology close to home.  While nuclear energy may be powerful and a major source of electricity, it is too dangerous for us to sanction because it’s too difficult to control.  We need to start putting more resources into alternative energy sources that are safer and more manageable.  It may be a difficult transition, but the crisis in Japan is a sign that nuclear energy is too dangerous a gamble.

Freshman Madison Alvarado takes a stand against the use of nuclear technology.  “While [nuclear power plants] may be an efficient source of energy, the risks involved outweigh the energy gained.  It makes me nervous that something so powerful could malfunction and affect everyone around,” Alvarado said.

The crisis at Fukushima is far from being stabilized and many more people than the local residents in Japan are at risk.  Our current technology cannot to resolve the mess we created and any further consequences are unimaginable.  We need to eradicate the danger of nuclear power while we still can.  The scope of nuclear technology is out of our hands; experimenting with nuclear energy is like playing with fire.  It’s only a matter of time until we get burned.