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The Fourth Reactor and the Destiny of Japan

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  • Romi Elnagar
    NOTE:  This article by former UN diplomat Akio Matsumura was published in September, 2011, but since Reactor Number Four at Fukushima has--fortunately!--not
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 28, 2012
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      NOTE:  This article by former UN diplomat Akio Matsumura was published in September, 2011, but since Reactor Number Four at Fukushima has--fortunately!--not collapsed as yet, it still remains relevant.
      Hajja Romi/Blue


      The Fourth Reactor and the Destiny of Japan
      September 29, 2011
      By Akio Matsumura
      This article is available in Japanese.

      Since the accident at the Fukuhsima Daichi nuclear power plants, I
      have presented the opinions of several eminent scientists on the
      Fukushima disaster and we have received many insightful responses.  I as a layman am learning new terminologies and of potential problems that
      could continue to affect the area for hundreds of years.
      The Fourth Reactor at Fukushima
      From population to democracy, the issues I have studied in four
      decades of international work seem rather shortsighted when compared to a potential nuclear disaster that would affect our descendants for perhaps twenty thousand years.
      As you are well aware, in January 2011 I began a campaign for the
      global survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The strong supporting articles several experts have contributed have
      encouraged me, and many political friends assure me that the message
      will not go unheard. They concur that my proposal is timely and would
      help increase the public awareness of risks associated with nuclear
      weapons.
      However, the Fukushima nuclear disaster has convinced me that this
      campaign does not fully address the nuclear issue. I am now worried that nuclear power plants present a comparable risk to that of nuclear
      weapons—leaked radiation can make large areas uninhabitable for
      centuries. The area around Fukushima may come to be one. Thinking of the possible magnitude of such a disaster has led me to consider the
      balance between world energy needs and safety for human civilization.
      UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a high-level meeting on
      Nuclear Safety and Security on September 22, 2011, during the 66th UN General Assembly. The meeting built upon action by the international community to enhance nuclear safety and the international emergency
      preparedness and response framework in the wake of the accident at the
      Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
      Ban said “The effects of nuclear accidents respect no borders. To
      adequately safeguard our people, we must have strong international
      consensus and action. We must have strong international safety
      standards, The message has been clear and unified: we cannot accept
      business as usual — and we all have a stake in getting it right,
      Clearly, there is a compelling need for greater transparency and open
      accountability. We must rebuild public trust.”
      The Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)
      were widely criticized as hardly reliable adjudicators in the
      controversy of the actual timing of the meltdown of the reactors and
      other information relating to the crisis. These transparency and
      accountability are tightly linked to nuclear energy and are cause for
      concern.
      Although inexcusable and in need of repair, these deficiencies are
      partially due to the complexity of the nuclear issue and its place at
      the top of the national security agenda.
      1. Nuclear related terrorist issues (proliferation) present the largest existential threat to a country. The nuclear issue may lead to vast and varied consequences, but always begins with the construction of a
      nuclear power plant.
      2. A nuclear accident would require a large, immediate evacuation of a huge area.
      3. Decision makers fear a large accident could trigger societal and thus political backlash.
      4. Government and the nuclear power industry are both responsible for
      and have a large stake in finding plausible solutions to nuclear crises.
      Any loss incurred from nuclear war or a dirty bomb would be
      incalculable, but even a single mistake at any one of the 440 nuclear
      power plants worldwide would cause a tremendous human and environmental
      loss for many years. We have to remember that our technology is powerless before the power of nature.
      Government and industry transparency is vital, especially after a
      nuclear accident has occurred. In order to ease the public’s tension,
      politicians should always prepare for the worst case scenario. With a
      well prepared response, people will be more likely to react practically
      and adapt to a dangerous situation. Unfortunately, Japan has not done
      this.
      In the last weeks, I have been speaking constantly with Japanese
      government and party leaders on this urgent issue. Surprisingly, most of them were not aware of the dangerous situation. I, along with many
      eminent scientists, are emphasizing the precarious situation of the
      fourth reactor that contains 1,535 nuclear fuel rods in the pool and is
      balanced on the second floor, outside of the reactor containment vessel. If the fuel rods spill onto the ground, disaster will ensue and force
      Tokyo and Yokohama to close, creating a gigantic evacuation zone. All
      scientists I have talked with say that if the structure collapses we
      will be in a situation well beyond where science has ever gone. The
      destiny of Japan will be changed and the disaster will certainly
      compromise the security of neighboring countries and the rest of the
      world in terms of health, migration and geopolitics.  The Japanese
      government should immediately create an independent assessment team to
      determine the structural integrity of the spent fuel pool and its
      supporting structure. This is of the highest importance: the structure’s security is critical to the country’s future.
      Before March 11, I had never imagined that the destiny of Japan or any country could be altered so quickly, so drastically.
      Nuclear power plants present many new challenges with consequences we have never faced. We need to reconsider, in a practical and moral lens, their worth in regard to possible negative consequences for future
      generations.
      Sir Brian Flowers, a prominent British nuclear physicist pointed out
      that if nuclear power plants had been built and deployed in Europe
      before WWII, then large parts of Europe would be uninhabitable today
      because of conventional warfare and conventional sabotage directed
      against those nuclear plants. An insufficient power supply to the plant
      would deliver the same end.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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