Not since the nuclear disasters of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island have we seen a nuclear meltdown as severe as the incident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan in March of 2011. Among alternative energy sources to biofuels and greenhouse gas emitters, nuclear energy is perhaps the most controversial of these alternative sources, and with good reason.
Anti-nuclear power plant rally at the Meiji Shrine complex in Tokyo on Sep 19, 2011.
On one fateful day in March 2011, the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Plant and its six reactors were subject to a heavy earthquake. Emergency generators and cooling systems quickly turned on to ensure the continued safety of the water reactors still online after the earthquake. However, an unanticipated tsunami following said earthquake flooded the rooms which happened to house the emergency generators which powered the backup cooling systems. The coolant ceased to be circulated and cooled, and the hot fuel rods began to evaporate their coolant. After the coolant disappeared, the fuel rods began to melt through their cooled housing, releasing much radioactive contaminants into the surrounding area.
As a result of the disaster that began to unfold, people were evacuated and forced to leave their homes to avoid the radioactive contamination. However people are still affected to this day by the contamination released by this disaster. According to research on the disaster, over one third of the children of Fukushima suffer growths in their thyroid glands. A significant increase in the risk of cancer development for residents near Fukushima was noted by the WHO, indicating a lasting contamination of the area surrounding the plant. This includes increased risk of thyroid cancer, leukemia and breast cancer. Another noted side effect has been infertility. Little has been studied as to the extent of the contamination worldwide as a result of this incident.
The stories of the Fukushima meltdown and many other nuclear disasters spell out the clear disadvantages of nuclear energy sources. The lives of those affected by the disaster have been forever changed, perhaps for the worst. Fukushima should stand as a warning to those who want to take advantage of the near-limitless potential of nuclear energy and to consider the consequences of a widespread nuclear meltdown as a result of ignorance or neglect. Perhaps less dangerous alternative energy sources should be researched before we return to consider nuclear power as a viable source, especially in light of the widespread impact that a nuclear disaster can have on the surrounding environment and the people who reside in it.