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Nuclear Power Plant, Nuclear Weapons and Humans’ Future: A Month from East Japan Great Earthquake

Hiroshi TAKA
Representative Director, Gensuikyo

Massive support and assistance is being extended nationally and internationally to the sufferers of the huge earthquake and tsunamis that hit the eastern Japan on March 11, and of the subsequent damage caused by the nuclear power plant accident. As an organization that has worked for relieving the survivors of atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ensuring the survival of human race, we are now carrying out nationwide activities to relieve the sufferers.

Many heart-warming messages of solidarity and support to the victims have been sent to us. Most touching among them are certainly the letters of encouragement coming from the victims of nuclear accidents and nuclear testing around the world, including in the USA, the former Soviet Union and Pacific Islands.

The devastating earthquake of magnitude 9.0, comparable to those happened off the Chilean Coast in 1960 or off the Sumatra Coast in 2004, generated tsunami waves as high as 30 meters in some places. They engulfed towns and villages on the Pacific Coast. The toll of dead has so far reached 12,000. In addition, about 16,000 people are missing and more than 160,000 people are forced to live in the shelters.

Ongoing Nuclear Crisis of Fukushima Power Plant

Along with the relief of the sufferers and recovery from the destruction, the most pressing task is to settle the current crisis of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and prevent further deterioration of the damage. Due to failure of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the government leaders and agencies in promptly responding to the crisis, radioactive contamination has already spread far beyond the evacuation zones within the radius of 20-kilometers from the plant, or even the area between 20 and 30 kilometers from the plant, where indoor sheltering is advised. In Iitate Village, 40 kilometers to the northwest of the plant, 163,000 becquerels of radioactive Cesium137 in 1kg of soil have been detected. In terms of radiation per square meter, this is equivalent to 3.2 million becquerels, an amount that exceeds by far the contamination level in the evacuation zone around Chernobyl Plant.

Prevent Another Chernobyl

The situation is getting worse. Highly radioactive water is flowing into the ground, the sea and the underground water in and around the plant site and makes the repair work more complicated and difficult. On April 2, 16 experts, all formerly holding leading positions in the Atomic Energy Society and the Nuclear Safety Commission, jointly issued a warning concerning the No.1, No.2 and No.3 reactors. They said, “ (In these reactors), the fuels have partly melted and accumulated in the bottom of reactor pressure vessels (RPV). With the current makeshift cooling, it is highly likely that the RPV wall will melt by heat and be broken through”. Many specialists in this field, prized by the mainstream media, have tried to reassure the public by saying that “it would not be another Chernobyl”. However, despite difference in the reactor type, the amount of fuels remaining in the three reactors in Fukushima Daiichi Plant is far bigger than those that exploded the No. 4 reactor in Chernobyl Plant. If the uranium and plutonium from the melting fuel rods reach the critical mass again, or the RPVs or the containment buildings melt by heat, or the hydrogen gas explosion occurs, the amount of radioactive substances that will scatter, contaminate the environment and cause exposures can be much more than that of the Chernobyl accident. And this is not all. Some other experts suggest the possibility that RPVs in Fukushima Daiichi Plant have already been partly damaged in their bottom. The situation admits no delay.

Urgent Measures to Accident Delayed

We attach importance to the following three points:
First, the government should do all that it can to cool down the reactors and contain the radioactivity, giving top priority to the safety of the people. It should mobilize all available knowledge and experiences. The “Tokyo Shinbun” reported on March 28 that on Mar. 11 when the earthquake and tsunamis hit the power plant, the Nuclear and Industrial Agency of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry anticipated already at 10:00pm that the suspension of the pouring water system would cause the exposure of the fuel rods from water in 50 minutes, and that the meltdown would start in another 2 hours. It planned to vent radioactive steam at 3:20am and explained about the plan to the prime minister. However, it was not implemented until 14:30 in the afternoon of Mar. 12, as many as16 hours after it was recommended.

The same thing happened to pouring water on the reactor cores. After the Emergency Core Cooling System (ECCS) got unavailable, pouring sea water or boric acid was recommended. But it was not put into practice until 30 hours later than the accident. Taking such an emergency measure as pouring sea water is said to be delayed from the hesitation of the parties concerned to do so, in fear of the reactors being rendered irreparable. If it is the case, the responsibility of those who delayed the response is heavy.

Neither Assumptions nor Solutions to Disasters

Continuing strong aftershocks make it urgent to make an all-out examination of existing 55 nuclear power plants at 17 places in Japan. The electric companies and the government, namely the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, have promoted the development of nuclear power in unison, boasting that “all possible measures against any disasters are set in place.” But in reality, none of 17 power plants have assumed a 10-meter high tsunami or even a higher one like one that came this time.

They have not assumed such big earthquakes, either, which was revealed not only by the earthquake of this time but by the Off Chuetsu earthquake in July 2007. It affected the Kashiwazaki Power Plant, whose generation of electric power was the largest in the world. Due to unexpectedly bigger shocks, the reactor came to an emergency halt. But a fire broke out at a substation with ECCS and, in addition, with lack of fire fighting system, it was about to be a catastrophe.

Stop Use of Plutonium Fuel

Since last year, the use of plutonium fuel either started or is planed to start soon at 10 power plants. The fast breeder-reactor “Monju” also was put under operation last year, although it quickly stopped due to another accident. The operation of the reprocessing plant at Rokkasho-mura also started despite strong voices of opposition, though it is currently out of operation. These dangerous attempts, all using plutonium, should immediately stop and be discarded. The planned construction of 14 new power plants should be cancelled. The prolonged operation of old power plants should be put to end.

Japan’s Energy Policy Be Reviewed

Japan’s energy policy has come into question now. The government and the industry have promoted the development of nuclear energy as a national policy. They even showed strong ambition to go into a world market. As the above statement of 16 experts suggest, they pursued the policy at the thought of yielding big profits; they have not fully considered and worked out solutions to possible danger of accidents.

Japan’s electricity generation consisted of coal (25%), natural gas (29%), kerosene (7%), water power (8%) and nuclear energy (29%). New energy only accounts for less than 1%. Yet since depending on nuclear energy means to sit back to back with the danger of radiation contamination on global level, a strategic shift to natural energy is unavoidable and in urgent need. Alternatives exist, including more efficient use of traditional energies, development of renewable energies such as solar, geothermal, biomass ones, combined with an effort to build a lower energy consumption society in which wasteful use of resources and energies is restrained.

All Possible Measures Be Taken to Rescue Victims

Another urgent task facing us is to rescue a large number of sufferers. One month after the disaster, the victims are getting to be encouraged by a nationwide relief effort by neighboring local governments, citizens and volunteers. But the time-consuming work of rehabilitation cannot be achieved only with goodwill of the people. The government should take drastic measures to relieve them. The tax cut in 2 trillion yen for big businesses and super riches, the 180 billion yen used as “considerate budget” and other wasteful money used for more than 135 US bases and facilities in Japan, and other expenditures for redundant public works and for a free expressway system should all be cancelled and the saved money be used for the relief of sufferers. The government should press for 2 trillion-yen internal reserves of TEPCO and a total of 244 trillion-yen internal reserves of Japan’s big enterprises to be used for the rehabilitation. So far, political parties in Japan, except the Communist Party, have kept silent about touching these “sanctuaries”.

Finally, although the gravity of disaster is not easily measured by a simple comparison, we can see that the toll of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings was even far more than the number of the victims by the recent disaster. In these two cities alone, 210,000 people died by the end of 1945, and even after that, the A-bomb damage has continued till today to take the lives of those who survived. Those killed by the two atomic bombs are countless.

Nuclear Arms – Worst Misuse of Nuclear Energy

The worst of the worst misuses of the nuclear energy is to build nuclear weapons. It will soon be 66 years from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In these years, increasing of people’s awareness about what actually happened under the mushroom cloud has contributed to building up a world opinion in favor of elimination of nuclear weapons.

The disaster that hit the eastern part of Japan also teaches us a new lesson: The high level of abilities and resources the humans have acquired should not be used for wars, armament, or unlimited speculations and wastes. Instead, they should be used for the realization of a peaceful and just world through eradicating hunger and poverty, overcoming diseases and disasters, improving welfare and education and settling disputes and confrontations. A total ban on nuclear weapons remains an urgent and crucial task for this. It is the task humans can work in solidarity for their survival.

Committed to this task, we call on you to support and participate in the 2011 World Conference against A and H Bombs to be planned in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 3-9. We are resolved to do utmost effort to develop solidarity among the grass-root movements of the peoples of the world for achieving a peaceful and just world without nuclear weapons.

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