In the country that has experienced what some say is the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, thousands of citizens protesting against the use of nuclear power gathered this weekend to send a clear message to the Japanese government to at best discontinue the use of nuclear power throughout the country, and at worst tighten safety and security protocols.
In March, as a result of a 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami, there was a cooling failure at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on the east coast of Japan north of Tokyo [approximately 225km northeast of Tokyo]. Thereafter, the looming threat of a reactor core meltdown led to the evacuation of more than 80,000 people in the region, and a country concerned with the integrity of their air, water and food supply.
On the heels of the disaster, the Japanese government shut down many nuclear plants, and is currently operating on only 35% of its nuclear facilities. The hot summer season will bring restrictions on air conditioning and many other power drains, as the country will no doubt face severe power shortages. The potential extent and impact of these shortages is not yet known, but what is known is that Japan does not have enough mechanisms to generate power to replace the power generated by the closed nuclear facilities.
According to Al Jazeera, official reports released earlier in the week said the damage and leakage at the plant was worse than previously thought, with nuclear fuel in three reactors likely melting and collecting in the bottom of the cores and some seeping into the inner containment vessels, and that given the marked integrity the Japanese reactors had over the Russian-built reactors at Chernobyl, the radiation leak was only about 17% as much as was leaked in the Ukraine in 1986.
In the latest IAEA briefing on the Fukushima Nuclear Accident [June 2], the organization ascertained that overall, the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious.
Protesters in France joined in local protests in solidarity with their Japanese counterparts and pockets of anti-nuclear protests were conducted in other countries, marking the three month anniversary of the disaster. It remains to be seen whether this particular disaster sparks a global anti-nuclear trend. My guess is that a year from now, no one will remember. Until the next disaster happens, of course.