There was good news yesterday, or rather goodish news, from Japan. The Fukushima Daiishi nuclear plant has reached the stage of cold shutdown, and the nuclear reactors are now stabilised. The reactors need to be decommissioned and this process will take many years. It will also take many years to clean up, of for natural forces to clean up the contamination that has leaked into the surrounding sea and countryside.
There will continue to be leaks of radioactive material. The reactor plants have been badly damaged by the earthquake and the tsunami and it is inevitable that all of the contained nuclear material will not remained contained, but the leaks will be less dangerous now that the Japanese have stabilied the reactors, which means that they will not heat up and create further heat stresses which will provide opportunities for more leaks.
It is far too early to understand exactly what danger has been created and exactly how many people will have died as a direct result of the nuclear accident. Let us all hope that it will be few and the environmental problems will be resolved.
What is abundantly clear is that the cost of the Fukushima disaster has been tremendous and will continue to be tremendous over the next decades. Those who think nuclear power is a cheap option should bear this in mind and think again, because however clever we are accidents will happen and however strong we can build nature can unravel forces which are stronger.