It’s a Very Small World when it comes to radioactivity

In the United Kingdom we hear little about Fukushima these days. It is as though the nuclear accident never happened as we get on with organising the finance, at taxpayer’s risk and expense, of new nuclear generating power stations in so called partnership with the French energy firm, EDF. However, the world is a small place and radioactivity from the Fukushima accident is beginning to spread,

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Fukushima Update

When the Fukushima earthquake and Tsunami happened in 2011 1,607 people died. Since then the Japanese authorities believe that more than 1,656 people have died as a result of the stress, tension, disease and problems that they have suffered as a result of the nuclear accident. 136,000 people are still displaced; some of them are searching for a permanent home in Fukushima alone. Continue reading

Caesium at Fukushima

Two days ago Tokyo Electric Power Co informed the world that in samples of groundwater from under the Fukushima nuclear power plant they found (per litre) 37 giga becquerels of caesium-134 and 93 giga becquerels of caesium-137. The well from which the samples were taken is only fifty yards frpm the coast and these readings are the highest recorded of caesium. Continue reading

Destroying What We have Created

It is easy for humans to create dangerous substances, or substances which have a potentially dangerous effect if created in volume, than it is for humans to destroy what they have created. Almost any nation can build a nuclear power plant, but rendering safe the toxic nuclear waste is beyond our technology; we have to compromise on safety, as the events at Fukushima graphically illustrate, where people are trying to extract the spent uranium rods and render them less dangerous by enclosing them in cooling water. Continue reading

Dismantling Fuel Rods at Fukushima

Work is starting at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan to remove nuclear fuel rods from one of the reactor buildings. It will take time. Continue reading

The Most Important Issue

At the moment the world news is dominated by the possibility and the United States will drop a few bombs on Syria and then run away, causing deaths and resentment in many places by interfering (rather than preventing) a hideous civil war. Mr Obama has spoken and now will, like Mr Cameron, attempt to deflect some the responsibility of a course of action which may be contrary to International Law by seeking safety in numbers, spreading the decision to bomb or not to bomb, among the American congressmen and senators. However much this news dominates the world media it is not, in my view, the most important news to break. Continue reading

The Over Optimistic Attitude to Nuclear Energy

People who support and develop nuclear power are very optimistic. Even when disaster strikes they claim that the disaster is nothing to get hung about and that leaking radioactivity is not harmful to help. These optimists have boundless confidence in the ability of humanity to control the physical processes involved in generating nuclear energy combined with a failure to understand that humanity can never fully control the forces of nature. Continue reading

We shall force the future generations to make sacrifices for us…

As the United Kingdom and EDF are working out the final terms of the long term contract that EDF requires before it builds a nuclear power plant in Hinckley Point in Somerset, Tokyo Electric Power Company announced that the electricity supply to the cooling system at the damaged Fukushima power plant had failed for four spent reactor ponds at three reactors. Apparently a rat had bitten through the electrical supply shutting down some of the cooling systems. Continue reading

A Dangerous Necessity?

The Japanese are the only nation upon which atomic bombs have been dropped. They have always had a cautious approach to nuclear power, but nevertheless have managed to create an economy under which a third of their electrical power was dependent upon nuclear energy. After Fukushima the Government put the decision to continue to operate nuclear power plants in the hands of the municipalities, and within a few months of the nuclear accident at Fukushima all nuclear power plants in Japan were closed down, temporarily.

Nuclear energy is important to the Japanese economy. It is not important because it is cheap – nuclear energy is not cheap over its whole life cycle, but it is important because it is there. Japan has little in the way of fuel for energy and having decided to invest in nuclear energy, once that investment no longer produces a return, returning to fossil fuel becomes expensive and requires more investment.

In order to counter this when the nuclear power plants were closed down the Japanese campaigned for people to use 15% less electricity. It is a sensible campaign. In Japan as in every other nation much energy is wasted. By that I do not mean that everyone wastes energy, but many people and businesses do, and reducing consumption by 15% is probably a rather modest aim.

But governments, who mainly want to get re elected and often forget the reasons why the put themselves forward for election in the first place, get worried is they feel that they might not get re elected. The economy, stupid, is probably what determines the results of elections and as most governments’ foresight is mainly limited to the next election the Japanese government is becoming worried that using fossil fuel, which for Japan is more expensive than the already paid for nuclear reactors, is sending the price of electricity high and will make goods more expensive thus damaging exports thus creating unemployment.

As a result the Japanese are proposing to restart two nuclear power plants. If they do the price of electricity may fall, the economy may improve and that may pave the way for starting more nuclear power plants, although the one at Fukushima will never, I expect, come back into operation. As nuclear power plants are located on the coasts in order to use the ocean as a device to cool the large amounts of heat generated by the power plants, I expect the Japanese, much like the rest of the world, are praying that no new tsunami occurs.

The Japanese are unfortunately qualified to make judgements about nuclear power, and must decide whether nuclear power is a dangerous necessity or dangerous luxury.


Radioactive Food

We are constantly advised that nuclear energy is safe and that the fallout from nuclear incidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima has been insignificant. This, I hope is true, but fears linger on. Some good nuclear news happened recently when restrictions on moving sheep in Cumbria and North Wales are finally removed. Continue reading