Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The lessons learnt from Fukushima

The lessons learnt from Fukushima

13 MARCH 2011

In the continuing aftermath of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake on Friday, Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas MP said:"Our thoughts are with the people of Japan, who have suffered such an enormous tragedy.

"The Green Party expresses our sincere condolences to all those affected by this disaster. The UK and EU governments must begin to immediately mobilise all possible aid to assist Japan.

"1351 is the estimated death toll so far, but there are perhaps tens of thousands people missing in Miyagi alone. Four million people have been left without electricity amid the destruction in Tokyo.

"Clearly, the nuclear incidents at Fukushima, and elsewhere in Japan since the earthquake, are collectively one of the worst in the 50-year history of the international nuclear industry.

"There may have been a partial meltdown of the fuel rods at reactor #1 at Fukushima Daiichi. There may be a partial meltdown underway at reactor #3 of Fukushima Daiichi. Engineers are pumping seawater into reactor #3, a reactor that uses a mixed-oxide fuel which contains plutonium, making the problem potentially more serious. As well, at Tokai No.2 nuclear power plant, in Ibaraki, the cooling system pump has stopped. Finally, at a third complex in Onagawa, radiation levels are above safety margins.

"In terms of lessons learnt, we welcome Chris Huhne's announcement that the Chief Nuclear Inspector, Dr. Mike Weightman will produce a report on the implications of the situation in Japan for the UK. (1)

"We also support the European Green Party's call for an EU-level inquiry into the wider implications of the nuclear accident in Japan. This must assess the safety of nuclear reactors in general, and in earthquake situations in particular, looking at reactors in the EU and neighbouring countries.

"It appears that the Fukushima Daiichi complex was affected not by the quake per se, but the failure of grid electricity and back-up diesel electricity supply for cooling, and that could easily happen elsewhere.

"Nuclear power carries inherent risks, and is particularly vulnerable to the potentially deadly combination of human error, design failure, and natural disaster. Given that there are cheaper, quicker, and crucially safer, ways of meeting our energy needs and emisson reduction targets, it is particularly perverse here in the UK to launch the building of a fleet of new nuclear power stations.

"In the UK, nuclear power provide less than 4% of our energy. We urgently need to meet short-term targets to prevent the risk of runaway climate change. Nuclear power cannot help with that, but significant state-led investments in renewable power and energy efficiency could.

"The problem with a centralised electrical grid is the prospect of failures that affect millions of people. Basing our energy system around a decentralised energy grid would avoid this." (2)


1) Chris Huhne, in Nov 2007, referred to nuclear power as a"tried, tested and failed technology which was clearly a costly blind alley."

2) For more info on decentralised energy systems, please click here.

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