'Souteigai' or 'beyond imagination', said the Japanese government spokesman when the tsunami waves rolled across a 300-kilometre-long strip of coastline. 'Souteigai' was also the word used in self-justification by nuclear plant owner TEPCO in reference to the meltdown at Fukushima. And 'Souteigai' was the thought on people's minds as they were forced to watch the black water rolling over houses and people and flattening everything – and on the minds of the 80,000 evacuees who lost their homes because of Fukushima.
Until the Fukushima accident, Japan had 55 operating nuclear reactors as well as enrichment and reprocessing plants which had suffered a series of deadly accidents at its nuclear facilities resulting in the deaths of workers and releases of radioactivity into the environment and surrounding communities. Since the Fukushima disaster, there is growing opposition against re-opening those reactors closed for maintenance.
SimplyInfo has reported that from Japan to the U.S. and Germany, nuclear evacuation zones are inadequate to deal with real world risks shown by what happened -- and is still happening -- at and around the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, even out to great distances. The article reported:
The US plans show an evacuation zone of about 10 miles (16km), half of what Japan has now moved to. The US has also quietly instituted changes in late 2011 to scale back evacuation plans based on some pre-Fukushima calculations now proven by Fukushima to be unrealistic. The NRC revisions to evacuation zones include a number of ideas we know to be not accurate:
—Accidents will develop more slowly than thought.
Fukushima was drastically faster than the NRC assumes. 15 hours, not multiple days.
—Buildings designed to contain radiation leaks will hold.
Fukushima proved this is not the case as 4 of the reactors failed and now leak radiation in considerable amounts over a year and a half after the disaster.
—Emergency plans will work.
Fukushima left local government lost with no information to act with, prefecture and national government was in chaos and did not make needed information such as radiation and plume data public so people could react appropriately. There were not enough resources to get people out, evacuate hospitals or distribute protective iodine.
—Responders will do their jobs.
In Fukushima private fire department staff refused to be deployed, Tokyo Fire Department insisted on detailed information before they would agree to risk firefighters' safety and even the SDF fled the area multiple times as those on the ground determined conditions to be too dangerous to stay at that time.
—Ninety percent of those told to stay put will obey.
Many in Fukushima fled of their own motivation if they were able to obtain enough information and had the ability. Expecting 90% of people within 10 miles of a nuclear disaster to stay put defies human nature and common sense. Those with the ability will try to leave if they can. Sheltering in place also poses considerable risks beyond radiation exposure. The practice requires sealing up a house and turning off any air conditioning or forced air heating. In certain parts of the US and around the world this could quickly prove deadly during certain times of the year due to extreme temperatures. The NRC and other safety authorities around the world ignore this risk.
The Kyodo News reported on Nov. 3rd:
Four out of the six members of a government team drafting new safety standards for nuclear reactors have received between around 3 million yen and 27 million yen each in grants, donations and compensation from utilities in the past three to four years, according to data disclosed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Friday.
The regulatory body’s secretariat said the members “have been selected in line with rules, and there should be no problem.” Critics, however, say the members’ judgments might be swayed by the wishes of donors, exposing safety regulations to the risk of being watered down.
The NRA requires experts involved in drafting safety standards for nuclear power plants and other matters to disclose remuneration and donations, but has no provision for disqualifying them in light of such information.
As reported by Agence France-Presse, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has admitted that post-Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe clean-up and decontamination costs will likely double from previous estimates to $125 billion, a whopping 2% of Japan's gross domestic product (GDP). This is reminiscent of post-Chernobyl impacts on countries such as Belarus, where up to 5% of its GDP went toward Chernobyl mitigation -- year after year.
The article reports:
TEPCO chairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe told reporters his company could become a shell, existing only to sort out the mess left by the tsunami-sparked disaster and dependent on the government for money.
"If we address the swelling costs by doubling the amount of government bond issuance (to 10 trillion), our firm will become an entity only for the purpose of dealing with post-accident issues," a company statement said.
The clean-up and decontamination efforts are expected to take decades.
As reported by The Japan Times, John Hamre, the president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington D.C. based think tank, has urged that Japan remain committed to nuclear power, despite the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe and the groundswell of anti-nuclear activism it has inspired. Oddly, Hamre argued that Japan should remain devoted to nuclear power, in order to stem the tide of nuclear weapons proliferation worldwide.
The article reports:
Hamre also said the policy poses a security concern from the viewpoint of international control for nonproliferation of nuclear materials.
"Nuclear power from the very beginning was (not only) a source of promise, but (also) a source of great threat because nuclear power electric generation is also the base for making nuclear weapons, and it's a great risk to the world to have commercial nuclear power plants because there is a possibility of diverting the material and turning it into weapons.
"So for the last 40 years the U.S. and Japan, along with Europe, have been leaders in creating an international system to monitor and control the use of commercial nuclear energy so that we know if people were illegitimately going to divert it and turn it into weapons," he said.
If Japan is to give up nuclear energy — and if nuclear power is to wither in the U.S. due to competition with cheap natural gas and in Europe as in the case of Germany — "the countries that have given us the security system are going to diminish, and who's going to replace them?" he said. "Americans cannot afford from a security standpoint to have Japan abandon nuclear power. It's too important to us."
Of course, the United States is the only country to have actually ever used atomic weapons in warfare -- against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
Hamre's arguments that renewable energy cannot replace nuclear power have been disproved, as by Arjun Makhijani's Carbon-Free/Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy.