Sept 23, 2012 by MARCO TORRES
Another 22 Nuclear Power Plants Are In Tsunami Risk Areas
Thanks to Japan's Fukushima disaster, the entire northern hemisphere is now being polluted daily with trace levels of radioactive isotopes. Despite the contamination of everything from water to food and air, the world continues to march forward with deadly nuclear power initiatives. Worse yet is that another 22 confirmed nuclear power plants are in dangerous tsunami risk areas according to a scientific study headed by Spanish researchers.
The March 2011 tsunami in Japan unleashed a series of negligence related with the resulting nuclear disaster.
Researcher have for the first time identified those atomic power plants that are more prone to suffering the effects of a tsunami.
Tsunamis are synonymous with the destruction of cities and homes and since the Japanese coast was devastated last year, we now know that they cause nuclear disaster, endanger the safety of the population and pollute the environment. As such phenomena are still difficult to predict, a team of scientists have assessed “potentially dangerous” areas that are home to completed nuclear plants or those under construction.
In the study published in the ‘Natural Hazards‘ journal, the researchers drew a map of the world’s geographic zones that are more at risk of large tsunamis. Based on this data, 22 other nuclear power plants (in addition to Fukushima) with over 70 reactors have been identified in high risk areas. Out of them, 13 plants with 29 reactors are active; another four, that now have 20 reactors, are being expanded to house nine more; and there are seven new plants under construction with 16 reactors.
Historian Jacob Hamblin is the author of the 2008 book, “Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age.” He specializes in the history of the Cold War era, with a particular focus on environmental sciences and the history of nuclear issues.
“Science without history is just ignorance,” Hamblin said. “Much of the current media debate about the safety of nuclear power and radiation exposure is an echo of conflicts going on since the dawn of the nuclear era.”
Hamblin said nuclear scientists have long decried public concerns over radiation exposure and the safety of nuclear power plants. Yet he says these same issues continue to cause conflict between anti-nuclear activists, scientists and pro-nuclear advocates.
“We are dealing with the first vision of the global distribution of civil nuclear power plants situated on the coast and exposed to tsunamis,” as explained to SINC by Jose Manuel Rodriguez-Llanes, coauthor of the study and researcher at the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. The authors used historical, archaeological, geological and instrumental records as a base for determining tsunami risk.
Nuclear apologists insist that if you look at all of the risks to human health involved in energy production from all parts of the process -- the mining, transport, refining, shipping and disposal of waste -- nuclear energy is the second most safe. But this is simply not true.
Internal radiation emanates from radioactive elements which enter the body by inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption. Hazardous radionuclides such as iodine-131, caesium 137, and other isotopes currently being released in the sea and air around Fukushima bio-concentrate at each step of various food chains (for example into algae, crustaceans, small fish, bigger fish, then humans; or soil, grass, cow's meat and milk, then humans).
The advocacy of nuclear power was never about providing safe, clean energy. At best, almost every nuclear agency in the world misinforms, and at worst misrepresents or distorts, the scientific evidence of the harmful effects of radiation exposure.
Despite the fact that the risk of these natural disasters threatens practically the entire western coast of the American continent, the Spanish/Portuguese Atlantic Coast and the coast of North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and areas of Oceania, especially in South and Southeast Asia are at greater risk due to the presence of atomic power stations.
For Debarati Guha-Sapir, another coauthor of the study and CRED researcher, “the impact of natural disaster is getting worse due to the growing interaction with technological installations.”
China: a nuclear power in the making
Some 27 out of 64 nuclear reactors that are currently under construction in the world are found in China. This is an example of the massive nuclear investment of the Asian giant. “The most important fact is that 19 (two of which are in Taiwan) out of the 27 reactors are being built in areas identified as dangerous,” state the authors of the study.
In the case of Japan, which in March 2011 suffered the consequences of the worse tsunami in its history, there are seven plants with 19 reactors at risk, one of which is currently under construction. South Korea is now expanding two plants at risk with five reactors. India (two reactors) and Pakistan (one reactor) could also feel the consequences of a tsunami in the plants.
Clear Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy
- The problem of radioactive waste is still an unsolved one. The waste from nuclear energy is extremely dangerous and it has to be carefully looked after for several thousand years (10'000 years according to United States Environmental Protection Agency standards).
- High risks: Despite a generally high security standard, accidents can still happen. It is technically impossible to build a plant with 100% security. A small probability of failure will always last. The consequences of an accident would be absolutely devastating both for human being as for the nature (see here, here or here ). The more nuclear power plants (and nuclear waste storage shelters) are built, the higher is the probability of a disastrous failure somewhere in the world.
- Nuclear power plants as well as nuclear waste could be preferred targets for terrorist attacks. No atomic energy plant in the world could withstand an attack similar to 9/11 in Yew York. Such a terrorist act would have catastrophic effects for the whole world. There is no method to get rid of the radioactivity of the waste or speed up the rate of decay. The waste must be sealed and buried in a safe location to prevent contamination of the environment and other people. Currently, there are no suitable locations that provide a permanent storage site for nuclear waste.
- During the operation of nuclear power plants, radioactive waste is produced, which in turn can be used for the production of nuclear weapons. In addition, the same know-how used to design nuclear power plants can to a certain extent be used to build nuclear weapons (nuclear proliferation).
- The energy source for nuclear energy is Uranium. Uranium is a scarce resource, its supply is estimated to last only for the next 30 to 60 years depending on the actual demand. Uranium, the source of energy for nuclear power, is available on earth only in limited quantities. Uranium is being "consumed" (i.e. converted) during the operation of the nuclear power plant so it won't be available any more for future generations which again contradicts the principle of sustainability.
- The time frame needed for formalities, planning and building of a new nuclear power generation plant is in the range of 20 to 30 years in the western democracies. In other words: It is an illusion to build new nuclear power plants in a short time.
- Radioactive isotopes, which are released from every nuclear reactor in the world, cause debilitating disease and deformities affecting several generations DNA. Both the nuclear waste as well as retired nuclear plants are a life-threatening legacy for literally hundreds of future generations. It flagrantly contradicts with the thoughts of sustainability if future generations have to deal with dangerous waste generated from preceding generations.
The ghost of Fukushima
“The location of nuclear installations does not only have implications for their host countries but also for the areas which could be affected by radioactive leaks,” as outlined to SINC by Joaquin Rodriguez-Vidal, lead author of the study and researcher at the Geodynamics and Paleontology Department of the University of Huelva.
According to the study, we should learn our lessons from the Fukushima accident. For the authors, prevention and previous scientific studies are the best tools for avoiding such disasters. “But since the tsunami in 2004 the Indian Ocean region is still to take effective political measures,” warn the researchers.
The Fukushima crisis took place in a highly developed country with one of the highest standards in scientific knowledge and technological infrastructure. “If it had occurred in a country less equipped for dealing with the consequences of catastrophe, the impact would have been a lot more serious for the world at large,” claim the experts.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.