Japan is currently facing some of its worst days since the Second World War.
The Tōhoku region Pacific Ocean offshore earthquake hit Japan on March 11th, 2011 and measured a 9.0 on the Richter scale. Its epicentre was about 72 kilometres off the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku. The earthquake soon triggered off destructive tsunami waves in the ocean that reached almost thirty three feet in height. The water travelled almost ten kilometres inland, in some cases. The World Bank has estimated that the damage will reach amounts of almost between $122 billion and $235 billion.
When the earthquake struck Japan, The Fukushima I, Fukushima II, Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant and Tōkai nuclear power stations, consisting of a total eleven reactors, automatically shut down. However, since there was no electricity or power to help the cooling systems function, there were soon major explosions at Fukushima I and leakage of radiation. Several thousand people were evacuated from areas near the nuclear reactors. Several world leaders have stated that Japan has almost lost control of the situation.
This chain of events has also led many countries to set up reviews of their own nuclear plants. However, most Indian scientists agree that such a situation is hardly possible in India, since in India building a nuclear plant within a radius of 400 kilometres of a seismic zone, is strictly not permitted. The Department of Atomic Energy was also quick to assure the country that the diesel power backups for our nuclear plants have been constructed at altitudes high enough to avoid flooding in any situation.
Even in New York, where the odds of a Japan like situation happening are very low, the Indian Point Power Plant, about 40 miles up the Hudson River from New York, is facing a lot of flak for not being able to assure citizens of its ability to prevent a crisis. New York’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman is suing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for allowing the Indian Point Power Plant to store nuclear radioactive waste.
Closer home, South Africa has plans of setting up six new sixteen hundred megawatt projects, in the pipeline. Africa remains the world’s largest producer of platinum and diamonds and hence requires increasing amounts of energy to meet its industrial and economic needs. However, following Japan’s catastrophic chain of events, African governments are stressing on increased security checks. Investors too, are concerned on the issues that the Japan nuclear crisis seems to have thrown up. The South African government will take a final call on the proposed energy plants by the end of the month.
Switzerland’s Energy minister, Doris Leuthard, too, has suspended the approval of three nuclear stations, insisting on the revision of safety standards in the country, after the horrors of Japan.
Although most heads of states have ordered probes into exactly how safe are their respective countries’ nuclear plants, most are holding off decisions on new power plants till the Japan situation becomes clearer and the effects can be seen more visibly. Right now, the world is still reeling under the effects of the tsunami, for no one really thought that such a Chernobyl like repeat would be possible, until Nature decided to show us otherwise.
– By Debashree Hazarika