Sunday, July 13, 2014

A lingering disaster in Japan

June 23. 2013 11:52PM
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It’s been two years since the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, resulting in over 15,000 deaths. But perhaps the most dangerous consequences of the terrible natural disaster was the damage it caused to the Fukushima nuclear plant.

While the Japanese authorities were occupied with the overwhelming task of finding rescuers and rehabilitating them in the aftermath of the earthquake, the news that one of the nuclear site had suffered considerable damage — equipment failure, nuclear meltdowns and release of radioactive material — raised great concern worldwide. Even though the Japanese government was able to quickly curb the extent of the disaster — termed as the worst nuclear disaster since the accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986 — the threat of nuclear contamination has lingered due to ongoing problems with the functioning of the plant.

The latest issue is the discovery of a toxic radioactive isotope, tritium, discovered in groundwater at the nuclear plant. Tritium, which is used in glow-in-the-dark watches, was found at eight times the allowable level. The news follows a series of problems that have plagued the site this year. Just last month news of radioactive water leaking from a storage tank made headlines, while multiple power failures occurred in five weeks earlier this year. The regular supply of power to the plant is of critical importance because without the cooling, meltdown and subsequent leakage of radiation can potential occur. Exposure to radiation has serious health consequences for human being. While large doses of radiation in a short period of time can lead to radiation poisoning — the failure of organ tissue — continued exposure to even little amounts of radiation has been linked to cancer and other physical abnormalities.

The Fukushima plant disaster is proof of the dangers of producing and using nuclear energy in areas vulnerable to natural disasters. While it is true that nuclear energy is definitely a cost-effective and clean way of fulfilling energy needs in the modern world, the most stringent safety measures need to be employed at nuclear plants. But despite that, if the place is vulnerable to nature’s wrath, a full-scale disaster can occur.

The Khaleej Times, Dubai

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