Following the disaster in Japan, much has been written about nuclear power, some of it contradictory and some of it speculative. It is hard for the non-scientist, who has to decide which sources of information to believe. But it is clear that the tragedy is by no means over. The voices saying that the very few deaths to date, from the failure of the nuclear power plant at Fukushima, demonstrate the safety of nuclear power, are surely premature.
A group calling for decommissioning the Fukushima nuclear plants has a petition at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- At least two workers at Fukushima have already died. Workers are being offered £3,000 a shift to enter the contaminated areas.
- Radioactive iodine from Fukushima has been detected in Glasgow and in Oxfordshire. (Radioactive iodine has a half-life of only eight days).
- Highly radioactive water from a crack in a concrete pit is flowing into the sea. Some reports say it is 10,000 times government safety limits. The water supply in Tokyo, 150 miles away, has been deemed unfit for babies to drink.
- Leaks are likely to continue until the four damaged reactors have been reconnected to their cooling systems.
- People have been evacuated from a 20 km zone around the plant, though the United Nations has said that the zone should be expanded. Many are being turned away by medical institutions and emergency shelters because of fears of radioactive contagion. The evacuation is likely to be long-term. Those living between 20 and 30 km from the plant have been told not to leave their homes, presenting them with huge difficulties.
- The Tokyo Electric Power company, which runs the Fukushima plant, has a dubious record of honesty and openness.
- In several of the reactors at Fukushima, the cooling systems, which should keep operating on emergency power supplies, failed.