In light of the Fukahima tragedy, nuclear power is up and running once again in Japan. On August 14, 2015 the No. 1 reactor at the Sendai facility in Northern Japan resumed production in spite of the efforts of over 2,000 protesters who demonstrated outside the plant and the energy company’s headquarters. A second reactor is scheduled to restart in October. One of the protesters’ biggest concerns is the lack of evacuation plans for the schools and hospitals operating near the Sendai reactors.
Fortunately, no deaths from radiation have been reported by the Japanese government, but the cost to the environment and the people living and working near Fukushima is almost immeasurable
On March 11, 2011 the Great East Japan Earthquake triggered a tsunami that battered the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear facility with 55-foot waves. The events that unfolded over the following weeks would go down in history as one of the worst nuclear disasters to ever occur. Three of the plant’s four cores experienced meltdown when the disabled power supply prevented proper cooling, and all four reactors were disabled. Concerns about radioactive contamination caused the evacuation of over 100,000 people and prompted the Japanese government to shut down all of the country’s nuclear facilities.
In November of 2011, the Japanese Science Ministry reported that approximately 4,500 square miles of land—a mass roughly the size of Connecticut—was contaminated with radiation. Radioactive cesium has been detected in Japanese crops and other foodstuffs including tea leaves and cattle products. Routine ingestion of this “low level” radiation has been shown to accumulate in the heart, kidneys, small intestines and other organs, effecting children more dramatically than adults.
The catastrophe is also responsible for the largest discharge of radioactive material into ocean waters ever recorded. More than a year after the plant’s failure, 56% of all fish caught off the coast of Japan were found to be contaminated. Many experts estimate it will be more than a decade for waters to free of the radioactive material.
In addition to the environmental damage, the total economic loss caused by the nuclear disaster is estimated to be as much as 500 billion U.S. dollars. Japanese citizens have shouldered much of that economic burden, losing their homes, businesses and virtually all of their possessions. In many cases, property owners have been forced to continue paying mortgages on buildings they can never again enter.
The goal of the Japanese government is to provide approximately 20 percent of the nation’s energy needs with nuclear power by 2030.