Sunday, July 29, 2007

Nuclear Waste Leak in Japan - A Timely Reminder

After the government's call for a renewed push towards nuclear power due to the environmental benefits re climate change, a timely reminder of the cost of such a programme:

A radioactive leak at Japan’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant following an earthquake this month has contributed to negative sentiment, with fears that it could spark new public opposition to nuclear power. [Financial Times]

I just love that extract from the FT. Doesn't it just sum up the capitalist system? 'Negative sentiment'. Brilliant.

Now, of course, a direct hit on a nuclear facility by an earthquake is pretty unlikely in the UK. However, given that we are living in circumstances similar to World War II (if you believe the fruit-cake brigade), isn't it just a tiny bit risky having more targets nuclear power plants in operation?

Anyway, what of the leak itself? Well, it was a typical story of gross incompetence and lies. According to The Telegraph:

The world's biggest nuclear power station in Japan was shut indefinitely yesterday after its operator admitted a larger leak of nuclear waste in an earthquake than previously disclosed.

The mayor of Kashiwazaki ordered the seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station closed until its safety could be confirmed following Monday's 6.8-magnitude quake, in which low-level nuclear waste spilt into the sea.

Tokyo Electric Power, the operators, admitted that as many as 400 barrels of waste tipped over in the tremor, after previously stating a figure of 100, and that radioactivity levels from the waste were 50 per cent higher than originally stated.

The spillage was one of more than 50 faults experienced at the station - the world's biggest in terms of output capacity - following the quake. The firm said it was not designed to resist shaking caused by earthquakes of greater than magnitude 6.5.

Does anyone seriously believe that our government wouldn't try to cover this up? As for nuclear power being a positive step for climate change, it would appear the gains regarding CO2 emissions are slightly outweighed by the huge increase in radioactive wildlife. Not a great trade-off, is it? Yeah we get to save the planet, we'll just wipe out every living organism in the process. Well, apart from the rich who are, after all, genetically closer to cockroaches than any other creature on the face of the earth. Guess that's why they are not so bothered about it.