Fukushima Second earthquake and tsunami causes fears in India
Another major earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale accompanied by a tsunami hit the coast of Fukushima which had been devastated five years ago by a quake, a tsunami and by a nuclear disaster.
The present tsunami was not a major one but nevertheless, it immediately brought back memories of the March 11, 2011 tsunami which destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and plunged the country in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl with radiation spilling out into the air, the soil and the sea.
Following the accident, Japan’s nuclear power plants had been shut down with the public openly opposed to the operation of nuclear reactors.
Following this latest earthquake, the cooling system for a storage pool for the spent nuclear fuel at the Fukushima reactor was shut down. Nuclear authorities in Japan have breathed a sigh of relief that no damage has been reported from their two reactors which are presently operating . The Japanese government has gone into a damage control mode to emphasize that this latest earthquake has not resulted in either major damages or injuries but the public is not convinced primarily because Japan remains one of the most earthquake-prone areas in the world.
Nuclear pacifist and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan pointed out, ` The cost of the tsunami that occurred five years was conservatively estimated at $250 billion.’
His calculation has been supported by nuclear observers who point out that while the Japanese government spent $ 15 billion in cleaning up the area in and around the Fukushima Daiichi reactor, another $ 60 billion was spent in refugee compensation.
Replacing nuclear energy with fossil fuels is expected to cost Japan another $ 200 billion in buying natural gas, fuel oil, and coal especially since renewables have not done well in that country.
Under these circumstances, Bhushan questions why the cap that has been placed by the Indian government on the Nuclear Power Suppliers ( in case of an accident) has been kept at Rs 1,500 core. Said Bhushan, ` It is not even one is to 10,000 – if a nuclear disaster were to occur. Not only has Russia been exempted from this liability but they are demanding they be exempted from all liability for the Kudankulam reactors 1,2,3 and 4, given that in case of an accident, not only will we lose human lives but the entire environment will be rendered inhospitable’ Bhushan added.
Bhushan also questioned the exorbitant cost of generating nuclear energy. ` It costs between Rs 10 -20 crore to generate one Megawatt of installed capacity of nuclear energy. Both solar and wind are much cheaper and unlike Japan, we can generate a great deal of solar energy,’ Bhushan said.
Following the March 2011 tsunami in Japan, 1.6 lakh people were evacuated from Fukushima where 1,600 deaths were reported. The government spent over $ 250 billion in cleaning up the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant site which still reports radioactive leaks five years after the accident. Fortunately, no radiological health effects have been reported so far nor have deaths caused by radioactivity been reported even by the 20,000 workers who have toiled to clean up the reactor site as also the area around it.
Of course, the Japanese government is sending out tsunami warnings more quickly and in case of a tsunami, people have been told to move away from the sea towards the highest location in the area.
The average Japanese has become cautious about nuclear technology. Prashant Bhushan had filed a writ in the Supreme Court questioning the cost-benefit ratio of our nuclear facilities.
Following the Fukushima disaster, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland had announced complete withdrawal from further use of nuclear power. But as these countries are moving towards renewables, India has recently signed a treaty with Japan to buy nuclear technology from them.