Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nuclear Reactors in Asia Revisted

With all the talk about the nuclear reactor problems in Japan,
I would like to give an updated version of an earlier article. The original article is here.

Japan is having many problems today with a certain nuclear power plant. BBC's reporting has been the best, you can find their reports on their Japan Earthquake page. But this is not the first time, even though it is by far the most severe. Look at this report on another incident in 2007 on a research reactor. And this was just after problems with a nuclear plant after a much smaller earthquake.

What has disturbed me the most is how the industry (specifically TEPCO - the owner of the Fukushima plant) has been sparing with the truth. After the original report of damage, they said that everything was under control. Then a reactor building had an explosion. Then they said yes, there was a problem but the other reactors were under control. Then we had a second explosion. Etcetera, etceteria. They simply have lost the trust of the people.

And this problem has been shown with the nuclear industry worldwide - not just in Japan.

This leads to the question of about the use of nuclear energy in Asia.

There are two issues which must be looked at safety and nuclear waste.

There have been safety/environmental problems not only Japan, but in Britain, US, Ukraine (Chernobyl), etc.

Thailand, my home, has in recent years pushed the idea of a nuclear energy reactor. Yet this is the same country that recently could not get a new research reactor, because the design was refused certification by international bodies. I also heard many years ago the then head of the Office of Atomic Energy for Peace say that we do not need to worry about nuclear waste because it degrades in about 10 years! Thailand also had a major scare when recyclers opened a canister of radioactive cobalt-60, a gamma emmitter, which had been thown away in the regular trash by a hospital.

The question is if countries such as UK and Japan cannot insure safe operation of nuclear power plants, how can countries with poor environmental and safety regulations cope.

The other issue is storage of radioactive waste. There is no safe storage method for it. (Yes, the nuclear industry says we can bury it under ground. But they have been saying that for 30 years and have yet to dispose of any waste). Considering this and the fact that Thailand and many other countries have almost no capacity for handling non-radioactive hazardous waste, what are they going to do? It is interesting that this has not been discussed at all.

No, nuclear energy is not necessary to save the Earth. The risks are too great and I think Asia (and the rest of the world) should avoid nuclear energy and get more sustainable energy alternatives.

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