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Japan's tsunami, made me rethink European nuclear energy issues...
by Christos Mouzeviris
2011-04-09 10:53:36
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With the latest shocking and dramatic developments in Japan, the issue of the use of the nuclear energy comes in the spotlight again. Japan, one of the most developed and rich countries and the third largest economy of the world is being hit by a massive earthquake followed by a massive tsunami that leaves at least 25 thousand people dead or missing.

As if this humanitarian tragedy was not enough, the world is gripped by the developments of the region's nuclear power plants as their reactors' melt down. Radioactive particles are reaching Europe and many other regions of the world and we soon realize that this is not just a Japanese disaster, it is potential a global one!

The first question in my mind is: how was Japan so confident that even though it lies in one of the most geologically unstable regions of the planet with earthquakes being common on a daily basis, to develop nuclear energy plants? Even the word "tsunami" is Japanese, and they are so common in the region and in the Pacific in general. Also, how the international community showed so much trust in Japan to be a safe place for such potentially dangerous type of energy?

I do not wish to say that Japan is not worthy of it, or should not have it. But while in Greece a few years ago I was discussing the issue of Greece ever exploring nuclear energy with one of my teachers, he commented that we will never dare to, while being in a earthquake active region. Can this be true and the real reason, or other factors maybe at hand, like let's say Turkey's objections etc. Our "allies" and neighbors objecting in Greece having nuclear energy plants, without them having also (India-Pakistan syndrome as I call it). The Greek public's opinion is also opposing the installation of nuclear plants in Greek territory, perhaps because of the memories of the Chernobyl accident in 1986.

In 2008 former Greek Development Minister Mr. Christos Folias stated that nuclear power is not included in Greece’s energy planning until 2020. “Nevertheless, because it is included in the energy planning of all of our neighbors, it is useful to discuss the issue of nuclear power so that we know what will happen around us," he continued in a conference in Athens.

No matter the real reason for Greece not developing nuclear energy plants, why on earth was Japan freely allowed to develop and explore it, and not just that, but locate some of its plants on the east coast of the country that is in risk of tsunamis? Is the nuclear power development being seen as a club of the powerful and a prestige development that Japan could not resist? Are the reasons financial; cheap energy, more money for the economy? But then again why does the West fuss so much over Iran's uranium enrichment claiming that it will be dangerous for us as Iran is "anti-West"/"anti-Israel" and not for Japan. Is it because we do not want a strong and prosperous nation in the region, that is hostile to our protected "child", Israel? We make sure we watch and overseer Iran's efforts, but we never made sure that Japan built its plants somewhere away from the sea.

Who can dictate which country can have freely nuclear power plants for energy and I won't even go to nuclear weapons? Mustn't be an agreement that if a country has nuclear reactors, it must locate them in an area that is not prone to powerful earthquakes, and keep maintaining them in order to limit any Chernobyl style accidents?

In 2004 Lithuania agreed to close the power plant of Ignalina, in the city of Visaginas. Due to the plant's similarities with the Chernobyl, Lithuania closed the plant in order to enter the EU. By 2009 the plant was completely closed and plans to built another one were hindered by the economic crisis. So we see that EU pulled its weight and forced Lithuania to close one of its reactors. Why the international community never intervened to make sure Japan (and other rich and powerful nations) also follow the rules? Must only small and developing nations be told how to handle their nuclear ambitions, and what about Japan, America, France and Britain? Who controls or keeps an eye on them to make sure they are keeping their plants up to date?

I am not totally against the nuclear energy, it has its benefits. But since we humans are not able to control such powerful source of energy, and our greed and arrogance make us prone to repeating the same mistakes over and over again, then I do not hold too much confidence in the future of  the nuclear energy. Instead I would love to see a greener, sustainable energy revolution in Europe at least. If we can't cope with nuclear energy and its responsibilities (nuclear waste, maintenance, location, suitability, etc) then I prefer a safer future for our children. Who knows the true extend of the nuclear disaster in Japan, and for how many years will it affect the region? Ukraine still suffers from Chernobyl. Who is next? Perhaps we are not ready to handle such powerful "gift".

To close this article, I would like to express my condolences for all the victims in the double disaster in Japan, and my support for the families and people affected.

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