Fukushima Daiichi is still pouring radioactive water into the Pacific ocean, the consequences of which we still don’t know in the short term and can’t predict in the long term.
I’m pointing this out now because as the slander campaign against Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein ramps up, her criticisms of nuclear power have been coming under fire by people who insist that it’s perfectly safe, sane, and healthy to have hundreds of these power plants dotting our globe when we don’t know when the next Level 7 nuclear event is coming, or how bad it will be. While the most recently-added disaster is literally still happening.
TEPCO has been making its latest pathetic attempt at rectifying its crimes against humanity by trying to freeze a one-mile barrier around the four reactors damaged in the 2011 Japanese tsunami over the last five months. Unsurprisingly, it has failed, with the barrier doing “little or nothing” to prevent 300 tons of groundwater per day from becoming polluted by pouring through the highly radioactive meltdown zone.
Three hundred tons of groundwater. Per day. Not in 2011. Every single day for the last five and-a-half years. This is currently happening, right now.
So for those of you who have been arguing the bizarre narrative that nuclear power is still safe, at least do us all a favor and have the intellectual honesty to stop referring to nuclear disasters in the past tense. Even Chernobyl, 30 years after that disaster, is still requiring further work, with a new sarcophagus being constructed at great expense and hopefully put in place next year before anything else goes wrong there. But that’s nothing compared to the ongoing disaster of tons upon tons of radioactive water being loosed into our environment via groundwater every single day.
It’s truly baffling that people continue to make this argument in favor of nuclear power even as the Fukushima disaster continues to unfold. Hundreds, possibly thousands, or even tens of thousands are expected to die of cancer as a result of exposure to radiation in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima meltdown, and 174,000 people remain displaced, unable to return to their homes. We do not know what the radioactive water is doing to our oceans and the ecosystem in the long term, but there’s no reason to believe it’s not bad. We still don’t know what to do with the nuclear waste we’re creating. And yet people are attacking a doctor for saying that nuclear power is unsafe.
Nuclear power is far from safe. We can use hindsight and say such-and-such precautions ought to have been taken with Chernobyl and TEPCO could have done so-and-so in Fukushima, if security workers had remembered to open the emergency pump valve after testing it at Three Mile Island the disaster wouldn’t have happened, etc. But we’re human. Those disasters did happen, for reasons we couldn’t have predicted, in ways we didn’t anticipate, despite all the precautions we took.
And they will happen again. It has been proven beyond a doubt that we cannot possibly account for all the factors and variables needed to ensure that nuclear power plants can operate safely on this planet, and Fukushima has proven that we cannot contain the results of those disasters even years after they begin.
Another important thing to remember is that these nuclear disasters could have gone a lot worse. Despite so many redundant safety backups and contingency plans failing, in the mad scramble, the situations were contained to some extent after a certain degree of spectacular failure. Were it not for the heroic sacrifices made by three engineers who gave their lives swimming to drain the radioactive water supply in Chernobyl, most of Europe would likely have been turned into a nuclear wasteland in the ensuing explosion. If they hadn’t done this, or if they hadn’t gotten there in time, things would have been much, much worse.
And yet the Twitterverse explodes when Jill Stein says these cataclysms-in-waiting need to be shut down? Right.
[Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]