Today our thoughts are once more with the people of Japan; our condolences are with those who lost their loved ones and our admiration is with those who are valiantly rebuilding their lives and communities one year after the earthquake and tsunami. We wish them continued strength.
In remembering the terrible consequences of natures full force through an earth quake and tsunami it is also important that we do not allow the accompanying nuclear crises to be painted as a natural disaster: it was man made!
The lives of hundreds of thousands of people are still unsettled a year later. More than 150,000 had their lives completely disrupted. They had to flee from areas that are the worst contaminated. Some may never be able to return home. Many others, including vulnerable children and women, continue to live in highly contaminated areas, exposed to radiation levels that are much higher than international safety limits permit.
Families have been split apart, people have lost their jobs and can't find new ones. They have lost not only their homes but also their communities. Parents live with an on going fear for their children: will they suffer long-term health effects, such as cancer, from exposure to radiation?
The Fukushima nuclear disaster reminds us that nuclear reactors are inherently dangerous!
At its root, the Fukushima nuclear disaster was man-made. One of the main lessons from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is failure of the institutions that were supposed to protect people from such an accident. Years before the disaster, the risks of earthquakes and tsunamis were well known for the area. Yet, the nuclear industry and its regulators chose to ignore the dangers. The chose to run the risk.
These same institutions are still failing to provide proper protection and support to the people who have been impacted.
In a recent report, "Lessons from Fukushima", Greenpeace documented the ongoing institutional failures. These failures can be found in every country where nuclear power is generated. Right after the Fukushima disaster began, governments were more interested in promoting public confidence in nuclear power than they were in any genuine debate about public safety.
With more than 400 nuclear reactors operating worldwide, hundreds of millions of people live in the shadow of the inherent risk of a nuclear disaster.
We do not have to live with these risks. There a clear alternative to nuclear power. We have safe affordable renewable energy choices, ones which will also allow us to cut our carbon emissions.
Nuclear power is not big power and renewables' small. Over the last five years, 22-times more new wind and solar generating capacity based was built (230,000 MW) compared to nuclear (10,600 MW). Renewable power plants built in just a single year, 2011, are capable of generating as much electricity as 16 large nuclear reactors.
A modern energy system based on energy efficiency and renewable energy would allow us to phase out nuclear reactors. Greenpeace has demonstrated in its Energy [R]evolution scenario that it can be done.
There were always be natural disasters and we will need to live with and try to mitigate the risks, but when it comes to the man made disaster of nuclear reactors we can simply shut them down! No more Fukushimas!