Greenpeace activists in 19 countries took action today to remind their governments that the next Fukushima disaster will be their fault.
The nuclear disaster at Fukushima has shown us once again that nuclear reactors are fundamentally unsafe. That's why Greenpeace activists are staging flash mobs, hanging banners on prominent buildings, holding events in public squares and at busy intersections and delivering messages to governments.
There are more than 400 nuclear reactors operating in the world right now. Hundreds of millions of people live in the long shadow of these reactors and are at risk if there is another Fukushima disaster. They are threatened because the governments in countries with reactors ignore the risks.
Greenpeace actions today make the threat of a disaster more real for people. For example, in Liège, Belgium, Greenpeace declared the Liège-Guillemin train station, the city's main station, an evacuation point. Liège is about 30 kilometres from the Tihange nuclear plant, with three nuclear reactors. An accident at the plant could force the nearly 200,000 people living in Liège to evacuate. The Liège-Guillemin station would be a hub for the evacuation.
Evacuation of Liège would be just a tiny part of the problem. Nearly six million people live within 75 kilometres of the Tihange plant and many could be forced from their homes if there was a nuclear disaster comparable to the Fukushima accident.
Just think of the chaos of trying to evacuate six million people. As we've seen from Fukushima, even governments experienced in dealing with large-scale disasters are not prepared to evacuate tens of thousands, let alone millions of people.
It is not far-fetched to suggest that people might be evacuated 75 km from a nuclear disaster. In Japan, people were evacuated 50 km from the Fukushima disaster and given the radiation levels, it should have been more. Hundreds of thousands remain to in places where radiation levels exceed by many times normal levels and internationally recognized limits. Still, they were very lucky in Japan that the worst-case scenario of radiation release from reactors was avoided, and most of the fallout was blown out to the ocean and not to the land. There was a possibility that places several hundreds of kilometres from the Fukushima power plant would have to evacuate, including the country's capital of Tokyo.
The chaos of a massive evacuation could happen around any reactor. On March 2, Greenpeace launched an on line map showing all the world's reactors, and how many people live near them. You can check the map to find out if you are near one, and then use the Facebook and Twitter links to alert others.
One of the most disturbing things to see in the year since the Fukushima nuclear disaster is that governments have learned little about the real risks of nuclear energy and about the imperative to better protect their citizens. Many governments continue to support dirty and inherently dangerous nuclear power, clearly learning no lessons from Fukushima.
Greenpeace released Lessons from Fukushima, a new report on February 28 which shows the Fukushima nuclear disaster was caused by the failures of the Japanese government to protect its citizens from nuclear risks and not by the natural disasters of an earthquake and tsunami as the nuclear industry would like us to believe.
The mistakes and failures our report highlights about Japan are repeated in every country with nuclear reactors. Even in the face of the latest, powerful evidence of the terrifying dangers of nuclear reactors, governments continue to ignore their responsibilities to ensure the public is not at risk. They are more worried about protecting the profits of the nuclear industry than they are about protecting their citizens from the risks of nuclear power.
Nuclear accidents are not isolated and infrequent events. The nuclear industry would like us to believe that the big accidents we've all heard about, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, and now Fukushima, are isolated events. They aren't. Over 800 other significant events have been officially reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
We have a choice whether to avoid the inherent risks of nuclear power. Modern energy systems based on energy efficiency and renewable energy can easily replace nuclear power. In addition to removing a significant threat, we would get the added benefits of better energy security, stable energy prices and millions of quality jobs.
The message we need to take from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is that it is time we convinced our governments to phase out nuclear and support renewable energy.