Fishermen in front of the Mihama nuclear plant after the 1991 accident at the plant. Now a second accident has claimed the live of at least four workers. Alternative energy sources like wind and solar would have avoided this pollution and death.
Seven workers were also injured due to the steam leak, possibly
caused by a lack of cooling water in the reactor. This latest
accident follows the explosion at Tokaimura plant in 1999, where
workers mixed radioactive material in a bucket, causing a reaction
that killed two workers, injured several more and irradiated
hundreds of civilians. In 1997 also at Tokaimura a fire and
explosion released radioactive gas into the atmosphere. In 1995 a
serious accident at the Monju fast breeder reactor led to its shut
down. In 1991 another reactor at the same Mihama plant suffered a
serious radioactive leak.
Japan is heavily reliant on dangerous nuclear power for its
electricity. While the government recklessly backs the nuclear
industry come what may, public opposition to nuclear power is
growing due the appalling safety record of the industry. Tokyo
Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is still trying to recover from the
recent scandal it caused by falsifying safety inspections, which
forced it to shut down all of its 17 nuclear reactors. Kansai
Electric Power Company, the owner of Mihama, was also implicated in
that scandal. TEPCO has also just shutdown a nuclear power
generation unit at its Fukushima-Daini plant because of a water
Kansai Electric was also at the centre of a nuclear scandal in
1999, when nuclear fuel delivered by British Nuclear Fuels was
found to contain falsified safety data. The resultant scandal set
back Japan's plans to use large amounts of plutonium as fuel in its
Japan's nuclear reactors are ageing - many are almost 30 years
old. Rather than increasing safety measure and closing old reactors
the government is doing the exact opposite - reducing regulation of
the industry. As nuclear power is so expensive many of the
generating companies have huge debts and have cut plant safety
measures to save money.
At the same time, hundreds of billions of yen are being sought
to cover the costs of a new plutonium reprocessing plant at
Rokkasho-mura in northern Japan, which is hugely uneconomic,
environmentally polluting, and increases the risk of nuclear
proliferation in east Asia.
While there remain many uncertainties as to the exact cause of
this accident at Mihama, one thing is certain - there will be more
and worse to come.
This avoidable loss of life comes on the 59th anniversary of the
dropping of the US nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of
Despite the legacy of Nagasaki, this Mihama accident, the
appalling safety record of the nuclear industry, and with low
public trust in the country's nuclear program, the government and
industry is pressing ahead with more new nuclear power plants and
new nuclear facilities.
Alternatives sources of energy, such as wind, are not only safe,
but are also cleaner and cheaper than nuclear power. A suitable
response to these deaths would be the ditching of the dangerous,
expensive and polluting menace of nuclear power in favour of
alternative energy sources.
Learn about the
problems of nuclear power.
BBC - Analysis
of Japanese nuclear scandals and
video from the scene on growing
public opposition to nuclear power in Japan (real media)
Japan Times -
Pipes eluded nuclear plant regs.