Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Japan's tsunami, made me rethink European nuclear energy issues.

With the latest shocking and dramatic developments in Japan, the issue of the use of the nuclear energy comes in the spotlight again. 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!

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, as in the Pacific in general.

The international community showed so much trust in Japan to be a safe place, for such potentially dangerous type of energy. It's not that Japan is not worthy of it or should not have it, but perhaps we should place stricter nuclear power management regulations and an overseer global organization.

Why 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? Perhaps the nuclear power development ability, is being seen as a club of the powerful nations and a prestige development that Japan could not resist.

Maybe the reasons are financial because of the cheap energy, it allows 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 a "rogue" nation, but 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 Iran's efforts, but we never made sure that Japan built its plants somewhere away from the sea.

Can we dictate which country can have freely nuclear power plants for energy? There must 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 the 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? It seems only small and developing nations are told how to handle their nuclear ambitions. But what about Japan, America, France and Britain, does anyone keep an eye on them, making sure they are keeping their plants up to date?

Nuclear energy has its benefits, but we humans are not able to control such powerful source of energy. Our greed and arrogance make us prone to repeat the same mistakes. Can we have confidence in the future of a safer nuclear energy management? Perhaps it is time to have a greener, sustainable energy revolution in Europe.

 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. 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.