After six weeks without generating any nuclear power, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda this week succeeded in lobbying local authorities in Fukui prefecture to approve the restart of two reactors at the Ohi nuclear complex, raising the specter of widespread power shortages over the summer. The archipelago nation got more than 30% of its electrical energy from nuclear generation before the Fukushima disaster that gradually shut down the whole nuclear production network was shut for safety checks and upgrades after last year’s Fukushima disaster. Activists opposing the return to nuclear power are holding a cross-country “March for Life” from Fukushima to Hiroshima—where they will meet with hibakusha, survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings of August 1945. The dwindling hibakusha have re-emerged as a voice warning of the dangers of radiation since the Fukushima disaster. (LAT, 命の行進-2012, June 15)
Ironically—and contrary to popular perceptions, outside Japan at least—the disaster at Fukushima is far from over. Some nuclear experts are warning that spent fuel rods at the crippled plant could trigger a major catastrophe, despite the government’s declaration in December that the emergency phase of the disaster was over. Fears about reactor No. 4 have grown, as its building holds a storage pool filled with 1,535 nuclear fuel rod assemblies. The pool, which is 30 meters above ground, has been left uncovered since a hydrogen blast last March blew off the upper part of the outer wall of the containment building.
The “assemblies” have a total amount of radioactive caesium equal to 5,000 atomic bombs of the kind that destroyed Hiroshima, said Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute. The government has estimated the amount of caesium—137 already released by the Fukushima disaster as equal to that of 168 Hiroshima bombs. If a large quake or other event were to cause the pool to crack and drain, it could lead to a new catastrophe, Koide said. “We just all have to pray that an earthquake does not happen before that fuel is removed,” Arnie Gundersen, nuclear engineer of US-based Fairewinds Energy Education, added on his website. (DPA, June 13)