Today marks the anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, a tragic day in on March 11, 2011 in which a magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan, causing a devastating tsunami and a nuclear disaster to hit the country. The effects of this accident are still being felt very acutely in Japan, and could continue to have an impact for decades to come.
The Japanese government is currently spending about $258 billion on rebuilding the northeastern portion of the country. But despite this massive sum, a full recovery may not even be possible. If it is achieved, according to authorities, it will take at least a decade. Now that most of the cleanup is complete, the country must face the task of coordinating an economic recovery despite the massive debt and terrible living conditions which are now prominent.
Almost 350,000 people are still displaced from their homes as a result of the disaster, many with no prospect of returning any time soon. There is currently a 12.4 mile exclusion zone surrounding the nuclear plant, which is due to be reviewed at the end of March. This review will likely declare some of the affected areas uninhabitable for decades, much like the communities that formerly surrounded the Chernobyl plant in Russia.
The Japanese people are not taking this issue lightly. Despite Japan’s reputation for political indifference, there will be several anti-nuclear demonstrations taking place in the country’s major cities Sunday. One event organizer is expecting a crowd of up to 40,000. There are also efforts to circulate petitions aiming to oppose the restarting of nuclear reactors that were shut down after the meltdowns at Fukushima. Due to this intense public opposition, only two of the 54 nuclear reactors in Japan are currently in operation.
The anniversary of this catastrophic event comes only a month after the United States approved construction of new nuclear reactors. The U.S. hasn’t constructed new nuclear reactors in the past three decades, but insists that these “third-generation” reactors will be safer than earlier models. They will have certain safety features that lengthen the amount of reaction time in the event of a situation like the one that occurred at Fukushima.
China has also continued to move forward with its installation of third-generation reactors, while several European countries stopped construction on new nuclear plants after the Fukushima incident. These nations included Germany, Switzerland, and Spain.
In the U.S., the Fukushima disaster was a factor when considering the proposition of new nuclear reactors, but was deemed insufficient as a sole purpose for rejecting the idea. Furthermore, most of the new reactors would be built at existing plants rather than adding more potential disaster sites.
The occurrence of the Fukushima disaster doesn’t appear to have had an effect on nuclear power in the United States. The effect may actually have been bringing it back to mind as a possibility for meeting ever-increasing electricity demands. Now the question is whether the anniversary of the event will have any impact on the continuance of the project, as it is inevitably going to be prevalent in the media and the minds of the public. Will the reminder of the heartbreaking tragedy in Japan a year ago cause renewed trepidation toward the nuclear power proposal?
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