Three years after the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his cabinet are continuing to explore nuclear options. The exploration of nuclear energy comes a month after the anniversary of the devastating tsunami, in which the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant melted down and dumped its reserves into the ground; an event many fear have spilled into the pacific ocean, surrounding Asian islands and land masses, and the west coast of the United States.
Due to the meltdown, Japan has lost billions of yen, and have had to provide massive payouts to avoid going bankrupt altogether. Nuclear plant workers, in close relation to Tokyo Electric Power Company, better known as Tepco, have been working tirelessly to further the Japanese agenda to continue exploring nuclear energy options, despite the ongoing crises in Fukushima, and consequently, the entire Pacific region. As part of the effort, Tepco hopes to restart two of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear reactors at the power plant. They also hope to procure more gigawatt capacity, so that when the reactors are restarted, they can hold more nuclear deposits.
The biggest problem that Japan is dealing with, today in 2014, is the continuous spills of nuclear contaminated water into the soil at Fukushima, which then finds its way into the ocean. This can have a catastrophic effect on the ecosystems and biodiversity of sea life under the Pacific ocean, with damages possibly coming to the coasts of major west coast cities, such as Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and the Bay area, Los Angeles, and Tijuana. If nuclear waste finds itself on the coasts of sea side towns in America, it could change the American economy, environment, and every other facet of everyday American life on the west coast. Lobster, a major culinary favorite on both coasts of the United States, could forever be poisoned an inedible for humans.
The absolute worst of the nuclear spills, however, is their link to bone cancer and leukemia. In February of this year, 100 tons of nuclear contaminated water leaked into the ground, and water reserves. This makes the water available to Japanese citizens unpotable for consumption. Bathing in it could also prove dangerous. Interacting with contaminated water could cause kids and adults, indiscriminately, to develop different types of cancers. The ultimate consequence of which is death, creating a troubling causation between the water and the unrelenting poison in relation to diseases such as leukemia. Yet, Japan and Tepco want to expand and explore the scope of their nuclear programs, adding more to the already faulty reserves.
Civilians of Japan Protest
In March, the month the devastating earthquake and tsunami caused all of this chaos in 2011, protesters took to the streets of Tokyo to protest PM Shinzo Abe’s decision to allow more nuclear energy to be stored. Until now, most of the reactors have been idle; any ongoing operation involving the storage of new nuclear energy could be deadly. But now, 48 reactors are on their way to being restarted. The public, bearing the brunt of all of these jeopardizing decisions, have had enough. They are wary of any nuclear operation, as they have seen the aftermath of the meltdown at Daiichi and the subsequent spills. The scope of those affected by poisonous water and air is not yet known, and probably will not be for many years to come. As these tensions and suspicions begin to accumulate in the protests, many are demanding that the nuclear plans be sacrificed, so that the people can rebuild.
For a country that callously had two nuclear bombs dropped on two of their major cities in World War II, it is befuddling and problematic that the Japanese government wishes to continue exploring new nuclear options. It is even more troubling when looking at their current reactors, some of which are still precarious to deal with, are dumping tons and tons of nuclear waste into the world’s ocean. Unfortunately, Shinzo Abe’s trendy “Abenomics” – the plan to reinvigorate the Japanese economy – has taken the shape of proverbial Yen signs where the eyes of the government should be. Japan has lost trillions in the three years since everything changed. Their answer to this is to continue to procure more of the material that put them in the current situation they are in now. Maybe gaining money should not be the answer Abe is desperately looking for. Maybe it should be about saving the lives of Japanese children who could very well end up developing leukemia throughout their lifetime; the result of deciding to use nuclear energy.
Opinion by Tyler Collins