Japan’s Nuclear Crisis: grim reminder to countries across the world

With Japan’s nuclear crisis set to reach a different high, fears have spread across the world over the radiation spread in the atmosphere. While the countries across the world that had plans of developing Nuclear power stations have now had a setback and are giving a second thought to it.

Anti Nuclear protesters have come out openly criticizing the use of Nuclear power; the protests have been more demonstrative in Germany where Angela Merkel’s government has first suspended the life extension to Germany’s nuclear reactor and then decided to shut down the oldest ones. Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, has ordered a review of the future of Russia’s atomic energy sector, Switzerland has suspended decisions on plants while Austria has asked for a review of reactors across Europe.
This sort of International reaction was expected.

Agreed, Japan is witnessing a nuclear crisis; however, putting curtains on the existing nuclear reactors or further increased use of nuclear power is not justified. Panic and rejection is not the solution to this situation instead a safety review and upgrade of the existing systems. With mounting international concerns about global warming, Nuclear power has come to be accepted as a viable alternative to the increasing burning of coal and oil.

Besides India and China, many countries in Asia have outlined plans for atomic power generation. Countries that are rich in petroleum resources like Iran and Saudi Arabia, are also considering the building of nuclear power plants. Reports suggest that at least 100 nuclear plants are on the drawing board in Asia. The United States has been extending the life of old units and two new ones are expected to come up for licensing in the coming years.

The rising reliance on the nuclear power has amounted to the increase in prices of Uranium and nuclear equipment manufacturers are looking forward to a brisk business. However, the Fukushima incident has given a new life to the traditional opponents of nuclear power and won fresh converts. The politicians across the world are expected to respond and most probably bow to the popular pressure. Insurers too will raise the costs of supporting nuclear power generation.

Keeping everything in mind, Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh has done the right thing by ordering an immediate review of all the safety systems of our nuclear power plants and assuring the nation that these nuclear power plants are safe and equipped to withstand the impact of large nuclear disasters like the Tsunamis and earthquakes. However, additional steps need to be taken by the government to ensure the confidence of the people in nuclear power usage.

Whatever be the amount of damage in the Fukushima nuclear plant, the fact cannot be overshadowed that the plant was 40 years old and in queue of decommissioning. The current designs and technology used for preparing the nuclear reactors are far more advanced and disaster-resistant. The Fukushima reactor has shown that the many redundant systems could not save it from the double blow of the nature in the form of Tsunami and earthquake. Though the reactor withstood the pressure from the earthquake and shut down immediately; however the irregularity in the power supply after the Tsunami affected its effective cooling.

The Fukushima incident is a lesson to be learnt and one of the central lessons of them is the importance of looking beyond the current reliance on containment structures to limit radioactive leaks. The current and future stations must be fitted with effective filtering systems that may help in reducing the emission of dangerous gases from the reactor when the pressure on the system is relieved due to an emergency.

For a country like India, it needs to be seen that the nation’s disaster management systems at all levels are reviewed and the local officials are equipped at nuclear sites to effectively cope with one or more emergencies around a nuclear plant. Safety at all levels of the nuclear reactors must be improved. With the increasing difficulties in building hydroelectric plants, international demand to reduce carbon emissions and shortage of domestic resources, India has to pursue with the option use of nuclear energy until other green technologies are commercially viable.

With a country like Japan who had equipped itself to face natural disasters like the present ones and yet it could not turn around the devastation that has been caused by the mother nature; it is difficult to digest but a hard reality that is our country equipped to withstand a natural calamity of such a stature? In order to seek an affirmative response, the government will have to tighten its belt and work upon making our country at least equipped to a certain degree that it can sustain the disaster and come out strong just the way Japan has.

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