Facing Nuclear Risks: Lessons from the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

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Abstract

This paper discusses the sociological lessons learnt from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident that occurred on 11 March 2011. This disaster is the second largest nuclear accident after the Chernobyl accident. Meltdown and explosions occurred because of the hydrogen released from the damaged core. A large amount of radioactive materials has been released. Many people, around 150 000, are still in evacuation by government order or by their own choice. The incident has several characteristics. First, it is the first severe accident of a nuclear power station, the complex disaster being triggered by a large earthquake and tsunami. Second, the four reactors were simultaneously endangered. Third, the uncontrolled situation of the melted-down reactors has continued for more than 9 months. Fourth, it is the first severe accident of a nuclear power plant on the coast. Scientists are worried about serious contamination of seawater and damages to the ecosystem. This accident is a human disaster which an electric company and the national government are very much responsible for due to a series of “underestimates,” such as that of the height of a possible tsunami, the possibility of a “station blackout” and lengthy periods of no AC power. A lot of confusing and misleading information, along with the deliberate concealment of information and delay in information disclosure occurred. Located in the background of all of this is the “Atomic Circle,” a very closed relationship between politicians, government, academics, industry and the media. We should try and learn from all of this in building a post-nuclear East Asia. This would be the greatest lesson from the tragic Fukushima disaster and the greatest message to East Asia, the world and future generations.

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