Japan’s safety agency upgrades nuke accident seriousness level from 4 to 5

Radiation leaks from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant after last week’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake took place as the world marks next month the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl disaster.

The worst nuclear power plant accident in history occurred on April 24, 1986 at Chernobyl nuclear power plant, 130 km from Kiev, causing sustaining and irreparable damage to the environment and people’s health.

Many nearby residents were diagnosed cancer after the tragedy, and radiation caused infertility in a lot of women in eastern Europe. Compounded by poor organization, the disaster took a turn for the worse.

"When we arrived at the exclusion zone, we had no remedies. We were young and inexperienced. We protected ourselves from radiation with iodine, as our nurse advised. At that time we just did not understand what it may cause, no one told us about possible consequences," Oleg Severinko, a then emergency worker, told Xinhua in an interview.

Reports by the United Nations say some 4,000 people had died as a result of the accident, but environmentalists believe the figures are well-underestimated, and Greenpeace insists that radiation from Chernobyl has shortened the lives of as many as 100,000.

Severinko said it has been fortunate for him to be alive still, compared with many of his colleagues.

Experts say there are currently about 200,000 Chernobyl liquidators in Ukraine — all teetering between two worlds.

As the latest nuclear accident in Japan provides a costly opportunity to redigest the lesson of Chernobyl, the world is learning in a hard way that the importance of nuclear security can never be overstated.

Although Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano has said earlier that the current radiation leaks would not harm the human body, any premature optimism could be even more disastrous.

But a comforting fact is that Japan is not repeating what happened after the Chernobyl accident when information was kept in secret for three years from the citizens. At that time, people still hung out, walked under acid rains, and drank contaminated water.

In Japan, people are either staying at home or moving to relatives in safe places. Meanwhile, countries across the world are also evacuating their citizens from the worst-hit regions in Japan.

It is not that the use of nuclear power is inadmissible, as the 21st century is believed by many as "the Renaissance time of nuclear energy." But given that nuclear power can be both a friend and a foe, the world should also take each possible opportunity to rethink their nuclear ambitions and take preventive measures to avoid possible disasters.

Inconvenient Truth: Nuclear Energy Has Killed Infinitely More People Than Wind Energy

To that end, here’s an interesting fact you won’t be hearing from the mainstream press: nuclear energy has killed more Americans than wind energy.

Despite assertions by its detractors, the Japanese wind energy industry is still functioning and helping to keep the lights on during the Fuksuhima nuclear power crisis.

Wind Power Plants Survive Japan Disasters Unscathed and Are Stepping Up Operations to Provide Power to Devastated Country
As the world collectively holds its breath to see how the Fukushima crisis plays out (the quote of the day has got to be: "The worst-case scenario doesn’t bear mentioning and the best-case scenario keeps getting worse…") there’s a positive story which is not yet being reported.

Despite assertions by its detractors that wind energy would not survive an earthquake or tsunami the Japanese wind turbines industry is still functioning and helping to keep the lights on during the Fuksuhima crisis.

I’ve been directly corresponding with Yoshinori Ueda leader of the International Committee of the Japan Wind Power Association & Japan Wind Energy Association, and according to Ueda there has been no wind damage reported by any association members, from either the earthquake or the tsunami. Even the Kamisu semi-offshore wind farm, located about 300km from the epicenter of the quake, survived. Its anti-earthquake "battle proof design" came through with flying colors.

Mr. Ueda confirms that most Japanese wind turbines are fully operational. Indeed, he says that electric companies have asked wind farm owners to step up operations as much as possible in order to make up for shortages in the eastern part of the country:

Eurus Energy Japan says that 174.9 MW with eight wind farm plants (64% of their total capacity with 11 wind farms in eastern part of Japan) are in operation now. The residual three wind farms (Kamaishi wind farm 42.9 MW, Takinekoshirai wind farm 46 MW, Satomi wind farm 10.02 MW) are stopped due to the grid failure caused by the earthquake and Tsunami. Satomi is to re-start operations in a few days. Kamaishi is notorious for tsunami disaster, but this wind farm is safe because it is locate in the mountains about 900m high from sea level.

The largest wind farm operator in Japan, Eurus Energy with about 22% of all wind turbines in Japan, is a subsidiary of Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO) which operates the Fukushima nuclear facility. Right now, it is likely the company is very happy about its diversified portfolio:

While shares in the Tokyo stock market have fallen during the crisis, the stock price of Japan Wind Development Co. Ltd. has risen from 31,500 yen on 11 March to 47,800 yen on 16 March.

The Little Engine That Could has proven itself once again. What are your thoughts on the Fukushima crisis and do you think it will impact future energy policy around the world?