Earthquake in Japan: Time to Re-think Nuclear Power Plant Building Standards

Japan is reeling under the threat of radiation leak from the Fukoshima nuclear power plant damaged in the aftermath of the recent earthquake. Nuclear experts have launched a scathing attack on the Japanese government for building nuclear power plants in earthquake-prone regions. The damage to the Fukoshima plant has exposed the dangers of building nuclear plants as a part of rampant commercialization that tends to overlook the sustainability issues.

Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone regions in the world, and ironically it also has one of the fastest growing nuclear industries in the world. Japan’s nuclear power plants contribute almost 30 percent to the country’s electricity output, and the government has plans to raise this contribution to 50 percent by 2030. Environmental experts, on the other hand, opine that Japan is the last place on earth where nuclear power plants should be built. The same is also true of China and every other part of the world where there is a risk of earthquakes.

It is clearly a battle between building a sustainable planet and pursuing the commercial interests of companies that build and operate nuclear power plants. The recent example of Japan has clearly demonstrated that there is a critical need to bring a balance between the two. The reality of nature’s immense supremacy over manmade systems cannot be wished away. The danger is not going to disappear just by turning a blind eye to it.

Japan is home to 55 nuclear energy plants, and each plant is built with a minimum investment of $1 billion each. The country’s energy economy is heavily dependent on this nuclear power infrastructure. Therefore, it is impractical to expect the government to do anything drastic to address this problem. However, this issue must serve as an eye-opener for the rest of the world, particularly countries like China and India where large-scale investments are being made to build a nuclear power infrastructure.   

Photo Credit: njd89