After the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, many have started speaking out against nuclear energy and governments have started rethinking their energy concepts.
Workers continue to risk their lives at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant
Indian environmentalist, Praful Bidwai, laughs bitterly when he reads out the official statement of India’s Atomic Energy Commission from March 14 on the disaster in Fukushima. According to the statement, the problems in Fukushima were caused by a chemical reaction and not by an atomic disaster. Furthermore, it says the emergency action plan was carried out perfectly.
It is obvious why India’s Atomic Energy Commission played down the disaster; India is following an ambitious nuclear energy plan - in addition to its 20 existing plants, six new ones are being built, some of them in ecologically sensitive regions.
Bidwai says that while the anti-nuclear movements were more discrete in the past, now they are growing and "forming national-level coordination committees." He says this is all due to the disaster in Fukushima. "The movement is now demanding that the entire nuclear plan be scrapped. And the government is under pressure...All the uranium mining projects are being opposed." He adds, "There’s not a single attempt in the nuclear field by the government which is not resisted by the people."
Japan's March earthquake and tsunami caused problems at the Daiichi plant in Fukushima
China and India examine standards
Since the Fukushima disaster, China’s government has also started examining its stance on nuclear energy. Currently there are 27 new plants under construction. The government has drawn up plans to inspect the plants and raise security standards. As a consequence, some of the plants might not be able to be finished.
Li Bo, head of "Friends of Nature," one of China’s largest environmental NGOs, says that the Chinese public has also taken up the discussion with more interest than previously. "Finally, I think the public in China woke up but what can be learned is still very much a question."
Li Bo believes the Chinese public has yet to be provided with comprehensive information concerning nuclear energy. He says it is outrageous how little the Chinese public knows, which became obvious when there was a rush in China to buy salt after the Fukushima disaster. "Shortly after March 11, there was a race in the market place to buy off all salt in the shops. And because people believe eating more salt, especially along the coastal areas of China, will be a feasible measure to prevent (the impact of radiation)."
There are alternatives
Nuclear energy accounts for only two percent of energy in China. Li Bo points out an argument that is often used to convince opponents of nuclear energy. He says public concerns are often knocked down with the argument of population size and energy needs. "Safety concerns or public health concerns are argued against by how such a massive population can survive and how massive poverty can be eradicated."
In India, less than three percent of energy is produced in nuclear power plants. It would increase to six percent if the planned plants are added to the grid. Environmental activist, Praful Bidwai, does not believe nuclear energy is the best solution for India’s energy needs. He says, "100,000 of India’s 600,000 villages have no electricity at all and will not have it for decades to come. There’s no reason why solar lighting systems should not be installed in all these. Half of the Indian population does not have electric supply. 45 percent to be precise. Give them at least lighting power through solar power and there it is competitive."
Alternative Nobel Prize laureate, Mycle Schneider, believes the downfall of nuclear energy started long before Fukushima. He is an expert in global nuclear energy trends and points out that "the amount of nuclear energy produced world wide fell for the fourth year consecutively in 2009. The reactors are ageing and more and more reactors over 40 years old are now in use."
That means that many old reactors will have to be shut down in the next few years. At the same time, fewer new plants are being built to replace them. More and more countries, among them, India and China, are turning to renewable forms of energy. Schneider believes the disaster at Fukushima will only accelerate this process. He believes, "Fukushima is the beginning of the last chapter of the history of nuclear energy."
Author: Nina Werkhäuser (sb)
Editor: Ziphora Robina