National Sections of the L5I:

The problems with nuclear power

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Most people do not consider Nuclear power a problem until something goes wrong – then the threat of radiation or an explosion suddenly becomes very real. As one Japanese worker reported to the BBC “It is surreal going to work 150 miles away from three nuclear reactors in near meltdown.”

Japan has become increasingly reliant on nuclear power since the 1970s. Today it has 53 nuclear reactors which provide 34 per cent of the countries electrical power, substantially more than renewable energy.

But the nuclear industry is shrouded in secrecy. The Japanese government clearly tried to cover up the severity of the recent crisis, just as the Soviet Union did in 1986 when Chernobyl went critical causing the worst ever nuclear disaster in history. Many people remember the outrage caused by the 1995 accident at the Monju nuclear power plant which was covered up by the government with falsification of documents, editing video tapes and putting gagging orders on employees to prevent them talking to the press about what happened.

Alarmingly a great many nuclear power stations are built in areas which are at risk of earthquakes and tsunamis. For instance in the US four large reactors are positioned near the California coast. One the Diablo Canyon Power Plant sits virtually on the San Andreas Fault and is built to resist a maximum force 7 quake
An equivalent earthquake of 8.9 there and tsunami could badly damage or destroy the plant that would irradiate large parts of the western seaboard.

Although the Japanese government has invested money in new technologies for buildings to withstand some of the worst affects of earthquakes – there is no known technology that can always prevent a nuclear reactor from suffering damage in very serious quakes registering 7 or more on the Richter scale.

Even operating under relatively normal conditions nuclear power plans can still suffer serious incidents. The Three Mile Island nuclear facility in the US had a level five incident in 1979. In 1959 there was a fire at the Windscale site in Cumbria. The site suffered bad press for years with controversy surrounding radioactive leaks which many people from the local community said was deliberate.

The real problem is the secrecy of the nuclear industry internationally which has fought hard to suppress negative publicity and cover up accidents. Business and official secrecy means it is impossible to really hold the governments and companies to account.

Nuclear power cannot be safe under capitalism. There should be a moratorium on all new plants being built and independent workers and scientists’ inspections of active plants. The argument that this cannot happen because of business, government or military secrecy just shows how unaccountable the whole industry is, an alarming fact when we realise the lethal potential for destruction that these nuclear reactors represent.