CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/13 March) — The threat of a nuclear meltdown following Friday’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami and Saturday’s explosion in a reactor of the Fukushima nuclear power plant has renewed calls for the phase-out of the use of nuclear power around the world.
Sources in the Japanese Green Party said that the explosion in the Reactor 1 of the Fukushima Nuclear Power plant Saturday after the 8.9 earthquake that hit country Friday could add to the sufferings of the people already crippled by the earthquake and the devastating tsumani it produced.
In Manila, Akbayan party list Rep. Walden Bello called for the final junking of any plan to rehabilitate and commission the long mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).
The Japanese Greens also said that contrary to government reports, the fallout of radioactive materials has not been contained in the plant. They said that the meltdown in Fukushima is much worse than the Three-Mile Nuclear accident in Pennsylvania, USA. Some 140,000 people were evacuated on March 28, 1979 after a partial meltdown of the plant’s nuclear reactor core. The radioactive contamination however was contained within the plant and did not cause any injuries.
Shuji Imamoto of the Japanese Greens that they believe that the Fukushima Nuclear plant accident is worse than the Three-Mile Nuclear accident.
“Adding to our anxiety,” Imamoto said, “is the tendency of government to downplay the impact. The government does not announce the true story or give exact data on the nuclear incident,” Imamoto told MindaNews.
As of Sunday, a second reactor in the Fukushima nuclear facility built in 1970 was also reportedly experiencing “cooling system” problems.
Authorities in Japan have evacuated the population in the 12-mile radius (approx. 20 km) of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. More than 150,000 people have been evacuated so far.
Rep. Bello called for the junking of any plan to rehabilitate and commission the long mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.
Pangasinan 5th district Congressman Mark Cojuanco has tried to resurrect moves to commission the multi-billion BNPP following complaints over power shortage last year.
Physicist Dr. Giovanni Tapang of the No to BNPP Movement said that “this unfolding precedent in Japan should serve as an ample warning to the Philippine government to not rush headlong into the BNPP’s revival.”
Aside from the proposal to revive the long-mothballed BNPP, there have been talks of exploring the feasibility of putting up a nuclear power plant in Mindanao to ease the growing power shortage in the island.
Greenpeace International, which has long called for the deactivation of nuclear power plants the world over said the feared Fukushima meltdown proves that even in the most modern country in the world, environmental safeguards of nuclear power plants cannot be trusted in extreme events like Friday’s earthquake.
Earlier Saturday, the Tokyo Electric Power Co had authorized the release of radioactive steam to diffuse the building up of pressure from Fukushima’s reactor 1 after the earthquake damaged its cooling system. Later in the afternoon the plant was rocked by an explosion. Authorities confirmed four injuries in the accident.
“How many more warnings do people need to get before they understand that nuclear reactors are inherently hazardous?” asked Jan Beranek, Greenpeace’s head nuclear campaigner said.
“We are told by the nuclear industry that things like this cannot happen with modern reactors, yet today Japan is in the middle of a nuclear crises with potentially devastating consequences,” he added.
“While the immediate focus is on minimizing radiation release and keeping local people safe, this is yet another reminder of the inherent risks of nuclear power, which will always be vulnerable to a potentially deadly combination of human error, design failure and natural disaster,” Greenpeace said in a statement Saturday.
“Greenpeace is calling for the phase out of existing reactors, and no construction of new commercial nuclear reactors. Governments should invest in renewable energy resources that are not only environmentally sound but also affordable and reliable.”
Impact of the nuclear fallout to the Philippines is still unclear but experts admit that the country could be affected depending on the wind direction.
Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo was quoted in media reports as saying that they are monitoring the wind direction and are closely monitoring the radioactive monitors in Japan to determine if the radioactive fallout can reach the Philippines. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)