After the reactors at Fukushima First Power Plant here in Japan melted down in March of 2011, a wave of paranoia gripped Japan. Anti-nuke scaremongers had a field day, and opposition to nuclear power had become quite popular. Before a popular position is adopted, however, it should first be checked against the numbers to make sure it stands up to reality.
I’m not saying that nuclear power is entirely safe, and nothing ever is, but the dangers of nuclear power have always been blown way out of proportion. It’s understandable that people would be scared of nuclear anything, considering the horrific damage that nuclear weapons did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki back during World War II. It’s especially scary here, since this is the only country in history, so far, to get hit with nuclear weapons.
But is this fear justified when it comes to peaceful nuclear power? I don’t think so. Too many people look too much at the TV screens showing power plants going kaboom and not enough at the hard numbers. I support stringent safety measures to insure that nuclear power plant workers are working in a safe environment, but I don’t support abandoning nuclear power outright. Such a position is based on sensationalist paranoia and will prove untenable in the long run once fossil fuels become too expensive for Japan, a country with no significant fossil fuel sources of its own. Since renewables are far too limited to take up the slack, nuclear power is, like it or not, here to stay.
Where I am, I see the hard numbers every day. I used to work in Fukushima prefecture, and at all five schools I worked at were these radiation monitors placed outside. Increased cancer risk, the barest minimum of ill effects from radiation, requires at least ten microsieverts of constant dosage, and it must stay above ten microsieverts to do so, but I have never seen even one of those monitors top the one microsievert per hour mark. They all stayed in the nanosieverts range.
Finally, we should ask those seeking to ban nuclear power if they’re equally or more willing to get rid of cigarettes. Tobacco, aside from contributing nothing good to society, kills more people in one hour worldwide than nuclear power has killed in its entire history. In fact, nuclear power plant accidents such as Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island make the evening news because events like these happen so rarely. People dying of heart disease brought on from cigarette-induced inflammation happens so often that it’s nowhere near as newsworthy. News is, after all, entertainment as well as information. They know the sight of exploding power plants keeps the viewers coming back for more.