By Leuren Moret
This is a slightly edited version of an article that appeared in The Japan Times, on May 23rd, 2004 which was sourced from Japan Focus who posted it on November 29th, 2005.
A video presentation given by Leuren Moret shortly after the nuclear disaster in Japan has been added to the end of this article for your perusal.
[Leuren Moret is an internationally recognized geoscientist and critic of nuclear power who has maintained a long interest in Japan’s nuclear power program. As she points out in this article, Japan is the world’s 3rd largest nuclear producer, with 52 reactors (versus 72 in France and 118 in the United States). Japan’s reactors produce about 30 percent of the country’s electricity. Japan is also one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, with a multiplicity of active fault zones. In persuasive detail spelled out in a map, Moret shows that Japan’s nuclear industry has generally neglected the earthquake threat and built its reactors close to fault zones. She shows that Japanese government and industry has no serious emergency planning in the event of a disaster. For example, Japan’s most seismically dangerous nuclear plant – the Hamaoka reactor in Shizuoka Prefecture – has Emergency Response Centres (ERCs) equipped with tiny decontamination showers that would be of little avail in the event of a serious emergency. In fact, planning for a very serious nuclear emergency is in many respects not possible. According to Moret, the scale of the disaster would be of such magnitude as to render any conceivable emergency response totally inadequate and ineffective. She shows why the only adequate response ultimately is to prevent accidents by turning away from nuclear energy.
This is particularly daunting news for Japanese energy planners. The importance of this article has, if anything, increased since its initial publication last year. With world oil prices spiraling and mounting concerns over energy costs and long-term supplies, the Japanese nuclear industry has sought to play on fears of energy shortage in a bid to overcome a slew of recent nuclear mishaps and convince the public that more nuclear plants are necessary. Such heavy lobbying evident in the UK and elsewhere, threatens to soak up funding and attention to the pressing need to develop alternative renewable energy sources. Citing the example of several successful retrofitted US nuclear plants that now burn natural gas, Moret argues that this is a far safer alternative. At present it appears that neither the spiraling of oil prices nor the prospect that peak oil production is imminent has led to serious scientific efforts to develop such renewable energy sources as solar and wind power. Japan Focus]
Of all the places in all the world where no one in their right mind would build scores of nuclear power plants, Japan would be pretty near the top of the list.
The Japanese archipelago is located on the so-called Pacific Rim of Fire, a large active volcanic and tectonic zone ringing North and South America, Asia and island arcs in Southeast Asia. The major earthquakes and active volcanoes occurring there are caused by the westward movement of the Pacific tectonic plate and other plates leading to subduction under Asia.
Japan sits on top of four tectonic plates, at the edge of the subduction zone, and is in one of the most tectonically active regions of the world. It was extreme pressures and temperatures, resulting from the violent plate movements beneath the seafloor, that created the beautiful islands and volcanoes of Japan. Continue reading