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Fukushima & Beyond…

With the demand for power steadily increasing across the country, Japan has decided to rely on nuclear energy, yet again. Keeping the scenario in mind, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced the New Energy Policy on August 24, 2022, saying that the supply of traditional biofuels became more uncertain, amidst the Russia-Ukraine War. The PM also said that it became necessary to revive the nuclear power generation industry of his country to deal with this crisis.

According to Prime Minister Kishida, Japan is looking to build Next-Generation Nuclear Reactors in order to combat the growing demand of energy. Meanwhile, the island nation in East Asia has already increased nuclear power generation, gradually. Out of 33 nuclear reactors in the country, 10 have started full-scale production. In a rare first, Tokyo has activated so many nuclear reactors at a time since the Fukushima disaster (that occurred on March 11, 2011).

Fumio Kishida

An earthquake and a tsunami damaged the nuclear power plant in Fukushima in 2011. The 14mt high tsunami swept over the plant’s seawall and also flooded the lower parts of four reactors. The flooding triggered the failure of the emergency generators and loss of power to the circulating pumps. Later, the resultant loss of reactor core cooling led to three nuclear meltdowns, three hydrogen explosions, and the release of radioactive contamination in Units One, Two and Three between March 12 and 15. The spent fuel pool of previously shut down Reactor Four increased in temperature on March 15 because of decay heat from newly added spent fuel rods. However, it did not boil down sufficiently to expose the fuel.

The Japanese officials had reportedly used one million tonnes of water to re-cool those reactors. For the next few years, the process of removing the radioactive material by treating the water (mixed with radioactive waste from the reactor) continued. However, Tokyo Electric Power claimed that it did not have the technology to completely remove Tritium, a rare radioactive isotope of hydrogen, and other harmful substances from the water.

Fukushima disaster

A few years ago, the Government of Japan decided to dump radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. However, environmental organisations and fishermen strongly opposed the Government’s decision. People also expressed doubt about the safety of the Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant in Oshika District of Ishinomaki city (Miyagi Prefecture) during an earthquake in March 2022.

Tokyo started curbing its reliance on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. However, the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has changed the entire scenario, as Prime Minister Kishida stressed: “Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow.” He also said that although Japan is a peace-loving nation, the changing regional and global security landscape prompted Tokyo to reassess its own position.

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