I’m in Japan, and right now I’m flying over the city of Fukushima, whose nuclear power plant was the site of a disaster six years ago. Although for safety reasons I’m flying at high altitude, the view still makes my feathers stand on end: collapsed houses, car wrecks, just a handful of people – and all of them are wearing creepy gas masks and protective suits. Even today, Fukushima is still a prohibited area.
The dark side of nuclear power
Nuclear power is tricky. When everything works the way it’s supposed to, that’s one thing. But even then, the question of how to permanently dispose of nuclear waste remains unanswered. And what happens when something happens? A disaster, like an earthquake? That’s when the picnic gets ruined. And for that matter, it’ll be a looooong time before anyone can even go for a picnic again.
Clean-up work in these situations is tough. The radiation is so high at times that even the most modern robot breaks down. Due to contamination in the surrounding region, more than 70,000 people still can’t return to their homes. Experts estimate that it will take about another 40 years before the nuclear waste has been disposed of and the plant is fully shut down.
Hungry for more
After this catastrophe, Japan phased out nuclear power. But now they are facing a shortage of electricity. In order to keep the lights on, the population has drastically reduced their electricity usage, relying on LED lights and other energy-efficient technologies. That’s great!
But increasing alternative energies is a slow process. Japan currently gets about 11% of its electricity from renewable sources, the largest proportion of which comes from solar power.
Japan’s government looking to bring back nuclear power
But instead of further expanding solar, wind, biomass and geothermal power in order to get more clean energy, Japan’s prime minister is actually planning on going back to using nuclear power – unbelievable, isn’t it? By 2030 – according to these plans – 30% of electricity will be from nuclear power plants, 50% from coal, oil and gas, and only 20% from renewable sources. When I heard that, I practically fell off my perch! The people of Japan have protested against these plans.
Disasters like Fukushima show us that it’s high time to change how we think about energy! That’s why I’m continuing my search for safe, environmentally friendly alternatives to nuclear power. Maybe one of these will even win over the Japanese government…