Radiation Scares from Japanese Nuclear Reactors

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Japan is used to face earthquakes because the country sits on a geological fault and suffers several hundred tremors in a year. Most of them are minor and people do not even notice it since they have gotten used to it in their daily life. However, some tremors are bad and may even be devastating. One of the worse earthquakes hit East coast of Japan on March 11th, causing tsunami reaching across the Pacific basin to Hawaii and the West coast of America.

Unfortunately for Japan though, the tsunami which followed the quake was almost unprecedented proportion. Yet further misfortune which coincided all this is the fact that Japan has Nuclear Power generator on the East coast, about 100 miles from the epicenter. As per their precaution program, the reactor stopped working immediately as the earthquake struck. However, the spent fuel pools, which need a continuous cooling to cool down the used uranium rods lost its cooling mechanism by water because of tsunami waters flooding the diesel generators which were providing power to run the pumping machines, which in turn were bringing the water to cool down the rods. On top of that the backup battery power was available for only a few hours. Hence the spent fuel rods created yet another crisis with a risk of radioactive rods coming out naked from the pins they are held in and melting down spreading the radiation to surrounding areas in vast amount. The hot rods started creating fires also adding to the risk of melting of radioactive rods.

This awakens the whole world to the possible risk that we are all inviting by using Nuclear power reactors for electricity. There are hundreds of such reactors in different countries of the world. Most enthusiastic country in installing such reactors is France, which has 58 reactors with a major portion of its electricity supply from them. Europe has over 150 reactors in all and US has over 100 while many other countries have these reactors to find clean and perhaps cheap electricity.

As we are writing this after about a week from the earthquake, there has been a lot of worry expressed by many experts including those who have been very strong proponent of the nuclear reactors for electricity. Germany has stopped using 7 of their reactors which are old, US is thinking to have another look at all those reactors (23 of them) which use the same technology for cooling and have second though about new ones which were being brought in. other countries are also watching with discomfort. 

We ought to have a United Nations Committee to deliberate on the future of the nuclear reactors for electricity. They should put a moratorium on new ones until its safety is undeniably guaranteed and there must be a watchdog committee to look at all existing facilities to stress test them for any future accidents.