Japan Nuclear Emergency Casts Cloud Over Australian Aspirations

Supporters of a nuclear power future for Australia have been given pause for thought over the last couple of days as the nuclear emergency in Japan continues to evolve. 
    
The immense tragedy of the Japanese earthquakes has been further compounded by an emergency at two nuclear reactors at  Fukushima power plant, north of Tokyo. Part of a nuclear reactor at the Fukushima No 1 atomic plant exploded on Saturday, with another reactor suspected to have suffered a partial meltdown.
   
ABC news reports this morning excessive levels of radiation at a second plant at Onagawa have led authorities to report a state of emergency.
    
Nuclear energy appeared to be entering a renaissance period as power generation becomes a major issue in a carbon-constrained world. Even in Australia where just a few years ago the possibility of construction of nuclear power plants on our shores were very remote, the nuclear energy option was beginning to gain more acceptance. 
    
However, the recent events in Japan have dealt the pro-nuclear lobby a severe blow as the situation deteriorates and memories of the Chernobyl incident in the Ukraine are refreshed. While the Chernobyl incident occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago, an exclusion zone of approximately 30 kilometres still exists around the Chernobyl reactor due to radioactive contamination. It’s estimated the area will not be safe for agricultural purposes for 200 years.
    
Australian Greens leader Senator Bob Brown said in an interview with Sky News nuclear power is an unsafe technology, that it was enormously expensive and Australia had much better alternatives. 
    
Greenpeace has called for the phase out of existing reactors around the world, and no construction of new commercial nuclear reactors. Greenpeace says governments should instead invest in renewable energy resources that are not only environmentally sound but also affordable and reliable.
     
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has also highlighted Australia’s relationship to the nuclear emergency. “Australia has a direct link to this tragedy as Tepco, the company that operates the Fukushima reactors, buys and burns Australian uranium.” said ACF’s David Noonan.