Human Interaction: Anthropogenic Climate Change and Tsunamis Part 2

The  Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant became the focal point of the 2011 disaster in Japan.  The tsunami wave that engulfed much of Japan’s shoreline caused equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and radioactive leakages in the Fukushima reactor. 1FukushimaPic

Although there were (and still are) big problems with nuclear power plants, including dangerous radioactive waste, many countries implemented the use of nuclear power plants as a cleaner form of energy due to the lack of atmospheric pollution. 2 Ironically, the meltdown of the Fukushima power plant caused several climate change issues.

The meltdown itself had many lasting effects as radioactive material seeped through the nation. The Japanese government declared a 20 km evacuation zone around the disabled reactor causing roughly 300,000 people to be displaced. Unfortunately, the radioactive material spread beyond this 20km evacuation zone as rice paddies were found to be affected and many individuals became ill from inhaling toxic materials. 3

The meltdown of the reactor encouraged Japan to abandon nuclear power for their energy demands, instead turning back to fossil fuels. Expectedly, this led to a significant increase in carbon emissions. In fact, while in 2009 the Japanese government promised to cut its carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2020, the government is now expecting their emissions to increase by 3 percent by 2020. Other countries took notice of the dangers of nuclear power plants and decided to cut back on nuclear energy as well. For example, the German government shut down eight of their nuclear power plants shortly after the disaster and have plans to shut down all nuclear power by 2022. This again will greatly increase CO2 emissions in our atmosphere. 4

The Fukishima disaster emphasized our relationship with nature and how easily this relationship could be disrupted. More and more people began to realize that nuclear energy, while producing no atmospheric pollution ,was still dangerous and will become increasingly dangerous in the future. Nuclear power plants need cooling water which means that they are often located near shorelines. As climate change causes sea level rise, similar effects to the 2011 Fukushima disaster are likely to occur. 5

Therefore, this emphasis was beneficial because people became aware of our unstable demand for energy. This not only led some countries to cut down on energy emissions, but also pushed the need for renewable resources as sources for energy. This disaster, therefore, spurred research in cleaner forms of energy.

  1. “Pros and Cons of Nuclear Power: Pictures.” Discovery. Accessed December 15, 2014. http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/curiosity/topics/10-pros-cons-nuclear-power/.
  2. “Pros and Cons of Nuclear,” Discovery.
  3.  Matthews, Richard. “Abandoning Nuclear for Fossil Fuels Lays the Foundation for Runaway Climate Change.” Global Warming Is Real. Last modified May 1, 2014. Accessed December 15, 2014. http://globalwarmingisreal.com/2014/05/01/nuclear-power-and-climate-change/.
  4. Matthews, “Abandoning Nuclear for Fossil,” Global Warming Is Real.
  5.  “Pros and Cons of Nuclear,” Discovery.

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