Japanese Nuclear Accident

free essayThe nuclear accident in Japan was one of the biggest environmental disasters in modern history. It was triggered by a tsunami that flooded Fukushima 1 nuclear Power Plant thus leading to a nuclear meltdown.

Analysis of the Accident

Nuclear power plants derive power from nuclear fission, which takes place when heavy atoms are struck by a neutron. The reaction emits enormous quantity of energy and produces radiation as a by-product (Hindmarsh, 2013). This is exactly what happened in the Japanese nuclear accident, which was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. The accident involved a series of events leading to significant ramifications in the region. The Great East Japan Earthquake triggered a large Tsunami that inundated about 560 sq. km. The 15-metre Tsunami resulted in a massive radioactive contamination within the Japanese mainland.

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Such consequences were caused by the destruction of the diesel generators, which provide power to drive the pumps that circulate water coolant. Furthermore, the above affected the removal of decay heat thus increasing the temperatures (Hindmarsh, 2013). The reactors primarily relied on a power source, while power was lost, as the Tsunami had destroyed the diesel generators and disabled the electric switchgear. Subsequently, the increase of temperatures led the operators to vent in such a way releasing hydrogen and causing explosions. Fission products, such as radioactive caesium and iodine, were released from the plant. However, the nuclear accident was to some extent a man-made disaster, because the Tokyo Electric Power Co. admitted that it was not fully prepared to handle the incident and lacked sufficient measures.

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Apart from the above mentioned, a panel of government investigators noticed that the plant had poorly trained operators who misread a key back up system. This resulted in a delay to pump water to overheating reactor units. The accident also showed that the Japanese government overlooked the possibility of having a nuclear disaster triggered by a Tsunami. Similarly, the nuclear industry failed to absorb the lessons learnt from the Chernobyl disaster. However, the biggest mistake in the occurrence of the accident was the lack of comprehensive information about technical details of the reactors. The above is rather evident because the incident had destroyed much of the facility and instrumentation thus rendering the operators blind. In addition, there were power supply failures and a breakdown of communication, which made it difficult to conduct the evacuation process. However, the Japanese government was quick to negate the severity of the accident by implementing protective measures, halting food shipments from the area and evacuating people.

Future Prevention of Such Accidents

It is possible to prevent such accident by creating self-powering systems that rely on the energy produced by the pant. This will require thermo acoustic sensors that operate without relying on external power sources. Such a system will ensure that the cooling process is not interrupted by power supplies or tsunamis, which was the case in the Japanese nuclear accident. What is more, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should find the new information relating to new hazards and incorporate modern risk concepts in the safety requirements (Hindmarsh, 2013). The nuclear plants should also be designed in a manner that withstands crisis, such as equipment failure and the inability to cool the reactor core.

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has considered the use of accident tolerant fuels, which enhance accident tolerance compared to standard fuels. They will be effective in tolerating the loss of active cooling for a longer time. In fact, the Japanese nuclear accident would not have been as severe, if such fuel was used. Engineers are resorting to the use of obsidian-like glass, which locks in radioactive material and renders it inert (Ishikawa, 2015). This is safer and more effective compared to the concrete used in the standard methods.

Ramifications of the Overall Incidents

The nuclear accident, which caused a number of human sufferings and ramifications, will continue to unfold in the future. The radioactive substances caused mental strain and solid cancer diseases. One of the diseases that have shown an uptick is thyroid cancer because radioactive iodine from the accident concentrates in the thyroid gland (Ishikawa, 2015). The accident also altered Japan’s energy supply, which had a significant impact on the energy mix. All six nuclear reactors were decommissioned leaving the country with a gaping hole in the energy mix. Japan thus resorted to using alternative energy sources such as shale gas and renewable energy (Ishikawa, 2015).

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In addition, the accident caused long-term contamination of food, water, and dairy products, even though the government has been taking decontamination measures. The radioactive levels had surpassed the legal limits. As a result, many countries barred the importation of Japanese foods, which has affected the country’s balance of payments. Another ramification is the great dispersion of radioactive elements after radioactive water leaked into the sea (Ishikawa, 2015). In fact, the Fukushima has some of the world’s strongest currents. This increases the likelihood that the currents transported contaminated water in the Pacific Ocean.

Conclusion

The Japanese nuclear accident caused a plume of radiation and a huge social crisis, as huge amounts of radioactivity were released in the environment. The main challenge was to keep the reactors cool to prevent nuclear meltdown, which would release radiations. The efforts to cool the system were futile thus causing the accident. However, the disastrous meltdowns would have been presented, if the safety and disaster response was proactive and well-organized. The accident has long lasting ramifications such as food contamination and an interaction of energy supply. Even though there are safety measures aimed at avoiding such an incident in future, perfect safety cannot be guaranteed.