Friday, May 6, 2011

Nuclear - Fukushima: any serious subjective

The decision to classify the accident in Fukushima 7 of gravity, like the Chernobyl disaster, is it significant? To some extent, no: this upward revision reflects a reassessment of data already collected on environmental radioactivity rather than worsening the situation. No new event justifies the passage from level 5 to level 7.

In the nuclear industry, it naturally seeks to mute such comparisons with Chernobyl accident, the only level 7 registered before Fukushima. Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Japan Nuclear Safety, said that the two accidents were still "very different" and that the amount of radiation emitted in Fukushima did not exceed 10% of that recorded at Chernobyl.

However, the decision to raise the level of Fukushima will change the perception of its seriousness in public opinion and the positioning of the latter vis-à-vis nuclear power. First, it tells us that a serious accident at Chernobyl that can occur in a modern industrialized country, which is a serious blow to the reputation of this industry, as UBS said in a recent report.

As for the fact that officials claimed, there are still a few days, there was no need to raise the level of the accident, it highlights the lack of transparency in the nuclear industry, which exacerbates still antinuclear positions. Finally, successive reclassifications of the accident (level 4, in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, to level 5 and level 7) are reminiscent of attempts by BP to minimize the extent of the spill in the Gulf Mexico, until the true extent of the disaster appears to light.

Nuclear proponents know that this behavior can have a devastating effect on the image of the sector. Jennex Murray, senior lecturer at the University of San Diego and former nuclear engineer, told the Guardian: "I think it is excessive to classify [Fukushima] at the same level as Chernobyl.

It is far. The accident Chernobyl was terrible: the reactor had exploded, there was no containment building and were trapped. [Japan] the containment structure held, the only thing that has yielded is a fuel pool cooling that caught fire. This is not the same type of accident. If they want to upgrade, that's fine.

But I think they are too pessimistic. " What this really reflects reclassification is the slowness with which we discover the damage caused by a nuclear accident. Twenty-five years after Chernobyl, experts continue to discuss the toll of the disaster, which would have been between 4000 and 980 000 victims.

The difficulty of determining the number of deaths caused by an accident of this type is mainly because the symptoms of cancer may occur long after that and even then it is almost impossible to diagnose the exact cause. The problem for governments is that they must now decide the future of their nuclear program, with different reactions in public opinion and very vague information on the long term.

In Germany, the lack of clarity on the severity of the accident in Fukushima risk of fanning the fears generated by nuclear power. In the UK, we are of the view that we do not know can not hurt: the demonstration on April 11 against EDF had only a limited number of people in the streets of London.

That may be why the senior nuclear whom I met later told me he was optimistic for the future of the nuclear industry in the United Kingdom. Everything he expected to see was a slight delay in the ongoing nuclear program.

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