In the wake of the nuclear meltdown, and subsequent radiation leak at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the debate on nuclear power, its safety and feasibility, has been rekindled.
On Sunday, at a discussion held at the National Gallery of Modern Art, John Clammer, professor of sociology at the UN University, Tokyo, shared his experiences during and after the earthquake and tsunami that claimed around 15,000 lives and exposed many more living around the Fukushima prefecture to radiation. The lecture, titled ‘Lives in the shadow of Fukushima', painted a vivid picture of how people in the areas surrounding the plant, and Tokyo, coped with the natural disaster.
Prof. Clammer spoke about how there was little information being given out by the Government, and even the official figures released were often not supported by adequate data or attempts to create awareness, or properly inform people about the risks. “At one point, the Government claimed a certain amount of radiation was safe. But this was at least 20 times more than the radiation that was declared as safe or acceptable by the World Health Organisation,” he said.
The Government was suppressing information, in fact, lying to us constantly, he said.
“Being in Tokyo was like being in a science fiction movie,” he said. While he spoke about how for weeks Tokyo remained “deserted, empty and dark”, and continues to have around 20 per cent power shortage, he also said that there have been reports about traces of increased levels of radioactive content in mothers' milk. The events at the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant have proved that nuclear power is not safe, particularly in the face of natural disasters. Even in India, Tamil Nadu is along the coast, and there is not enough discourse on the risks associated, he said, adding that there needs to be a serious re-think on nuclear plants. He also quoted newspaper reports from the ‘Japan Times' that reported that Japan had not disclosed information on the unaccounted plutonium or uranium stored in its nuclear waste dump.
Corinne Kumar, founder director, CIEDS Collective, said that the issue of nuclear waste was a serious one.
Ms. Kumar said that there was a need for more discourse on nuclear energy, and that debate on this subject was often limited to nuclear weapons and disarmament. “Atoms for war, and atoms for peace are two sides of the same coin. We must recognise this,” she said.
Speaking at the event, Atul Choksi, professor from the Indian Institute of Science, said the disaster at Fukushima made many like him understand that there was an urgent need for a re-look at nuclear energy and plants.