Meanwhile, the fear of radiation caused Germany and others to radically curtail their nuclear power generation. Thus we have people with “green” sensibilities, moving away from the one reliable power source that does not emit carbon.
And they fancy themselves the “reality-based community.”
It is two years sinceÂ Japanâ€™s 9.0- magnitude earthquake, one so powerful it shifted the position of the Earthâ€™s figure axis by as much as 6 inches and moved Honshu, Japanâ€™s main island, 8 feet eastward. The tsunami generated by the earthquake obliterated towns, drowned almost 20,000 people and left more than 300,000 homeless. Everyone living within 15 miles of Fukushima was evacuated; many are still in temporary housing. Some will never be able to return home.
More than 300,000 buildings were destroyed and another million damaged, including four reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on the northeast coast. The earthquake caused the immediate shutdown of this and three other nuclear-power facilities.
Since the earthquake, a powerful movement gained momentum to halt Japanâ€™s use of nuclear energy, which provided 30 percent of the countryâ€™s electricity. The last of 54 nuclear reactors was shut down in May 2012. Two facilities were restarted in June 2012; 52 remain shut. Japan has therefore had to increase its imports of natural gas, low-sulfur crude oil and fuel oil at a substantial economic and environmental cost. Seventy-five percent of the countryâ€™s electricity now comes from fossil fuels.
Accustomed to large trade surpluses, Japan, in 2012, had a record $78 billion trade deficit, thanks to increased energy imports and a drop in exports as Japanese goods became more expensive to produce.
And what of the lasting threat from radiation? Remarkably, outside the immediate area of Fukushima, this is hardly a problem at all. Although the crippled nuclear reactors themselves still pose a danger, no one, including personnel who worked in the buildings, died fromradiation exposure. Most experts agree that future health risks from the released radiation, notably radioactive iodine-131 and cesiums-134 and – 137, are extremely small and likely to be undetectable.
Even considering the upper boundary of estimated effects, there is unlikely to be any detectable increase in cancers in Japan,Â Asia or the world except close to the facility, according to a World Health OrganizationÂ report. There will almost certainly be no increase in birth defects or genetic abnormalities from radiation.