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Consequences of a major nuclear disaster for Japan

Updated on May 19, 2012

By Mirna Santana

After the initial Japan nuclear accident and the initial emergency, the country was left with issues related to health, displacement of people and jobs, general economy, energy demand issues, and the recovery after the chaos.

After Japan's nuclear plant accidents the major concerns were safety for people in terms of exposure to radioactive elements and guaranteeing power supply.

The emerging chaos that original reigned was displaced by disbelief due to lack of credibility that caused major fears, unplanned mobilization, and high demands for fuel and food.

Some of the people who lost their homes, their towns (cultural roots), their jobs, and their confidence in institutions, also took risk stakes with their health by returning to the region to re-establish and go on with their lives.

The economy: the market got a initial crash but quickly rebound with the help of the government. Another reason that helped the Japanese market to recover quickly related to internal and external economic interest. Stakeholders from inside and outside of Japan, were willing to invest to keep the country stability.

The country also faces an energy crisis. Though the nuclear facilities provide only a fraction~4% of the energy--they remain an important component of the energy portfolio. Because of that the government decided to continue supporting nuclear energy as one of the energy options for the country.

Yet, it is less clear to predict how many people will be affected by the combined events. What will be the consequences for the environment and how long they would last? What would be the magnitude of a nuclear meltdown, and how do that play together with other aspects of the earthquake and Tsunami. When those areas would be safe to be repopulated? Where do the displaced will go? How these events will affect Japan in the long-term. So many questions remain to be answered or the issues addressed as the events unfold--or time passes.

On March 23, 2011, the government of Japan estimated that the cost of the combined disasters will be around $310 billions. That is the most expensive estimate for any natural or man made disaster a county has confronted. The government also estimated a huge amount of loses due tax cuts.

The risks related to the nuclear damaged plants show case a global problem in the nuclear energy industry--not only did Japan lacked on preparedness, e.g., Japan nuclear plan did not consider a disaster of the dimensions observed in March 2011 with concurring Tsunami and earthquake, but the whole industry lacked contingency plans adequate for disasters such as those predicted to occur due to global climate change.

Through time the consequences of Japan's nuclear crises have changed in dimensions and perspective.

This accident have lead the nuclear energy industry to rethink the way they conduct business. Many lesson have been learned and many more are yet to be learn from this accident-- by the energy sector, nuclear industry, scientist, politicians, the public.

This nuclear accident in Japan, already changed policies in Germany and it also changes the way the global public--and governments, the Japanese included would evaluate the pros/cons of nuclear energy. Because of public outcry, the Germans will face out nuclear energy by 2022. The USA--and its government listened to nuclear scientist, and groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)--and ultimately decided to continue supporting nuclear energy, because of the burden of climate change and the presumption that nuclear energy does not contribute to greenhouse gases.

In my opinion all nuclear reactors need to be upgraded and in places that are at high risk for natural disaster such facilities need to be faced out. In addition more studies need to be conducted to find out how susceptible people is affected by events such as the one that occurred in Japan. Governments and citizens of countries that use nuclear energy also need to evaluate the risk implied in this type of technologies and plan accordingly---if other venues are available to meet energy demands without compromising people and the environment--those factors need to be taken into account. The cost of lives/health and the health of water or other environmental services needs to be considered beyond saving money by using reactor that do not comply with adequate safety measures. Is there nuclear energy safety reactors at all? The future will tell.

May 15, 2012. Now with the shut down of nuclear plants after public outroar Japan faces a cross road. Would it continue business as usual, using more fossil fuels and gas to replace nuclear energy, or would it become a forth runner on energy innovations? There is only a small window for them to chose be better than Germany, Brazil, or other energy innovators and set new standards for the energy industry.

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PS: this article was originally written in March 2011 and subsequently updated. Last update, Sept. 23, 2011.

PS.New update May 16, 2012


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    • Johnkadu123 profile image

      Johnkadu123 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      This should be a wakeup call for anyone that considers nuclear power a harmless indulgence.

    • MSantana profile image

      MSantana 6 years ago from Madison Wisconsin

      News May 29, 2011. Germany will face out all his nuclear plants by 2022. I thought some of you may like to know that.

    • profile image

      Cloud 6 years ago

      This is very sad moment

    • SurferGirl1 profile image

      SurferGirl1 6 years ago from California

      Great Hub MSantana!

    • MSantana profile image

      MSantana 6 years ago from Madison Wisconsin

      gajanis786: Thanks very much for your comments and your thoughts for the Japanese people. Indeed Japanese people and their government are starting the recovery process. I wrote an update to my other hub Japan's road to recovery today 5/8/2011.

    • gajanis786 profile image

      gajanis786 6 years ago

      Very nice doubt this recent tragedy in Japan has affected them in many ways including the peoples health and country's economy the most.....but I am pretty sure with in short period of time Japanese people and government will overcome all of these problems owing to their industrious nature.....and will once again emerge as a healthy and developed nation.Thanks.

    • SBerg profile image

      SBerg 6 years ago

      This is a great hub! I learned more about this situation after reading this, very informative! I rated this - useful!

    • novascotiamiss profile image

      novascotiamiss 6 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

      I am always amazed how quickly humans forget. Only one month after the desaster and while the tragedy is still unfolding, the world is turning a blind eye. It's really sad. Nobody talks about the radioactivity and plutonium still released into the athmosphere and the sea. Don't worry, they will get dilluted, they tell us. How much do you have to dilute a bad substance to make it safe? What are the long-term consequences for all of us, around the globe. Isn't it amazing that only after the various accidents our governments all over the planet started looking into the safety of power plants and considered some unsafe. I'm not against nuclear power but I am appauled how they are handled and sometimes neglected. People should wake up and realize that if a nuclear power station blows up, you are dealing with more than just an explosion (a one time event). You are facing an ongoing desaster that has consequences over a lifetime, may be even longer. People could do so much by using less power and energy just by applying some simple rules. Will we wake up when it's too late? I have written a hub with related issues

    • profile image

      deadlyking 6 years ago

      Thanks for exploring.....

    • deblipp profile image

      deblipp 6 years ago

      Thanks for such a thorough examination. I pray for those in Japan.

    • jamesroy11143 profile image

      jamesroy11143 6 years ago from CA, USA

      This is truly epic!!! Thanks for putting this out there

    • MSantana profile image

      MSantana 6 years ago from Madison Wisconsin

      Today on May 5th, 2011 I have updated the information about Japan. I have focused on the road towards recovery. I posted a link above. Thanks to all of you for your interest in Japan issues and energy issues.

    • MSantana profile image

      MSantana 6 years ago from Madison Wisconsin

      Hezekia--thanks for informing us about the situation directly from Japan.

    • MSantana profile image

      MSantana 6 years ago from Madison Wisconsin

      Short story- you are correct. We need a comprehensive view of the potential and draw backs of all forms of energy.

    • immortalcoach profile image

      immortalcoach 6 years ago

      Love and light ahead to all the divine beings in Japan

    • profile image

      Dexter 6 years ago

      They should eliminate nuclear energy once and for all! Look how much damage it caused and we the people are the ones that suffer. Good hub keep up the good work

    • DRG Da Real Grinc profile image

      Felix J Hernandez 6 years ago from All over the USA

      Good breakdown and insight.

    • chillingbreeze profile image

      chillingbreeze 6 years ago from India

      It was really a big tragedy happened with Japanese people. I am praying for them and hoping that other will have lesson to be ready for any natural disaster plus make their nuclear plant more secure.

    • dingdondingdon profile image

      dingdondingdon 6 years ago

      Very interesting, comprehensive hub. Hopefully the situation can be controlled to the best of Japan's ability.

    • profile image

      ShortStory 6 years ago

      The fact of the matter is that there is no 'risk-free' way to obtain or create the power needed to support a modern, industrialized nation. People like to talk about wind and solar, etc. but we are a long way off from that sort of thing providing energy on the scale needed. Improving and developing alternative power is a great idea, but the more practical matter that must be addressed at the same time is making nuclear, coal, oil, natural gas, etc. as safe and clean as we can.

      We can learn a lot from this crisis - including and especially from the courage and character of a strong and honorable people - but simply dreaming of windmills isn't going to do anyone any good in the here and now.

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