Today one year has passed since the first news reports were sent from Japan telling massive earthquake and tsunami had occurred there. I remember hearing about the natural catastrophe from my teacher collague at school and rushing to find some news about it during our fifteen minute break between lessons. I saw some news videos about tsunami and could estimate from the very beginning that their speaking about hundreds of deaths would turn into thousands or tens of thousands of deaths in the end. The force of the tsunami wave could be seen from the first videos: if tens of cars driving on highway were just flushed away in that single video, how many other cars and houses were destroyed elsewhere by the wave?
After seeing the first videos I had bad feeling about the nuclear power plants - did they survive? I made some google-search and found that all the Japanese NPPs at earthquake areas had been successfully shut down. But I wasn't sure about it. When I got home I made more searching and found out there were problems at several NPPs beacause of station black-outs. Finally I found out that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan had declared a nuclear emergency for the first time in Japan history and several thousand inhabitants around Fukushima Daichi NPP had been evacuated. USA had offered help in cooling down the reactors and the possibility for a nuclear fuel meltdown accident existed.
So when I turned our TV-set on I saw the head of our Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), Mr. Jukka Laaksonen to declare on-line that everything is O.K. with Japanese nuclear power plants - they are all safely shut down and everything had been going smoothly as designed as far as he knows.
After seeing that TV-news flash I straight away contacted our national broadcasting company YLE by e-mail and told them that according to my opinion STUK-leader did underestimate the severity of the accident caused by tsunami to Japanese NPPs. I sent the information that I had gathered including links to TEPCO press release and news sites about nuclear emergency and americans offering help in cooling the reactors. I said it may be possible for the first time for a core melt-down -accident to occure.
After a half an hour we could see a totally changed Mr. Laaksonen speaking on-line on YLE-TV- news show: he told he just had been receiving new information about the situation. He mentioned all the other points mentioned also in my e-mail to YLE-NEWS except one - that USA had offered help for cooling down the reactors - that one was asked Mr. Laaksonen by a female YLE -reporter: there is news that Japan has been offered help by americans to cool down the reactor, is that correct? And the reporter was reading it from a printed out sheet - was it my e-mail, I'll propably never know. YLE did not answer my e-mails. They may have got the information from other sources also. But the main thing was that STUK established a 24/7 emergency center to follow the situation in Fukushima.
For me this tells a story that should be learned something of:
1. Nuclear plant management, politicians and national nuclear safety authorities in Japan, USA or here in Finland were all unprepaired to face an earthquake/tsunami caused nuclear accident
2. Safety authorities and nuclear industry officials are all repeating the MANTRA well learned beforehand: "there is no danger, all security systems are functioning as designed"
3. I believe this MANTRA is giving a significant delay for acting in the first most critical phase of the accident. One sees only the things he is learned to see ignoring clear facts and evidence of "impossible" things happening that needed to react immediately to reduce the damage
4. In modern societies internet and social media are offering a quick way of getting information worldwide and that can be used as an extra source of information beside official and more formal data
5. whoever intrested in sharing accurate information can and should be taken into account by the authorities and news-channels when dealing with a fast developing crisis like this.
And if we continue to build new nuclear reactors and go on running the old ones this kind of emergencies can happen almost yearly. As high ranking UN -official pointed out last year - We must accept that accidents like Chernobyl or Fukushima happen when we continue using nuclear power.
So do we really want accidents like these?
There is another way, just waiting for us to start walking. The RENEWABLES!