Nuclear policy expert discusses implications of the Fukushima plant disaster
It’s been more than a month since the March 11 tsunami and resulting nuclear meltdown in Japan, but Daniel Hirsch says it’s not behind us just yet. Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer and former director of Adlai Stevenson Program on Nuclear Policy, shared these thoughts and more at a special lecture titled “Impacts and Implications of the Japanese Nuclear Disaster” at UCSC on Tuesday, April 19.
During the 1986 Chernobyl accident, Hirch was chair of an independent team of experts whose review of the Department of Energy facilities led to the closure of the Hanford N-reactor and cessation of U.S. plutonium production for nuclear weapons.
Hirch has recently been asked to testify before the California Senate Select Committee on Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Planning on the implications the Fukushima nuclear accident may have for California’s nuclear reactors that are located near major earthquake faults. “If it can happen in Fukushima, which it has … it can happen anywhere,” Hirch said at the April 19 lecture.
He went on to explain how the chain of events including the earthquake and tsunami caused a loss of primary and back up power supplies to the boiling water reactors resulting in the overheating of fuel, hydrogen explosions and the release of radiation. According to Hirch, one- fourth of the boiling water reactors in the United States are identical to the reactors at Fukushima.
There is not yet a way to measure the global impacts of the radiation in the atmosphere and the ocean will be; however, current estimates conclude that the radiation will continue to enter the atmosphere and Pacific Ocean for up to nine more months until the plant is fully under control. Previously, incidents at Three Mmile Island emitted radiation for a few days and Chernobyl, which is considered the worst nuclear power plan accident in history, radiation emissions lasted about a week.
Hirch hopes that whatever the impacts are, that this tragedy will shift the way we, as a society, are able to recognize the potential dangerous of such plants and change the future of power generation.
“My hope is that out of this tragedy we will bookend the nuclear era,” Hirch said,issuing a call to action for the end a reliance on nuclear power and the development of alternative renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.
The lecture, which was free and open to the public, was hosted by UCSC at the Stevenson Events Center was recorded by Community Television of Santa Cruz County, visit communitytv.org for a schedule of Community TV programming.
Photo: tj sharp