Term Paper: Environmental Impacts of Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

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Environmental Impact of Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

On March 11, 2011 a massive 9.0 earthquake occurred 311 miles off the cost of the Japan. This was one of the largest seismic events to hit the country (triggering a tsunami with wave heights of 133 ft.). The Fukushima nuclear plant was sitting inland on the Northern Pacific Coast. This meant that the waves would flood the plant causing: reactors one, two and three to experience full meltdowns. (Botz, 2012, pp. 42 -- 56)

In the aftermath of these events, there were tremendous amounts of radiation released into the atmosphere. This caused the Japanese government to establish a 12-mile exclusion zone around the plant. However, the impact on the environment was severe. This is because the radiation seeped into the ground water and the air around Fukushima. At which point, most people will become sick from the fatal doses of radiation and could die of cancer (among a number of ailments). ("Fukushima Exclusion Zone," 2012) (Botz, 2012, pp. 42 -- 56)

Evidence of this can be seen with observations from Qian (2011) he observed, "Today, concerns for the groundwater aquifers near Fukushima beckon for rapid environmental cleanup. Initial dispersal of large quantities of Iodine-131, a principal carcinogen for thyroid cancer, will be the chief worry for the Japanese coastal environment. On a global scale, persisting radionuclides, such as Cesium-137, will be of greater concern due to their potential for traveling over long distances and becoming concentrated in the tissues of marine wildlife, which could have immeasurable but enormous impacts on marine ecosystems. Fukushima hence offers valuable warnings to nuclear engineers in the future selection of power plant sites. Locations near sea level in a nation of high seismic activity made the reactors highly susceptible to earthquake and tidal damages in the long run. Moreover, the recent accident is beginning to take its toll on nearby farmers, whose livelihoods are threatened by the fears of contaminated crops and livestock. In order to minimize potential environmental and human health effects, the locations of upcoming nuclear power plants should be carefully scrutinized to consider all possible risks." This is showing how the disaster is having adverse consequences on the environment. To fully understand what is taking place requires looking at: how this impacted the people and the way they can deal with these challenges in the future. Together, these different elements will offer the greatest insights as to how the disaster is impacting the environment and the lives of the general public. (Qian, 2011) ("Fukushima Exclusion Zone," 2012) (Botz, 2012, pp. 42 -- 56)

How the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Impacted the People?

The long-term environmental impacts of the nuclear accident will take time to occur. This is because there will be a series of lingering effects that will control radiation levels in the area. In some cases, this will help select parts of the exclusion zone to be opened sooner to residents. While at other times, there are certain areas that will remain uninhabitable for many decades to come. (Buck, 2011)

In the short to medium term, the environmental effects of the accident can be seen in a number of different areas. These include: the air, water and food supplies. The combination of these factors is impacted by high amounts of radiation in the air (which will affect crops and livestock). This can cause the people be more at risk for repeated exposure to radiation. This is because the wind and ocean / river currents will transport these substances to large sections of the country. (Buck, 2011)

What is happening is the compounds are in the air around the plant and in the water. This is problematic, as the changing wind currents can cause many areas to be exposed to high amounts of radiation. In the future, this can have an impact on the livestock and produce of many farms with select traces of radiation inside them (which can increase the chances of cancer). At the same time, many of the birds, wildlife and entire ecosystems are impacted by these high amounts. The combination of these factors will make it difficult for the wildlife in the area to live normally. Instead, there will be damages to the cells and habitats of these organisms. (Buck, 2011)

In the case of the ocean, this will have an impact of the marine life in vicinity of the plant. This will lead to higher amounts of radiation in fish that are located in these regions. However, the larger Pacific Ocean will dilute the contaminated seawater. This will limit the effects of the disaster to within a close proximity of Fukushima. The combination of these factors is important, in showing how the area around the plant will be impacted the most. The further away from the exclusion zone, the lower the chances are that there will be any kind of environmental impact. In the long-term, these consequences are still unknown with many different studies continuing to monitor the long-term effects. (Buck, 2011)

For the people of Japan, these issues are problematic, as they are taking famers and communities away from their property (inside the exclusion zone). This will make it harder for them to be able to resume living normal lives (given the sudden shocks they were exposed to). At the same time, this will have an adverse impact on the cost of food in Japan and electricity prices. This is because the nuclear power station has been taken completely offline (with the meltdown of three reactors). Until alternate sources of food and electricity are located, the odds are high that Japan will experience larger amounts of inflation. This can make it harder for the economy to recover from the lingering effects of the earthquake and the challenges in the global marketplace. Moreover, many of the people will suffer from higher levels of cancer and birth defects from the accident. This will create a situation, where there will be higher death rates from particular types of cancer and other ailments. ("Health Effects from Nuclear Radiation," 2011)

How Can Japan Deal with these Challenges in the Future?

To deal with these environmental challenges, means that Japan must take a new approach. This involves having the government work with different organizations to address the needs of the people impacted by the disaster. Most notably: communities and farmers that is located in the exclusion zone. In many cases, the government has been slow to respond to a host of issues concerning lost property values and livelihoods. This makes it harder for these people to adjust with the various economic and environmental challenges (as many will have nowhere to go). Over the course of time, this will result in some defying the government's orders to leave the exclusion zone. ("Fukushima Nuclear Clean Up," 2012)

While at other times, these individuals will go to different parts of Japan and put pressure on these areas (with their required need for assistance). This is problematic, because it is hurting the standard of living and economic productivity of the nation. Moreover, those individuals who remain in the exclusion zone are exposing themselves to continuous amounts of radiation (which could contribute to various kind of cancer). The combination of these factors is showing how the people in the area around Fukushima are facing economic and environmental hazards (from the lack of an effective government response). ("Fukushima Nuclear Clean Up," 2012)

To deal with these challenges a new approach must be taken, that will go after the root causes of these problems (i.e. The inability to adjust). This is because no one was expecting these kinds of issues. As a result, the government should work with the private sector to have some kind of retraining and relocation program. The way it would work, is everyone who lived in the area around… [END OF PREVIEW]

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