Nuclear Power Plants: Restart, Not Restart?
On the afternoon of 11 March 2011, an earthquake measured at magnitude 9 struck northeast Japan, followed by a tsunami that sent walls of water as high as 50 feet against a vast strip of coastline. Compounding the disaster, the tsunami destroyed the cooling system of a nuclear power facility–the Fukushima Dai-ichi–on the coast of Fukushima prefecture. The loss of cooling brought on a nightmare sequence of explosions, a meltdown of fuel rods, and the release of massive plumes of radiation into the air. The radioactive fallout subsequently dropped onto soil and into water, a process that lasted at least until summer 2012.
The Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster led to the closure of Japan’s 48 (or 54) nuclear reactors, with the last one at Oi switched off in September2013. Since Japan counted on nuclear power plants for 30% of its electricity, many parts of the country experience acute power shortage. Japan then had to rely on energy import to make up most of the nuclear shortfall. In 2012 Japan consumed 37%of the world’s liquefied natural gas (LNG).By the end of 2013, Japan spent an extra $93 billion on importing oil, gas, and coal. And in 2013-14, Japan was running trade deficits for the first time in three decades. In November 2014, three and a half years after the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority declared that the Sendai nuclear plant (about 1,000 kilometers south-west of Tokyo)was safe to be operated. The two reactors at the Sendai plant were officially restarted in August 2015. This decision brought Japan a step closer to restart is idled nuclear industry. It also sparked mounting protests from the public.
|Team E (restart)||Team F (not restart)|
|Matthew Hoffner, Jonathan Teoh, Joseph Villanueva, Sean Hickey, Zhao Liu||Joseph E. Gray, Darren Fujii, Qian Sun, Jade Rivera|