Fukushima Daiichi: Is It Worth It?

1788 words - 7 pages

The world needs to be powered. And the ever- present question in today’s world is how to get the power we need. There have been many solutions to this need for power. One of the most revolutionary was nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is created when In 2011, a tragedy struck. On March 11, 2011, an earthquake struck. Measuring at an 8.9 on the Richter scale, it was the largest earthquake in history. This earthquake was off the eastern shore of Japan, and caused a 15 meter tsunami to wash over the city of Fukushima, killing 19,000 people there. While the earthquake caused no serious damage on land, the tsunami created a terrible catastrophe. And this catastrophe had a lasting impact.
Fukushima is home to two nuclear plants, Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini, located 11.5 kilometers apart. After the earthquake, both plants nuclear reactors shut down as they were programmed to do, however the tsunami cut out the power of 12 of the 13 generators powering the Daiichi plant (World Nuclear Association, 2014, p. 1). The generators at the Daiichi plant were built to withstand 5.7 meter tsunamis, and the seawater pumps were sealed in 2002 for security. The Fukushima nuclear plants are a fission reaction. Fission reactions are created when the nucleus of a uranium atom is split into smaller fragments by bombarding it with neutrons. To control this reaction, Fukushima uses Neutron Moderation; which is where neutrons are slowed so they can be captured by an atomic nucleus. This control is achieved by using water to cool down the fuel rods to ensure that the uranium doesn’t split too fast. Unfortunately, the tsunami cut out the power to the generators that controlled the water. Without the water being filtered through the reactors, the uranium began to react faster and create more heat. The water began to boil off eventually reaching the level of the fuel rod, exposing it to the air. This caused a buildup of hydrogen in the reactor and in the case of unit 1 of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, when the buildup became too much, it exploded. This explosion released many isotopes, or variations of radioactive elements into the air. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, these elements include Caesium- 137, Iodine-131 (International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], 2011).
This event was given a 7 on the INES rating scale, with 7 being a ‘major accident.’ Fortunately, when cooling failed on the first day evacuation measures were taken. By the evening of March 12, the evacuation parameters spread to 20km from the plant (World Nuclear Association, 2014, p. 6).

For these areas, the guideline of 20 mSv/yr was applied for which areas should be evacuated, and now for which areas people can return to. 20 mSv/ yr stands for 20 milli Sieverts per year, where Sieverts are a higher reading of millirems, the standard radiation reading (Ronca, n.d.). 20mSv/ yr is the limit of exposure for children in outdoor activities. By keeping a close eye on these levels, we...

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