By Michael Mariotte


Today is, in case anyone forgot, the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the seemingly endless Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Four years later, hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced from their homes and previous livelihoods; hundreds of tons of radioactive water continues to leak from the reactor site into groundwater and the Pacific Ocean; radioactive waste continues to pile up on the reactor site and surrounding communities–where it likely will stay for decades if not centuries; and there even remains some uncertainty about the exact location of the most lethally radioactive material–the molten fuel cores from the melted reactors. How far down did the molten fuel flow? Did it move horizontally? What further dangers does it pose now, and in the decades of clean-up to come? We don’t know, and neither do Japanese officials.

We’ve posted a number of new materials on the Fukushima page of NIRS’ website, including new reports and presentations from, and Japan’s Green Action, Peace Boat and Citizens Nuclear Information Center. Check them out here, they are all worthwhile.

And we’ve also posted an audio file of NIRS’ March 9 telebriefing on the situation at Fukushima from Akira Kawaski of Peace Boat, the prospects for a continued shutdown of Japan’s reactors by Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action, and the effects of Fukushima on nuclear regulation here in the U.S. from David Lochbaum of Union of Concerned Scientists.

Because David’s presentation was marred by some apparent wi-fi glitches, he has graciously provided the notes–and some graphics–he used to prepare his presentation and they are available on the Fukushima page as well.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that nuclear reactors can’t explode.

Four years later, some have clearly learned the lessons of Fukushima–most notably Germany which continues on its successful Energiewende energy transition to a clean energy future. Many nuclear power advocates try, in various ways, to put down that transition for not having yet met all its promises. The reality is that it is, in fact, a transition, one that takes years to implement and is working better than its proponents might have hoped and far better than its detractors claim.

When I participated in protests against radioactive waste transport in Gorleben and Ahaus, Germany in the late 1990s, then Interior Minister Angela Merkel was the enemy and prime target of many of the protestors. Her support for the nuclear industry and its efforts to dump its wastes, at just about any cost (literally, each shipment cost about $100 million, much of it for the 30,000 police that were mobilized to prevent the demonstrators from disrupting the shipments) on farming communities in northern Germany was readily apparent. You can read my account of these protests here (at the bottom of the page), along with some contemporaneous accounts from German activists.

But now, even she has changed her tune and is solidly in the mainstream of German public opinion, which opposes nuclear power by stratospheric proportions. Last week, Merkel was in Japan and urged the government not to restart its reactors, but instead to join Germany in creating a new clean energy economy.

That’s progress. So is the stunning drop in costs for renewable energy, especially solar power, over these same four years, and the corresponding increases in its efficiency that have made renewables a viable source to power a modern industrial nation like Germany and Japan.

And the United States.

Our progress is much slower, and we have to fight non-stop against the nuclear and fossil fuel industries which profit from poisoning our people and planet. But we are progressing nonetheless. Last year, renewables provided 13.4% of our nation’s electrical generation. And that’s a number that’s going to just keep growing and growing. Our job is to accelerate that transition as fast as possible. That’s the lesson we must take from that terrible tragedy that began four years ago today and continues without end.

Michael Mariotte

March 11, 2015


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Filed under: energy future, Fukushima, Renewables Tagged: Angela Merkel, Energiewende, Fukushima

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