March 11th marks the one year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Since then, the nuclear power debate has predominantly, and understandably so, focused on safety issues. The consequences of a nuclear accident on human life and the environment are substantial. It’s difficult to predict how many people will die due to exposure at Fukushima; however, the fifty-thousand people who had to leave behind their homes during the evacuation have had their lives altered, their futures distorted from everything they were working towards. And of course people died during the evacuation as the toll is all too demanding on the elderly. As for the environment, Japan estimates that the cleanup of radioactive materials can take up to fifty years and 100 billion USD. But who really knows for sure.
Six weeks shy of the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl, the Fukushima accident has shifted public perception of nuclear energy towards safety concerns over energy needs. Chernobyl was painted as Soviet era technology that was inferior and resembled little to the reactors in countries like France, Japan, and the US. But the feeling is that if this could happen to Japan, this could happen to any country.