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Anti-nuclear group in Japan says emergency was predicted

An anti-nuclear group in Japan said Saturday that it had warned of just the kind of emergency occurring at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

"This could and should have been predicted," said a statement from spokesman Philip White of the Citizens' Nuclear Information Center.

"It was predicted by scientists and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) such as CNIC. We warned that Japan's nuclear power plants could be subjected to much stronger earthquakes and much bigger tsunamis than they were designed to withstand."

The full statement is below. Note that the group uses the word "meltdown" to describe the situation at the Fukushima plant, although the International Atomic Energy Agency and Japanese officials are not using such provocative language.

Greenpeace also took the opportunity to call for a ban on nuclear plant construction. Its full statement is below.

For more on the seismic preparedness of nuclear facilities, see the previous post, 2007 Japan quake was a 'wake-up call' on nuclear safety.

The CNIC statement:

The Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) is deeply concerned for the health and safety of the people affected by the earthquakes and tsunamis that have struck Japan over the last two days. We are particularly concerned for the people in the vicinity of nuclear power plants, including workers who are trying to minimize the scope of the disaster.

Unit 1 of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is in a state of meltdown. A nuclear disaster which the promoters of nuclear power in Japan said wouldn't happen is in progress. It is occurring as a result of an earthquake that they said would not happen.

This could and should have been predicted. It was predicted by scientists and NGOs such as CNIC. We warned that Japan's nuclear power plants could be subjected to much stronger earthquakes and much bigger tsunamis than they were designed to withstand.

Besides the question about how this accident will unfold, the big question now is, will the government and the nuclear industry acknowledge its mistakes and change track?

Last December the Japanese government began a review of its nuclear energy policy. The review was commenced in the spirit of essentially confirming the existing policy. That approach is no longer viable. The direction of the policy review must be completely reversed. It must be redirected towards developing a policy of phasing out nuclear energy as smoothly and swiftly as possible.

The Greenpeace statement:

Reacting to reports that radioactive materials including the isotope Cesium-137 have been released from the Fukushima power plant, and that increased levels of radiation have been detected in the immediate vicinity, Jan Beranek, Head of Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaign said:

“Our thoughts continue to be with the Japanese people as they face the threat of a nuclear disaster, following already devastating earthquake and tsunami. The authorities must focus on keeping people safe, and avoiding any further releases of radioactivity."

“The evolving situation at Fukushima remains far from clear, but what we do know is that contamination from the release of Cesium-137 poses a significant health risk to anyone exposed. Cesium-137 has been one if the isotopes causing the greatest health impacts following the Chernobyl disaster, because it can remain in the environment and food chain for 300 years.”

“Fukushima remains under threat of a serious reactor meltdown; this would potentially create an iodine cloud, which could spread high radiation levels to both the environment and population over many tens of kilometres. By simply communicating to local populations the importance of staying indoors, the government could limit potential radiation doses from this cloud by a factor 2 to 5.”

“How many more warnings do we before we finally grasp that nuclear reactors are inherently hazardous? The nuclear industry always tells us that situation like this cannot happen with modern reactors, yet Japan is currently in the middle of a potentially devastating nuclear crisis. Once again, we are reminded of the inherent risks of nuclear power, which will always be vulnerable to the potentially deadly combination of human error, design failure and natural disaster.”

“Greenpeace is calling for the phase out of existing reactors, and no construction of new commercial nuclear reactors. Governments should invest in renewable energy resources that are not only environmentally sound but also affordable and reliable."