Japan crisis highlights mismatch between nuke power, humans: expert

WASHINGTON  The ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan shows again that human beings are incapable of fully controlling nuclear energy, a U.S. antinuclear activist says. 

'We are not competent to deal with (the) technology...we don't know enough about it, and we don't have it under control,'' journalist and author Jonathan Schell said in a recent interview with Kyodo News.

He urged the Japanese government as well as scientists around the world to make a comprehensive study of the worst-case scenario for the nuclear accident to avoid confusion among local residents and to ease their safety concerns.
''I have not seen a scientific study of what the worst possibilities were, if that had come out, or if it were still to come about, at Fukushima,'' Schell said, adding that people ''absolutely have a need to know what is the worst that could happen.''

Schell compared the nuclear emergency in Japan with Jonathan Swift's classic novel ''Gulliver's Travels.''

In the novel, Gulliver visits an island and gets tied down by miniature people while sleeping.

''Gulliver wants to get up and move around. That's the nature of the thing...(The miniature people) try to put all these threads over him, and certainly it's possible for a while, but those threads can break and snap.''

According to him, the safety designs of the Fukushima nuclear plant such as its cooling system and containment vessel are the threads that are put around the ''Gulliver,'' or the immensely powerful reactions taking place in the cores of the crippled reactors.

Schell also pointed to the problem of nuclear waste. ''This is one of the huge ironies of the entire nuclear age, that we've been using nuclear power for something like a half century now, without ever inventing a way of dealing with the waste,'' he said.

''It would be like cooking in your kitchen for 50 years, without having a garbage can,'' Schell said.

The nuclear crisis in Japan, triggered by tsunami following the March 11 earthquake, is likely to put a damper on the so-called ''nuclear renaissance,'' a trend to promote nuclear energy as a ''clean energy'' in light of the need to curb global warming, he said.

Noting the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979, Schell said that even though the accident was not as bad as that at the Fukushima plant, there has been no construction of new nuclear reactors in the United States for about 30 years.

Schell, a journalist known for inspiring antinuclear movements in the United States, said Japan can take the lead in developing alternative energy sources in the wake of the Fukushima accident.

"I would think that Japan would be superbly positioned to compete...I can't imagine a country that's more talented and qualified to make a contribution to 'green energy'.'' he said.



Tags: earthquake, fukushima, japan, jonathan schell, nuclear, nuclear disarmament, nuclear energy, nuclear leak, nuclear power plant, tsunami

    • Jonathan Schell
    • Jonathan Schell is the author of more than a dozen books, including The Fate of The Earth, The Real War, The Time of Illusion, The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People, and The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger.  He is the Doris M. Scha...

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