I believe, the Fukushima story is only in its beginning.
In the reactor buildings, they have now levels of radiation comparable with Chernobyl. The highly contaminated water is now in the basement of turbine room, and it is unclear for how long this basement can hold the water. Both the air and sea water are already contaminated, and winds and flows spread the contamination all around the world. 18 workers have already gained the dose that will with a very high probability lead to cancer within the next 20 years.
In Chernobyl, they say there were 250000 of “liquidators” who have received such doses. And in Chernobyl, the melt fuel has left the reactor and went to the basement — one can still hope that in Fukushima this is not the case.
I’m not a fundamental opposer of nuclear energy. The energetic potential is huge, and in some cases (like travelling long distances under water on in the space) it is hard to find any alternative. The dangers of nuclear accidents are relatively good understood. But, I think the mankind has gained access to this power too early. We still don’t have society structure allowing us to safely play with it. In particular, humanity still hasn’t found the way to prevent short-term economical or political interests endangering engineering safety and soundness of the plants.
After Chernobyl, many have blamed communism to be the reason of such a catastrophe. Now we know that capitalism does no better.
We as a society do not think in hundred of years. We do not even think in decades. Many people I know don’t even care about the year behind the next year. And nuclear energy spans across hundreds of thousand of years.
In the news, there are references to resigned engineers who was building Fukushima plant. Unfortunately, there is no information about why they have protested. And unfortunately, this didn’t stop other engineers to finish the work. Anyway, this situation might be the worst that can happen to an engineer – knowing that your design is killing people and making them ill, and will be doing that in the next hundred of years. And inability to change anything about it. So it is no wonder that quite a number of soviet engineers and nuclear scientists were ready to risk their lives. After Chernobyl, they went INSIDE of the reactor, climbing on the nuclear fuel rods, only to access the safety of the remaining ruins. When you look at their faces, you cannot imagine them in any Hollywood movie. And even though they were guilty themselves, at least partially, I have no choice but to call them heroes.
(make sure to watch all 5 parts)