Japan's nuclear crisis is mainly public panic, not radiation risk: Australian expert

English.news.cn   2011-03-26 16:45:57 FeedbackPrintRSS

Aerial view shows white smoke billowing from a window in the No. 2 reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Tomioka, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, in this still image taken from a March 23, 2011 Japan Defence Ministry video. Radiation fears escalated in Japan on March 25, 2011 after workers suffered burns as they tried to cool a nuclear power station crippled by an earthquake and tsunami, while the government sowed confusion over whether it was widening an evacuation zone around the plant. (Xinhua/Reuters)

By Vienna Ma

CANBERRA, March 26 (Xinhua) -- Japan's nuclear crisis was mainly public panic, not radiation risk, an Australian expert told Xinhua, expressing optimism over the future development of international nuclear industry.

Japan has entered its second week after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and 10 meter tsunami flattened coastal cities and killed more than ten thousands of people.

However, workers are still trying to contain radiation leaks at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants in Japan, since reactors were damaged by the massive earthquake and tsunami.

Although prevailing winds would likely carry contaminated smoke or steam released from nuclear power plant away from the densely populated city to dissipate over the Pacific Ocean, millions in Tokyo of Japan remained indoors, fearing a blast of radioactive material from Fukushima.

The crisis has triggered global alarm and reviews of safety at atomic power plants around the world.

Professor Barry Brook, the director of Climate Science at Australian University of Adelaide's Environment Institute, said that the crisis will lead international governments to improved measures to protect nuclear plants against extreme natural events, but is unlikely to cut down the use of nuclear power.

"Obviously the problem in Fukushima, has caused a lot of anxiety amongst the public, not just in Japan but also in many western countries, like America, Australia, Britain and France," Professor Brook told Xinhua a reporter in an exclusive interview recently.

"But I think that is impossible (to cut down the use of nuclear power) because of the rapidly growing energy demand."

"It should be kept in mind that the explosions at the Japanese reactors were chemical, not nuclear," Brook said, adding that the radiation dose threat to the public has been small, and no one has been killed so far as a result of the explosion.

"I think people are naturally scared of radiation because they don't understand much about it,"he said, adding "they don't understand that their body are radio-activated, the food that they eat, and the rocks the air and the sunlight, all of that are natural radiation they experienced."

"They think of a radiation from nuclear power is different from it, but it is not," he noted.

On Tuesday, Japan's economy minister Kaoru Yosano said nuclear power would remain the primary source of energy for the Japanese economy, despite concerns over safety after the incident.

Japan estimated the nation will get 50 percent of electricity from nuclear power in 2030, compared to 33 percent at present, and Yosano indicated that the plan is not going to change.

Professor Brook said due to the low renewable capacity availability, renewable energy is not a strong option for Japan.

While Japan has to import almost all of the coal, gas and oil, it will make the nation very vulnerable to international prices of energy, he said, adding that nuclear power is the energy source that is most likely to make Japan's energy independent, because it requires a very little fuel.

In Australia, there has been an on-going debate on whether to start using nuclear power as one of energy sources for the nation. The Greens repeatedly branded nuclear energy as clearly unsafe, and called to produce clean energy through renewable energy.

However, Professor Brook noted that solar energy currently costs between three and four times as much as coal-fire electricity renewable energy.

While renewable energy has difficulties in providing cheap, reliable, dispatch-able electricity, he said nuclear power is inevitable in Australia, And that"it must happen eventually".

"So if people can better understand the small risk associated with radiation, compared to many other risks they face on an everyday life, such as the risky take when they drive a car, or when you fly on an airplane, or choose a particular food, there are all risk as well, and people are willing to accept those," Brook said.

"I think overtime people will become more understanding of small risk and big benefits that nuclear brings," he added.

Professor Brook is strident nuclear power advocate, and also the host of the bravenewclimate.com blog, which has received at least 500,000 website 'hits' since the crisis began in Japan.

Special Report: Massive quake shakes Japan


Editor: Wang Guanqun
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