Category Archives: Poetry

Nuclear Legacy – When will they ever learn?

ButterflyI have just read a report that the Fukushima leak is much worse than we were led to believe.  The Japan News / October 3, 2013 reported that the former Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizume, said that Japan should abandon nuclear power.    In his speech in Nagoya he said “I’m calling for zero nuclear power … The 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which triggered a nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant, should be taken as an opportunity to build a resource-recycling society without nuclear power”

Since the reactor cores melted down in 2011, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has been struggling to deal with the consequences.   In August this year, the Japanese nuclear energy watchdog raised the incident level from one to three on the international scale after Tepco admitted that around 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank on the site.

According to the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23779561) Dr Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has examined the waterButterflys around Fukushima and is quoted as saying:   “Once it gets into the ground water, like a river flowing to the sea, you can’t really stop a ground water flow”.  

It won’t happen here – You might think that what happened in Japan can’t happen in the UK.  But according to an article in the Guardian, as many as 12 of Britain’s 19 civil nuclear sites are at risk of flooding and coastal erosion because of climate change.  Nine of the sites have been assessed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as being vulnerable now, while others are in danger from rising sea levels and storms in the future.  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/mar/07/uk-nuclear-risk-flooding

The sites include all of the eight proposed for new nuclear power stations around the coast, as well as numerous radioactive waste stores, operating reactors and defunct nuclear facilities.  According to David Crichton, a flood specialist and honorary professor at the hazard research centre at University College London, sea level rise, especially in the south-east of England, will mean some of these sites will be under water within 100 years.

Radioactive waste, especially “high-level waste” is one of the biggest problems the nuclear industry faces.  No man-made container can survive the tens of thousands of years it will take for high-level waste to decay to safe levels.  No country has yet implemented a long-term solution to this problem, although Finland and the US have plans to build repositories deep underground in areas identified for their geological stability. This solution is one of those under consideration in the UK. 

ButterflyThe Government’s proposal to build more nuclear power stations is leaving a dangerous legacy for future generations.  It is inevitable that radioactive waste will leak into ground water at some point over the thousands of years that it will take the radioactivity to decay to safe levels.  And to top it all, the Government also wants to add fracking to its bag of risks!

Green Party policy is against building new nuclear power stations and in favour of investing in sustainable renewable energy.  Some people complain about wind farms and solar panels being a blot on the countryside.  Personally, I would much rather live with a wind or solar farm on my doorstep than an unseen risk of radioactive or polluted water under my house, or even worse, like the residents of Fukushima and Chernobyl, to have to leave my house and all my possessions behind in a radioactive wasteland.  If in 50 years time a better/cheaper way of creating sustainable energy is found then it would be easy to take down the wind pylons and take out the solar panels.  There would be no lasting damage to the countryside.   The same cannot be said for nuclear power plants or fracking sites. There would still be a lasting risk and an ongoing need to contain the unseen for thousands of years.

I was inspired to write the following poem when I read about the mutations in butterflies caused by exposure to radioactive material released into the environment from the Fukushima disaster.

Butterfly’s Wings

Blue butterfly’s mutated wings
Fukushima’s legacy sings
Sea levels rise on Britain’s shores
Posing threats to nuclear cores
Nature’s powers of erosion and flood
Hammer the nuclear ark’s hot crud
 
Sanctum’s sought for a deadly stash
Cathedral for a cryptic cache
Miles of aisles in underground tomb
An epoch-lasting toxic womb
To trap a nuclear god obscene
Behind bare hermetic chancel screen
 
One slight fault in this granite vault
Leeching life-blood is hard to halt
Slowly seeping, creeping unseen
Seeking subterranean streamButterfly
Filtering up through strata’s blue veins
Earth-changing ripple of a butterfly’s wings

© Jean Macdonald

Helen Caldicott, a long standing opponent of Nuclear power, has a very interesting site on this subject:   http://nuclearfreeplanet.org/categories/fukushima.html 

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