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This Sunday marks the one year anniversary of the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima. While Japan continues to deal with the aftermath of one of the worst nuclear accidents in history, the United States is slowly assessing its own nuclear plants.
A new fact sheet, released today by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, summarized the still tenuous situation in Fukushima.
“Unfortunately, the nuclear disaster in Japan is not over yet,” said Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “There are still high levels of radiation at the plant that are unsafe for workers, radioactive water has leaked from the plant, and 90,000 people are unable to return to their homes.”
Last March, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami knocked out electrical power, including backup generators at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. It was recently reported that the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was not required to have a plan for extended power loss at the plant.
One of the biggest concerns that remains in Fukushima is how much radiation has affected the surrounding areas. Radiation is known to increase the risk of cancer and cause other sicknesses. Experts say it is too soon to truly assess the entire public health impact of the nuclear meltdown, but increased levels of radiation have been found in food, water, and other substances more than 100 miles away from Fukushima, including in the city of Tokyo. In the United States, the NRC uses a 50 mile radius to assess risk to food and water supplies.
“Too Close to Home: Nuclear Power and the Threat to Drinking Water,” a report recently released by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and the Environment Arizona Research & Policy Center, concluded that the drinking water for 124,500 people in Arizona could be at risk of radioactive contamination from a leak or accident at a local nuclear power plant.
“The danger of nuclear power is too close to home. Here in Arizona, the drinking water for over 124,000 people is too close to an active nuclear power plant,” said Brown. “A nuclear accident like the one in Fukushima, Japan or a leak could spew cancer-causing radioactive waste into our drinking water.”
Radiation from a disaster like the one in Fukushima can contaminate drinking water and food supplies, as well as harm our health. But disaster or no disaster, a common leak at a nuclear power plant can also threaten the drinking water for millions of people. As our nuclear facilities get older, leaks are more common. In fact, 75 percent of United States nuclear plants have leaked tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen that can cause cancer and genetic defects.
In response to the questions surrounding the safety of nuclear power following Fukushima, Japan has temporarily shut down nearly all (52 out of 54 reactors) of their nuclear power plants. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund recommends that the United States moves to a future without nuclear power by retiring existing plants, abandoning plans for new plants, and expanding energy efficiency and the production of clean, renewable energy such as solar power.
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