Friday, March 18, 2011
Weekend Reflection: Nuclear
nuclear free New Zealand
Where were you on Wednesday, March 28, 1979 and the days after?
I was in my Economics lecture in Auckland University.
We diverted our normal lecture and talked on the Three Mile Island accident.
Breaking news were: Nuclear accident in USA, Nuclear reactor.
Where were you in 1984?
I remembered well, It was the year my oldest child was born. Prime Minister David Lange barred nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships from using New Zealand ports or entering New Zealand waters. As a result, New Zealand suffered embargo. Ronald Reagan wasn't happy with us.
Where were you on 10 July 1985?
I remembered because I was feeding my first born.
We heard the French had bombed the Rainbow Warrior in the port of Auckland. The Rainbow warrior was a flag ship of the Greenpeace which were going to protest the French nuclear test bombing in Mururoa in the French Polynesia.
Where were you on 26 April 1986?
I remembered well because I was glad I was feeding my first born New Zealand milk. We heard that the milk in Europe were tainted because of the Chernobyl accident. People from Europe were importing untainted New Zealand milk or coming to New Zealand to buy our milk.
Where were you just last week in March 2011?
When the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan? I was at home late in the evening. Not again, it's so recent after our own Christchurch earthquake.
What can you say?
In 1979, I remember writing against nuclear power, quoting the Three Mile island accident. I thought I wasn't going to join the band wagon and write another post. It is good to reflect. My heart goes out to everyone in Japan and all the families of the foreigners who have family in Japan.
I spoke to a mum whose child comes to my school.
I asked,"How's your family in Japan?"
She said," They are alright,but I feel very guilty."
I replied," Why are you guilty?"
She said," I am safe here, and Japan is not."
I said," Don't feel guilty."
She said," I didn't know the dangers of nuclear, I come to New Zealand, I know, but I never say anything. That is why I feel guilty."
This morning, my youngest brother Dr. Henry Chan, an anthropologist, sent me his email. I post it here.
my friends and I in the Asian Public Intellectual program have written an open statement urging our government to reconsider putting up a nuclear reactor for power generation. The project was never let known to the public. Despite what happened in Japan, it still wants to go ahead.
Please have a look into the statement which has been published in an internet newspaper Malaysian Insider. If you are agreeable, please endorse it.
We are also launching a campaign to have a nuclear free for Southeast Asia. For those of you who are using Facebook, go into No Nuclear in Southeast Asia, sign on to it and propose to your friends to also sign onto it.
Rethink nuclear power — Asian Public Intellectuals Group and Sociologists without Borders Malaysia
MARCH 17 — The tragedy unfolding in Japan following the massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami is heartbreaking. It is an unfolding crisis.
It is tragic that panic over radiation leaks from the Daiichi plant is diverting attention from other threats to survivors of the March 11 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami, such as the cold or access to fresh water.
We should draw a lesson from Japan which is now fighting a lethal peril right after the earthquake and tsunami. The Tokyo Electric Power Company reactors in Fukushima are releasing radioactive materials into the environment. Radiation levels near the quake-stricken nuclear plant are now harmful to human health within a radius of 20 kilometres, Japan’s government says after explosions and fires at the facility.
We have now had four grave nuclear reactor accidents — Windscale in Britain in 1957, Three Mile Island in the US in 1979 and Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986. The dangers from exposure to radiation are well known, such as long-term health problems — cancers and hereditary defects. Contamination of the environment and agriculture, etc all pose many risks for people, animals and plants.
There are major concerns on the safety of nuclear power stations. The risks far outweigh the benefits. Millions of dollars of investment in nuclear power have the potential to turn into trillions of dollars of liability and environmental nightmare.
The lesson from Fukushima is that nuclear energy is inherently dangerous. As Eugene Robinson wrote in the Washington Post recently: “We can engineer nuclear power plants so that the chance of a Chernobyl-style disaster is almost nil. But we can’t eliminate it completely — nor can we envision every other kind of potential disaster. And where fission reactors are concerned, the worst-case scenario is so dreadful as to be unthinkable.”
Countries like Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and others have responded quickly to Fukushima Daiichi by reviewing their nuclear plant operations or plans to construct new reactors.
Given the current Japanese experience (and other similar incidents elsewhere in the world), we urge the Malaysian government to abandon its plans to build nuclear power plants. There are viable alternatives such as solar/wind power, etc which are both safer and cleaner. Importantly, energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption are better alternatives to harnessing nuclear technology.
If the competent and technologically brilliant Japanese cannot build a completely safe reactor, can we?
In this regard, the Malaysian government should also put a stop to the ongoing construction of the rare earth refinery plant in Gebeng near Kuantan as the radioactive elements associated with its industrial procedure are indeed a cause for public concern.
Fukushima is a reminder that when nuclear reactors fail, we cannot control what is unleashed. Malaysians, particularly the federal government, owe it to the present and future generations to stop the building of nuclear plants. Earthquakes know no boundaries.
This statement is endorsed by the following fellows of the Asian Public Intellectual Programme:
Dr Phua Kai Lit
Dr Hezri Adnan
Dr Henry Chan
Assoc Prof Mustafa Kamal Anuar
Josie M. Fernandez
Dr Yeoh Seng Guan
Datuk Dr Toh Kin Woon
Professor Dr Tan Sooi Beng
Dr Wong Soak Koon
Dr Shanthi Thamiah
Dr Colin Nicholas
Assoc Prof Dr Fadzilah Majid Cooke
Loh Yin Sang
Dr Lam Suan Beng
And Sociologists Without Borders-Malaysia Chapter
Published in the Malaysianinsider.com