As reports come in of thousands of bodies being washed up on the north-eastern shore of Honshu – Japan’s main island – following the earthquake and tsunami, concern is now growing about the danger of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power station.
Two reactors have been damaged by explosions, and a third has its cooling system out of action. The government is saying there is no cause for alarm, but more than 20 people are being treated for the effects of radiation, and tens of thousands have been evacuated, while the US military has pulled its people back from the area.
The decision to build nuclear power stations in an area so prone to earthquakes was heavily criticised. Atomic energy and secrecy tend to go hand in hand, so everyone is hoping the Japanese authorities are being more open than the Soviet apparatchiks at Chernobyl in 1986, where a ‘safety experiment’ produced the world’s worst nuclear accident.
At first they tried to hush the whole thing up, and it was only when a Swedish monitoring station detected unusual levels of radiation that the Russians began to admit the truth. Twenty-five years after the explosion, people are still dying from its effects, and some estimates put the number of additional cancers that it will cause as high as 200,000.
* Yesterday I was interviewed about the earthquake on BBC Radio Berkshire. This is the link:- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_tLViNtSlU