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Thoughts on the long-term effects of nuclear waste 

Christo Motz presents a very personal view of nuclear safety and calls for greater responsibility in how we manage and store the waste by-products arising from our increased dependence upon energy, saying that sustainable solutions should not be dismissed

I watched an ominous report on BBC News today, which was filmed on August 6, 2013, regarding the enormous amount of highly radioactive water that was contaminating the ocean at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant.

I took part of the EC Conference titled 'Towards a more resilient society', held in Brussels on November 25 and 26, 2009. I spoke with members of the Japanese Cabinet Office about their system of crisis preparation, which, as far as I am aware, is one of the best developed systems in the world.

Mr Yuzuru Tachi sent me an email on December 2, 2009, with an attachment on how resilience and community preparedness is integrated into the school curriculum. Subjects such as outdoor cooking and first aid training in time of disaster are all part of this curriculum,

On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit by a series of earthquakes as well as a devastating tsunami. This resulted in large parts of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant being destroyed, causing a nuclear catastrophe. Officially 24,000 victims' lives were claimed by this massive destruction.

After the first shockwaves and the astonishment at such massive devastation, people elsewhere in the world resumed their daily life as this event became less newsworthy and other disasters took place elsewhere, so media coverage moved on.

Tepco, the Japanese energy company responsible for the plant, has not yet managed to bring the effects of radioactive contamination under control.

A large risk is the danger of collapse of the plant as the foundations have been undermined by groundwater. There are 1,500 fuel rods being cooled in the reactor. If these were to dry out, an unprecedented meltdown will take place. We need only to wait for the next earthquake to hit the region.

The Japanese Government has stated that in the matter of developing risk scenarios only the worst case - or, to put it another way - the most implausible scenarios have not yet been developed sufficiently.

This is understandable, as this case is an example of a triple disaster with such long-term effects that one may question if nuclear energy politics is not a dead end. Literally.
My favorite medieval artist Albrecht D?rer (1471 - 1528) made woodcarvings of 'Die vier apokalyptischen Reiter' ('The four horsemen of the apocalypse').

We could say that we have seen the apocalypse become a reality in our day and age. In the past few years the number of man-made and natural disasters has drastically increased. And the increased costs of these disasters is worrying the worlds' largest re-insurance company Munich-Re.

Meanwhile it seems that every day 30,000 litres of radioactive water are leaking into the ocean. How can this be?

The consequences are obvious; global sea life, the atmosphere and the food chain will become contaminated. When this hell becomes a reality, which it actually already is, reflection and recalibration of our one-dimensional approach, as well as our scientific-mechanical way of thinking are necessary.

Disasters occur in all eras, but owing to the high speed of technological developments, the scale can no longer be compared to times past. The destructive effects and consequences of geo-political and economic strategic decisions of multinational corporations and national governments to introduce nuclear power, genetically manipulated food, nano-technology on a global scale has become visible. The question is who owns who? And why is that?

Dutch policy continues to support the use of nuclear power. I am especially interested in the search for sustainable solutions, the transition and approach to the energy issue. In his book titled 'In the Eye of the Hurricane' the Dutch professor in Transition Management, Jan Rotmans describes that we have arrived at a tipping point. Constructive change is also visible.

"Everything is under control" is a much used phrase by policymakers, spokespersons and the military. But to be clear; the half life of Plutonium-239 is 24,400 years. Can you imagine offering a contract of this length to a security company to guard this material? Two thousand years ago our habitat was part of the mighty Roman Empire, a history long since gone and which can only be studied through artifacts, old scripts and abandoned ruins. As of yet there is no guaranteed viable long-term safe way of storing and processing nuclear waste. Our civilisation will be known for leaving behind a legacy of radioactive waste and plastic.

Panta rhei

Everything is constantly in motion, nothing remains the same, and everything flows. This thought originating from the Greek philosophers is a fundamental concept.

Nothing is sure. We owe it to ourselves and the generations that follow after us to manage the earth responsibly, to be careful with our one planet while we are here. 

Christo Motz, 20/08/2013
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