Lasting political tremors from Fukushima?

The impact of Japan’s nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant on world and national politics could be much bigger than governments hope, a nuclear expert has suggested. Professor Gordon […]

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By Vicky Ellis

The impact of Japan’s nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant on world and national politics could be much bigger than governments hope, a nuclear expert has suggested.

Professor Gordon Mackerron said: “One of the reasons why I think there may be a greater political fallout than people are hoping in Japanese events, is that compared to Chernobyl, we could say at Chernobyl this was Russian technology and it was eccentric technology, and we’d never have built it here. In the case of Japan, it’s Western technology.”

He told an audience at the Marketforce Future of Utilities Conference that spent fuel could be a key sticking point: “The major problem it seems to me has been the spent fuel, rather oddly. It’s not the reactors. The reactors it seems have remained intact and are well-contained. Spent fuel was simply plunged into ponds that don’t have a container. And if you can’t keep those ponds with cold water coming into them on a consistent basis for reasons that I don’t still fully understand, you have quite a large problem.”

Public opinion could affect nuclear’s standing, he added: “Given that nuclear politics are rather dominated by what people think about our apparent inability to manage radioactive waste in the long term, the fact that it’s spent fuel that seems to be the major problem may rebound somewhat in a number of different countries, including in the UK, though I can’t say exactly how.”

The UK Government has already moved to nip nuclear fears in the bud, with Energy Secretary Chris Huhne’s announcement that Chief Nuclear Inspector Dr Weightman will report on the lessons to be learned from Japan.

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