Nuclear-EnergyThe footages of the double sets of tragedy in Northern Japan are a common scene on our televisions screens and Internet pages.

One set being natural (earthquake and Tsunami) and the second, technology failure (nuclear plant accidents and potential radioactive leakages).
On Friday 11th March 2011 at 2.46pm (Japanese time) 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit the port city of Sendai in Northern Japan sending severe shock waves across the country and region. As if this was not enough, a heavy tsunami with waves as high as 8-10meters raged across Japan and the Pacific sea at the speed of about 1000km/hr. Tsunami alarm was immediately sounded within Japan and 53 countries on the path of this monstrous phenomenon.
My treatise would be limited to the nuclear plant (NP) explosions and the potential radioactive leakages with reflection on the Nigerian planned Nuclear energy acquisition with the evitable risk such investment present for public health and human survival.
The much talked about reform in the energy sector had been raised as political bait tossed around by government since the return to democracy in 1999. Several solutions to ‘blackouts’ had been promised but NEVER delivered. The roadmap to Nigerian’s energy sectors should be robustly driven by diversities in clean and modern sources of power production.

Our nuclear energy adventure would be aborted even before take off by monumental bureaucracy and technical challenges; we have no proven maintenance culture not to think of an uninterrupted electric supply supported by an effective backup to an acquired NP. The NPs at Fukushima Daiichi, Japan had three tiers of electricity supply to the cooling system, all of which failed by forces of nature, the quake and tsunami. Should Nigeria be lucky to have regular electricity supply to power the cooling system, we may run out of water for one phantom reason or another.
The outcome of the failed cooling system at Fukushima-1 NP was a built up of pressure within the reactor and an eventual explosion releasing radioactive substances into the environment- a scary development of an immense historical dimension. However, conflicting reports of the exact amount of radioactivity has deepen the crisis and prompted heighten fears on the Citizens and the Government. The Nuclear watchdog Chief, Ambassador Amano would be traveling to Japan to see things for himself. Fukushima-3 NP exploded on 14 March and Fukushima -2 the following day while fire was reported in Fukushima-4 NP.

Plutonium, a highly radioactive and vital component of nuclear reactors is the element release in the event the core of the reactor is compromised. The risks of exposure of humans include radiation illnesses, future carcinoma and deaths depending of the dose of exposure. However, it is hope that the winds would blow the emissions eastwards to reduce contamination.
Apart from leakages and accidental fallouts, disposal of nuclear waste have always posed a regrettable environmental and health disasters of unimaginable proportion.

Chernobyl in Ukraine is a case in context where effects of radioactive fallout of 1986 are still felt as far as the Nordic countries. Other NP accidents resulting in release of radioactive materials were Windscale, UK in 1957, Kyshtym, Russia in 1957 and Three mile Island, USA in 1979 just to mention a few. Debate has been re-ignited as to the closure of some of the 104 NPs in USA as the result of the current nuclear disaster in Japan.
In 2006, a near meltdown of the reactor occurred after fire broke out at a NP in Ringhals, Sweden few months after a reactor in Forsmark also in Sweden went up in flames. Health and environments campaigners have not ceased advocating for complete elimination of NP in Sweden, Germany and other European countries.
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) for over 30 years have advocated and educated the public on the dangers of eventual radiation fallout from nuclear weapons. It is universal knowledge that nuclear reactors are precursors of nuclear weaponry. An accidental meltdown of such weapons and reactors as currently witnessed in Japan poses an enormous danger to the environment, health of humans and living things. The UNESCO Peace Education Prize recognized IPPNW’s effort in 1984 and by the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

In Nigeria, the Affiliate of IPPNW is known as Society of Nigerian Doctors for the Welfare of Mankind with membership all over Nigeria.
There are viable alternatives to power generation in this modern age. Hydroelectricity could be relevant and sustainable in some communities for example, NESCO was efficient at electricity supply to Bukuru and part of Jos in Plateau state from Kura falls when I resided there. Shiroro falls had its area of supply. Qua falls in Cross River state should be exploited to generate electricity for her catchment areas.
Hydropower may be complimented with other sources such as wind turbines that could be conveniently mounted offshore across the vast Bight of Benin to supply electricity to the entire South West, South South and South Eastern zones of Nigeria. Communities in the other zones could also benefit from electricity generated from wind depending on their topography.
What of our God given sunlight? This source is an envy of countries in the northern hemisphere especially those with long dark nights.

A European consortium has planned to tap sunrays from the Sahara desert to supply electricity to most of Europe, a project that if completed would begin shut down of NPs in the subscribed nations. A paradox hits hard on our psychic that is comparable to having crude petroleum oil and refineries but we wait in long queues for its by-products. Countries without crude petroleum oil or refinery have petroleum products 24/7. It would be reasonable that we hide our faces in shame if we cannot use technology to harness the benefit of our abundant sunlight.
Bio degradation has been successfully utilized for energy generation in many communities and countries. Why not in Nigeria? If well utilized, our cities would be rid of waste keeping them clean. Waste would become marketable and employment generated from organized waste collections and disposals through sales to bio degradation plants.
The suggestions above are not new; several commentators had made similar and perhaps better proposals in the past. However, one of the reasons for an apparent disregard to these ideas is situated in the misplaced priorities of successive Nigerian Governments, corruption and huge governments; a push to satisfy political cronies outweighs instituting a legacy for a modern nation.
Unfortunately, in an event of radioactive accidents, there’s just no sustainable remedy, iodine tablets have very limited solution. Evacuations to far distances have mere palliative effect. In case of Fukushima, an initial 20km was advised and later 30km safe zone was advocated. Many are impressed by the resilience of the Japanese people and the rescue teams who are searching all nooks and crannies despite unfavorable terrain couple with snow and falling temperatures.
One ponders how we would have managed should such a disaster confront us? What relief can we muster when a dam breaks its banks? Nigerians were stranded in Tripoli for weeks before being evacuated home. The risk of radioactive contamination should be weighed against other electricity generating options before taking a dive to disaster.

Source: Nigeriaplus