11/03/2014 10:45 GMT | Updated 11/05/2014 06:59 BST

Three Years on: The Grim Nuclear Legacy of Fukushima

Three years on since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima: 160,000 people may never return home. The area remains a "post-apocalyptic landscape" in the words of Miles O'Brien, PBS News' science correspondent, who recently visited the site.

He reported that "Each and every day, 100,000 gallons of fresh groundwater seeps into the basements of the plant, where it becomes contaminated with a witch's brew of radionuclide." The site's operator Tepco is furiously trying to contain this water in huge holding tanks. But they know they're running out of storage space: the problem is not going away and there's not a Plan B.


The decontamination operation will cost unknown billions and is expected to last at least 30 years.

It is a grim legacy.

The Fukushima disaster presents a stark lesson which should inform UK energy policy. Germany has already heeded the warning and is undergoing a monumental transformation into a post-nuclear state: rapidly increasing production of renewable energy, reducing consumption and closing its nuclear plants within 10 years.

Just because the UK doesn't experience earthquakes or tsunamis doesn't mean we're safe from the kind of catastrophe which occurred in Japan. The Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered three meltdowns ultimately because power was lost to the cooling systems. That can happen anywhere and for a multitude of reasons: from a targeted attack, to technical malfunctions, to natural disasters causing power failures and structural damage - as recent flooding in the UK has made all too clear.

Furthermore, unpredictable and extreme weather patterns as a result of climate change should give pause for thought in the risks which face new nuclear sites: with flooding on the rise and earthquakes already having occurred in the Bristol Channel near the site of the nuclear power station at Hinkley Point.

Yet despite the risks and the exorbitant cost, the Government has decided that nuclear power should form the foundation of the UK's energy policy for decades to come. And it's decided that the British public should fork out whatever the nuclear energy companies want, by agreeing a strike price for EDF of £92.50 per megawatt hour: double the current wholesale cost of electricity.

It's a subsidy in all but name, from a government which said that it would never subsidise nuclear.

Nuclear power has shown itself to be a dangerous and expensive form of energy: we should learn the lessons of Fukushima before it's too late.