Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Could Cost $257 Billion

TOKYO - - Nuclear power generated electricity may appear cheap, but like fossil fuel electricity generation much of the real cost is hidden in subsidies and other forms of support. Add to that a nuclear accident or even just other associated environmental impacts under normal operations and suddenly any savings quickly evaporate, like water on overheated nuclear fuel rods.

According to a report from Reuters, based on data from the Nikkei, it's been estimated cleaning up after the Fukushima nuclear disaster and compensation costs could be as high as 20 trillion yen - USD$257 billion.

While the Fukushima crisis doesn't dominate the headlines as much any more, it's an ongoing situation with nasty new surprises regularly cropping up.

Just this week, there have been two developments of note.

Operators of the Fukushima plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. TEPCO, announced on Monday 45 tonnes of highly radioactive waste water had leaked from the plants water treatment system.

Yesterday, TEPCO estimated 300 litres of the waste water ran into a nearby gutter that leads to the Pacific Ocean, with around 150 litres actually reaching the ocean. That water is believed to contain around 26 billion becquerels of radioactive materials, including strontium. According to some reports, that is a million times higher than accepted safe levels.

This morning, ABC News has reported radioactive caesium has been detected in a brand of Japanese baby formula sparking a recall of 400,000 cans.

Radioactive food, water and land - in fact, radioactive everything - aren't the only environmental hazards to be generated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The cleanup of the mess is creating other problems, such as the pileup of 480,000 used disposable protective suits reported by the ABC back in October. Contaminated soil being hurriedly stored around the nation is also causing concern.

As Australia continues its journey towards its wind and solar powered clean energy future, it's all food for thought as we strike agreements with countries such as India to supply uranium for power generation purposes. Let's not forget the millions of tonnes of coal and other fossil fuels we export around the world each year either.

Can we every really lay claim to being clean and green by shipping the essential ingredients for major environmental disasters to other nations? Is Australia the Typhoid Mary of energy?


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