Authorities in Japan have evacuated the area around a nuclear power plant after its reactor's cooling system failed following Friday's massive earthquake. Pressure began building overnight at the Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo, prompting officials to consider venting radioactive vapor on Saturday. The situation has prompted analysts to debate whether nuclear power is safe to use in earthquake-prone regions.
Japan has 55 nuclear power plants that produce nearly one-third of the country’s electrical output. Its also lies in one of the most seismically active zones in the world, known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Nuclear waste specialist Kevin Kamps at nuclear watchdog Beyond Nuclear says these two factors put Japan at a big risk. "An earthquake that damages multiple levels of the safety systems can lead to a troubled situation very quickly."
Kamps said the worst case scenario for the Fukushima Daiichi plant would be what happened at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in 1986, when the radioactivity escaped to the outside environment, causing environmental and health hazards across portions of Europe. He said Japan should consider other energy options.