Fukushima Disaster: The Myth of Nuclear Safety
The nuclear industry has long maintained that the operating of nuclear power plants (NPPs) is safe. During this time, however, there have been many accidents at said plants around the world including large ones such as the ones at Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl.
On 11 March, 2011, several nuclear reactors in Fukushima Japan, supposedly “built to withstand all but a ‘once in 10,000 year’ earthquake” began melting down following just such a quake, a magnitude 9.0 and a resulting tsunami which took out the backup diesel generators. 
A national crisis has ensued.
Preceding are some comments, first from the victims, following the disaster.
"Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato has expressed anger at the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., saying both 'betrayed' the people of Fukushima Prefecture with repeated assurances about the safety of nuclear power plants. 'We feel we were betrayed [by the central government and TEPCO],' Sato said...'The central government and TEPCO repeatedly told us, ‘Nuclear power plants are safe because they've got multiple protection systems,’ and, ‘Earthquake-proof measures have been taken,’ Sato said.” 
"'They told us over and over again that it was safe, safe, safe,' 70-year-old evacuee Fumiko Watanabe told The Daily Mail last month." 
"You never know what is going to happen,’ said the slight 31-year-old. 'Everyone told us we would be okay—that the plant was safe. I want Americans to think whether they really want to risk the dangers of nuclear power plants.'" 
"TEPCO claimed that the nuclear reactors would safely stop, then automatically cool down and tightly contain the radiation in the event of an earthquake, and that there would therefore be no danger that earthquakes would cause any serious nuclear accident.... The anti-nuclear movement has been warning of the dangers of a devastating nuclear accident for years, but those efforts have always been met with dismissive assurances both by electric power companies and the government about the safety of the reactors. The Fukushima accident has brought to fruition all the fears and predictions previously expressed. And just as the atomic bomb indiscriminately killed tens of thousands of civilians, this nuclear reactor accident, albeit on a smaller scale, will be responsible for indiscriminate suffering and lives cut short; the consequences are likely to play out over the next several decades due to radiation pollution and the resulting economic costs." 
Immediately following the disaster we heard from pro-industry experts:
“There's no risk of an extensive radiation leak into the surrounding areas.” - Robin Grimes, Director of the Centre for Nuclear Engineering at Imperial College London 
“It's simply impossible to imagine anything like Chernobyl happening in these reactors, despite all the problems they're having.” - David Brenner, professor of radiation biophysics at the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University 
"There is no question of a Chernobyl situation or of anything like the same threat to human health and safety ... An accident like Chernobyl cannot happen again—this is a reactor of a different generation. Even in the worst-case scenario of a total coolant failure, the radiation released will be hundreds of times less than from Chernobyl." - Rafael Arutyunyan, deputy head of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Nuclear Energy Development Security 
“The Chernobyl reactor was new, it was undergoing tests, and it had very little structural containment measures to ward off a meltdown. The Japanese reactors are a completely different design known as Boiling Water Reactors, which are old and tested, and have three quite elaborate systems of containment designed to constrain radioactive leakage...’The third containment is designed, built, and tested for one single purpose: To contain, indefinitely, a complete core meltdown.” - Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass. 
Yet more than meltdowns, even more dangerous “melt-throughs” occurred, spewing radiation far and wide (and despite TEPCO claims of "cold shutdown" the situation in Japan is far from stable):
“Japan will for the first time report to the UN nuclear watchdog that fuel in its crippled Fukushima plant may have melted through the bottoms of three reactor core vessels, a news report said Tuesday.” 
What's more, it took a month for authorities to release the information that large doses of radiation had spewed from the plant. Why? Said Seiji Shiroya, a commissioner of Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission, “Some foreigners fled the country even when there appeared to be little risk. If we immediately decided to label the situation as Level 7, we could have triggered a panicked reaction”, not to mention that it would have been horrible public relations for the industry. Further it took two months to reveal that not one but three reactors suffered a meltdown. “Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University, told Reuters that the announcement was timed to minimize the impact on the public. ‘In the early stages of the crisis Tepco may have wanted to avoid panic,’ Nakano said. ‘Now people are used to the situation.’” So the decision was made early on to keep quiet - and expose people unnecessarily.  
Further, evidence exists that the Fukushima disaster actually exceeds that of Chernobyl.
"TEPCO announced that the accident probably released more radioactive material into the environment than Chernobyl, making it the worst nuclear accident on record." 
Articles and resources
- "Earthquake prone Japan sees green in new nuclear power plants" Christian Science Monitor
- The Yomiuri Shimbun, "Fukushima gov. slams TEPCO, govt for 'betrayal'" Daily Yomiuri Online, Apr. 10, 2011.
- IBD Editorial, "Faster, Japan" Investor's Business Daily, Apr. 12, 2011.
- Lizzie Hedrick, "Indian Point Opponents: How Many Lives Is the Plant's Energy Worth? Yorktown-SomersPatch, April 12, 2011.
- Yuki Tanaka, "Foreign Policy: Japan's Unlikely Nuclear Affair" NPR, Mar 23, 2011.
- "FACTBOX-Experts on explosion at Japan nuclear plant" Reuters, Mar 13, 2011.
- Jon Hamilton, "Sizing Up Japan's Nuclear Emergency: No Chernobyl" NPR.
- Owen Matthews, "Why Japan's Nuclear Meltdown Is No Chernobyl" The Daily Beast, Mar 13, 2011.
- Robert Marquand, "Japan's nuclear crisis and Chernobyl: key differences" Christian Science Monitor, March 13, 2011.
- Inquirer Technology, "Japan to report nuclear ‘melt-throughs’ to UN" Associated Press, June 7th, 2011.
- KEITH BRADSHER, HIROKO TABUCHI and ANDREW POLLACK, "Japanese Officials on Defensive as Nuclear Alert Level Rises" New York Times, Apr 12, 2011.
- Elizabeth Flock, "Tepco: Surprise! Two more reactors melted down at Fukushima plant" Washington Post, May 24, 2011.
- Dahr Jamail, "Fukushima: It's much worse than you think" Aljazeera, Jun 16, 2011.