Environmental Ethical Issues on Nuclear Energy in Fukushima and Chornobyl Essay Example
Environmental Ethical Issues on Nuclear Energy in Fukushima and Chornobyl Essay Example

Environmental Ethical Issues on Nuclear Energy in Fukushima and Chornobyl Essay Example

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  • Pages: 7 (1728 words)
  • Published: February 5, 2022
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Introduction Overview

Ecological ethics refers to the ethical obligations and duties that humans have towards the environment. However, human values play a vital role in shaping environmental ethics. Personal values are fundamental beliefs or principles held by individuals, which they use to assess actions or events. Likewise, people assign value to specific things and employ this assigned value to determine the morality of something.

Each individual has unique human qualities, as not everyone assigns the same importance to every aspect of life. For example, a person living in poverty in an underdeveloped country may consider clearing forests for farming and providing food for their family morally acceptable (Elliott, 2014). However, someone in a developed country might view this action as morally unacceptable due to its negative impact on the environment and increase in carbon dioxide emissions.



ongoing nuclear crisis at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan has had significant consequences in terms of personal health, environmental damage, food security, and global psychosocial effects. This crisis has sparked intense debates about the ethical issues surrounding nuclear energy and its impact on both global health and the environment. Nuclear power relies on sustained nuclear fission to generate heat that can be converted into various forms of energy like electricity (Elliott, 2014).

Atomic power currently accounts for around 6% of the global energy supply and is generated by a total of 439 operational atomic reactors in 31 countries, most of which have been operating for over twenty years. Moreover, more than sixty nations are actively engaged in developing atomic power production projects. The use and development of atomic energy have sparked widespread debate worldwide for an extended period. Atomi

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energy is seen as a sustainable alternative to conventional energy sources because it can decrease greenhouse gas emissions and produce less waste.

Atomic fuel and its waste are highly radioactive, posing dangers to humans and the environment. The location of nuclear power plants in densely populated areas raises concerns about bio-safety and bio-security. Past incidents worldwide have heightened public fears of nuclear accidents ("Health Care Ethics," 2011). This article examines the ethical issues associated with nuclear energy and proposes solutions to ensure global safety and well-being.

Ethical Implications of Nuclear Energy

The ethical considerations surrounding nuclear power involve balancing its benefits and risks, addressing the potential catastrophic consequences of accidents, being transparent in information disclosure, and complying with safety regulations. These concerns have significant implications for global health.

The text below discusses the environmental impact and occurrences of nuclear accidents.

When it comes to the environment, atomic energy has both positive and negative effects. On a positive note, nuclear power is cost-effective, does not emit greenhouse gases, and produces less waste compared to traditional energy sources. As the demand for energy increases and fossil fuel reserves decrease, atomic power becomes a viable alternative to wind and solar energy in replacing fossil fuel sources. However, there are drawbacks to nuclear power. The refining of radioactive materials, mining activities, and disposal of radioactive waste pose risks to both the environment and the health of nearby residents ("Health Care Ethics," 2011).

Nuclear accidents are referred to as catastrophic.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2008, there have been several notable atomic accidents, such as the Kyshtym accidents at level 6, the Chernobyl catastrophes at level 7, and the ongoing Fukushima atomic

accident at level 7. In 1986, the Chernobyl catastrophe released a significant amount of radioactive particles and gas into the air, which spread across Europe and had various impacts on animals and plants.

The consequences of these incidents included death and long-term health problems for organisms exposed to radiation. The World Health Organization's Chernobyl Group report estimated that there would be a total of nine thousand excess cancer deaths resulting from the disaster. However, according to international physicians for nuclear prevention War (IPPNW), even higher numbers were reported ("Health Care Ethics," 2011).

The Fukushima disaster, similar to the Chernobyl disaster, was caused by natural disasters that caused significant damage to the nuclear power plant. It had global consequences as it released radioactive material and discharged tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. Like Chernobyl, Fukushima impacted living beings, their environment, their food sources, and had psychological effects worldwide. The incident emphasized the importance of sharing information and implementing biosafety techniques to minimize the impact of nuclear accidents and protect lives. However, both industry and government often underestimate risks or hide information from the public, as evidenced in the case of Fukushima (Urabe et al., 2013).

TEPCO, or the Tokyo Electric Power Organization, has been accused of manipulating and concealing data. Both the Japanese government and TEPCO have been found guilty of providing false information during the disaster. As mentioned before, nuclear power involves several processes like mining, transportation, enrichment, and disposal of radioactive materials. Some nuclear power plants are situated in densely populated areas, which exposes residents to a higher risk of cancer and other health problems due to prolonged exposure to low-level radiation. Any nuclear accident

could intensify these risks further. The lack of funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada has led to an increase in temporary storage of nuclear waste at power plant sites, raising the danger for nearby communities and potentially causing security concerns.

The method described does not provide a permanent technique for categorizing atomic waste (Urabe, Hattori, Iimoto, & Yokoyama, 2013). The primary ethical approach to address concerns about nuclear energy is to provide accurate data to the public promptly. Safety measures and violations have historically been neglected in many nuclear energy plants. For example, in a 2007 report, TEPCO admitted to falsifying data to conceal risks during security checks at three atomic energy plants (Urabe, Hattori, Iimoto, & Yokoyama, 2013). Instead of addressing potential safety issues, the information was kept hidden to avoid interrupting operations. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize strict safety controls for all nuclear energy projects and prosecute those who violate regulations. Without proper strategy or accountability, the potential for extensive and hazardous damage to neighboring areas is high.

With four hundred and thirty-nine reactors globally and the majority of them being over twenty years old, it is necessary for atomic energy regulators and industries to continually develop new strategies to ensure the safety of individuals and atomic materials. It is crucial that atomic equipment is properly managed in order to handle unexpected and complex situations, such as natural disasters that could cause nuclear accidents. Otherwise, nuclear accidents are inevitable.

Ethical Analysis and Proposals for Change

In order to address the ethical concerns, atomic power regulators and industries should consider ethical standards and values when making decisions to maximize benefits and minimize harm.


stakeholders may have varying viewpoints on nuclear power based on their standards, qualities, knowledge of atomic energy, and individual interpretations of the consequences. Additionally, advancements in science and innovation may have changed the ethical concerns related to nuclear power (Becker, 2011). Utilitarianism is a predominant theory in the western world that promotes maximal prosperity for the majority. When applying a utilitarian perspective to the nuclear power program, one must consider whether it maximizes the well-being of a large portion of the population and if their choices result in similar outcomes. Supporters of nuclear power, including governments and international organizations, highlight its sustainability, cleanliness, and overall safety while advocating for its development as a substitute for fossil fuel energy (Sasaki, 2016). They argue that accidents are isolated incidents that should not deter humanity from harnessing nuclear energy.

The argument is that people have exaggerated the harmful effects of nuclear accidents. As a result, governments often assure the public that nuclear power is both safe and beneficial. They highlight the significant improvements in nuclear safety in recent decades. These governments point out that the Fukushima disaster involved reactors that used outdated technology from the 1970s, which had known safety concerns prior to the accident. Proponents of nuclear power, along with organizations like IPPNW and Greenpeace, question whether nuclear energy programs are truly environmentally friendly.

In spite of not emitting greenhouse gases, nuclear reactors generate atomic waste through mining, refining, and transporting radioactive minerals and waste to different locations. The impact of this is irreversible and significant. The 439 nuclear reactors produce approximately 129,999cm3 of low-level and transiently radioactive waste, as well as 13,000 tons of highly radioactive waste. Nuclear

waste can remain radioactive for thousands of years, and there is currently no permanent solution for waste disposal (Becker, 2011).

The increasing connection between natural disasters and industrial fiascos has the potential to cause a significant atomic mishap that could affect countless individuals. These events could lead to widespread and complex effects, possibly escalating into global emergencies.


The paper presented the moral issues related to nuclear power programs. While nuclear energy is seen as a viable solution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it generates highly toxic radioactive waste with irreversible impacts on the environment and living organisms. Any nuclear accident greatly affects global health. Therefore, in line with utilitarianism's ethical principles of benefit, justice, discovery, and autonomy, it is crucial for authorities and the nuclear industry to adopt a strict approach towards nuclear programs and disprove their safety.

To enhance hazard response, it is vital to fully disclose information and engage in dialogue with the public. Moreover, exploring alternative forms of clean energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal power is crucial.


  1. Becker, S. (2011). Protecting public health after major radiation emergencies. BMJ, 342(mar25 1), d1968-d1968. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d1968
  2. Elliott, K. (2014). Environmental Health Ethics. Ethics, Policy & Environment, 17(2), 238-239. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21550085.2014.926092
  3. Health Care Ethics. (2011). Online Journal Of Health Ethics,7.http://dx.doi.org/10.18785/ojhe07107
  4. Sasaki,T.

The article "Early History of Synchrotron Radiation Research in Japan" published in The Synchrotron Radiation News (2016) provides insights into synchrotron radiation research in Japan. The authors, Urabe, I., Hattori, T., Iimoto, T., and Yokoyama, S., can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08940886.2015.1080069.

Another study by the same authors (Urabe, I., Hattori,

T., Iimoto, T., and Yokoyama, S.) was published in the Journal Of Nuclear Science And Technology (volume 51(2), pages 136-149). This study focuses on the lessons learned about radiation protection from the TEPCO Fukushima No.1 NPS accident.


  • Yamashita, J.; Shigemura, J. (2013). The Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident.
    Psychiatric Clinics Of North America, 36(3), 351-370.
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