Fukushima Accident: The World's Response on Precautions and Development

Sameer Kumar
March 11, 2019

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018

The Accident

Fig. 1: The Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant after the accident. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In March 2011, a severe earthquake and massive tsunami hit the coasts of Japan, in what was considered one of the worst natural disasters in the last century. To make matters worse, the tsunami commenced a terrible nuclear accident at the Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing massive destruction and putting more than 100,000 lives in danger of radiation (see Fig. 1). This situation started a debate across different forums on the regulations and development of nuclear energy for various countries with nuclear energy considering possible risks such as the issue experienced in Japan. [1]

An Overview

As a direct result of the accident, several precautions and regulatory changes have been made in the different countries that had plans on utilizing nuclear energy. Following a period of time around 2001 when nuclear energy was experiencing great popularity among powerful countries, the Fukushima accident was a major eye-opener and setback for those prioritizing nuclear energy. However, the Fukushima accident mainly increased costs and delayed programs, in hopes of increasing safety measures, but did not deter those who were interested in nuclear energy from implementing it. A relevant factor to take into account, however, is that the development of many renewable energy sources as well as the presence of oil in the US are good reasons why nuclear energy might become less popular in the near future. [2]

Japan, Asia and Europe Policy Changes

Policy changes in Japan were the clearest: they reduced their nuclear energy target by 30%. Other countries such as Kazakhstan and Iran did not really change their objectives at all, and India is actually increasing its capacity of generating nuclear energy. For example, in 2010, India was producing nuclear energy equivalent to about 5.2 million tons of oil, but by 2018, they had grown to a production equivalent to 8.5 million tons of oil, by far the highest growth rate in Asia over that time span. [3] Western Europe was the most drastic out of all the countries: Belgium abandoned its three oldest reactors and Germany permanently shut down most of its reactors. France and Sweden decided to have more long-term decisions towards their nuclear energy, and the impact of their policies on reducing this source of energy is going to be seen full tilt in 2035. [1]

US Policy Changes

The policy the US took in response to the Fukushima accident is the most interesting to highlight: as of 2015, 99 different nuclear power reactors were contributing to close to 20% of the electricity in the country, and to make sure to maintain this production, the country established a diverse and flexible coping capability to alleviate the effect of possible natural disasters and have enough safety controls to keep this important source of energy as a possibility to give electricity to its citizens. [2]

© Sameer Kumar. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] B. B. F. Wittneben, "The Impact of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident on European Energy Policy," Environ. Sci. Policy 115, 1 (2012).

[2] "Impacts of the Fukushima Daichi Accident on Nuclear Development Policies," Nuclear Energy Agency, NEA No. 7212, 2017.

[3] "BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018," British Petroleum, June 2018.