Plugging into alternative power
After the March 11 earthquake in Japan that damaged and caused a radiation leak at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Koo Wai-muk - a campaigner for Greenpeace - was suddenly beset by questions concerning the environmental impact of the disaster. The 26-year-old journalism graduate from the Chinese University of Hong Kong has visited Ukraine and Japan - two sites of major nuclear accidents - and became determined to persuade the world to give up nuclear power and look for other ways to satisfy the rising demand for electricity.
Why did you decide to join Greenpeace?
Working for a non-governmental organisation (NGO) is part of my career plan. Before I joined Greenpeace, I was not much of an environmentalist. I chose to be a part of this organisation because it is outspoken and it gets things done.
How did you get involved in nuclear issues?
In 2010, I was watching the World Cup on television and all of a sudden a report about an accident in the Daya Bay nuclear power plant was broadcast. That was my first encounter with the issue of nuclear hazards. It was shocking that such a high-risk business operates with so little transparency.
What have you done to prepare yourself for an anti-nuclear power campaign?
Last year, I went to the Netherlands to take up a radionuclide course at the Delft University of Technology. After finishing the programme, I stayed with the Netherlands Greenpeace office to work on anti-radioactive campaign for two months. I also visited Chernobyl and Fukushima earlier this year to research on their impact on the environment.
What did you see in Chernobyl and Fukushima?
Up to this day, 25 years after the Chernobyl disaster, nuclear pollution still affects its residents. The plants in that area are still exposed to radiation that is way above the safety limit, but the people have no choice but to eat local food while the polluted environment leads to all sorts of health problems.
I went to Fukushima in May, and did some research on the ocean where a huge amount of nuclear waste was being dumped. As expected, a higher radiation level in fish, shellfish, sea cucumber and many other ocean creatures was recorded. The Japanese government and the world have no solution for such disasters and yet they are not willing to give up nuclear energy.
What inspired you to be a Greenpeace campaigner?
I went to Germany and saw a village that was built on a nuclear waste dumping ground. Activists live there to prove a point. The people living there are certainly putting their health at risk but they want the world to understand the dire consequences of nuclear power. Their action touched me deeply.
What does the public need to know about nuclear energy?
Nuclear power is in no way efficient from an economic standpoint. The huge amount of money spent on handling radioactive waste is often overlooked. Since Chernobyl, there has been little progress in handling nuclear waste despite the huge sums spent for this purpose. Mankind is trying to control something that it doesn't have control at all. Too much is at risk.
What is your long-term goal?
I would like to persuade the government not to use nuclear power. It should provide a feasible alternative solution to demands for electricity. I am trying to raise people's awareness of the harm that nuclear power brings. It is a risky business and human technology is not advanced enough to handle nuclear accidents. My responsibility is to tell the public the truth.
The number of years since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Residents still suffer from all kinds of diseases caused by radioactive fallout