The Relative Comment

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More on Japan’s Nuclear Situation

with one comment

Since the earthquake and tsunami have brought turmoil to Japan’s nuclear plants, we at TRC have done little other than read about the situation. Intrigue surrounds the Fukushima Daiichi  nuclear facility problem. There is the sad and terrible side to this story that is obvious. But it is also fascinating, because nuclear energy is fascinating, and so, so complex. As a friend of mine said last night, if you think understand how nuclear power works, you don’t.  How we respond to something most people just don’t understand makes this whole situation fascinating.

For example, the Emperor of Japan appeared on television, an unprecedented event. In his televised comments, the 77-year-oldEmperor Akihito, expressed his worry over the situation, and attempted to calm his nation. “I hope from the bottom of my heart that the people will, hand in hand, treat each other with compassion and overcome these difficult times.”  A lovely message to a nation in the grip of horror and sadness. Then, “He criticized the government’s plans for an evacuation of his province, the hardest-hit region, and complained about a lack of hot meals and basic necessities at shelters housing people moved from the areas closest to the plant.”

Meanwhile, at Fukushima Daiichi, things are getting worse. Maybe. Depending on who you are listening too. As ever new and more creative plans for cooling the exposed fuel rods are developed, then usually abandoned, differing opinions about the severity and the increasing/decreasing danger continue to come out. Yesterday, the American assessment of the danger from radiation surpassed that of the Japanese leaders. After Gregory Jackzo, the chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, gave his analysis to Obama, the Japanese responded, not in contradictory terms, per se, but certainly in dispute of the American report.  “The advice to Americans in Japan represents a graver assessment of the risk in the immediate vicinity of Daiichi than the warnings made by the Japanese themselves.” The US recommend a 50 mi. birth from the facility, for example, while the Japanese recommend 12 mi.

No one can know what will happen at Fukushima Daiichi. Things at the plant might be maintained without much more radiation being released. But that doesn’t seem likely. Concern seems to be growing, not fading, and the possibility of a serious nuclear event remains. “In the worst case, experts say, workers could be forced to vacate the plant altogether, and the fuel rods in reactors and spent fuel pools would be left to melt down, leading to much larger releases of radioactive materials.”

Let us hope that does not happen.

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Written by Christopher ZF

March 17, 2011 at 12:42

One Response

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  1. I don’t have anything to contribute, except that your first paragraph is perhaps the most salient point I’ve heard on these events yet.

    In general, I find it suitable for us to be afraid of nuclear power. There is the bad sort of fear, fear of a thing simply because we don’t understand it. And there is more beneficial sort of fear, the fear that leads us to respect, and treat carefully, a thing that we have unleashed upon creation. After all, as lay people, we do not understand nuclear power and so a certain health dose of fear is alright. However, some people do understand it and does have an idea how we might respond to this accident, in terms both short and long. Unfortunately, the first, bad sort tends to be the thing I’ve encountered most. As Americans, we have it in our heads that what is in our heads is the best, and that we ought not to rely on the judgment and wisdom of what is in others’ heads–we aren’t prone to being (overly) trusting, I guess. We don’t like occultic or priestly jargon (except on True Blood), legal jargon, or scientific/medical jargon. Of these three, it is science that scares us the most. To wit: Kansas and Texas school books (in which case priestly and occultic jargon is actually preferred over scientific), homeopathic quackery, nuclear power.

    I’ll shut up now. Thanks for this post, Chris.

    LBJ

    March 17, 2011 at 20:57


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