Saturday, 26 March 2011

The heroes of Fukushima...

...are the clean up workers who may well be quite calmly and rationally comitting suicide. After the Christchurch earthquake the deliberate acts of heroism and compassion were a wonderful testimony to the strength of character of those involved. This altruism is a feature of most of us I think, but is ingrained in the Japanese psyche. One only has to think of their military heroism as exemplified by the WW2 Kamikaze pilots. Their spirit is reflected so clearly in the heroism displayed at Fukushima...

...Apart from that, this post is a brief analysis of the human cost of energy consumption...

...The earthquake and tsunami in Japan delivered a devastating one-two punch to that island nation and to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. So what does much of the world do? You guessed it. They blamed the designers, builders and operators of the nuclear plant for not doing a good enough job. They call for all reactors in the world to be closed down. Electricity has been restored to all the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. That means that the control panels have lit up and banished the inky darkness. Electricity is available to the electrical cooling pumps.The overall situation is looking much better. They are not out of the woods yet, but day by day the residual nuclear decay heat, in the reactor fuel elements, is dropping and the prospect for any major release of nuclear material is diminishing.

It seems likely that the main toll from the nuclear emergency will be to a small number of heroic plant workers and emergency responders who continue to brave exposure to radiation to restore cooling to the reactors.The focus for Japan and the world should remain on recovery from this crisis and we should be wary of any seeking to exploit, rather than solve the situation. Serious risks remain, however, it is appropriate to place the harm and risk from Japan's nuclear emergency in context of the full scope of the tragedy. The death toll from the earthquake and tsunami stands at 9,300 with 13,800 missing. These numbers continue to rise. Any death or injury is tragic, but inside the nuclear plant only one person, a crane driver died from injury sustained, and some nuclear workers may have been exposed to high levels of radiation. Outside the nuclear plant no people have been injured in any way from any radiation...

... The Fukushima plant was forty years old, near retirement. Its staff did a fantastic job under the circumstances. There was no disaster. No people outside the plant got injured, no property outside the plant was damaged by nuclear material. Give the reactor crew a round of applause. Nuclear power just got a whole lot better and safer. Nuclear power survived the onslaught well, and we learned a great deal. The lessons learned will be shared with the rest of the world to the betterment of all. Current designs could withstand even this worst-case scenario. Nuclear power remains, safe, viable and vital.

We should also compare the harm done from this and other nuclear power emergencies with past power plant disasters.

Look at the following list (from “What is the worst kind of power plant disaster? Hint: It's not nuclear” by Annalee Newitz):

1975: Shimantan/Banqiao Dam Failure
Type of power: Hydroelectric
Human lives lost: 171,000
Cost: $8,700,000,000
What happened: Shimantan Dam in China's Henan province fails and releases 15.738 billion tons of water, causing widespread flooding that destroys 18 villages and 1500 homes and induces disease epidemics and famine.

1979: Morvi Dam Failure
Type of power: Hydroelectric
Human lives lost: 1500 (estimated)
Cost: $1,024,000,000
What happened: Torrential rain and unprecidented flooding caused the Machchu-2 dam, situated on the Machhu river, to burst. This sent a wall of water through the town of Morvi in the Indian State of Gujarat.

1998: Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Jess Oil Pipeline Explosion
Type of power: Oil
Human lives lost: 1,078
Cost: $54,000,000
What happened: Petroleum pipeline ruptures and explodes, destroying two villages and hundreds of villagers scavenging the full article here...

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