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Friday, October 7, 2011

THE CONTINUING SAGA OF FUKUSHIMA

I hate the departure from Bangkok (and Singapore) to Tokyo.  The flight leaves at 6:05 AM, so you need to leave the hotel at 3 AM, which means you must wake up before 2:30.  Everything went fine, and I got through customs by 3:45AM.  Surprisingly, all the stores in the airport were open at this early hour.  However, the Thai First Class Lounge was not.  I went to their Royal Silk Lounge and, as it is early evening and already dark in New York City, I had a Bloody Mary with assorted dim sums.

The flight to Narita was uneventful.  I did not feel like breaking any new records.  United's First Class in this leg was far better than the Honolulu-Narita flight, which is a whole lot better than the San Francisco-Honolulu First Class, but the Thai First Class was far, far superior to anything United has.

It was less than seven months ago, on March 12, to be exact, that I landed in Narita and took five hours to struggle my way to the Tokyo Westin.  Today, it only took 2 hours of relaxation on the Airport Limousine bus.

All went well, and half a day after leaving my hotel in Bangkok, I was in the Tokyo Westin Hotel.  I was greeted with a sunset:


Can't see it, but Mount Fuji is somewhere on the horizon.  Here is just a typical shot:


The Japan Times today had an article cataloguing the desolation of the Great Tohoku disaster, and, in particular, the tragedy of Fukushima.  Here are some sobering reminders:

  -  The radioactive zone is bigger than the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

  -  20,000 people are dead or still missing.

  -  The projected cost is now at $225 billion.

  -  Chernobyl's exclusion zone is "only" two-thirds the size of Switzerland, but, a quarter century after the cataclysm, 300 people have, apparently, illegally moved back "home."  Supposedly, this zone was deemed uninhabitable for a few centuries.

  -  Birds have shown genetic mutations.  For example:

Scientists studying the wildlife in contaminated regions around Chernobyl have found that many bird, mammal and even insect populations have suffered significant declines as a probable consequence of having “low-dose” cesium-137 radiation routinely in their diets.  Half the bird species have disappeared, and only 1/3 of their original numbers remain in the most contaminated areas, as compared to areas with normal background radiation. All the birds living in these radioactively contaminated regions have smaller brains, and 28% of male birds have no sperm while another 12% have inactive sperm. 

  -  The Fukushima (Lucky Isle in Japanese) danger zone is 25 times smaller than Chernobyl's, but the prefecture where these nuclear powerplants are located had a population of 2 million and was half the land size of Belgium.

  -  Japan is excruciating as to how the radioactive debris will be treated and disposed.

  -  No matter how you spin it, Fukushima Prefecture:

      -  will for a long, long time be stigmatized by the fact anyone from this location might have radiation (jobs, marriage, whatever),

      -  agriculture and tourism will probably never recover,

      -  many will never be able to return home in their lifetime,

  -  I'll not try to explain it here, but click on "why Fukushima is more dangerous than Hiroshima and Nagasaki" to appreciate the dark implications of nuclear fission powerplants.

So, is nuclear power dead?  Apparently not.  Read Michael Richardson's take on the face of nuclear power:

  -  New Japanese Prime Minister  Yoshihiko Noda is pro-nuclear.

  -  Vietnam will press ahead with 13 nuclear reactors by 2030.

  -  China will start approving new nuclear power plant projects next year: from 11,000 MW in 2010 to 40,000 MW in 2015 (doesn't seem right, but check out this article).

  -  The International Atomic Energy Agency forecasts 200 new nuclear reactors by 2035.

  -  Saudi Arabia still plans to spend $100 billion for 16 nuclear reactors by 2030.

  -  As the USA did in the 1950's, and India and Pakistan repeated, many developing countries want nuclear power to provide the uranium/plutonium for weapons.


Here we go again!

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2 comments:

Carl Weinberg said...

The proliferation issue (making bomb material) has alway been the hidden issue of nuclear power. As long as the industry stays with the existing designs and fuel cycle that will not change. The waste problem will just become unmanagable with several hundred reactors around the world. This is another dilema in the path to a sustainable future.

PLANET EARTH AND HUMANITY said...

Now that the Cold War is over, we don't need to stay with the current fission cycle. The thorium version makes a lot more sense. Abu Dhabi is actually contemplating one of these. As I don't think fusion will be commercialized for a while yet, I'm afraid we need fission, and the thorium cycle seems best:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patrick-takahashi/there-is-something-about_b_410825.html