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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

THE DAY JAPAN DIED AGAIN


It was 2:46PM on 11March2011 when the Great Tohoku Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disaster incapacitated Japan again, not unlike World War II.  Here are a couple of videos of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake in Tokyo, 250 miles from the epicenter.  This is a 49 minute summary.  Here is some unbelievable footage sent to me by Charlene Oshiro.  Be sure to read how this was taken.

The 1611 Sanriku Earthquake of 8.9 magnitude, very close to the Tohoku Monster, was the largest in recorded history.  It is now #6:
  • 9.5     1960 Chile
  • 9.2     1964 Alaska
  • 9.2     2004 Great Sumatra, Indonesia (230,000 killed)
  • 9.0     1952 Kamchatka, USSR
  • 9.0     Great Tohoku
The earthquake itself:
  • shortened the day a microsecond
  • dropped 250 miles of the Honshu coastline by two feet
  • moved Honshu eight feet eastward
But Japan would have escaped calamity if it were only this earthquake.  However...


...26 minutes later came the waves of tsunami:
  • first hitting Kamaishi (a few years ago I gave a lecture to one of Japan's Marine Biotechnology Laboratories here) with a 22-foot wave 
  • reaching a  height of 133 feet in Miyako
  • mostly drowning nearly 19,000
  • destroying a million buildings
  • leaving 270,000 still in shelters
  • killing 110,000 nesting seabirds at the Midway Atoll
  • traveling inland as far as 6 miles in Sendai (which is 60 miles from the radioactive nuclear power plants, and in a few weeks I will be staying at the Westin Sendai for only $45/night, so you know something is still not right) and inundating 217 square miles

The worst part of these waves was the crippling of the four nuclear reactors at Fukushima.  This will now be a problem for a few hundred years, for 4500 square miles (about the size of Connecticut) suffer from massive radioactive contamination,  You might read official government statistics showing a smaller radioactive zone, but that is because Japan arbitrarily increased a "safe" reading as 20 micro sieverts, 20 times higher than what is deemed safe in the USA.

The result was the costliest natural disaster in history at $235 billion (Hurricane Katrina was $81 billion).  However, the economic loss just from Fukushima could be as high as half a trillion dollars, more than twice that amount.  Then you add the human cost.

I landed at Narita on 12March2011, and spent a few weeks moving around to avoid the danger, initially escaping to Beijing, then moving closer to Seoul, returning to Tokyo, then Shinkansening to Kyushu, guided by warnings from the French Embassy, then the American Embassy.  On Day 28 I shook through a 7.1 earthquake in Tokyo.  A couple of days later I published in the Huffington Post:

Why Worry About Fukushima When Hiroshima and Nagasaki Are Safe?

Incredibly enough, adding Chernobyl as another example, catastrophic nuclear power plant explosions are much, much more perilous in the long term than any Atomic Bomb detonation.  Here is a quote from that article:

In any case, this damning liability of nuclear fission facilities could well be the conclusive reason why there will be no new plants into the long-term future. This is why we should be afraid of Fukushima and any nuclear facility.
That should be convincing enough, but one final screw into the fission coffin is that society will simply determine that nuclear power is not worth the potential damage. Chernobyl supposedly cost Ukraine, Belarus and Russia hundreds of billions of dollars. This was greater than the revenues gained from all the nuclear power plants in those countries from the beginning of operation in 1954 to when the accident occurred. The cost of Hurricane Katrina was about $125 billion, but what can we do about hurricanes? (Actually, the Blue Revolution has a possible answer.) Something similar to Chernobyl will be true for Fukushima, as the estimated cost of damage will exceed $300 billion. When you realize that Tokyo Electric Power Company reported a net income of about $1.3 billion last year, you must get the message.
Can Japan engineer a second resurrection?  I would think, eventually, but a wide swath of Fukushima will become the third nuclear park, this one devoted to the end of fission power, as Hiroshima and Nagasaki exhibited the horror of the Atomic Bomb. Has Japan learned a lesson?  I fear not, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is getting ready to start-up most of their nuclear reactors, and guess where they're located:

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