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Monday, September 1, 2014


These next two days are historically memorable, but grim, days for Japan:

  • September 1:  Tokyo and Yokohama 91 years ago were struck by a calamitous earthquake that killed 140,000 people.
  • September 2:  Japan formally surrendered 69 years ago on the USS Missouri (right).
The 7.9 Great Kanto Earthquake shook the area around Tokyo for up to ten minutes at around noon on 1 September 1923.  That was the most powerful tremor until the 11 March2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake of 9.0, which killed 19,000 and left the country with more than a $100 billion bill for cleaning up the Fukushima nuclear debacle.  However, the economic loss alone could be $500 billion.  Yet, a secret French report indicates that a nuclear disaster in the country would cost at least a trillion dollars, and worst case scenario of $7.5 trillion.  Thus, the real cost of Fukushima could well be equally staggering.

(How much bigger is a 9.0 moment magnitude earthquake compared to a 7.9?  The only comparison that counts is the relative strength of each, so the impact on the environment for the former is 44.7 times more than the latter.  To do this calculation in the future, start with 31.6, then take this figure to the power of the difference between  the magnitude of the two earthquakes, which here is 9.0 minus 7.9, or 1.1.  31.6 to the 1.1 power is then 44.7.)

So what was the headline issue in Japan yesterday (it was September 1, and is the 2nd today, for they are on the west side of the international dateline) on Disaster Prevention Day?    The PR slogan was "Let's stockpile toilet paper."  Huh?  The Japanese take the matter of earthquakes seriously, actually, and Shizuoka Prefecture, a metastable area, provides 41% of the toilet paper in the country.  Government officials feared that if a major earthquake hit Kanto (the region surrounding Tokyo, including Shizuoka), the substitute, tissue paper, would clog the pipes.  

When will be the next big one?

 In 2009, scientists at the Earthquake Research Committee said there was an 87 percent chance that a massive quake registering 8 or more on the Richter Scale would occur before 2040 in area south of Tokyo and east of Mt. Fuji that Japanese call Tokai. The epicenter of this Tokai quake is expected to be in the west-central area of Shizuoka Prefecture about 160 kilometers southwest of Tokyo.

According to one prediction, a major Tokai quake could result in 7,900 to 9,200 deaths and cause $310 billion in damage. An earthquake preparedness center in Shizuoka has identified 6,449 likely landslide locations and deemed 58,540 houses vulnerable to quake-started fires.

But this study was reported before Fukushima.  Guess where the nuclear power plants are located in Japan?

None of them are today generating electricity, but the current Abe administration is doing everything possible to resurrect these reactors.

The USS Missouri is now a tourist attraction, here berthed next to the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor:

There were 280 Allied warships in the Bay, just in case the Japanese changed their minds.  Also, just after the signing 2000 planes flew over the ceremonies, the mightiest display of air power ever.  Watch the movie, Emperor, with Tommy Lee Jones as MacArthur, providing one version of the aftermath, for Japan was able to recover and attain superstate status within a quarter century. 

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