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Saturday, March 11, 2017

THE DAY JAPAN DIED

It was 1 AM on 3 February 1959, and I remember this tragedy well, for I was a freshman at Stanford, and was stunned to learn that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper had died in a plane crash.  Some of their hits were searingly prophetic:  Early in the Morning, That'll Be the Day and Come On Let's Go.  Listen to some of the lyrics.  Thirteen years later Don McLean memorialized this as the Day the Music Died with American Pie.

A similar day six years ago today, 11 March 2011, even more so affected me, when a 9.1 magnitude Great Tohoku Earthquake struck Japan.  The seismic waves were double the surface energy of the 9.2 magnitude 2004 Great Sumatry Earthquake and Tsunami, which suffered casualties exceeding 230,000.  While Indonesia will recover, the fear is that Japan might not ever.

If the effect was only the rumble, with hypocenter at a depth of 18 miles, 45 miles east of Sendai (I232 miles from Tokyo), the damage would have been minimal.  If it was only the resultant tsunami, reaching 6 miles inland around this city, and a height of 133 feet in Miyako, there still  would have been 16,000 deaths and nearly a million damaged buildings.  However, the tsunami caused a Level 7 meltdown of three nuclear reactors, with a World Bank economic cost estimate of $235 billion, the costliest natural disaster in world history.

Radiation exceeding Japan's allowable exposure rate of 1 millisieverts/year covered an area the size of the State of Connecticut.  Radioactive wastes are still escaping into the Pacific Ocean, and 56% of all fish catches off Japan are contaminated.  The clean-up is expected to take 40 years.

Ultimate cost of this tragedy?  A "secret" French report indicates that the worst case economic damage in their country could be as high as $7.5 trillion, three times the GDP of France.  Germany has already initiated the end of nuclear power throughout the country.

The Japanese government has been notoriously negligent in reporting anything official, but the current estimate has the damage at:
Chances are, when all the costs are added up 40 years from now, The Great Tohoku Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Cataclysm will have cost a lot more than $187 billion and a lot less than $51 trillion.  But what?  I can already predict that the Fukushima nuclear site will become Japan's third Peace Park, with an expensive sarcophagus over the complex.


It took three decades, but there is now a roof over the Chernobyl reactors, called the the New Safe Confinement, meaning containment is not part of the package.

There are 23 nuclear reactors of the same design as those at Fukushima just in the USA, and each stores many times more spent fuel than those Japanese nuclear sites.  If something, like terrorism occurs, can the U.S. government, which over-insures nuclear, go bankrupt?

So did the music die in 1959?  Well, no, but what do we have now?  Rap and similarly vacuous beats.   Japan, of course, never died in 2011, but it took a severe hit.  After all, where are the Greeks today, and the Romans are now Italians.  Will Japan hang in there at the top?  Will the 2020 Summer Olympics provide a stimulus?

My posting of this past Wednesday hinted about this unfolding Japanese tragedy when I was in Bangkok six years ago. My next Pearl's Ashes experience this coming Wednesday will provide details.  For now, it's Saturday, and I'm on My Weekend in Purgatory adventure, to be reported on tomorrow, for I'll be in Waikiki to participate in the Pan-Pacific Festival.

P.S.  If anyone is wondering why my postings have been so late lately, call Oceanic, their service has recently been spotty.

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