A few weeks ago,when the nuclear reactor in Japan got hit by a litany of catastrophies, people attempted to use all the coping mechanisms we had to cope with the situation — mostly distraction and denial. We attempted to breathe a collective sigh of relief that the technology held, that we were as smart as we thought we were, and that it wasn’t going to impact anybody or anything — well, not much, anyway.
We talked about the Nikkei average, and the economy. We talked about America’s plants aren’t like Japan’s plants. We talked about how this kind of thing could never happen here. The media talked about how the “left wing” was going to use this to advance their agenda against nuclear power — they’ve been soooo effective advancing their agenda for the last two years that Republicans took back the House, a Governor tried straight-out union busting in public, and the New York Times reports today that Republicans have come up with some kind of Draconian tax revision\budget cuts thing and people are still hinting that the president’s not really an American. And our president says we’re going to stay the course with nuclear power. Sounds like the liberals run things, right? (sorry, I digress).
In any case, we thought the news from Japan couldn’t get any worse. Remember when the disaster was the third worse disaster behind Chernobyl and Three Mile Island? (and since there were supposedly no casualties at Three Mile Island, it was no big deal?). I think we’re waaay past that. I think after the 3rd, 4th, and 5th units had problems, we were past Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. It’s been close to a month now and anything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. Meltdown? At least partially, times three, now. Radiation in the air? From nearly the first day. Radiation in the ground? Yup. Radiation in the water? That, too. Plutonium found everywhere and cooling\storage ponds devastated? Oh, sure, that happened, too. Dead people? We have those now. And they’re still working on it, trying to keep it from really getting bad.
Are we done with the disaster there? Not even close. Why not? Because there’s still things to get worse — whatever it is they’re trying to prevent from happening still could and probably will. Why? Because we’ve never been here before. Remember none of this stuff could happen in the first place, so there was no need to prepare for it. It was just a bunch of anti-techno, anti-moneymaking whiners who were making this stuff up. Even all of us whiners didn’t have solutions for this stuff, but we knew the problems. Now, the Japanese have to try new unheard-of solutions to never imagined problems. And that’s just for starters.
If, and that’s only if we can prevent the crisis from continuing, there’s more to come — things we supposed whiners knew about. First off, there isn’t a way to store the waste yet that works and that everybody can agree on. After that, there’s the plant itself. When nuke plants run their course, they themselves are considered waste. Oh, did those pro-nuke forces forget to mention that? Ooops. This is true for every nuke. Can you imagine where we’re going to store what’s left of these reactors? Good luck with that. Nobody will want them. Nobody will move them. They’re just there, open to the world, surrounded by water.
Moving beyond that, there’s all the people that will need medical help and the effects the radiation from the disaster will have over the years. You think our economy struggles with health care? Good luck with that, too. (By the way, while I’m there, if this happened in our country, which insurance company would be running in to help these people with on-going health problems and pre-existing conditions? None. How fast could the Republicans cut that from the budget? Faster than they can do anything else. OK, again I digress. I’ll try to stop.)
Moving beyond that, the economy of Japan is shot for the foreseeable future. In addition to the medical costs I just talked about, there will be no safe, working factories for miles around. Whatever they manufacture there won’t be made for a while. While companies come up with other plans and distribution\sales channels, those products won’t be made or won’t be made fast enough and those companies will suffer. Those companies won’t pay as much tax, because they won’t make as much money, and — with bills up, and income down, it’ll be a long road to recovery for Japan.
Moving beyond all of that, there’s the radioactive water and the fish that swim wherever those fish go. There’s the tides that carry that water to other places, not to mention the tap water for the Japanese nearby the plant. Any idea how long that will last? No, but “a very long-time” is a good guess.
What about the land and all the people that lived on it? Moving them around and getting them housing will take a long time. How much land mass? Nobody knows yet — the crisis isn’t over.
And the air? Who knows, but radiation levels measured in that air are pretty high — higher than expected.
OK, and lastly, with a global economy, in a global ecosystem, if you think this isn’t going to effect you because you don’t live in Japan, good luck with that, too. Like it or not, we’re all connected, and we always have been. Our humanity connects us, our earth connects us, our air and water connect us, our economies and trade connect us. We’re all in this together.
(Agonizing scream, and then calm disassociation…) I’m sure glad that nuclear power is a safe alternative to carbon-based fuels, and it’s so far advanced that it’s superior to those ugly wind farms and solar panels. Certainly the oceans don’t create enough power to do anything with. The right wing is right again.