Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nuclear Power Plant Damage by Japanese Earthquake

We have been hearing that the damage in the Japanese Nuclear Power Plant Fukushima 1 has not been repaired. On Friday, March 11, an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 hit northern Honshu Island, Japan at around 3:00 p.m. local time. A massive tsunami followed and at 7:03 p.m. the first emergency declaration was issued. At 8:50 p.m., an evacuation order was issued for residents within a three-kilometer diameter of the power plant. The first, second, and third reactors automatically stopped operating, and all electricity cut off. They lost cooling function.

On the second and third days, hydrogen explosions occurred in the first and third reactors. Radioactive wastes were released into the environment, and radiation levels in the air, water, and foods registered far above normal. Cooling efforts continued, and radiation levels reduced in the environment in the last week of March. However, total recovery of the damage has not been reported as of April 3, 2011. The damage includes the possibility of a core melt down, the worst considerable situation in a nuclear power reactor accident.

When I heard this news in California, my first thought was that this damage would be fixed in one week or so. I thought that at least a concrete plan and schedule would be developed and released in three to five days. Instead, the additional damages were revealed one after another as time went by. The situation has appeared increasingly worse in the last several weeks. It surprised me. The damage and the accident could not be corrected properly in a few days despite the world-class Japanese technology of nuclear power generation.

Although my opinion on use of atomic power as a source of energy is neutral, I do have a concern due to the destructive nature of the power source. I could not help but think people need to make the right decision in using nuclear energy for an alternative energy source. The stories of damages and accidents reminded me an old Chinese story on nature. It was a tale from Zhuangzi. Even though the legs of crane birds are too long, if you cut them, the birds would not survive. Even though the legs of sparrows are too short, if you lengthened them, they would not function. The long legs for crane birds were to keep them dry while standing in water; the short legs for sparrows are for standing safely on the branches of tall trees.

I hope that the use of nuclear power generation is not an attempt to change unchangeable nature: in other words, an action to shorten the legs of cranes or lengthen the legs of sparrows. Otherwise, I hope they would establish comprehensive counter-measures for this kind of natural disaster.

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