Mar 13, 2011

The Japan Quake,Tsumani and Nuclear power crisis

First and foremost, my prayers for the dead and sincere hope that those injured and suffering will recover soon and rebuild their lives..Japanese are brave, intelligent and disciplined and if anyone can recover from this crisis in the quickest possible time, it should be them. Thankfully they are blessed with adequate financial and governmental resources, unlike other disaster spots like Aceh, Haiti or other poor countries.

The biggest worry of course, is not the Tsunami or the quake, but the incident of explosion and cooling system failure at the two nuclear reactors. The worry is not just for the people living there but for the future of the nuclear power industry.

All sorts of peaceniks, tree huggers, leftist groups (who incidentally allowed their fellow ideological travelers in the ex-Soviet states happily trample and destroy the environment, adopt unsafe practices and lie about it leading to Chernobyl and many other environmental disasters)  and other well meaning but paranoid individuals and groups will now start a hysterical campaign to dismantle reactors, stop new constructions and give up on nuclear power altogether, offering this incident as 'proof' that nuclear power is unsafe. We are hearing ridiculous comparisons with Chernobyl already.

Let us keep things in perspective and hope sense prevails.

  • This quake is of 9.0 magnitude, such quakes don't happen everywhere and even where they do, happen once in a century or so.
  • Thanks to modern technology, despite such a one-in-a-century quake the the reactor itself did not explode or crack, and has (as of this writing) not released any radiation that is deemed damaging in a serious way. 
  • This is so, even though one or possibly two reactors has suffered a meltdown which is supposedly a huge disaster. 
  • There has been radiation over legal limits but such limits are stringent, particularly in advanced countries. That too has come down almost immediately.

In other words, even though there is a significant damage, it is not doomsday.

Let us hope and pray that the worst is over and the situation is brought under control...there is already good news on that front as we write. (8.45pm Japan time on Sunday)

Let us also not try to minimise or trivialise this incident because lessons have to be learnt, applied elsewhere and design, construction or procedural changes doubt responsible experts are working on this already. The political leadership should facilitate that by releasing information promptly and truthfully and not sweep things under carpet. Given the past track record, there are some legitimate concerns on that front.


Let us stop to think for a moment what will happen if we throw the baby out with the bath water and nuke nuclear power in a knee jerk reaction of paranoia.

  • Oil price will surge as one source of competition is wiped out. That would cause significant damage to environment and economies, more than any nuclear accident can do.
  • Coal will continue to be used and its usage will expand, with even more disastrous consequences for the environment. Every other month coal mine disaster kill hundreds of miners in China and elsewhere, sometimes even in advanced countries with higher safety standards..
  • Countries like Saudi Arabia and some other Middle Eastern states that are accused of and known to be funding terrorism with oil money and countries like Pakistan and its evil army that take that money, train their citizens to be religious fanatics and terrorists and provide foot soldiers for jihad and terrorism globally will continue to do so with impunity, on a much larger scale, knowing the world is at their mercy. 
  • Many hundreds, if not thousands more innocent lives will be lost in civilised societies worldwide if there were a spurt in terrorist incidents funded by oil rich countries.

Is that in any way better?

The best way of course, is to cut consumption at source - particularly in developed societies and in developed parts of poor countries such as Mumbai or Delhi in India. It is the rich that consume the most and waste even more. For instance, one environment group in Hongkong has brought out a sobering statistic - in the last 10 years, population increased in HK only 6% but energy consumption went up by 80%. Remember it was not s if 10 years ago Hongkong was living in caves or in ill-lit homes - it was already a advanced society - which means all of that 80% increase can safely be considered wastage.

Staggered electricity rates are probably one solution - for any consumption above average for a family, which can be calculated liberally, the rates should be 5 or even 10 times higher.

Less consumption would mean less demand and less need for polluting or environmentally disastrous power generation, be it coal, hydro or nuclear.

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