I’ve been following Fukushima since I heard about the disaster, very shortly after it was announced. Having lived in the former Soviet Union, and seeing the damage caused by Chernobyl, I knew immediately this would be a significant issue…
Japan is a very small country compared to the Ukraine, and there were three reactors that went bad compared to Chernobyl’s one. Combined with a much higher population density in Japan it was a recipe I knew could mean the end of much of Japan. Living on the west coast at the time, I also knew we faced some serious challenges in Canada and the US.
It didn’t take long to see the results. The Japanese food supply was contaminated, infant mortality spiked in North America, radiation was detected in Canadian water supplies, Japanese children began to get sick, and it became clear that the Pacific ocean is now poisoned.
If there is one thing people will remember about 2011 in two hundred years, it will most likely be Fukushima…
One of the best sources I’ve found about Fukushima is Arnie Gundersen, a veteran nuclear engineer who has been studying the disaster and providing a very balanced and realistic view of what is really happening.
Arnie was recently in Tokyo and took some random soil samples while he was there. After testing the soil back in the US, he discovered that all of the samples would be considered to be nuclear waste. Basically, it is quite likely the people of this city are living in a death trap.
It all sounds really bad. That said, there is a real possibility things could get much, much, worse. And, if you live on the west coast of North America, there is significant risk it could affect you.
The problem is that the reactors in Fukushima have many tonnes of nuclear waste stored inside of them. The buildings they are stored inside were damaged by the earthquake and are highly unstable. It has been said that if there is a another magnitude 5-6 earthquake, the waste pools are at risk of collapse.
Estimates that Fukushima’s storage pools contain 85 times the amount of radioactivity of what was released during Chernobyl. To get some perspective, have a look at this animated map of what happened back then:
If this happens, Gundersen has some rather scary advice for people who live on the west coast. Basically, he tells his friends that they should be prepared to migrate back-east. This doesn’t mean that people in other parts of North America will be immune- only that it will be more safe the further one is from the coast.
This is scary stuff. But, at least, we can be thankful we aren’t in Japan. If you fast-forward the above video, the Chernobyl radiation reaches the size of Japan at about five seconds. So, after the three current melt-downs, it is amazing the Japanese haven’t already begun evacuations from cities like Tokyo.
What can we do right now? Well, it is time for us to shut-down nuclear power plants for once and for all. Germany and Japan have already done this- yet, here in Canada, the government is considering the idea of building more. It is time to stop this insanity, not to expand it…
i fully agree with your statement about what this age will most likely remember in two hundred years. in general, thank you for this article.
a technical issue: the (rather frightening) NOAA graphic, above, may have been accidentally mislabeled. As far as i can tell the source is http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/mar/12/japan-tsunami-earthquake-live-coverage; you may want to look into that.
Thank you for the correction! I’ve fixed that now- and I’ll tell the person who gave it to me that it was a hoax.