Tag Archives: disaster

Photo Op meets red tape. Red tape wins.

Photo Op meets red tape. Red tape wins.

I find quite disturbing how people still have faith in the empty promises made by politicians at a disaster scene. The politician is there for only one reason: to look good for the cameras. Rarely if ever does that appearance mean a damn thing. If anything, it will only hinder relief efforts, as local authorities have to scramble to deal with the politician’s entourage rather than deal with disaster victims and their problems.

I actually have far more respect for politicians who stay away during these times of crisis, rare as they are. They show common sense and good judgment.

A Thank You From Japan

One year ago today Japan was hit with one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history, followed almost immediately by one of the most powerful tsunamis in recorded history. Since then, that nation and its people have done an incredible job recovering from that disaster, proving once again that there really is no limit to what humans can do.

The video below is their thank you to the rest of the world for the help and support brought to Japan by people everywhere. As they say, “Arigato.”

I say, bless you all for never giving up.

Scientists last week published a paper claiming that the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown caused 14,000 U.S. deaths.

Junk science: Scientists last week published a paper claiming that the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown caused 14,000 U.S. deaths. You can download the paper here [pdf].

I expect the mainstream television press to push this story in the coming days. The story however is crap. I’ve read the paper, and all it shows is a small statistical increase in deaths in the fourteen weeks after the earthquake/meltdown, compared to the previous year. The scientists provided no context with other years, nor did they factor in changes in total population or a host of innumerable other variables that would influence these numbers. Worse, they presented no direct evidence linking the fallout from the meltdown with the deaths.

In other words, this is agenda-driven science, designed mainly to attack nuclear energy. We should not give it much credence.

One more point: the lead author of the paper is the executive director of Radiation and Public Health Project, an organization whose only purpose appears to be to prove that low level radiation has a negative effect on human health. From a science perspective, this is not a good way to do science. The only way the scientists in this organization can justify their fund-raising and research is to find evidence to prove their theory.

The Fukushima nuclear reactor has reached the state of cold shutdown

Good news: The Fukushima nuclear reactor has reached the state of cold shutdown.

This means that the reactor core has cooled enough that there is no need to recirculate the water to keep the fuel cool. However, because the reactor continues to leak that water recirculation is still necessary, and will be for years.

As is typical of many modern journalists, the article above is also an unstated editorial both hostile to nuclear energy as well as private enterprise, best shown by the article’s concluding paragraph:

Meanwhile, the Japanese public and many of its politicians remained deeply mistrustful of the situation at Fukushima. In this week’s issue of Nature, two members of the Japanese parliament call for nationalization of the Fukushima Plant, to allow scientists and engineers to investigate exactly what happened inside the reactors, and to reassure the public that the decommissioning will be done with their interests at heart. Regardless of whether you agree with the authors, nationalization seems almost inevitable. The lengthy decommissioning process that will follow this cold shutdown, and the enormous cost involved, make it a job for a government, not a corporation. [emphasis mine]

First, he has no idea what the Japanese public thinks of this situation. Second, there is no evidence that the government could do this job better than the company that runs the reactor. Both conclusions are mere opinion, inserted inappropriately in a news article without any supporting proofs.

Farmers flee as Indonesia’s Mount Tambora volcano rumbles

Farmers begin fleeing as Indonesia’s Mount Tambora volcano comes back alive.

Villagers like Hasanuddin Sanusi have heard since they were young how the mountain they call home once blew apart in the largest eruption ever recorded — an 1815 event widely forgotten outside their region — killing 90,000 people and blackening skies on the other side of the globe. . . . The April 1815 eruption of Tambora left a crater 7 miles (11 kilometers) wide and half a mile (1 kilometer) deep, spewing an estimated 400 million tons of sulfuric gases into the atmosphere and leading to “the year without summer” in the U.S. and Europe.

The real disaster in Japan

Getting control of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima is going to be a challenging job, no doubt. Nonetheless, it remains a minor and comparatively trivial problem for Japan after the earthquake and tsunami destroyed the country’s northeastern coast, and it saddens me that so much of the American press and public seems unable to absorb this simple fact.

This footage of the tsunami hitting a small coastal town in Japan gives us a clear and unvarnished look of the real disaster there. Near the end you can see people fleeing for their lives, and throughout the video the voices of the watchers can only express horrified gasps at what they are seeing.

Hideaki Akaiwa: Badass of the week

What heroes do.

Surrounded by incredible hazards on all sides, ranging from obscene currents capable of dislodging houses from their moorings, sharp twisted metal that could easily have punctured his oxygen line (at best) or impaled him (at worst), and with giant fucking cars careening through the water like toys, he pressed on. Past broken glass, past destroyed houses, past downed power lines arcing with electrical current, through undertow that could have dragged him out to sea never to be heard from again, he searched.

Hideaki maintained his composure and navigated his way through the submerged city, finally tracking down his old house. He quickly swam through to find his totally-freaked-out wife, alone and stranded on the upper level of their house, barely keeping her head above water. He grabbed her tight, and presumably sharing his rebreather with her, dragged her out of the wreckage to safety. She survived.

And that’s only the beginning. Read the whole thing.

Power has been restored at all six Fukushima reactors

Power has been restored at all six Fukushima reactors in Japan.

Overall, the situation appears completely under control, so much so that in a rational world it probably would be possible to put several of these reactors back in operation. The Reuters story above, however, is amusing to read in one sense, as it struggles mightily to make things sound worse than they are.

The real disaster in Japan

The situation at the Japanese nuclear power planets continues to improve. Key quote:

It’s hard to imagine, but it’s now been eight days since the Honshu quake and tsunami, and evidence continues to accumulate that while it was certainly a bad industrial accident, the “doomsday” and “worst case” scenarios just haven’t happened. Every day longer makes those scenarios even less likely — the reactors are cooling, the Japanese are getting them supplied with power, and the fuel rods haven’t burned.

Meanwhile, the scope of the real disaster in Japan is becoming more clearly known: No bodies or survivors found in tsunami-hit Miyagi community.

Kobe fire department rescue team members, who also worked in areas affected by the Great Hanshin Earthquake, have been operating in Minami-Sanrikucho. But they do not have any idea of the whereabouts of the legions of missing people swept away after massive tsunami swallowed up houses. In all, 8,000 town residents remain missing.

What is it with today’s modern American press, that is obsessed about a non-problem at a nuclear power plant, while close-by whole cities have been laid waste, with literally tens of thousands of people killed?

My heart goes out to the Japanese people. Faced with such destruction, they still seem undaunted and unbowed. May they rebuild their country quickly and with courage.

The situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant continues to stabilize

Here’s some good news: The situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant continues to stabilize.

The article has a lot to say about the panicky overreaction of much of the press and political class over this incident. For example:

In summary it appears more and more that health consequences from reactor damage will be extremely minimal even for workers at the site. It will now be a surprise if anyone who has not been inside the plant gates this week is affected by the situation at at all – apart from all the people worldwide who have been taking iodide pills or eating salt unnecessarily. There may also be measurable psychological health effects from the global media-driven hysteria surrounding the situation, of course.

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