Satire in the Age of Letters and Technology- more than just a pinch of it.
An apocalypse broke over Japan on March 11, when the strongest ever earthquake hit over its coasts. Measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale, it generated a thirty foot tsunami which deluged the country’s north-east coast. Successive aftershocks continued to hamper the relief work in the country ravaged by nature’s wrath. If the suffering of millions of Japanese wasn’t enough, yet another misfortune clouded the skies of Japan. A catastrophic set of events unfolded at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
The earthquake led to the failure of the cooling systems at the nuclear plant. The alternative cooling option of generators that burn fossil fuels to keep the equipment running was swamped away by tsunami waves. As a result of this unfortunate failure, excessive heating was reported, which in turn, increased the pressure inside the reactors. Sans any other back up option left, the reactors could not bear the pressure and started exploding. In spite of risking their lives in a highly susceptible environment, rescue workers were unable to bring down the temperature. Reactor 1 and Reactor 2 which were damaged 70% and 33% respectively posed the biggest threat to the nation. Reactor 3- the only one involving Plutonium in its fuel mix, was hanging like a sword over the Japanese.
Countries were quick to generate sympathy and call back their citizens, keeping in mind pressing safety concerns. These actions were highly justified as radiation had begun to spread in water supplies of major Japanese cities like Tokyo. As on the night of March 22, the Tokyo water supply test was at 210 becquerels of radioactive iodine which is still below what is considered safe for adults: 300 becquerels per kilogram, which, however, is double the permitted limits for infants.
This prompted US to issue an import alert covering milk, milk products, fresh vegetables and fruit from any of four prefectures near the Japanese reactors — Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma. Under the alert, those products will be prevented from entering the United States. As being a natural consequence, withdrawals similar to this and severe damage to both immovable as well as movable assets, Japan’s economy has been deeply hurt. Corporate majors like Toyota, Lexus , Honda among others have taken a hit too. As reported by Japan’s Auto Dealer Association, in March, 37% less cars were sold as compared to March 2010.
The latest updates say that tons of radioactive water is being dumped in the Pacific Ocean in an effort to move radioactive water out of the plant. Reactors 5 and 6 are dumping 11,500 tons of water. Workers are dealing with the crack in the reactor wall by trying several methods of plugging the hole including saw dust, chemicals, newspapers etc.
It is important to note that this plant produced only 3% of Japan’s total energy. This bares open the debate, yet again, on the comparative value of nuclear energy. When we have extremely viable options which would not backlash in event of a disaster, is it feasible to depend on nuclear energy? How safe are we in a world which is fast moving towards being powered by nuclear power? Is it right to substitute renewable sources of energy with nuclear sources?
While I see the nature’s fury unfolding over Japan, something amazes me. The composure with which the citizens of this country are dealing with the scariest of the events which can happen is heart wrenching. There are no incidents of looting reported and people are not jumping queues for food or other necessities. Japan, a country which is habitual of tremors, got shook by the most devious earthquake still stands strong, maintaining its tranquility which to me is praise worthy. We salute the people of Japan and all our support goes to them.