The Visa Collector

A blog about travelling with a Filipino passport, and life overseas

Archives for Japan

A nuclear accident in Japan

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I was 15 when a Soviet nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine suffered a catastrophic accident. It was the story of the year, and was an event that my dad and I pored over with great curiosity, but with little concern. It was half a world away, so the biggest threat to the Philippines at the time was the rumored possibility of radioactive milk being exported to the Philippines. As the story went, milk that couldn’t be sold in Europe because of fears that cows had ingested irradiated feed, would be exported to other parts of the world. Back then, department stores in Davao had gotten into practice of selling re-packed powdered milk, and our family jokingly called this “Chernobyl milk”. We stuck with canned or liquid milk.

The reactor accident in Fukushima, Japan, on the other hand, was much closer to home. As horrific as the effects of the tsunami of the 11th of March were, the plant appeared to be a problem with wider implications. My wife is visiting the Philippines, and the rest of my family is still there. So this was a problem with a personal dimension, unlike the crisis in 1986.

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The search for nerve-calming information started not long after reports of an explosion at the plant surfaced in the media.

NHK World reported that the event at the facility called Fukushima Number One was rated as a “Level 4” event. Useful information for a keyword search, which lead me to the following document:

The document above was a significant relief. Chernobyl had been a Level 7, and the Three-mile Island incident in 1979 was Level 5. The Japanese problem was an “Accident with local consequences”, so apparently wasn’t as bad as the aforementioned accidents.

Another intellectual tranquilizer I found came in the form of a blog put together by an Australian living in Japan for the benefit of his family in Australia. The post entitled “Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors” is based on a letter from Dr. Josef Oehman, at the Center for Technology, Policy, &amp Industrial Development at MIT. Although Dr. Oehman’s expertise is in supply chains, his father was reportedly involved in the German nuclear industry.

Here is an interesting excerpt

I have been reading every news release on the incident since the earthquake. There has not been one single (!) report that was accurate and free of errors (and part of that problem is also a weakness in the Japanese crisis communication). By “not free of errors” I do not refer to tendentious anti-nuclear journalism – that is quite normal these days. By “not free of errors” I mean blatant errors regarding physics and natural law, as well as gross misinterpretation of facts, due to an obvious lack of fundamental and basic understanding of the way nuclear reactors are build and operated. I have read a 3 page report on CNN where every single paragraph contained an error.

To read the rest of the blog, click the following:

You be the judge of Dr. Oehman’s analysis. On my end, the two tid bits of information above have me at ease . . . for now at least.

Mar 13, 2011