First of all a message of sympathy and support to my friends and students both in and from Tokyo, the images of the earthquake, tsunami and explosions at the Fukushima nuclear power plant have been staggering and horrifying.
One positive aspect of globalisation is the speed at which information is relayed; notable that social networking sites were prominent in allowing families and friends to communicate in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, and images from mobile phones in supermarkets and offices were available in minutes. The helicopter shots of the flooding wave were terrifying, as nature tossed aside humanity’s artefacts and claimed lives by the score.
The closest I’ve been to major earthquake is a simulator at NASA’s museum in Washington, which left me feeling thoroughly nauseous; the minor ones I have experienced in the UK, the largest of which was 4.3 on the Richter Scale (the Tokyo quake was 8.9 and today’s aftershock 6.0) were curious experiences, leaving me with a humbling feeling of impermanence.
Coupled to the recent earthquake disaster in Christchurch (Richter Scale 6.3), there is now some debate as to whether there can be a link between climate change and the occurrence of tectonic activity, see http://peakoil.com/forums/did-global-warming-cause-the-japan-earthquake-tsunami-t61104.html
I’ll sit on the sceptical side of that debate fence, and tamely state that humans will always be subject to natural disasters. However, one subject I will never be on the fence of is nuclear power generation. Only last week I was arguing with colleagues over dinner on the innate deficiencies of nuclear power, and hearing from some contributors that there would never be another Chernobyl. Leaving aside the acute human and environmental damage occurring right now at the ‘earthquake-proof’ Fukushima, nuclear power stations leak radioactivity which accumulates in food chains; nobody knows what to do with radioactive solid waste, feedstock can be misappropriated to make nuclear weaponry, they cost a king’s ransom to build demanding public subsidy, and “minor” accidents leading to radioactive discharge are common. Apart from that, splitting the atom is a great way of boiling a kettle. It seems that events in Japan are already triggering major energy policy reviews, and a great deal of very welcome debate.
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