Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rudimentary Caution

How utterly perilous fate and fortune can seem at times. When the unpredictable - despite that human caution should have predicted a similar scenario - occurs and all the best laid plans go awry. Except that the plans were not in the category of 'best laid'; they were shoddy and presumptive and insecure and inappropriate.

An island kingdom (comprised of three islands) with few natural resources other than the industry, resourcefulness and clever capability of its hard-working population, wholly committed to nuclear energy, building nuclear plants across the length and breadth of its geography, with far more in the planning stages.

Nuclear energy is clean and dependable and abundant, while requiring a high degree of caution.

Where was the caution when this very geography resides in an immense natural tectonic fault, with plates of the Earth undersea continually grinding, resulting in commonplace earthquakes. Quakes which, for the most part, are relatively minor in their effects. But for those which are not. And Japan has experienced a number of tremblors which had serious consequences.

But none in living memory that resulted in the consequences that arose from a 9.0-magnitude quake and a following tsunami with 15-metre-high waves. Japan's nuclear installations were built to a certain presumptive standard felt to be adequate for protection from disaster - but that standard was woefully inadequate.

The world's third-largest economy has been struck with $400-billion in damages, and shunted back into a recession. Ensuing power shortages have impacted on Japanese manufacturing. Nuclear fallout has ruined lives and livelihoods, destroyed critical crops and farm animals, imperilling the lives of people living in proximity to the Fukushima Plant.

The death of 15,000 people as a result of the quake and tsunami might not have been avoidable, but the fall-out from the arrogance of inferior decision-making with respect to best-practises in building safety codes and preparedness certainly could have been. The country must now continue coping with its attempts to shut down the destroyed reactors, plug the radiation leaks and place everything in cold storage.

The horrible mess of garbage left by the disasters, the ruined building and infrastructure debris, the appliances that must be discarded, the wrecks of ships, of vehicles, of innumerable items that were destroyed and must be cleared away will take a long time to complete. And the fall-out on the country's ability to continue manufacturing must be resolved.

It would be a further disaster if manufacturing, due to lack of reliable energy sources, would have to be sent elsewhere, putting Japanese out of work, on top of all the other untenable disasters already visited upon the country. TEPCO and the government of Japan itself has a lot to answer for to its population; both deserve public condemnation.

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