Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘natural disasters

‘In Times of Crisis, You Learn the Measure of a Man’

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Humanitarian aid, the earthquake, and the yakuza.

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March 20, 2011 at 9:03 pm

More Photos from Japan

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The Big Picture and In Focus both have characteristically excellent photographs from Japan, for those who are interested. I find myself personally unable to watch video of the disaster, but for whatever reason journalistic and artistic photography doesn’t cross that threshold for me.

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March 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Midday Thursday Mostly Nuclear Links

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Nuclear Press Conference

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The prime minister of Japan just gave a press conference in which he announced a fire in process at Fukushima unit 4, which was not operational at the time of the quake but which still houses spent fuel. <strike>(The fuel rods are apparently believed to be okay.)</strike> UPDATE: It’s now being reported that the fuel roads may be the cause of the fire, which is much more serious. A listener at MetaFilter summarized the rest of the speech this way:

PM Kan: There is still a very high risk of further radioactive material coming out. Requesting everyone move out of 20k radius from #1 plant. For those who live 20-30k w/in #1, remain indoors and avoid going outside. Requesting everyone move out of 10k radius from #2 plant. Asking nation to remain calm.

20 km is approximately the size of Manhattan.

Non-essential personnel have been evacuated from the planet.

In other disturbing news, Kate Sheppard has this update:

TEPCO officials are reporting elevated radiation levels at the site—8,217 micro sievert, which is eight times the legal annual limit of exposure for an individual. The officials believe the containment vessel may have been damaged in the blast, reports Kyodo News.

The attitude in mainstream center-left punditocracy in the U.S. seems to be rapidly turning against the nuclear industry:

* Japan Facing Biggest Catastrophe Since Dawn of Nuclear Age
* Nuclear Hubris: Could Japan’s Disaster Happen Here?
* Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Might Not Be the Last.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 14, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Monday Night Links

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UPDATE: I forgot to mention the risk from spent fuel, which is still being debated. There’s also this from Wisconsin: Senate Democrats will continue to be held in contempt despite having returned to the state. This means, among other things, that they won’t be able to vote in committee meetings…

* Now all three reactors at Fukushima Daiichi are experiencing severe coolant problems; an explosion has now occurred at Unit 2 which seems as though it may be the most dangerous yet. This is now a level 5 accident, with much speculation about the extent to which government and industry sources are covering up the full extent of the disaster. A MetaFilter commenter claims that one hour at Daiichi is now equal to three years of exposure to normal background radiation. Kate Sheppard has more. Turns out the first warning about the vulnerability of these reactors was released in 1972.

* So much for all that new nuclear energy we were going to build.

* Pictures of the devastation in Japan from the Big Picture and In Focus.

* A little good news: Wisconsin Democrats have already collected 45% of the signatures necessary to trigger a recall.

* Republican state legislators have been really testing the bottom lately for what is sayable in public; the New Hampshire legislator who endorsed death for the mentally handicapped should “die in Siberia” will resign. Next up: A Kansas state representative who says we should shoot undocumented immigrants “like feral hogs.” But don’t worry:

Asked about his comment, Peck was unapologetic. “I was just speaking like a southeast Kansas person,” he said.

Oh, okay, that’s totally fine then.

* And in science fiction news: Babies with three parents could be just a year away.

Can’t Stop Reloading

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The New York Times has a summary of developments related to the two damaged Fukushima nuclear plants in Japan, including disturbing news that radioactive particles have been detected 60 miles away, “suggesting widening environmental contamination.” The Pentagon is announcing that a U.S. military vessel on its way to Japan passed through a radioactive cloud, “causing crew members on deck to receive a month’s worth of radiation in an hour”; U.S. helicopters providing aid have also been coated with particulate radioactive.

The most up-to-date news I’m finding on Japan is still coming from Twitter and the two MetaFilter threads, which is sadly starting to catalogue discoveries of bodies in the thousands. I’m finding it’s very hard to stop hitting reload. I wish the news were better.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 13, 2011 at 10:21 pm

More on Japan

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The news from Japan continues to be terrible, with Judit Kawaguchi reporting 10,000 people missing from just a single town in Miyagi prefecture.

Much of the Internet attention—probably too much—is now focused on the Fukushima nuclear reactor that has been poised on the brink of meltdown. A scary-looking explosion happened on-site early in the morning EST, but it appears to have been in another part of the complex and not affected core containment. One of the inspectors from Three Mile Island says all eleven of the shutdown nuclear power plants will likely be total losses, reducing Japan’s electricity-generating capacity by 20%.

Nonetheless, nuclear experts are still assuring us that the ongoing release of radiation will not be catastrophic. Typing those words reminds me that I feel about nuclear experts more or less exactly the way that Tea Party People feel about climate scientists—with the caveat that the lopsided financial incentives and structural/institutional biases that denialists imagine exist in climate science really do exist with respect to nuclear research, where spending from pro-nuclear industry and governmental sources dwarfs everything spent in the other direction. Japan’s nuclear industry in particular has not given the population much reason to trust it:

Over the decades, the Japanese public has been reassured by the Tokyo Electric Power Company that its nuclear reactors are prepared for any eventuality. Yet the mystery in Fukushima is not the first unreported problem with nuclear power, only the most recent. Back in 1996, amid a reactor accident in Ibaraki province, the government never admitted that radioactive fallout had drifted over the northeastern suburbs of Tokyo. Reporters obtained confirmation from monitoring stations, but the press was under a blanket order not to run any alarming news, facts be damned. For a nation that has lived under the atomic cloud of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, total denial becomes possible because the finger on the button is our own.

Hopefully, though, despite my distrust, the nuclear scientists are right on this, and injury to the people and environment surrounding Fukushima will remain at a minimum.