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Japan Nuclear Disaster: A Wake-up Call for Us All

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If you have been watching reports coming out of Japan, or reading about the situation, it must by now have made you reach this conclusion: nuclear power is just not worth it. I have seen the talking heads go at it on television, and some babble about how “safe” nuclear power is. I feel like saying, “Tell that to the ten thousand plus dead and the stricken survivors in Japan.”

By all accounts the Japanese thought they were prepared for the big one; they had built the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant with expectations of an earthquake. What it seems they were not ready for was the tsunami that followed, which knocked out the plant’s cooling systems and caused this catastrophe. Now the world waits to hear good news each day, but all we get is more of the same grim reports and the possibility of even worse things to come, like plutonium being found in the soil outside the plant.

This inevitably gets me thinking of the other nuclear problem: weapons. The notion of anyone using nuclear weapons should by now have reached a complete zero option.  For years I have heard about a “limited nuclear response” in various situations. In other words, your country hits my country with one, so I will hit you back with one. The greatest fear comes from countries like India and Pakistan which both have nuclear weapons and have at times been on the brink of hostilities.

After seeing what has happened in Japan, any rational person would realize that it is bad enough if something goes wrong with a nuclear reactor in a plant meant for generating power, but to intentionally use a weapon that will also release these harmful materials into the atmosphere should now be seen as a reprehensible and inconceivable act of barbarism. A small scale nuclear exchange could devastate this planet, causing climate change that would alter life as we know it forever.

I have heard reports of people in California taking iodine tablets for radiation they perceive may be coming across the ocean from Japan. Apparently radiation has been detected in numerous states (even as far away as here in New York). If people are worried about this situation, think how much worse it could be if two countries start lobbing nuclear weapons back and forth at each other. It would be only a matter of time after a nuclear attack, no matter how limited, that everyone on the planet would be affected adversely.

I don’t expect that nuclear power will stop anytime soon (although the process should begin to shut down all plants worldwide); however, nuclear weapons are something human beings can control, and they must realize there is no other alternative. President Obama and other world leaders should take the initiative to begin discourse about how to bring about total disarmament for all countries in the world. I know this task will be arduous and take a long time, but we have to start somewhere, so why not start right now? The nuclear disaster in Japan is a wake-up call, so we better heed the warning.

Still, even if every country with nuclear arms did neutralize its nuclear arsenal, even if every nuclear weapon on earth were rendered incapacitated, there could be the possibility of one rogue terrorist group (or rogue nation) that decided to try to make one. Even with the cooperation of all parties, the unspeakable might still happen. I don’t know how we can prevent that from occurring, but we better start thinking about the process before it is too late. We need to lose the nuclear power and nuclear weapons or we may just end up losing our planet.

Photo Credits:

Map- Huffingtonpost.com
Mushroom Cloud- photobucket.com

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • Waterdog

    I’m concerned you may not have really done your research before writing this opinion piece. When you say, “Tell that to the 10, 000 dead,” you seem to be implying that a nuclear disaster is the cause, when they died in the original tsunami.

    20 years ago I would have been right there with you. But the massive worldwide climate effects caused by coal-fired power plants frankly make the small amount of nuclear waste and even the small chance of a nuclear meltdown seem small in comparison. It’s certainly not as good as clean renewables like wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, or tidal, but if nothing else, it’s a stop-gap until those become more widespread.

    Despite the magnitude of this disaster, even the worst case scenario will not result in global fall-out, although some of the less reputable news sources have speculated as such. Lastly, let’s leave nuclear weapons out of this. Of course they’re terrible and they should be gotten rid of. But that’s not very relevant.

  • tr oll

    …with several reactors presently in various stages of meltdown it’s absurd to talk about the ‘small chance of a nuclear meltdown’

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    I feel that anything “nuclear” is a danger. Whether the people in Japan died because of the earhtquake, the tsunami, or will die in the future because of the radiation is kind of not the point. The thing that is worrisome is that years and years of suffering from one accident. What if the world experienced several accidents simulataneously? Of the launching of nuclear weapons simultaneously? The impact would be more than grim for certain.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Victor, while I agree with you that running nuclear plants to produce energy is not wise, I sense that in your fear of the bad consequences of nuclear weapons or plants, you miss the real catastrophe going on. The real catastrophe is the steady series of earthquakes that are destroying the supports for much of northern Japan. There have been 750 or more earthquakes since 11 March in a tiny area, and it is possible that if Mt. Fujiyama blows, the whole of the north of Japan will start to slip under the Pacific.

    The earthquakes do not stop, and no flunky from the Obama administration will get them to, though there have been accusations that HAARP may have been responsible for this. That gets into conspiracy theory and is not worth speculating on. But the steady flow of earthquakes is real, and the slow self-evacuation of Tokyo is real also. The reality of the Japanese government not telling the truth is more of a disaster then the accident – because millions of lives hang in the balance.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Ruvy –

    I’m a liberal – but I’m also still strongly FOR nuclear power.

    For one thing, the Japanese nuclear power plant in question is considered the ‘Model T’ of nuclear plants. There would be no such danger with modern nuclear plants.

    For instance, even with 30 year-old plants, if anything happens, the plant scrams – shuts down – automatically. I’ve seen no indication that such was part of the construction of the Japanese nuclear plant.

    Today there are nuclear plants about the size of a trash can that require zero coolant and can power a small city…and they are very safe even in a major earthquake.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Glenn, you too miss the point the way Victor does. This is the real disaster! The problems with the nuclear plant are like the hummus you dip the bread in. The bread is the continuous earthquakes that are rattling the Empire of Japan and tearing it apart bit by bit.

    Who gives a damn about liberal and conservative, man! Who cares about “Model T” plants versus the latest Toyota? That is not what this is really all about. What this is really all about is the Japanese government lying to its people when millions of them can die in a catastrophe of – of Biblical proportions.