Posted: 13 Mar 2011 07:35 PM PDT
Source: Los Angeles Times
Click to view slideshow.
Reporting from Sendai, Japan, and Tokyo
With a death toll expected to climb into the tens of thousands, more than a half-million people displaced and a nuclear crisis continuing to unfold, rescuers converged Monday on Japan’s devastated earthquake zone while workers in relatively unaffected areas struggled to return to offices and factories.
The government reported Monday that radiation levels again rose above legal limits outside the crippled nuclear complex at quake-battered Fukushima, about 150 miles north of Tokyo, where authorities have been pumping seawater into overheated reactors to try to cool them down. Several other nuclear installations were under close watch for potential problems.
Across a wide swath of earthquake-hit territory, hundreds of thousands of hungry survivors roused themselves from a third cold night spent huddled in darkened emergency centers, cut off from rescuers, aid and electricity. At least 1.4 million households had gone without water since the quake struck and some 1.9 million households were without power. Rolling blackouts to conserve energy were scheduled across much of the country on Monday.
In Tokyo and other large cities outside the quake zone, the first full workday since Friday’s temblor began with delays and disruptions. Many of the train lines that normally run between Tokyo and outlying suburbs and surrounding cities were either running far less frequently than normal or not running at all. Subway and train lines crisscrossing the capital were also curtailed.
With fears about how the world’s third-largest economy would weather the ongoing fallout from the massive quake, Japan’s main stock exchange, the Nikkei, opened down Monday morning by just over 2%. The central bank said it was prepared to flood the money markets with cash to keep the financial system running smoothly.
A full reckoning of deaths and damage could take weeks, but the picture grew grimmer with each passing hour.
“We have no choice but to deal with the situation on the premise that it [the death toll] will undoubtedly be numbered in the ten thousands,” Naoto Takeuchi, head of the Miyagi prefectural police, told a Kyodo reporter during a local disaster task force meeting.
An international rescue effort gathered force, with teams arriving from China, New Zealand, Germany and the United States, among other nations. A Los Angeles County Fire Department search-and-rescue team arrived at Misawa Air Base about 400 miles north of Tokyo about 3 p.m. Sunday with 74 tons of equipment, including swift-water rescue gear and six search dogs, spokesman Don Kunitomi said.
That team joined two other crews from Fairfax County, Va., and Britain that are scheduled to travel together to Miyagi to aid search-and-rescue efforts.
“We are glad to accept all the help we can get to assist the people of Japan,” said Air Force Col. Michael Rothstein, 35th Fighter Wing commander at Misawa. “We will do whatever is in our means to support their efforts in this time of need.”
There were some dramatic rescues of tsunami survivors Sunday, including that of a 60-year-old man who had been waiting for help since he was swept out to sea Friday.
Hiromitsu Shinkawa was spotted by rescuers at 12:40 p.m. nine miles off shore by the crew of a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer, according to Jiji Press.
Shinkawa, from the devastated city of Minamisoma, was conscious and in “good condition” after the rescue, Japanese officials said.
“I ran away after learning that the tsunami was coming,” Shinkawa told rescuers, according to Jiji Press. “But I turned back to pick up something at home, when I was washed away. I was rescued while I was hanging to the roof from my house.”
In Rikuzentakata, a port city of about 20,000 leveled by the tsunami, Etsuko Koyama escaped the water rushing through the third floor of her home but was unable to hold on to her daughter’s hand, she told Japanese broadcaster NHK. The girl was swept away by floodwaters and had still not been found Sunday, Koyama said.
“I haven’t given up hope yet,” Koyama told NHK, wiping tears from her eyes. “I saved myself, but I couldn’t save my daughter.”
About 5,000 houses in Rikuzentakata were submerged by the tsunami, and most of the 7,200 houses in Yamada were also under water, Kyodo reported. In Otsuchi, the tsunami swept away the town office.
A young man told NHK what ran through his mind as tsunami waters rose and he watched his house wash away toward a nearby nursing home. Eventually he, too, was swept away, he said.
Posted: 13 Mar 2011 07:02 PM PDT
Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water Peter Chin yesterday indicated that Malaysia's plan to build two nuclear power plants will proceed despite the nuclear emergency and meltdown in Japan.
He suggested that the "government will not do it secretly without informing the public".
The Minister's response comes two days after what is considered as the worst nuclear emergency involving a nuclear power plant since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago.
The tragedy surrounding the 11th March 2011 tsunami in Japan also signals a warning about the dangers of nuclear energy. Following the earthquake and tsunami, several Japanese nuclear power plants are in a state of emergency.
The New York Times reports that partial meltdowns had occurred at two crippled reactors and indicated possibilities of a second explosion. Four more reactors are facing serious cooling problems.
Japan declared a nuclear emergency when one reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant
Fukushima Daiichi 1, has experienced a partial meltdown and explosion.
Fukushima is one of the 25 largest nuclear power stations in the world.
The ongoing crisis at the Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant in Futuba, just 150 miles north of Tokyo, suggests that nuclear plants pose a tremendous risk to the public and environment, even with safety protocols and management expertise designed to handle natural disasters.
Japan has had nearly 60 years of experience with nuclear power, yet there has still been a history of accidents. In 1999, there was a major accident at Tokaimura where a nuclear fuel-enrichment facility had an out-of-control reaction, leading to radiation leakage affecting hundreds of people and crippling the local agriculture industry.
If a country with as much expertise and experience as Japan can fall foul of nuclear accidents, then Malaysia should not go nuclear as the risks and costs of failure are too great.
The problem with nuclear power, compared to all other sources of electricity, is that if and when things do go wrong, the consequences are far, far worse. No problem can occur at a solar power plant that can lead to 200,000 residents having to flee for safety beyond a 10 km radius. This is what happened this weekend in Japan as Fukushima went out of control.
The Japanese government has ordered the largest mobilization of their Self-Defense Forces since World War II to assist in the relief effort.
In the Fukushima case, ironically, the earthquake knocked out the station’s own electricity supply, leaving the pumps unable to supply coolant to the reactor. The backup diesel generator was also knocked out by the waters of the tsunami.
A nuclear reactor is like a giant pressurised water boiler, it requires vast quantities of water to cool the reactor, which is why nuclear plants are usually next to rivers or the sea.
However, this leaves them vulnerable to water-related disasters such as tsunamis, floods and storm surges, or even droughts. Location near water also means that any pollution can quickly spread to other areas.
Malaysia sees more than its fair share of flood-related disasters. Any nuclear plant built locally could well suffer a similar problem.
The misfortune at the Fukushima plant has resulted in radiation levels 1,000-times the normal level in the control room and eight times over normal immediately outside.
Experts have already expressed concern that there is a possibility of a hydrogen explosion following further meltdown, and the culture of secrecy prevalent in the local political system – a culture the Barisan Nasional government shares – may make it hard to figure out what has gone wrong.
Japan has already suffered the scandal of the 1995 Monju plant leak that was covered up by the government-linked agency managing it.
Radioactive poisoning of the local population and environment is but one problem. The other is the economic cost of such disasters. Not only could a power plant worth billions be rendered so contaminated as to be useless, a surrounding 20 km area could also be left unfit for human use.
Furthermore, under Malaysia’s atomic energy law, nuclear plant operators are not liable for any damage resulting from natural disasters.
Japan embarked on nuclear energy because they lacked domestic fossil fuel alternatives, and because their industrialisation took place well before renewable energies such as solar power were widely available.
Malaysia has no such excuse as we have oil, gas, biomass, hydro resources, and abundant sunshine; not to mention that we are now set to be the world’s number three producer of solar cells.
26 April marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. This anniversary and the events in Japan should be a reminder that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Malaysia should exercise wisdom, forego nuclear, and pursue safer, cleaner and healthier forms of energy supply.
Thus, I call upon Minister Peter Chin to abandon all ideas to continue with the nuclear adventure.
Member of Parliament, Klang.
|You are subscribed to email updates from Charles Santiago |
To stop receiving these emails, you may unsubscribe now.
|Email delivery powered by Google|
|Google Inc., 20 West Kinzie, Chicago IL USA 60610|