Japan: In the wake of disaster

Japan: By Mary Louise Wehunt – Tuesday 15 March 2011 EST 4:07 P.M:

The resourceful people of Japan work harmoniously to pull out of the rubble after last Friday’s devastation.

I believe I have mentioned before that I am LDS (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).

One of the things I am doing each morning is to refresh my memory of the Thirteen Articles of Faith.  I should know these by heart but sometimes I miss an order, an ‘s’ at the end of a word, et cetera.  Anyway, this morning as I recited the thirteenth – and last – of the Articles of Faith my thoughts went to the Peoples of Japan. I am in awe of the harmonious banding together of these Peoples. I believe they are truly capable of enduring what is before them.

I know only a small fraction of the population is a member of my church. This does not matter.  All are my brothers and sisters, at least this is how I see things. The church has 72 missionaries serving in the area of Japan hardest hit by the magnitude 8.9 temblor – the biggest ever recorded – all of these honest, true, chaste, benevolent and virtuous young men and women are reported to be safe. I know the parents of these missionaries sighed a great sigh of relief after learning their beloved were safe and had begun helping with the arduous task at hand Japan is now facing.

The Peoples of this region of Japan is under great suffering. My heart goes out to them and my hands wish they could help. I wish I could pull timbers, personally give a hug, reassure, encourage and comfort them all. The physical body is distant but the mental distance is close, in prayer and in thought.

I’ll say it again – I am in awe of the harmonious banding of these Peoples. When an official suggested an order regarding electric power outages to cure issues with the nuclear power plant the people took it upon themselves to monitor their usage and therefore reduced the risk. No need for the government to impose an official order.  This amazes me as I do not think this would happen in other cultures – in particular here in the USA. The willingness to ‘dig-in’ and do want is for the better good of the whole is an act of a willingness to endure all things and is in and of itself praiseworthy.

Friday’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake is reported to be the biggest in about 140 years killing an estimated 10,000 of its inhabitants. But it is not the only major earthquake the Peoples of Japan have experienced.

In a report from Reuters The following are some dates of other major recent quakes.

August 16, 2005 – A major quake with a magnitude of 7.2 rocked a region about 300 km (190 miles) north of Tokyo, injuring more than 80 people. October 23, 2004 – A 6.8 magnitude quake hit the Niigata region, about 250 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, killing 65 people and injuring 3,000.

January 17, 1995 – A quake of 7.3 magnitude struck, killing more than 6,400 in the western city of Kobe in 1995. It caused $100 billion in damage and was the costliest natural disaster in history.

The Great Kanto earthquake on September 1, 1923, had a magnitude of 7.9. It killed more than 140,000 people in the Tokyo area and seismologists have said another such quake could hit the city any time.”

Now it seems with this most recent quake Japan is also facing a potential catastrophe i.e. a mishap at the nuclear power plant we have heard so much about, which exploded sending out low levels of radiation drifting towards Tokyo.
Again in a report from Reuters: “(Reuters) By Shinichi Saoshiro and Chisa Fujioka – TOKYO | Tue Mar 15, 2011 10:08am EDT – Japan faced a potential catastrophe Tuesday after a quake-crippled nuclear power plant exploded and sent low levels of radiation floating toward Tokyo, prompting some people to flee the capital and others to stock up on essential supplies.

The crisis appeared to escalate late in the day when the operators of the facility said that one of two blasts had blown a hole in the building housing a reactor, which meant spent nuclear fuel was exposed to the atmosphere.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged people within 30 km (18 miles) of the facility — a population of 140,000 — to remain indoors amid the world’s most serious nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986.

Officials in Tokyo — 240 km (150 miles) to the south of the plant — said radiation in the capital was 10 times normal by evening but there was no threat to human health. Around eight hours after the explosions, the U.N. weather agency said winds were dispersing radioactive material over the Pacific Ocean, away from Japan and other Asian countries….”

From what I have read this has put Japan under “global scrutiny over the handling of its nuclear crisis” (again, according to a report filed this morning by Reuters).

(Reuters)- Tue Mar 15, 2011 8:59am EDT Japan is under global scrutiny over the handling of its nuclear crisis after a huge earthquake crippled several reactors at a nuclear power complex, raising fears of an uncontrolled radiation leak.

Below is a timeline of statements made by Japanese authorities and the complex’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), after the quake struck on Friday, the strongest tremor ever recorded in Japan.

FRIDAY, MARCH 11

(All Japan local times, when reported by Reuters)

19:46 – The government reveals a cooling problem at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on the northeast coast, which bore the brunt of the quake and tsunami. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says the government has declared an emergency as a precaution but he says there is no radioactive leak.

21:34 – TEPCO confirms water levels falling inside reactors at the plant, and says it is trying to avert the exposure of nuclear fuel rods by restoring power to its emergency power system so that it can pump water inside the reactors.

21:49 – Jiji news agency says evacuation area around the plant is extended to 3 km from 2 km and quotes authorities as saying no radioactive leak has been confirmed.

21:55 – The government says radiation has leaked from one of the plant’s reactors.

22:45 – Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Japan advised that a heightened state of alert has been declared but no release of radiation had been detected.

It says Japanese authorities also reported a fire at the Onagawa nuclear power plant, which has since been extinguished.

“They say Onagawa, Fukushima Daini and Tokai nuclear power plants were also shut down automatically, and no radiation release has been detected,” the statement says.

SATURDAY, MARCH 12

00:38 – The World Nuclear Association, the main nuclear industry body, says it understands the situation is under control, and water is being pumped into the reactor’s cooling system. An analyst at the association says he understood a back-up battery power system had been brought online after about an hour, and begun pumping water back into the cooling system.

00:40 – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States has transported coolant to the stricken nuclear plant. “We just had our Air Force assets in Japan transport some really important coolant to one of the nuclear plants,” Clinton says at a meeting of the President’s Export Council.

01:27 – Jiji says Fukushima prefecture expects cooling function at the plant to be restored by 1630 GMT (0130 local)

01:46 – Jiji quotes TEPCO as saying pressure inside the No. 1 reactor at the plant has been rising, with the risk of a radiation leak. It plans to take measures to release the pressure, the report says.

In the coming weeks as Japan clears the rubble and rebuilds I do hope the World Nuclear Association keeps a keen eye focused.  I do not feel there is any blame to be placed here.  Although, someone should have minded the store a bit better. It is something which happened and Japan needs to move forward to secure its plants in the future.  Still, it does make one a bit nervous.

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