Those amazing Japanese ‘nuke factories’

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station before quake

It’s difficult to imagine anyone hasn’t heard about the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Personally I’ve had the television on constantly since Thursday night, when the first live feeds began airing. It was both horrifying and fascinating to witness the real-time unfolding of a monumental natural disaster from half a world away.

I’ve watched with particular interest the coverage of and commentary about the two Fukushima nuclear power plants and their as-yet uncooled reactors. The Japanese get some 30% of their power from nuclear energy, while in the United States there has been a longstanding distrust of such power. In recent years, that fear seemed to have subsided somewhat and discussions of alternative energy sources had begun to mention nuclear power again.

Now, however, the press seems focused once again on the potential for a nuclear nightmare, and while that’s understandable, it’s a disservice to give airtime to people who either don’t know what they are talking about or who clearly have a bias against nuclear power. Of course, having been married to a nuclear engineer, I have my own biases.

No one wants to see a catastrophic event at a “nuke factory,” and I understand the exigencies of reporting this story, but I wish more attention could be given to the fact that these two plants withstood an 8.9 earthquake, reportedly the fifth largest worldwide since 1900 and Japan’s largest ever.

Only time will tell, but regardless of the outcome in Japan, I hope it stands as a testament to how safe these plants can be rather than an indictment of their potential hazard.

2 thoughts on “Those amazing Japanese ‘nuke factories’

  1. I hope your advice is taken, Pied, but I’m not holding my breath. To put the danger of nuclear fuel in perspective, all you have to do is Google “Texas City Disaster” or “Pasadena, Texas Refineries.”

    The Gulf Coastline and the 50 miles of ship channel between Galveston, Texas and Houston, Texas are filled with refineries and petrochemical plants that have caused more deaths and injuries than all the nuclear plants on Earth.

    Don’t misunderstand – these facilities are relatively safe considering the vast amount of fuel and petroleum products they produce, as well as our dependence on them.

... and that's my two cents