Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Disaster Fatigue or Just Plain Fatigue?

The past couple of weeks I've put a ton of time into making jewelry and my Etsy shop, so my posts have been quite sparse. This doesn't mean I'm not also doing my usual thing, reading the news like the junkie that I am. The current headlines are, as anyone out on the web will know, all about Japan, which is the latest country to suffer a mega earthquake (New Zealand had theirs only a few weeks ago). Said quake created a tsunami that wiped whole coastal towns off the map and has compromised a nuclear reactor facility.

I've been on Facebook, checking up on all my Japanese friends and former classmates. Amazingly, I don't know anyone who's perished or had a family member perish.

Now the world has to watch and wait to see what happens to the compromised reactors. I kept details of my whereabouts vague while I lived in New Mexico, but since I don't live there anymore I can say that I lived in Los Alamos, which is also the town where I grew up. It's where the Manhattan Project was conducted and the first nuclear bomb was assembled, so my father and my husband have both worked in the nuclear industry, as has an uncle and all of my childhood friends' father (almost) and some of their mothers. My own father concluded his career as the Associate Director in charge of the nuclear weapons program at Los Alamos National Laboratory (which many people find ironic, given I've spent my life doing things like attend the quite leftist, world peace mongering United World College of the Atlantic). So, as I watch the news I pester my husband with questions to make sure the journalists are making sense and sounding accurate.

The consensus is, this is worse than Three Mile Island and not as bad as Chernobyl. These reactors were built on the coast because they are cooled with sea water (not unusual) and their storm surge barrier would have stopped most tsunamis. However, this once in a thousand years tsunami washed right over it. Reactor fuel rods are breaking down, generating hydrogen, which has ignited and caused some rather spectacular explosions that have breached some of the containment structures.

Obviously, this is all not good. My hopes and prayers are with the people of Japan as this situation unfolds. The general quality of their engineering and their experience running reactors is on their side, the fact that this was such an extreme natural disaster cuts against them. Replicating Chernobyl would be hard to do, but the thing is, even something a lot less frightening than Chernobyl is pretty dang frightening, especially to the people fleeing the area. Fortunately, there's a lot that can be done to reduce radiation exposure and treat side effects, but most people would, understandably, prefer not to deal with any of that. The current fight is to keep the fuel rods in the reactors cool and submerged in water. Roughly 50 skeleton crew are risking their lives, managing the facility. Let's all hope and pray they are able to stay on top of things, talk about making a sacrifice for the greater good...

If I sound a little rambly here, it's because it's past one a.m. But hey, I finished listing a new item in all my online stores while I worked on this. Must sleep now...

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