Wednesday, March 16, 2011

South to Safety in Japan

News of quiet exodus appears in coverage of the spreading radioactivity in Northeast Japan. The best I've seen is in the German mag Stern. (This article translates pretty well on sites like translate.google.com. )

As an accompanying map shows, the imperiled reactors spread out over the East coast and their danger regions are wide. As a result, folk are at least temporarily hieing to areas South of Tokyo, where life continues as normal — office perk, trains roll, and no officials or sirens insist on evacuation.

Many years have passed since my family was part of the post-WWII occupation army in Saga and Osaka. Those are safe cities in the South, one the big island and one right below it.

Over those years, my mother would occasionally discuss A-bombs (as the two we used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were known then) as well as our not-too-honest rush to nuclear power. For the latter, she saw straight through the false pride of the glories of breeder reactors we were building pell-mell. Business leaders and politicians crowed about how wonderful it was they made fuel, saving mining and handling costs, neglecting to mention the huge amounts of hot waste, deadly for 50,000 or more years we would have to do something with and pray that it remained contained for at least ten times longer than humans have had written language.

On a more personal concern, she mentioned in passing something that we could do nothing about. In Osaka, we were fairly close to Hiroshima and in Saga, even closer to Nagasaki.

Military families were forbidden from eating local produce. Ostensibly, that was because many farmers gathered night soil, excrement in public ditches, from the infrastructure and culture of the time to fertilize their crops. We also have to believe there was some concern over radioactivity from blown dirt.

Likewise, we were there in the period and location when the bombed cities were still seriously contaminated. Even for tots like my sister and me, that was and can still be part of military life. We went where we were told to go.

Most of our Japanese friends from that period eventually moved to new lives in the United States. Nearly everyone has joined his ancestors.

For us, my mother got breast/lymph cancer. However, I think that almost certainly related to her decades of cigarettes and not radiation exposure in Japan in her 20s. For my sister and me, either of us shows cancer. I assume that whatever exposure we received our young bodies were able to process adequately.

I'm not one to call for immediately shutting down nuclear-energy-generation programs worldwide. I see countries that use far safer reactor types than the U.S. and Japan do, energy generation far cleaner than the coal plants places like China use.

Instead though, I can't believe we can't look to Iceland's tapping geothermal...and beyond. We have tides and winds as well as a hot earth constantly pulsing with energy. Those sources and likely others undeveloped are free of the dangers and poisons of petroleum and nuclear.

Must humans remain subject to perilous expediency?

Cross-post: At Harrumph.

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