When the Land of the Rising Sun coveted the Sun’s power

They’re called the Fukushima Fifty. This is a relatively small group of lower to mid-level managers, technicians, firemen, and electrical workers who are struggling to stop a nuclear disaster at the earthquake and tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant. The Fukushima Fifty were left holding the bag for the political and economic elites who made the decision in the first place to use nuclear power to generate electricity.

However, the designation “Fukushima Fifty” is actually something of a misnomer. In reality there are about 200 men divided into four shifts of 50 who are actually engaged in the round-the-clock struggle to restore human control over four of the six damaged nuclear reactors as well as to re-establish safe storage for a vast quantity of spent reactor cores that are stored at the power plant.

Reliable information is sketchy. But already some of the original Fukushima Fifty, maybe five, have died. Another dozen or so have sustained injuries and have been replaced. Those still desperately trying to fix the Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant realize, however, that they are merely dead men walking due to the enormous quantities of radiation that their bodies are receiving. But in their quiet Japanese stoicism, the Fukushima Fifty carry on. Their duty is clear. Spare their nation and the rest of the world from the worst of the possible consequences of our collective human misjudgement, or die trying.

The self-sacrificing courage of the Fukushima Fifty is worthy of praise. These are brave men. They are heroes. Yet, the ability of some humans to muster great courage in the face of terrible danger is not the issue.

What lead us to believe in the first place: “We can control the Sun’s power of nuclear reaction. We can become rich from the energy that comes by splitting the building blocks of the universe! Indeed, aren’t we Homo sapiens, wise men? If we can think it, we can most certainly do it!” The real issue of our time is our human pride. Far too many of us think we can take to ourselves the prerogatives of God without reaping the awful, horrendous consequences that come from such arrogance.

Still, for some time now people in a variety of nations have argued against the wisdom of employing nuclear energy to fuel our economic growth and comfortable lifestyles. But these voices of caution have been largely ignored and a massive new construction program for greatly enlarging nuclear power generation is being planned in many nations.

Yet for the Land of the Rising Sun in particular, their embrace of nuclear energy to generate massive quantities of electricity was always a bargain with the Devil. They should have known better. After all, they had first experienced the pointy edge of the Sun’s nuclear power at Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War. And haven’t the Japanese always known that their homeland composed of islands on the Pacific Rim is a veritable supermarket of natural disasters?

Nevertheless, the Japanese like the Americans, Canadians, Brits, Russians, French, Germans, Indians, Chinese, Iranians, and all the rest have thought they could safely control this power of the Sun.

Humanity has long been disposed to thinking that we can be our own gods and decide for ourselves what is good or evil rather than accept divine revelation as our guide to morality as well as to economics.

“And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life also was in the middle of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…. And the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and keep it [guard it, i.e. protect it from despoliation or contamination so that it would continue to be life-supporting]. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree in the garden. But you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that you eat of it in dying you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:7-9, 15-17).

From the time of our earliest ancestors we have resisted the instructions given to us by the Creator God of the Universe. The land surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant probably cannot be safely inhabited for 10,000 years after the nuclear meltdown of 1986. While the human death count from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster varies widely according to different analyses (4,000 to 200,000 cancer deaths), the question remains how can the use of nuclear power be reconciled with the divine command to “dress and keep ” our life-sustaining earthly garden of Eden?

And what will be the toll in Japan? How much of Japan will become uninhabitable due to the contamination of nuclear radiation? How many people will die of cancers? The price for presumptuously taking to ourselves the prerogatives of God will be increasingly costly not only in Japan, but throughout the world.

7 thoughts on “When the Land of the Rising Sun coveted the Sun’s power

  1. Robert Little

    A few things that someone ought point out…

    1. Nuclear energy is the result of a need for cleaner energy. Is it perfect? Well obviously not, and quite far from it as we all can see. But to extrapolate that it’s merely the disastrous result of pure human greed is nonsense.

    2. The reactions inside today’s nuclear reactors are only tangentially related to the kind of nuclear reactions inside our sun. IF we ever succeed in reproducing (and sustaining) the fusion reactions in the sun, it promises to be one of the biggest leaps forward in clean energy we have ever seen or expect to see. More progress here is being made as we speak.

    3. To say, that the japanese people’s enduring of a deadly nuclear attack killing 150,000 – 250,000 people should relate to whether or not they invest in nuclear energy is shameful.

    The earthquake is a tragic event. Don’t try to capitalize on it.
    Our energy problems? What do you think is powering the server housing your blog?

  2. Josh

    In response to that above article (http://www.fastcodesign.com/1663489/infographic-of-the-day-just-how-deadly-is-nuclear-energy), I think someone else already said pretty much what I would say about that particular article in the comments, here is the comment below:

    Rami Schandall 03/25/2011 10:09 AM
    This article is astoundingly naive.

    You suggest opponents of nuclear energy are “environmentalists,” quotation marks for “sarcasm”. Is it not a responsible stance to be extremely concerned about future generations, regardless of the scale of deaths to date?

    Godin’s point that the drama of big accidents is much easier to grasp is true. We as humans are hopeless at recognizing the scale of long-term, impending global disaster. But that is exactly the trap that this article falls into: short-sightedness (and arrogance) leading to a faulty, generalized conclusion.

    Fear of nuclear power is perfectly rational, and comes from EXPERIENCE: accidents in the 1970s, 1980s, as well as the current situation in Fukishima, not to mention innumerable smaller accidents that are rarely reported. (One of my friendly neighbourhood nuclear power plants just last week dumped 73 000 litres of radiologically tainteded water into the Lake Ontario, barely a blip in the mainstream news.)

    The nuclear industry is improperly regulated, outrageously over-funded by tax dollars, and involves risk that is catastrophic beyond imagining. (see references below)

    Chernobyl, 25 years on, is still spewing toxic radiation from under its lid of concrete. People born in the region since the accident are still experiencing unmitigated, elevated rates of thyroid cancer, a known effect of irradiated cesium and iodine in the environment, from the accident. Does Seth Godin count all the future generations, for the next 10 000 years, who will die from nuclear accidents already past, let alone potential accidents in the future?

    How to deal with spent fuel has never been resolved in 40 years of technological development. Nuclear is “safe” only as long as natural disasters don’t happen, human error is not made, and terrorists lack originality. But natural disasters DO happen, human error IS made, maliciousness knows no limit in deviousness. People in positions of power also LIE on a regular basis if it will save their ass, short-term. Tepco itself was forced to shut down all its reactors in 2007 because they “misrepresented” facts in their self-reporting, an issue that came to light only when an American engineer blew the whistle. Clearly safety is not enough of a priority if we just keep stacking up spent fuel rods in cooling pools all over the world. The US has approximately 72 000 tonnes of spent fuel.

    Gas and coal are no question killing us and our planet. But does that mean we should embrace an alternative that produces waste no-one knows how to deal with? There are other alternatives, many of them. We do not need a single replacement for gas and coal, we need many, each considered to specific geographies and their inherent qualities, and risks. And more than anything we need a long term vision that allows our children and grandchildren to flourish, unpoisoned by our greed and lack of imagination.

    Josh

  3. Robert Little

    The article is worth sharing either way. It’s an important stat to include in the equation of energy costs, but one people don’t talk about. There are unknown costs, and known costs. Oil and coal have massive known costs, that we need to move away from. Speaking of nuclear power being under regulated, and overly subsidized by taxes, need we mention that the oil industry has the same benefits. So this is a problem we need to work on across the board.

    Nuclear is far from perfect. The main point I want made, is that it’s shortsighted to think nuclear power exists due to greed. Or that it’s not worth investigating the promise of nuclear power. Or that we are just trying ‘to be like gods.’

    The good news is, that methods are coming about that can deal with the nuclear waste, and even use it to generate more clean energy. The same goes for the massive nuclear stock piles we’ve got sitting in dormancy. Lets hope someone creates a business plan around it, so they can profit off it, and benefit the rest of us. Globally, our biggest problem is that we haven’t defined the goal well enough. We’ve got plenty of original thinking happening. Perhaps more than ever. But little of it gains traction due to political and economic sluggishness and road blocks.

    Another great article and vid I’m sure you’ve all seen. Hard to say it this will or should go anywhere, but it’s promising creating thinking about the problems either way.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates.html

    http://www.boingboing.net/2010/02/12/highlights-from-ted-2.html

    http://www.utexas.edu/news/2009/01/27/nuclear_hybrid/

  4. Josh

    Just saw this news as of today:
    http://www.nationalpost.com/news/Highly+radioactive+water+leaks+from+Japanese+nuclear+plant/4515300/story.html

    “TEPCO officials said the tunnels did not flow into the sea but the possibility of radioactive water seeping into the ground could not be ruled out.”

    and a little further on in the story

    “About a quarter of a million people are living in shelters and damage could top $300-billion, making it the world’s costliest natural disaster.

    The suffering may not be over.

    It is amazing that due to poor engineering decisions, using plutonium in old reactors that were about 1 year from being shut down that such a disaster has occurred. But it was not just random chance that lead to this catastrophe. It was either disdain for the general public or complete ignorance and willful blindness on the part of the officials running these nuclear plants in Japan that the reactors have failed to contain their hazardous process materials. In this case the people there have suffered, and will probably continue to suffer due to the mistakes, of a few.

    I think it is fair to say that there is a real danger of radioactive water getting out in to the ecosystem or groundwater and significantly harming the general population, not only in Japan, but possibly around the world. The Bible says in Rev 8:11 something about this too, that the people became sick because of the water, whether this Wormwood has to do with nuclear radiation or not is not defined, it just says the waters are made bitter.

    Clearly in the case of nuclear energy we are creating our own trap, and falling in it, devastating one of the worlds largest economies, hurting hundreds of thousands of people in the short term, with long term consequences still unknown, and the disaster still unfolding.

    No wonder the Bible says in Revelation 22:1-9 and Rev 7:17 that when Christ returns to set up a new system that he will send out living waters from his throne for the healing of the nations. Maybe we are just starting to get a taste of how bad things can get due to our own ignorance, or in this case a bit of complacency with a dash of playing with things we do not fully have control over. After all some of the first scientists (Marie Curie) who discovered radiation, died horrible deaths from the very thing they loved to study, and based their lives work on.

    Something to think about, who do you trust? The officials that say it is all ok, everything is under control, do not panic, until it is too late? Or do you put your trust in God? I vote for the latter.

    A previous reference on the Fukushima disaster:
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20285-fukushima-radioactive-fallout-nears-chernobyl-levels.html

  5. Jeff Post author

    Different energy sources have different problems. Large scale hydro energy projects may require a massive valley to be filled with water. Dams can disrupt various migratory fish. Oil production can result in massive toxic spills like what happened recently in the BP Gulf of Mexico spill. Coal-fired power plants create particulate and green house gas emissions. These commonly used sources of energy each have their drawbacks.

    But generally speaking, we humans can mitigate the harmful effects if we chose, and if all goes wrong, a regional disaster occurs that may take months or a few years or a few decades to resolve.

    When something goes wrong with nuclear energy, however, the potential for a persistent, long-lasting nightmare with a wide regional or even global impact clearly outclasses our other common energy sources in their potential for disaster. We can live and adapt to the global warming caused by excess production of CO2. But can we and most of the rest of the living creatures in this world live if our water and our air and our food is contaminated with radioactivity?

    I do not think it is shameful to point out this danger. The Japanese people do have first hand experience with massive exposure to dangerous levels of radiation. Not all Japanese are content to rely on nuclear power for this reason. Humanity needs clean, de-centralized sources for energy production that do not have the potential to massively poison us for thousands of years if, or perhaps more realistically, when something goes wrong due to human error. Yours truly. JP

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