The Irony of Fukushima
In 1995 I visited Washington D.C. Although it was a business trip, I took the time to visit the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian. Although they had a Mars rover thing to play with and other space bric-a-brac, space capsules and strange suits with huge helmets strangled by hoses puffy with canned atmosphere—it didn’t thrill me, until, I walked into a room where part of a fuselage was entombed with its cockpit nosepiece. The paint on its side read Enola Gay. One could walk up some stairs and have a peek inside the aircraft that delivered “unprecedented destruction” on Hiroshima, Japan in the form of the first atom bomb. It stopped me in my tracks. When I left the museum, I bought a picture postcard of the Enola Gay parked on a tarmac with a vast blue sky in the backdrop.
Hiroshima is where the people of the world had the opportunity to see poisoning and death by nuclear radiation. Yet, technology, knowing the risks a mistake could bring, continued to develop ways to provide energy using nuclear fuel. That fuel takes the common name of “yellow cake.” As I understand it, a by-product of this process is cesium 137, which in its pure form is a liquid. If it enters the human body, it resides there, settling in the muscle tissue and when the level rises to a certain threshold, cancer develops.
In March of 2011, an earthquake of a magnitude that moved the main island of Honshu Japan 8 feet to the east then produced a tsunami that killed at least 16,000 people, damaged or leveled over one million buildings and damaged three nuclear reactors at Fukushima. The reactors started leaking into the Pacific Ocean and as of October 2013, there is no containment. Ocean currents travel from Fukushima in a straight line passing by the Hawaiian Islands to Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon, California and Mexico. It is projected that within a few years the entire great expanse of the Pacific Ocean will be impacted by 137Cs. Cesium 137 has a half-life of 30 years and so, it is expected that the problem will persist for many generations to come. That is, if the leak can be stopped. It has not been.
It is not just a story about the water. It is about a poisoned food source, fish, from the Pacific Ocean. Yes, fish will become radioactive.
The irony of Fukushima is that Japan, the first to be subjected to the torments of radioactivity by the United States, would sustain such catastrophic failure in its attempt to harness nuclear power that the result would be the poisoning of the western United States with radiation, not to mention Japan itself and all the lands and people in between.
This piece is truly a Pandora’s box. Inside one imagines all the evils of the world embodied in yellow water, exploding with heavy metals, destroying an ocean’s ecosystem.
It is a tactile experience. You only need to open the box to see man’s demise by a technology he is not capable of controlling. It is playing with fire, sooner or later you will be burned.