“Powerfull explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi Reactor” “Bans On Japanese Imports Amidst Radiation Fears” “Radiation Could Damage Health” were just a few of myriad headlines which dominated the news in the days following the largest quake in Japans recorded history.
While foreign media portrayed the crisis as comparable to Chernobyl, the Japanese media and officials seemed to be downplaying the severity of the situation. The disparity among these reports hardly inspired a sense of confidence and I was left in uncertainty and angst.
In the result, I tried to logically and academically ascertain the situation. On one hand I figured that the ban on Japanese imports could be motivated by governments looking to protect their domestic markets while using the crisis as a cover. On the other, Japanese goods might actually be sufficiently contaminated as to damage health. The question that came to my mind was, would the Japanese government withhold information in order to prevent mass panic and economic collapse? Were the lives of all of us considered less valuable by the Japanese government than sustaining the economy? Though I didn’t want to believe it, I couldn’t be sure.
Supplementing my already perturbed disposition were the aftershocks. Though they had been striking continuously since the main quake, I couldn’t get used to them. It shook when I woke, it shook while I was cooking and it even shook while I was sitting on the pot. The slightest movement provoked intense anxiety within me. I never knew if the quake would escalate. And if I would have to squeeze quick, forgo a proper wipe and quickly shuffle outside with my drawers around my ankles.
I became so shell shocked that my imagination began to fabricate quakes. In order to discern whether or not the shaking was in my head, I set up 4 bottles of water around my room. This way I could tell, based on the movement of the water, whether it was mental or the beginning of the next big one.
I began to feel a similar paranoia about the potential for radiation. Though Tokyo is located over 150 miles south of the stricken nuclear plant, given the right winds, radiation could have easily been peppering the metropolis. This realization coupled with new reports, which indicated harmful radiation levels in Tokyo’s water supply, only served to fuel my paranoia further.
An unseasonably warm day translated into radiation fears in my mind. Could the power plant be that crippled? Had radiation contaminated the air and water? Was the Japanese government telling us the truth? How bad was it really? Am I over reacting? Chernobyl?
Another earthquake! This time it was a big one. Heart racing, palms sweaty, eyes wide, mouth dry, the invisible threat of radiation, the effects of which might only appear as cancer in my forties. I couldn’t take it. I made up my mind, I would leave Tokyo the next morning.
- An end note on the use of nuclear energy.
We believe we can implement sufficient safe guards to thwart potential accidents and that we have mastered nuclear technology. However, as this earthquake has surely illustrated, it is not possible to prepare for the magnitude of Mother Nature nor have we the knowledge to terminate a nuclear meltdown once it has begun.
So far, thousands of people have been evacuated with no guarantee of being able to return to their homes. Equally as disturbing is the environmental impact. Radiation continues to contaminate both flora and fauna on land and in the sea. The true consequences of which remain ill understood. Given the repercussions of just one compromised nuclear power plant, can nuclear energy still be labeled a source of clean energy?