Saturday, 19 March 2011

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power station

There is no doubt that the biggest international story of the past eight days has been the earthquake in Japan and its aftermath.  Originally described as a 'quake of 8.9 on the Richter Scale it was later revised up to 9.0 one.  Incidentally the scale started to be used as a measure of the seismic energy arising from an earthquake or tremor in 1935, all down to the work of the United States geophysicist Charles Richter.  I think I'm right in saying that last week's earthquake was the worst experienced in Japan - maybe that statement should be qualified by stating it was the largest that country had seen since accurate assessments of severity have been made.

As we now know the earthquake was really bad but it was the tsunami that followed that caused the major destruction.  I find watching videos of the tsunami (plenty of them on 'youtube') both awesome and awful.  I'm certainly not looking at them every five minutes but as with many people I guess I've found that they were almost compulsive viewing at first.  Perhaps because of the distance between camera and action the cars and boats tossed about by the wave look like toys, difficult to realise that many of them were occupied by people.  It's also almost impossible to take in that for many of the tsunami survivors all they have left is the clothes that they are wearing and my heart goes out to those who have lost family members.

Whilst the effect of the tsunami is by far the biggest part of the tragedy being endured by the Japanese at the moment, as news it has been somewhat overtaken by the problems experienced at the Fukushima nuclear power station.  The individual difficulties at the various reactors there have been well documented and I won't repeat them here.  Tonight there seems to be some cautious optimism although it's early days yet to suggest that everything is under control.  As I understand it a power line has been established to the pumps that keep the reactors cool - good news of course but whether the pumps are still in working order is something likely to be found out tomorrow. 

We have been told that there are about 50 volunteers at any one time risking exposure to radiation in trying to get things under control at the plant.  Actually I think that it is about 180 or so brave men because they are working in shifts.  The next day or two it would seem are going to be crucial in recovering control of the power station.  Let us hope that all the hard work leads to a happy outcome.

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