Wednesday, March 16, 2011

World Is Watching and Feeling for You, Japan

The whole world is watching the desperate effort to get those reactors under control. (I used to laugh when I encountered this the-world-is-watching expression in reports on domestic matters by the US media, thinking, “Oh, Americans believe they are the world”.) The progress appears painstakingly slow and I hope they are making any progress at all. The situation has been, as soon as a problem got solved, another crops up. The government decided to use SDF helicopters to extinguish the fire on the No. 3 reactor but then suspended the operation because of an unacceptably high level of radiation detected above it. In the meantime, on the ground and inside the damaged reactor structures, people are working with their hands and torch lights to avert a nuclear catastrophe. Salute to them. Tokyo Power, as a company, is dead.

Partly because of some of the media reports, the wrong impression that people outside of Japan may fall victim to is that the whole country is on the brink of meltdown. This is not the case though the situation is horrifyingly critical now. After all, Chernobyl did not melt down the whole Soviet Union. Just yesterday, I met a man from Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, for an interpretation work. He told me that things were as usual in his region. Not surprising at all.

If there is any consoling thing, it is that the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant stopped automatically and successfully soon after the earthquake struck. We are now talking about the residual heat of the reactors. Left alone (an impossibility definitely), over time the temperature should go down with the help of cooling water. The problem is there is no functioning cooling system.

But then, this nuclear drama has been going on already long enough. When the government is supposed to be putting all its resources to rescue those still under rubble, it has to deal with this engineering, environmental and human disaster. It decided to mobilise SDF reserves for the first time.

On my own personal level, I thank all who expressed their concern for my family and friends in Japan. Some are people whom I barely know like a taxi driver who took me to the meeting point yesterday and cashers of 7-Eleven in my neighbourhood.

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