Friday, March 18, 2011
We have been glued to the TV and Internet following the multiple crisis’s in Japan. I haven’t said much on the subject because it’s changing so rapidly. Currently they are saying that around 7,000 known dead and about 10,000 missing. Frankly I was expecting at least 50,000 dead. If the finally number is less than 20,000 then it says volumes about the Japanese building construction, seawalls and evacuation systems.
The whole thing is more real to us in North America than other disasters, as we see a culture much more similar to our own, unlike Haiti which most us could not wrap our heads around prior to their earthquake. We also had a personal connection as well, my niece was in Tokyo during the quake, but has just arrived back home. Now my sister can sleep better!
These people have suffered an 8.9-9.0 scale quake, hundreds of lesser quakes, 7 metre high Tsunami, volcano eruption and a ongoing nuclear crisis. Adding to the misery is snow hampering rescue efforts. In fact Japan moved 2.4m, is 13’ wider and parts dropped by 2’ in elevation. After shocks continue.
What is apparent is that fortitude of the Japanese character is showing through. No mass panics, little or no looting, organizing to help their neighbours. This is a silver lining in a very dark cloud. The recent stuff coming out on Japanese TV and Internet prior to all of this had to make you wonder if the culture was going off the deep end. Lesson learned, don’t judge a people by their entertainers and TV producers! Another interesting note, the city of Kandahar has given $50,000 dollars to the Japanese people, a small but important gesture from a people that owe much to the Japanese.
The nuclear crisis has shown the flaws of the current designs currently in widespread use. I am not a nuke expert but there are better designs out there. It is my understanding that one of the reactors effected was to be de-commissioned shortly and two others later this year. The timing could not be worse for the nuclear industry, many plants are coming up for replacement, and it will be a hard sell now to a public that is rightfully concerned. The bright side is that many lessons are being learned and if the industry can adapt them into newer designs that can operate without much input from humans and go into safe mode when things go wrong. The new designs will have to deal with the storage pond issue as well, which seems to be the main problem.
I fully expect a big push on Humanoid robots that can deal with nuclear accidents within the next decade. Currently our only choice is to rely on the bravery and self-sacrifice of the workers there. The people fighting the fires at the plants know they are shortening their lives and accepting much future pain and struggle. A grim determination sort of courage.
Living in Vancouver, we are all too aware that a major earthquake and Tsunami is part of our future. The geography is likely to preclude a 7m high wave, but a significant one could still hit Vancouver if say part of the seafloor on eastern Vancouver island sluffed down. To give you an idea what a 7m wave would do to Vancouver, I guesstimated the areas that would be covered by colouring blue over the land that would be engulfed.