March 12, 2011

EXPLOSION ROCKS EARTHQUAKE-DAMAGED NUCLEAR PLANT in Japan. Unclear whether containment has failed.

Meanwhile the earthquake death toll is now believed to be greater than 1,700.

UPDATE: Much more at BlackFive.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Chris Matthews on the tsunami: “Was this sort of a good opportunity for the president to remind everybody that he grew up in the United States and Hawaii?” Isn’t it time for him to go?

MORE: A reader sends this from Tokyo:

Hi Glenn,

The global-warming axe-grinders and anti-nuclear luddites are coming out of the woodwork to use the nuclear crisis in Japan as an excuse to climb on their hobby-horses.

I was in the center of Tokyo during the earthquake and was one of those “roaming the streets” last night. Translate that as walked home cause the trains stopped. The earthquake was 8000 times more powerful than the New Zealand quake. Skyscrapers in Tokyo were swaying, the streets were vibrating and shaking and everyone was scared absolutely shitless. I’ve been here for twenty years and these things don’t scare me. So I don’t mind saying I was terrified and figured this was it.

And you know what? Not one building in Tokyo collapsed. Not even one. Part of roof caved in during a graduation ceremony. The devastation from the tsunami and from the tremors in Miyagi and Sendai is real. But Japan isn’t quaking in its boots and, yes, we are all alarmed at the nuclear crisis unfolding in Fukushima.

Here’s what’s not happening, however, from the Wapo right now:

“The explosion at the reactor is certain to rattle confidence in nuclear power in Japan, victim of the only nuclear weapons explosions and where people have long been sensitized to the dangers of radioactive releases. In the United States, it will deal a severe blow to advocates of a nuclear power renaissance.”

The US has been uncharacteristically shy about embracing technology the rest of the world relies on. I haven’t heard or read one adult questioning the wisdom of relying on nuclear energy in Japan. In fact, it takes something like a combination of a massive earthquake and a tsunami together to attack the integrity of the system. The systems largely worked.

Any other city in the world would have seen buildings flattened and the deaths of tens of thousands. To the best of my knowledge not one person in Tokyo died, although I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that some poor soul fell off a ladder.

Sound engineering, preparation, precaution, and technology saved the day. I could walk home last night secure in the knowledge that my kids, wife, and mother-in-law were completely safe despite experiencing the worst earthquake in Japanese history and the fifth-worst in the world ever.

So let’s not trash nuclear energy and Japanese engineering, please. The links to charities are much appreciated. The best thing the US can do is start learning from Japan about how to build buildings that can withstand these kinds of events and nuclear power systems that can survive earthquakes and the odd tsunami. The system worked. Trains are running again.

Please keep my name out of this should you choose to use this.

As I’ve said before, the Japanese do disaster-prep better than we do.

UPDATE: Reader Jack Lillywhite emails: “That commenter who was in Tokyo stated this EQ was 8,000 times greater than Christchurch is way off the mark. If Christchurch was 6.8 and Japan was 8.9 then it was only 1,100 times greater on the Richter scale. You may want to note the correction since this has gone viral on the internet.” Well, I’m about to get on a plane and can’t double-check, but “only” 1,100 times is still a lot.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And now several readers say that Lillywhite is wrong, and it is 8000 times. Either way, it’s big.

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