Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Is this hell on Earth?

The Associated Press takes a look at the devastation that remains in Fukushima, Japan, nine months after the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the area.

The tsunami's destruction is still visible. Mangled trucks, flipped over by the wave, sit alongside the roads inside the complex, piles of rubble stand where the walls of the reactor structures crumbled and large pools of water still cover parts of the campus.


In the ghost towns around Fukushima Dai-ichi, vines have overtaken streets, feral cows and owner-less dogs roam the fields. Dead chickens rot in their coops.


The tens of thousands of people who once lived around the plant have fled. They are now huddling in gymnasiums, elementary school classrooms, bunking with friends, sometimes just sleeping in their cars, moving from place to place as they search for alternatives.
In attempting to aid the clean up effort, the Japanese government is proposing that it temporarily take over control. Meanwhile, Bloomberg notes that a new report released two days ago examining what went wrong at the power plant includes significant finger pointing.
When engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura took the job of heading the independent investigation into the Fukushima disaster, he said he was looking for lessons rather than culprits. He may have changed his mind.
In a 507-page report published yesterday after a six-month investigation, Hatamura reserves some of his strongest criticism for Japan’s atomic power regulator, the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency, known as NISA.
NISA officials left the Dai-Ichi nuclear plant after the March 11 earthquake and when ordered to return by the government provided little assistance to Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) staff struggling to gain control of three melting reactors, according to the report.
“Monitoring the plant’s status was the most important action at that time, so to evacuate was very questionable,” the report by Hatamura’s 10-member team concluded. The committee found “no evidence that the NISA officials provided necessary assistance or advice.”
At the risk of sounding pithy, one can hope that 2012 brings desperately needed stability to the thousands of people whose lives were violently disrupted in March. 



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