Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Damage

Status report on the damage in Japan.

The Telegraph has a report of the damages to Japan as a consequence of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami to date:

2,414 – Number of people confirmed dead.

10,000 – Likely final death toll figure is set to reach beyond that mark.

15,000 – Number of people unaccounted for.

50 – Number of Britons missing, presumed dead.

550,000 – Evacuated from their homes since the quake struck on Friday.

More at the link.

Much of the media attention in the West right now is being focused on the ongoing dramas of the nuclear reactors that have been affected by the quake and tsunami. Germany has ordered that its seven nuclear reactors placed into service before 1980 be taken offline and it’s unclear what their fate will be. There’s a certain level of panic setting in worldwide over nuclear power at the moment (particularly among elected officials). Even here in relatively tectonically stable Illinois there’s nervousness.

In Japan the concern may be well-founded. The amount of radiation that has been released there is enough that it will be of concern for years to come. And Japan has been the home to some of the world’s most damaging earthquakes, the most recent quake sure to be listed in that number.

What were Japan’s alternatives? I’m not asking rhetorically; I’m looking for information. It may be that there were alternatives to nuclear power that in hindsight may be looking pretty appealing. Contrariwise, it may be the case that the challenge then as now is to mitigate the risks as much as is possible.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    How close are those Illinois reactors from the New Madrid Fault?

  2. DC Loser says:

    With all the volcanoes and geothermal hot springs in Japan, you’d think they would tap into that source of energy more.

  3. anjin-san says:

    @ Dave

    Do some reading on the recent PG&E gas explosion in San Bruno CA. Then consider that these clowns run the Diablo Canyon nuclear facility. We have legitimate cause for concern right here at home.

  4. DC Loser says:

    Good thing that PEPCO don’t run any reactors 🙂

  5. Steven Plunk says:

    Making conclusions of any sort in the first week after a disaster is misguided. There is too much information yet to come in, too many things still going on, and the infamous unknown unknowns. We shouldn’t panic today about what we were okay with a month ago.

    Public policy should not be established during times of high emotions. Calm rational analysis and risk assessments should be done but not today, not next month, maybe next year after most of the facts are in.

  6. john personna says:

    Japan can’t go off nuclear without changing the way they live. No more big screen tvs.

  7. Jimbino says:

    In the future, Japan should take advantage of its considerable engineering expertise to negotiate with a country like Venezuela, poor in earthquakes, rich in oil and cooling water, but stupid otherwise, to install modern reactors there in exchange for oil.

  8. steve says:

    Jimbino- That would be a plutonium for Chavez program. Not sir it would go over well.

    Steve

  9. Leatherneck says:

    Good thing that PEPCO don’t run any reactors 🙂

    Ever been to the Calvert Cliffs reactor?

    TC

  10. Steven says:

    Other forms of power aren’t without risks. Three and eleven years ago a coal slurry impoundment broke in Tennessee and caused a mess. Thirty years back another one killed over a hundred people. Miners routinely die extracting the stuff from the ground. But after these accidents there wasn’t a general hand-wringing over whether coal is too dangerous to be a viable source of energy. And then there is the pumping of the the waste products into the atmosphere…

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    How close are those Illinois reactors from the New Madrid Fault?

    Far enough that if an earthquake of the magnitude of the 1812 earthquake struck it would be felt but wouldn’t do any structural damage. The 1812 was the most severe earthquake to strike the eastern United States in history.

  12. DC Loser says:

    Ever been to the Calvert Cliffs reactor?

    That one is owned by Constellation Energy.

  13. Rock says:

    Why aren’t we all dead by now considering how many nuclear bombs the USA tested during the last 50 plus years or so? Is a nuclear accident in Japan about to finish us off?

    Between 16 July 1945 and 23 September 1992 the United States of America conducted (by official count) 1054 nuclear tests and two nuclear attacks.

    Here is a list of nuclear explosions around the world during those years, including tests by other countries.

    And a video if you haven’t seen it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAnqRQg-W0k&feature=related

  14. anjin-san says:

    @ Rock

    > Is a nuclear accident in Japan about to finish us off?

    Finish us off? No. But tragically, a lot of folks are probably going to get cancer. Lots of animals too. Guess that’s not a problem for you.

    @ Plunk

    > Calm rational analysis and risk assessments should be done but not today, not next month, maybe next year after most of the facts are in.

    The calm rational analysis and risk assessment for those budget model reactors was done in the early 70s, and this has been a known risk for almost 40 years. But, as the right keeps telling us, the only function of a business is to make a profit, so trivia like safety just does not get a lot of attention. So here we are.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-15/ge-staff-quit-in-1970s-over-design-in-japan-reactor-abc-says.html

  15. Rock says:

    anjin-san,

    Guess that’s not a problem for you.

    Once again, please stop putting putting words in my mouth. I was simply pointing out the hyperventilation by the press about the accident. The have now backed off their initial reports that we here in the US would be horribly affected by it. Nevertheless, they created a bit of panic when it wasn’t necessary. They seen to have forgotten that we’ve been nuking ourselves for years.

  16. anjin-san says:

    > The have now backed off their initial reports that we here in the US would be horribly affected by it.

    Speaking strictly for myself, I am concerned about the people in Japan being horribly affected by it. But that’s just me.

    > Why aren’t we all dead by now considering how many nuclear bombs the USA tested during the last 50 plus years or so?

    > I was simply pointing out the hyperventilation by the press about the accident.

    It seems there are multiple sources of hyperventilation.

  17. Rock says:

    Speaking strictly for myself, I am concerned about the people in Japan being horribly affected by it. But that’s just me.

    So am I, anjin-san, so am I. I pray every day for the health and safety of the Japanese people in this crisis. We all should.

  18. anjin-san says:

    > So am I, anjin-san, so am I. I pray every day for the health and safety of the Japanese people in this crisis

    Good for you. Laying off snarky remarks about the dangers of radiation might be a classy move at this point.