Japan is not a novice when dealing with earthquakes. The country is so well-prepared in case one strikes that even elementary students are knowledgeable about emergency procedures.
But this recent occurrence is different. The 9.0-magnitude earthquake, the largest recorded in Japan, triggered a tsunami, a number of smaller earthquakes – and a meltdown of Fukushima nuclear plant.
As if that weren’t enough, now Japan has to deal with an enemy that cannot be touched, smelled or heard. It spreads almost undetected and uncontained. The enemy is called radiation, and it has found its way into our 21st century vocabulary.
Undeniably, Japan is one of the world’s foremost technological powerhouses. It is the world’s second largest producer of automobiles, Asia’s leading country in Nobel Prize recipients in science, and owns the Shinkansen train, noted as one of the world’s fastest.
Despite the long list of achievements in the technological department, Japan was slow to respond to the Fukushima plant meltdown. The country has tried every possible way to contain the risk of radiation to avoid a disaster similar to Chernobyl. Nevertheless, the process is still ongoing and success is still in doubt.
Radiation is a new enemy that is invented by humans. It is the product of ignorance. It is a consequence of our wasteful lifestyle that created a high demand for energy. And maybe the damage to the reactor happened because there is an ounce of arrogance in each of us.
There is a belief that men have conquered nature.
The world never questioned the risk of building nuclear reactors in a country that reports 1,000-1,500 earthquakes each year because many thought Japan would be equipped to handle a strong earthquake. Besides, Japan has a long background dealing with frequent earthquakes, and it always came out just fine.
This confidence led the country to build more nuclear plants to generate the energy it needed to fuel its economy and industry.
As last reported by the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Japan has 54 nuclear reactors.
How could a country so prone to earthquake have so many nuclear reactors?
It was necessary. It was necessary, that is it.
Unfortunately, we cannot fully prepare for a meltdown, at least not now. Nuclear energy is necessary because of our wasteful lifestyle, so it is us that caused the problem. However, we must remember that when we think our technology is one step ahead of nature, nature can easily prove us wrong.