"Will Anything Change?"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Friday, March 18, 2011

The disaster in Japan as seen on TV gives an appearance of the end of the world. The devastation is beyond comprehension. Each day brings more and more images that are unbelievable in their views of the misery the people are suffering.

It’s amazing to realize someone had a camera in their hand to record events as they unfolded. The footage of boats appearing to be washed over the edge of a waterway, then driven by the waters force under a bridge and crushed defies belief. Houses and cars seen floating down what had once been a roadway. Ships and shipping containers, along with new cars and trucks ready for shipping, all floating in what was once a major ship harbor.

We can all feel the sorrow of those looking for missing family members and their disbelief at what has taken place.

Videos of explosions at nuclear sites seem to have all those who were once thought to be able to handle any disaster clambering for answers. It was said the cooling water needed to divert disaster had been well thought out time and time again. Systems were developed to provide it; electricity to run the pumps to keep the cooling water flowing and petroleum pumps. The petroleum pumps kicked in as expected when the earthquake hit but, perhaps understandably, human error allowed them to run out of fuel. A third system, battery powered, was used until the batteries went dead. This led to the last resort of using sea water, pumped onto the fuel in an attempt to cool it. Fire apparatus was used initially followed by helicopters dumping loads from above.

It appears with all the brilliant engineering used to design, build and put into place complex systems, Mother Nature has overtaken all of it. Although the events are taking place almost half way around the globe, can it affect us? Yes, of course it can and will.

It will disrupt our trading for months, perhaps years. It will affect travel between our two countries and likely wipe out some manufacturing operations, many backed by U.S. companies. The first person I spoke to after witnessing the event said, “There goes the stock market.” I agreed but think there may be an even greater impact than that. It could mean, there goes nuclear power as we now know it.

When this possibility was discussed among those supposedly knowledgeable of the possibilities, I have to wonder if these were the same people that failed to plan for such a disaster. How could they have better predicted? They seemed to know now that Japan was located on the Ring of Fire, where most faults occur in the world. They also knew that earthquakes can and do cause tsunami’s. Didn’t they ever consider the two at the same time occurring (which appears to be common) when locating nuclear plants right along its path. Didn’t they know it could spell the biggest disaster known to mankind?

If this possibility was overlooked in the past, what else has been overlooked in the design of plants in our country? Are there steps we can and should take that will help divert such problems? If the answer is yes, where and when do we start?

It will be and is being said it’s not likely we would have an earthquake or tsunami such as the one that hit Japan but we can only assume no one thought Japan would have them either.

It would seem all have forgotten, “It’s not nice to challenge Mother Nature.”

As I see it, will we change our thinking, do anything differently, take any actions or will we, as we did with our recent Gulf disaster, just let it pass and go on to the next disaster?


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