Thoughts on Japan

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader, like so many others around the world, has been thinking about Japan quite a bit since the 9.0 earthquake that occured last week. The images of the tsunami were gripping. Your Maximum Leader remembers looking repeatedly at the images of the black wave rolling across the Japanese countryside and trying to get his mind around what he was seeing. It was both exactly like and nothing like what he thought the tsunami would be like. He realized that the images were real, but in a way they seemed so… calm. It was nothing like a hollywood production would have it. In his mind he thought he’d see sparking electric lines, explosions, people running in front of the wave… He thought that it would be something like a Michael Bay movie.

But the reality was much worse. He’s glad he hasn’t seen the images with sound. He imagines the sound of the wave would be terrible.

Your Maximum Leader wishes there was something he could do directly to help the people of Japan (or just one Japanese person) beyond just sending aid money… But there really isn’t…

Of course, your Maximum Leader has been following the goings-on at the Daiichi nuclear plant. Your Maximum Leader has long been a proponent of nuclear power. In light of this crisis, he remains a proponent of nuclear power. He became enraged when he read a tweet that appeared in his timeline that read something to the effect of “Nuclear power is billed as reliable, safe and green. It is none of these.” That pushed some of your Maximum Leader’s buttons. He’s challenge just about anyone to find any technology (of any sort) that is safe and reliable during a 9.0 level earthquake and its immediate after effects. That Toyota Prius might be safe, reliable and green - until it falls into a crevasse opened by an earthquake and is then tossed into a house by a resultant tsunami. (And don’t get your Maximum Leader started on the long-term disposal problems associated with the batteries that power hybrid cars… That is another subject all together.)

Your Maximum Leader, and any sensible person, realizes that there is risk involved with nuclear power. The Japanese (and the French) have more experience than anyone in mitigating that risk. Indeed, the fact that the Daiichi plant has not exploded in Chernobyl fashion should be a testament to the risk mitigation success that has already been occuring. Radioactive steam being released into the atmosphere is a bad thing by any accounting, but a massive radioactive explosion with an exposed plant core is a much worse situation. Again, your Maximum Leader challenges anyone to find anything made by man that will stand up - unscathed - from a 9.0 earthquake.

(NB: What do you think San Francisco or Oakland or San Jose would look like after a 9.0 earthquake? Just askin…)

Your Maximum Leader thinks it is also important to note, what has hardly been noted in the news reporting, that the Daiichi plant was scheduled to be shut down later this year as it is 40 years old and at the end of its useful life. People who are clamoring to stop construction of new reactors seem to be thinking that plant design hasn’t advanced in 40 years. The new plants are going to be safer and more efficent than the old. This is not to say that they are completely without risk, they are not; but they are better than they were in the past.

Your Maximum Leader hopes for rapid containment of the problems at Daiichi. He hopes that the men (and women) who are fighting the fires in Daiichi will survive this ordeal. He remembers the stories of the firefighters at Chernobyl (a much worse disaster) who volunteered to fight the fires and stop the disaster knowing full well they would surely die as a result. (Your Maximum Leader also knows that some at Chernobyl were ordered to death to fight the fires, their story is no less poignant.)

Your Maximum Leader prays for the people of Japan.

Carry on.

2 Comments »
Polymath said:

The assumption that plant design has not advanced past generation 1, or that this is somehow like Chernobyl is more than troubling. I believe it is willful ignorance.

Chernobyl had no containment, and the reactor was cooled with graphite, which caught on fire .

I am with you - nuke power is safe, efficient, and green despite what some like to tell us.

May the hand of God be with the Japanese people.



Huck Foley, groveling minion said:

“Your Maximum Leader wishes there was something he could do directly to help the people of Japan (or just one Japanese person) beyond just sending aid money… But there really isn’t…”

But sir but sir there might be. If I may, in my minionly way, be crass and opportunistic, there’s a huge bunch of bargains to be had in buying shares of Japanese companies, which seem to be on sale at crazy discounts. Rather than embarrass myself with any dumb stock-picking, let me instead embarrass myself with a prediction:
Over the next five-or-so years, at least one-fifth of [Everything In Japan, exclamation point] will be getting rebuilt, brand new, in a brisk, disciplined, energetic way, and probably improved upon in the process. That will be Japanese companies and Japanese workers doing that, so it just seems like a good bet that it will get done right, and that those companies will make money in the process. So it would be good to find a way to bet on that happening, because it will happen.
That’s er all I had to um to say about that.
I’ll uh I’ll uh I’ll just be returning to my duties now …



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