For all of us living here in Romania, I suppose it is rather good news that we’re nowhere near being downwind of any radioactivity (Rom) from Japan’s crumbling nuclear reactors.
For people living in Japan, however, it looks like there might be some serious trouble. For the best round-up of information on this topic (in English), I recommend this link.
Why am I mentioning all of this on a blog about Romania? Because it ties into exactly what I’ve been talking about many times before – people have a horrendous blind spot when it comes to predicting the future.
I have a lot of respect for the Japanese. Their country was a flattened, smoking wreck 70 years ago, bombed conventionally and by nuclear weapons, and yet today they’ve turned it into a modern wonder. They have the intelligence, the diligence and the capabilities to produce some pretty amazing technological marvels. And yet:
The question that arises out of the Japanese situation, though, is what happens when the actual earthquake exceeds the predicted risk. It’s become clear that the Fukushima reactors were not built to withstand a 9.0-magnitude quake, but rather were built on the expectation that a 7.9 was the maximum the plant would experience.
Again and again and again you will see when it comes to disasters (natural, financial or otherwise) that “nobody could’ve predicted” that a series of concatenating events would culminate in design parameters being breached.
You’d think building a nuclear reactor (or four!) in a country that regularly suffers earthquakes would be a bad idea. Yet all of the smart people went ahead and did it. And they thought they could “foresee” all the potential problems, including earthquakes, and provide for them.
Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Japan’s nuclear reactors at the moment and I sure hope things get under control soon before something truly awful happens.
In case you didn’t know, Romania has a nuclear reactor as well – ominously named Cernavoda. And yes, it is located in one of this country’s earthquake-prone regions. Not only that, it has had several technical failures in the last couple of years, including one in 2010 (Rom) that led to a temporary shutdown.
Romania is currently seeking to expand Cernavoda and my non-sleeping internet eye has picked up stories lately about foreign firms bidding to invest in that expansion. I also note that roughly a fifth of Romania’s electricity is currently generated by that plant.
And yet I wonder… is this a good idea? Do we really need nuclear energy? And what happens – God forbid – if something goes wrong and all the safety containment measures fail? If it can happen in America and Japan, it can happen in Romania. Nobody likes to think about that but yet think about it we must.
Внимание, внимание! Уважаемые товарищи! Городской совет народных депутатов сообщает, что в связи с аварией на Чернобыльской атомной электростанции в городе Припяти складывается неблагоприятная радиационная обстановка.