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Russia Today: “Tsunami wave spills over seawall, smashes boats, cars”

While watching it, my knees felt weak. In general, I feel the world is responding with support for the Japanese people. During the 2008 Sichuan 8.0 magnitude earthquake, I remember supportive reactions from around the world too. In our world seemingly full of conflict, it is kind of weird that it takes tragedies of this proportion to see the “good” in us. And I like this idea too.

  1. March 16th, 2011 at 07:35 | #1

    I feel sympathy for the people of Japan.

    *I do not mean to be preachy, but I fear that in some ways, the Japanese pride in themselves may do more harm to them.

    The disaster reminded me a rather ominous 2006 Japanese movie “Japan Sinks”. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0473064/

    In it, the Japan was sinking into the Ocean in less than 1 year. The Japanese people saved themselves by sticking together and self-sacrifice. It was a well done disaster movie with lots of human emotions, and highlighted many traditional Japanese cultural values.

    But the movie also depicted other nations, such as China, US, etc. as profitting from Japanese disaster. (Not outright nationalism or xenophobia), but depicted essentially any Japanese seeking outside help as either wasting time or outright treasonous.

    I do not criticize the movie, as I wonder if the Japanese mindset is one that values “honor” so much that it does not want to ask for outside help, and want to do it alone.

    I think Japan is sometimes perceived as xenophobic, (with its extremely strict close door immigration policies), because Japan feels a sign of weakness to let outsiders come in and “help”, either in development or in disasters.

    Some Japanese express this as “Japan can say no”(an actual Japanese book title) or Japan does it alone.

    *As I watch and listen to the news on this disaster, I heard a US expat say that Japanese disaster relief workers are sent into the radioactive reactors day in and day out, getting more than several 100 times of the normal radiation, and they do it without complaining, and they have no troubles getting more volunteers who sacrifice themselves in the same manner, out of a sense of “honor”.

    I think many of us would admire such honor bound courage and sacrifice.

    But I also feel sad that human beings should sacrifice themselves in such ways.

    Japan should ask for more help, and should not feel dishonored to ask for more help. And the world should help Japan, share the burden for the Japanese People.

    Japan should not feel alone or go it alone, especially in this crisis.

  2. March 16th, 2011 at 08:56 | #2

    I too just felt sick watching the recent footage from Japan, and hearing the stories from my friends there. Yesterday I was at a conference at the EPO and a number of Japanese professionals were there who had just flown from Japan, all of them described the atmosphere in Japan as being one of great fear. Friends of mine working in Japan are leaving the country, even one from Osaka, which is a long way from the Fukushima reactors.

    Similarly, as a physics graduate who has often spoken up in support of the nuclear power industry, I feel a mixture of shame and despair at what has happened at Fukushima. I once even wrote an essay saying that the kind of failure we have seen at Fukushima was essentially impossible without the reactor itself being completely destroyed since it would require the simultaneous disabling of both the primary and back-up cooling systems. Yet this is exactly what happened there.

    For everyone who knows Japan, and many who don’t, this has just been heart-breaking.

  3. silentvoice
    March 16th, 2011 at 09:10 | #3


    Asking for help is not weakness. Countries need to help one another.

  4. Jojo
    March 16th, 2011 at 13:56 | #4

    Natural disaster is our greatest enemy, not between different nations and races.

  5. March 16th, 2011 at 14:47 | #5

    The idea link I provided above is an article from Zhang Monan pushing for this idea of an international disaster relief organization.

    After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Japan had pushed for a East Asian regional body too to do the same.

    I recall then China was trying hard to tell some Chinese citizens to stay out of the area despite their desire to want to physically help. This had to do with the fact that roads are limited and other constraints mean that you cannot simply throw more bodies at the problem.

    The agency responsible for rescue and recovery will have to rationalize how to employ help from within and outside the country in the most effective way.

    Command and control needs to be very quickly set up, and all the people who are able to help can tap into it to take instructions.

  6. pug_ster
    March 16th, 2011 at 21:36 | #6

    I got a bad feeling about the nuclear disaster when they start using chinook helicopters to spray seawater in the reactors. The only difference between what is happening now and Chernobyl is that the reactor didn’t explode. Then again, maybe it already did happened and we don’t even know it. US is sending one of those spy drones going to the nuke site to survey the damage and maybe we are going to get a better picture. Japan says that they are going to send a power line to the power plant itself and power up the generators so they can cool down the reactors. Let’s hope that they succeed.

    Before this incident, Naoto Kan was pretty confident about shoring up its armed forces against China. I got a feeling that for the next few years Kan and their successors will spend most of its efforts to rebuild from the Tsunami damage instead.

  7. March 17th, 2011 at 05:00 | #7

    @pug_ster – My understanging is that what made the Chernobyl disaster particularly bad was its use of graphite (i.e., the stuff in pencils) as a moderating material in the core (i.e., essentially stuff necessary for making a nuclear reaction self-sustaining). Once cooling of the core was lost due to an accident, and the core had exploded, this graphite, amounting to many tons, then burned for several days. This fire was intense, so the radioactive smoke from it rose high into the air and was scattered far and wide.

    The Fukushima reactors are water-moderated. Even though they have exploded, and even if the explosions had managed to scatter the reactor material, there is no hot fire to help raise the particles into the atmosphere. Even a total destruction of a reactor by the kinds of explosions we have seen so far, without accompanying intense fire, would lead only to heavy local contamination, and not the widespread contamination which happened after the Chernobyl disaster.

    The only other thing I might add is that the people working to control this disaster are heroes of the truest kind. Whilst we may be familiar with the idea of soldiers risking death to protect their country, the people who are working at Fukushima are risking possible death and a high-likelihood of ill-health to directly protect their fellow Japanese from the same threat. Whilst the British government and others have asked their citizens to leave Tokyo (which is not under any immediate threat) these people have volunteered to go directly to where the risk is greatest, not to fight an enemy, but to save their country and their countrymen. I hope they succeed, and I hope the Japanese government does its utmost to recognise and honour their sacrifice, and care for those who get sick and their dependents.

    Here’s what one of the famous “Liquidators” who worked to control the Chernobyl disaster said when asked if they knew the risks of what they were doing:

    “Of course we knew! If we’d followed regulations, we would never have gone near the reactor. But it was a moral obligation—our duty. We were like kamikaze.”

    When the Chernobyl disaster happened, much approbrium was heaped on the Soviet government for its attempted intial cover-up of the disaster. However, once the sacrifices of the Liquidators became known, they were highly praised the world-over, despite their government’s wrong-doing. The description of men volunteering to swim through highly radioactive water beneath the burning core itself in order to block outlets which might otherwise released the water into the environment (and potentially caused a much larger explosion) has also, for me, been one of the highest acts of bravery I have ever heard of.

    My hope is that people in other countries can also set aside whatever feelings they have for the Japanese and Japanese government policy and simply do what they can to help where possible, and where not possible simply recognise the virtues of those who do help.

  8. March 17th, 2011 at 05:09 | #8

    Ooops, just check the details of the above story – the names of the men who swam through the radioactive pool were Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bezpalov, and Boris Baranov, and they released (not blocked) the water valves so that it could be pumped out. Incredibly brave men despite my inept telling of their story.

  9. TonyP4
    March 17th, 2011 at 07:57 | #9

    The designs of Chinese new nuclear reactors are based on 25 year old technology that do not have the same containment as today’s. Hope they will do something about it if it is not too late.

    Reactors should never be built on fault zones. China would be affected more if the earthquake were on the west side of Japan.

    Compare how they Japanese face the disaster and the Chinese rushed to buy salt. Draw your own conclusion/observation.

    I feel sorry for the Chinese who said bad thing on this disaster esp. the younger generation.

  10. March 17th, 2011 at 08:09 | #10

    Actually TonyP4,

    China’s new nuclear reactors are brand new Pebble Bed Reactors (Helium cooled), much newer, and much safer than the Japanese reactors.

  11. TonyP4
    March 17th, 2011 at 08:50 | #11

    This is what I read from the net that China and India are using older design. The pebble bed reactors are only actively explored in China and South Africa (originally a German inventory and some research in USA), but the larger ones are pretty much from US/West. It is interesting that China has the transfer of nuclear reactor from GE as part of the deal.

  12. pug_ster
    March 17th, 2011 at 09:16 | #12


    Yes I agree that the area of damage would probably be less than Chernobyl, but the problem with the location of this nuke plant is close to the sea. It is possible if this material is not contained locally, this material could spread to the sea (that explains why many Chinese are trying to buy salt.) I think Japan should prepare for the inevitable, that means they have to plan on installing a sarcophagus if all else fails so prevent the radioactive material from spreading to a wider area. Even if they had managed to cool down the reactors, they have to build some kind of sarcophagus anyways because of the breach in the reactor.

  13. March 17th, 2011 at 09:58 | #13

    Raventhorn is right. Gas-cooled reactors are far safer than water-cooled ones, as they do not have the risk of hydrogen explosion that comes with using water in a high-temperature environment. Currently 4 of this type (Westinghouse’s AP1000 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AP1000 ) are being built, but Westinghouse has been making noises about orders for 100.

    However the most numerous of the new reactors being built in China at the moment is the CPR-1000 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CPR-1000 ) which is a water-cooled reactor. 15 of these are being built.

  14. TonyP4
    March 18th, 2011 at 05:19 | #14

    However, gas-cooled is not pebble cooled. I bet pebble reactor is the safest but not economical feasible for larger reactors.

  15. TonyP4
    March 19th, 2011 at 07:32 | #15

    Finally I found one of the articles. This one is from LA times, so it is credible.

    It said:

    Despite foreign assistance, China’s nuclear industry is still playing catch-up, with most reactors being built with designs based on 30-year-old technology. Most of China’s new reactors are being constructed along the nation’s eastern coast, making them vulnerable to tsunamis, experts said. Questions also remain whether China will have enough qualified workers and safety regulators.

  16. March 22nd, 2011 at 06:38 | #16


    The article is ambiguous. Westinghouse is said to be constructing most of the Chinese reactors, but Westinghouse’s design (gas cooled) is from 2005, not 30 years old.

    Additionally, Westinghouse design is only part of the approved plans for new reactors.

    Pebble Bed Reactors (also gas cooled) based upon recent German design (prototyped in Chinese University) should be constituting about 1/3 to 1/2 of all the new reactors.

    “Questions also remain whether China will have enough qualified workers and safety regulators.”

    That’s a very ambiguous statement. It’s questionable whether any country will have “enough” safety regulators.

  17. TonyP4
    March 22nd, 2011 at 11:42 | #17

    Raventhorn, I believe the first 20 or so nuclear reactors are all water cooled and based on old technology and the later ones including Westinghouse’s AP10Ks (i.e. longer time to go on-line) are based on newer technology and most if not all of them are gas cooled.

    I do not hear any news or get a lot of Google hits on pebble bed reactors, so I assume they’re not for commercial use. There are some description on reactors from Wikipedia.

  18. March 23rd, 2011 at 06:21 | #18

    Chinese nuclear reactor plans are easily modifiable. They have done so in the past for other major projects.

    The older style reactors may very likely get scrapped or traded for newer designs with new contracts. They have the money to spend, and they rather spend it on newer technologies where they can get the bigger bang for tech transfers.

    Or they may get scaled down for lower power production, or primarily for nuclear waste recycling/regeneration/repurposing/storage.

    *The point is, they have to try and see. China can’t learn if it doesn’t try. And now it is necessary to build up the reactors to reduce consumption of fossil fuel.

  19. TonyP4
    March 23rd, 2011 at 07:54 | #19

    Even the AP1000 China will primarily use for larger, in-land reactor is water cooled.

    Building a reactor takes years and a lot of planning, so I do not believe they can change much esp. with the first 25 reactors that will be on-line soon.

  20. March 23rd, 2011 at 08:21 | #20

    AP1000, even as water cooled, is less than 10 years old in design.

    For these plants in China, they started planning in 2008, operation in 2013-15. That’s pretty fast. I have no doubt that they have altered the plans multiple times already, and probably will alter them a few more times.

    With these large projects, it is often necessary to change the plans several times during the years of construction. Things change, new technologies might come along, new equipment might come along, new fixes to old problems.

    Especially with China doing these projects, it is far more flexible than Western countries at changing plans, given that it has the money to spend.

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