Lessons from Chernobyl 30 Years Later

Source: history.com

Source: history.com

Each April 26, apart from recalling the anniversary of my first ever hard drive crash, I wonder if we have learned anything from Chernobyl.

Thirty years ago on this day, easily the worst peacetime nuclear disaster occurred on this planet. And it leaves us with a big question.

Can nuclear installations be trusted in the hands of the government near population centers?

I wonder why Chernobyl has not made the answer easier for us. Clearly not. Chernobyl is not just a reflection of the horrors of nuclear technology, but it is also an insight into the mindset of the bureaucracy in a country with a massive government.

Granted, such a design mistake has not been repeated since, yet that is not the only danger involved in nuclear reactors.

We probably do not realize the extent of irreversible damage nuclear radiation could cause. Actually, we clearly don’t.

 

Chernobyl released at least 100 times more radiation than the Hiroshima nuclear bomb, according to the BBC. Other sources consider the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone uninhabitable for humans due to dangerous Cesium radiation levels, and that the inhabitable zone would remain dangerous for the next 20,000 years. That’s shocking.

Not to mention the terrible toll the disaster has taken on animal life in the region, with suppressed biodiversity and startling diseases emerging among newborn and children as a result of genetic mutations.

 

Chernobyl disaster literally turned the neighboring Pripyat into a ghost town, which sends chills down your spine.

The nuclear radiation from the disaster spread out as far as Sweden and Western Europe.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

We may hear about it on a day like this, but we never really believe that a nuclear spill or meltdown as in the case of Chernobyl could last for thousands of years.

As of January 2016, 439 nuclear reactors are operating around the world on five continents. While there is no doubt that nuclear technology has only improved over the years and most scientists consider nuclear technology very safe, it hardly changes the lethality of a possible accident.

Fukushima could not have been a harsher reminder of our vulnerability. If a highly advanced industrial nation such as Japan cannot handle the breakdown of a nuclear reactor in the aftermath of a natural disaster, even worse can be expected from countries with far poorer government infrastructure, such as Pakistan and India.

As a matter of fact, some reports suggest that the fallout from Fukushima is far worse than Chernobyl and Hiroshima and that the worst effects of the accident are yet to materialize. However, the reporting of the risk has largely to do with the politics of the source as well, there is little doubt that Chernobyl was incomparable in its consequences due to its meltdown nature.

Fukushima also reveals is that no nuclear facility is completely disaster proof and that the potential fallout is nothing short of an environmental apocalypse.

I leave this post by pondering what to make of nuclear energy policy. Nuclear energy has its benefits as clean energy and the probability of nuclear accidents is considered very low. Furthermore, with maintaining nuclear weapons becoming almost a necessity for world powers, why not just take the risk of building nuclear reactors for power generation as well?

After all, they are well protected anyway.

But isn’t the risk of the pervasiveness of civil nuclear power plants unique in its own right? Despite the fact that most of the warnings about the potential danger of this mode of generating power are dismissed as pure alarmism.

Clearly, the only lesson that is visible after 30 years is that we are only building more nuclear reactors.

But what if we were building around our neighborhoods, with our own hands, the same disaster that we feared and dreaded so much during the uncertain Cold War?

Sadly, the evidence that we have witnessed over the years is just too overwhelming to ignore.

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Keep Politics Out of the Olympics

Source: spokeo.com under fair use

Source: spokeo.com under fair use

Protesting Russia’s discriminatory anti-gay laws, a number of gay activist and human rights groups have called for boycotting the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014. It has been reported that Russia has initiated a counter campaign for improving the image of their government. The International Olympic Committee has been criticized for going on with business as usual and saying that the law does not violate the Olympics charter.

While the Russian campaign is said to have defended their position on the anti-gay law, I am critical of the calls for boycott for a very different reason. I am against Russia for having such cruel laws but I am also against the unreasonable idea of boycotting Olympics, regardless of the reason.

I think Olympics is a universal event, perhaps the only one of its kind in the world, and I want political activism out of it. I do not approve of boycotting the Olympics, no matter how moral the reason may be. And by the way, there is no such thing as anti-gay Olympics, people are anti-gay and homophobic.

Source: rusalgbt.com

Source: rusalgbt.com

Coming from a country that has discriminatory laws against certain communities, I understand what it means to live in a society that treats people on the basis of their faith, race or sexual orientation. However, the importance and moral righteousness of the cause do not necessarily justify every form of protest.

I know everyone has a different priority, but to me the idea of all the nations and people of the world coming together on a platform meant for sports and not anything else is very important as well, while recognizing the right and freedom to carry out such a protest that calls for a boycott.

Source: sylviagarza.wordpress.com under fair use

Source: sylviagarza.wordpress.com under fair use

Olympics is one of the few, if not the only event, in which the whole world comes together and participates with a spirit of sportsmanship and global unity. It is always an inspirational moment seeing all the flags together in one arena. I don’t want a single flag missing which is supposed to be there. And I don’t want this idea to be destroyed by political activism, even when it is about civil liberties.

I am all for criticizing Putin’s Russia mercilessly on this issue, especially for those out on Russian streets, but I am not entirely sure if calling for boycotting Olympics is the right kind of protest. I have respect for the cause, just not for this ridiculous, unreasonable and disappointing form of protest. Never for calls for boycott. Especially when the Olympics flame has just been lit in Greece and at a time when the OIC cannot possibly change the venue. Perhaps such protests would make more sense when the organization of another Olympics is allotted to Russia.

The trouble is that if you bring political activism, alright let’s call it human rights activism, into Olympics, there is no end to it. Every four years, nations from every corner of the world, every single one, come to wherever the event is taking place, setting aside all their political differences. Jeopardizing it with politics simply kills the very idea of Olympics.

Summer 2020 Olympics are to be held in Japan. should we boycott it because they indulge in whale hunting? We should have boycotted Beijing 2008 Olympics for reasons not too different from those raised in Russia, especially their internet censorship. No one did. And imagine all the nations of the world engaging in a vendetta of Olympics boycott for one reason or another. It is just a stupid idea, which I am glad is not being heeded by those who understand what Olympics stand for.

Your way of protest tells a lot about you.

Pressuring governments is good. Jeopardizing the Olympics is not.

How to Stop a War?

Source: The Guardian

So what is the best way to end a war?

Pretty simple. Obliterate your enemy. Wipe every trace of life from their cities.

But is it really so?

Unfortunately, the people, who fight wars under the impression that they are saving humanity, forget that the people that they are fighting, who are not very dissimilar to themselves, have mostly absolutely no concern about what happens to the people that are fighting on their side. Or there would hardly ever be wars in the first place.

They are so blinded by the lustful glory of feasting on the spoils of war that they lose all connection with the pains and pleasures of flesh and bone that belonged to another soul. They are so absorbed in their greed for power and control that they have absolutely no regard for anyone outside their league. This is what they call the good life. Indeed.

You can talk about it incessantly, untiringly and repetitively like a record machine and yet that would have no effect. Your words will only fall on deaf ears.

It is often said that Hiroshima, Nagasaki and even Dresden were necessary. That they were used to hasten the end of the war.

That the Japanese were a very evil and wicked people during the Second World War.

If they were evil people and if it was necessary to subject them to one of the most horrifying military weapon experiments of all time, then wouldn’t those carrying it out would become evil and wicked themselves?

And wouldn’t they deserve the very same or even worse treatment themselves?

These are indeed tough questions to ask but all they do is to help us arrive to a simple conclusion. The following were the precise reasons for attacking Hiroshima, Nagasaki and even Dresden.

The Dead of Dresden – Source: whale.to

  1. These were perfectly justifiable acts of war.
  2.  In wars, you destroy and annihilate your enemy, without regard to human life on the other side, without attaching any emotions and sensitivity to the victims.
  3. To test the effects and consequences of a new monster weapon created by science to help empower man and to make him feel good about how much control he has over destroying the world, in other words, harnessing the power of the atom.
  4. To help establish that the attacking power is the strongest in the world and must not be challenged again.

All these reasons make perfectly good sense and will be appreciated and accepted by almost anyone, even the suffering parties. However, the problem begins when the attacking powers start to associate these atrocious and senselessly barbaric acts with moral righteousness and start preaching why carrying out these attacks were necessary for humanity.

That is complete nonsense. Just like no wars are necessary, so are no such atrocious acts of war.

Furthermore, you just don’t stop an already dying war by completely squeezing all humanity out of your cause and squeezing all life out of your enemy. You can even accomplish the feat with diplomacy and going to the extent of making substantial and reasonable threats to your enemy. The facts and the politics of the time stand in their own right, but the ostentatious vanity and the needless cruelty of these events are simply too obvious to be ignored and appreciated.

Source: Boston.com/US National Archives

My sympathy with those who do.

But then again, war crimes have always been justified with moral reasons that make good sense to the people of that age, and still are. It will all happen again.

I would prefer and appreciate if you would at least drop the hypocrisy of moral righteousness.

What the World Can Learn from Japan

Fukushima Nuclear Plant Disaster (Source: blogs.cas.suffolk.edu)

I have immense admiration and respect for the people of Japan. Not only because they have endured some of the most atrocious acts of war and constant threats of natural disasters with great bravery and resilience but also because they have decided to change their lives for the better by at least minimizing the man-made threats around them. I don’t know, maybe it takes massive misfortune to realize how precious life is and how responsible it is to make the world a safer place for others. You may not always agree with the Japanese, such as some of their eccentric dietary habits leading to whale hunting, which has been criticized widely by the Western media, but their approach towards Nuclear energy is something that the entire world, not just the West, should learn something from.

Probably the best piece of news that I read in my recent memory was that Japan had shut down it’s last nuclear reactor. This is a delightful development for anyone who realizes the risks of nuclear reactors present anywhere on the planet. The greatest thing to see was the Japanese people marching on to the roads and actually celebrating the shutting down of the last nuclear reactor. There were warnings that Japan could face a power shortage crisis if nuclear energy is abandoned for power production but the people insisted on going ahead with the closure of the power plants to make their country a much safer place. Call it just a reaction to the Fukushima nuclear plant leak after the recent devastating earthquake if you will, but it is an important step indeed.

While the idea of abandoning power generation through nuclear energy seems very right and noble and uncontroversial and whatnot, it is not really greeted so cheerfully around the world, whether you like it or not. As a matter of fact, people defend power generation through nuclear energy very enthusiastically, saying it is the safest way in the world to produce power. The primary rationale in Europe is that this method of power generation has very low carbon footprint. While that is right, but when you consider the potential risk to the surrounding populations, it does not seem like a very good idea, because Europe is not a very large continent in terms of area and population though it is also not one which is so sparsely populated. As a matter of fact, it is not just about Europe, a part of the world with a history of long wars. Even sparsely populated countries such as Russia would still be at great risk of the occurrence of such accidents.

I think humans tend to get a bit too selfish, as in most of other issues, when they discuss why nuclear energy is dangerous. All we think about is the risk of a potential disaster for the surrounding populations of the area but the responsibility is much greater than that. Because this encourages the proponents of nuclear energy for the construction of plants away from population. While that is the right thing to do in the first place, does it prevent the potential contamination of the environment and the spread of the nuclear waste to other areas, as we witnessed in the nuclear accidents in the past? Of course, you should be pissed about nuclear tests anyway, absolutely unacceptable. The point here is that we are putting the entire environment of the planet in danger because of exposure to nuclear contamination and that jeopardizes all the flora and fauna of the world and not just human life. Furthermore, it endangers the very possibility of life on the planet in the long run.

The fact that we often ignore is that there is no place “safe enough” for building a nuclear plant, let alone for testing a nuclear weapon. There is no place immune to a natural disaster and probably there is no nuclear plant which is absolutely infallible and invincible.

Call it cowardice and losing a great energy source but energy at the cost of safety in such a proportion is certainly not a good trade.

The Japanese have learned this lesson the hard way but I appreciate the way they have reacted to adversity every time it knocks their door.

It is time the world learns this lesson from them.

While there is still time.

Imagine Revenge For This

Hiroshima After the Bombing - Source: Boston.com

As discussed in the previous post, revenge is almost a common “instinctive behavior” among humans and whenever they are attacked by their enemies, unless their minds are polluted and adulterated by the ideas of non-violence, they consider it important to avenge the disgrace and the damage, which perhaps is a sign of an intelligent species. 66 years ago, this day, in the final days of World War II, the United States military dropped a “Little Boy” over the Japanese port city of Hiroshima, and three days later, a “Fat Man” on Nagasaki. The war had almost ended, but soon after this miraculous incident, the declaration of surrender was issued by the Japanese. A great victory.

Perhaps this particular attack was revenge for Pearl Harbor, another atrocious act of war, but the question that many ask is whether this really was justifiable as a revenge. It’s actually even absurd to consider that for a second, let alone making a comparison. The loss of lives in any case is equal, without considering the death toll from both the events. However, the magnitude of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was overwhelmingly horrific to say the least.

Whatever may be the reasons for bombing the two Japanese cities, since it has been one of the greatest mysteries baffling people around the world for more than half a century, the extent of pain and damage caused by it is terrifyingly evident. Though it can be said with confidence that the people responsible for the act would have a clear idea, as to some “it saved countless lives”. Possibly. What a sacrifice, but it looked more like a shameless display of power than anything else. The rest of the world and probably the future Japanese generations have been saved the trouble of really knowing much about it in detail due to the limited information resources and telecommunications at the time.

Should such an incident occur in our times, you would instantly witness a live commentary on the social media from an observable distance from which telecommunication systems could operate even if the mainstream news channels choose to overlook the detailed coverage of the event. However, the generation surviving the nuclear attack and those who witnessed the most terrible sight of their lives in the bombing, did actually decide to document the aftermath as much as they could, which can now be found in the respective memorials and museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which any visitor to these cities can conveniently skip when it comes to sightseeing, if anyone chooses those destinations at all for recreation.

From such overwhelming evidence, it is not hard to see what even a very relatively weak nuclear warhead could do to the planet, let alone the thought of its damage on human flesh and bone, and on most of all, nerves.  Imagine a storm-like shockwave hitting you faster than the speed of sound where you are sitting right now, with debris collapsing around you under the pressure of something like 5.0 psi, or lesser, or higher, and if you survive the impact, imagine the scorching heat from the explosion that could burn out your flesh and set your nerves on fire.

Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt

Even if someone is good or lucky enough to survive the impact and the sound and heat from the explosion, they could hardly escape the poisoning of radiation, which can prove to be even more sickening and torturous as you discover its terrible effects with the passage of time, once you realize what in the world really has happened.  It is indeed even a horrific thing to imagine, and even more terrifying is the thought of retaliation for such an action anywhere in the world. If you are living in one of the trouble(-making/expecting)  countries of the world, then the probability of finding yourself in such a situation significantly increases.

It was the same fear that engulfed the world, particularly two nations, during the Cold War era. If you recall all those underground shelters that everyone would want to have. Still ironically, this period saw the greatest number of nuclear explosions on the surface and the atmosphere of the planet than any other period and let us hope that those years maintain that record to their name. With several nations possessing and actively using the nuclear technology, a lot of people believe that rejecting such fears may be a touch too optimistic.

However, apart from strategic conflicts of the modern world, the real question was to consider how outrageously audacious the decision of bombing not one, but two cities, mostly filled with innocent women and children who had little part to play in the war except for their relation to the men of the country and for playing their unavoidable part in its society and economy.

It is indeed a shame for humanity and global powers that the persons responsible for this act have never even been considered to be prosecuted by a tribunal of war crimes. Not that it would do any good, but just saying this because somehow the people around the world are a bit too keen on finding justice, whatever that means.

But then again, war crimes are only committed by the enemy.

To some, the Japanese at the time “made the US to drop the bomb” on these two cities to subdue them, but the point is that the ones who suffered were innocent people who had nothing to do with any policy making whatsoever, as in all wars actually, and no discrimination or error of judgement should be made in questioning those who were responsible, if anyone ever feels the need to do that.

But if you ever have to picture the horrors and pain of what Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks would have been like, just imagine revenge for this.

Consider what would become of the world if we start taking an eye for an eye for this.

Right now, the Japanese are apparently among the most peaceful, thoughtful, disciplined and civilized people in the world.

But after all, they are humans.