Nuclear power has had a controversy attached to it since its earliest days, and this is fuelled by the often public perception that an accident at a nuclear power station is equivalent to dropping a nuclear bomb on a nation. It isn’t, but that’s not to say things couldn’t be as destructive in an invisible way. Radiation is a silent killer, and the lack of understanding by the general public fuels (no pun intended) the misconceptions. I know relatively little about the process of nuclear fusion, but perhaps that awareness of how little I know is the incentive to become fully aware.
What’s been horribly captivating recently is the triple whammy Japan suffered, and the magnificent resiliance human beings can show when against such odds. First an earthquake, second a tsunami, and third a nuclear accident. Obviously the latter two were caused by the earthquake, which has now become the most documented earthquake in history. The findings from this increased study may benefit us all, but with regard to the Fukashima nuclear power station, I’m not sure having nuclear power on an island like Japan is ever going to be as safe as, say, in Britain. The British Isles may well be an island nation, and therefore any station isn’t going to be far from the sea, but then again the UK is extremely unlikely to suffer an earthquake of Japanese magnitude, let alone a tsunami. It makes practical sense to build a nuclear power station next to water, incidentally, so you have plenty of liquid for cooling purposes. However, in Japan, no coastline is going to be very far from the so called Pacific ‘Ring of fire’. Japan is near the joining of several tectonic plates, and if you put your faith in nuclear power, you do so in full knowledge of risks outside of the power plant. Nature can often throw a huge spanner into the works, or to be precise, the earth opening up, followed by a wall of ocean.
Japan’s relationship with the nuclear dream fascinates me because the island has such a fraut history with radiation and nuclear fall-out. The Horoshima and Negasaki bombs remain the only nuclear devices deliberately dropped on a nation, and don’t we all hope that remains the case. Yet the Japanese creative media almost gloried in the destructive possibility of the atom. The far -fetched possibilities of the atomic age could be seen in the likes of Godzilla and the more destructive of the Manga plots. Imagination can take one’s mind from the reality, which can be a comforting thing if you don’t go there all the time. Easier to be more comfortable with the dark side of the atom if it means we get the entertainment of a forty story tall Iguana wrestling with a giant moth in the streets of Tokyo.
The rebuilding of the nation after the 11th March 2011 earthquake and tsunami will take time, and hearts and minds go out to those affected by the disaster. But as their long history of individuality can testify, the Japanese can be nothing but surprising. In custom, creed, creative styles and sartorical expression, they remain an island of great fascination to the West. They lead the way in technological advancement, while having a legacy ofen untouched by the rest of the world. Japan has survived before, with or without help. In triumphing over adversity we may yet see another example of a very human story, done in a very Japanese way.