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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: nuclear crisis, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 3 of 3
1. Chernobyl disaster, 25 years on

On April 26, 1986, the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power station. Now, 25 years later, the current crisis in Fukushima is being called the “worst since Chernobyl.” Will we avoid another disaster? And further more, in another 25 years, how will we feel about nuclear energy?

Below a comprehensive article on Chernobyl by Philip R. Pryde, as it appears in The Oxford Companion to Global Change (Ed. David Cuff & Andrew Goudie). For further reading, I suggest looking to the newly published volume Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know.

The most catastrophic accident ever to occur at a commercial nuclear power plant took place on April 26 , 1986, in northern Ukraine at Chernobyl (Chornobyl’ in Ukrainian). Intense radioactive fallout covered significant portions of several provinces in Ukraine, Belarus, and the Russian Federation, and lesser amounts fell out with precipitation in numerous other European countries. The resultant health and environmental consequences are ongoing, widespread, and serious.

The Chernobyl power station is one of several such complexes built in Ukraine. At the time, it was believed that nuclear energy would entail negligible damage to the environment. Four other large nuclear power complexes have been constructed and Ukraine has a major uranium-mining complex and numerous research facilities.

The Chernobyl reactors utilize a graphite-moderated type of nuclear reactor (Russian acronym, RBMK), with a normal output of 1,000 megawatts. These units are water-cooled and employ graphite rods to control core temperatures. Each reactor houses 1,661 fuel rods that contain mainly uranium-238 plus much smaller amounts of enriched uranium-235. There are several dangers inherent in the design of RBMK-1000 reactors, including the ability of the operators to disengage safety controls, the lack of a containment dome, and the possibility that, at very low power levels, a rapid and uncontrollable increase in heat can occur in the reactor’s core and may result in a catastrophic explosion ( Haynes and Bojcun , 1988 , pp. 2–4).

This was what happened early in the morning of April 26 , 1986. A series of violations of normal safety procedures, committed during a low-power experiment being run on reactor number 4, resulted in a thermal explosion and fire that destroyed the reactor building, exposed the core, and vented vast amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere. Pieces of the power plant itself were found up to several kilometers from the site of the explosion.

This radiation continued to be released into the atmosphere over a period of nine days, with the prevailing winds carrying the radioactive material initially in a northwesterly direction over northern Europe. The winds later shifted to the northeast, carrying fallout southwestward into central Europe and the Balkan peninsula. The overall result was significant radioactive fallout (mainly associated with rainfall) in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Germany (mainly Bavaria), the United Kingdom, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and Switzerland. Lower levels of radioactive deposition were reported in Denmark, France, the Benelux countries, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Yugoslavia, and several other European nations (Medvedev 1990 , chap. 6). The republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were also directly in the path of the initial plume.

In the Soviet Union, the regions that received the highest levels of radioactive contamination were in the northern Ki

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2. Five lessons from Japan

By Anthony Scioli


Recently Japan’s 77 year old Emperor Akihito implored his people “not to abandon hope”.  This may have struck some Westerners as odd since Japan is an Eastern country largely dominated by Buddhism and Shinto, faith traditions that many associate with mindfulness, acceptance and renunciation rather than hope for the future, transformation, or worldly pursuits.  In fact, it is not uncommon to find Westerners who believe that “hope” does not even exist in the East.  For many American intellectuals, particularly psychologists, hope is associated with the pursuit of specific, concrete goals.  Surely the emperor did not have this kind of hope in mind when he made his appeal?

Hope is not an exclusively western, Judeo-Christian virtue.  There are words for hope in Apache (ndahondii) and Swahili (matumaini) as well as Persian (omid), to name just a few examples.  The largest lab within the International Space Station is called “Kibou”, which means “hope” in Japanese.  But what is hope?  Is it one thing or many things?  What can we learn about hope from the Japanese experience?  In turn, what can the Japanese learn from “hope”?   Can these lessons be combined to form a better psycho-social-spiritual disaster kit?

The kanji for hope

What can we learn about hope from the Japanese?

It is true that hope is partly about goals and mastery.  However, while academic psychologists have tended to conceptualize hope in terms of goal expectancies and narrow-focused probability estimates, the hopes of the common man or woman tend to be more transcendent, more global, and value-laden.  A hope is not a wish.  Unlike optimism, hope is not ego-centered but collaborative, rooted in empowerment and focused on a higher plane of success.   Ironically, the well-known “secondary” or “indirect” control processes (sometimes called “soft power” in business circles) favored in the East are more line with the nature of hopeful mastery than academic psychology’s goal-centered view of hope.   In Japan, the story of the “Fukushima Fifty” has provided a good example of collaborative mastery oriented around a higher goal.  These are the fifty employees of the damaged Fukushima nuclear power company that agreed to continue in the effort to stabilize the plant despite the inevitable exposure to toxic levels of radiation.

Hope is about attachment.  In fact, attachments are probably the most important wellspring for the development of hope. However, if you peruse mainstream psychology, you will find little on hope and attachment.  The one exception is Erik Erikson who believed that trust was the root of basic hopefulness.   The philosopher Gabriel Marcel agreed with Erikson but added openness to the attachment portion of the hope equation. Again, it is curious that this dimension of hope is brought into bolder relief through contact with Japan, albeit a collectivist society, but one not typically associated with this presumably “Christian virtue”.

During a crisis, levels of civility, trust, and openness can quickly plummet.  This is unfortunate because these attachment-related aspects of hope can function as literal life-savers during an earthquake, flood, or other major disaster.

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3. Japanese Nuclear Crisis Explained Through Animated Toilet Humor

“Nuclear Boy Has a Stomachache” explains the nuclear crisis in Japan through animation. The cute scatalogical analogies illustrate the power of animation to creatively summarize complex ideas, but the positive spin on the situation reeks of propaganda. It would be interesting to learn who commissioned the piece.


Cartoon Brew: Leading the Animation Conversation | Permalink | No comment | Post tags: , , ,

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