" An irrigation dam reportedly burst in the north-east Fukushima prefecture and homes were washed away. But the greatest concern was for the safety of four nuclear reactors in the area."
doesn't sound like a hydro dam to me...On Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 9:22 AM, Franta, Jaroslav <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
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Anybody know which dam this was ? (Thnx)
Don't fall victim to nuclear phobia
Geoff Strong, Senior writer at The Age
March 21, 2011
When the magnitude-9 earthquake hit Japan last Friday week, a dam used for hydroelectric power in the Fukushima district collapsed, obliterating, according to some reports, 1800 homes. It is not known how many people were killed in the torrent, but it is likely to be hundreds at least.
In March 1979, another hydro dam, known as Machu II in the Indian state of Gujurat, also collapsed due to an earthquake, killing at least 2500. Neither event received much media publicity. They were overshadowed by failures in a much more emotionally sensitive power source - nuclear.
The Fukushima dam story has been overwhelmed by the crisis at the nearby Fukushima power complex. In 1979, the Machu II disaster coincided with a name fused into the anti-nuclear mantra - Three Mile Island - even though that event caused no documented fatalities.
The far worse Soviet disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 killed a documented 53 in the vicinity and an unknown number of others - but fewer than the number regularly killed by dam collapses.
There is likely to be one big fatality out of Fukushima and that is the nuclear power industry itself. If this happens, it would leave the world without a reliable, reasonable-cost baseload alternative to carbon-dioxide-spewing coal.
Wind is already twice the price of coal in Australia, contributing to the energy bills pain being felt in the community. Solar has promise, but it is even more expensive. Neither offers an alternative to coal for baseload power.
There is no known syndrome called ''hydro dam phobia'', but ''nuclear phobia'' appears widespread. Indeed, after Three Mile Island there was pressure for repeated health studies over decades, yet they found no levels of cancer or other radiation-linked illness above the norm. There were, however, high levels of psychological or stress-related complaints.
Maybe this points to the deep-seated human fear of invisible forces. You don't see dangerous levels of radiation, but it gets you. In many cultures, fear of the invisible supernatural is potent. Perhaps nuclear power is filling a psychological void.
Hydro dams are visible, and if they break while you are in the path of the water you are likely to be dead. The calculated average annual deaths from hydro dam collapses worldwide is 133. There are also thousands killed each year in the coalmining industry. Australian scientist Gerald Laurence told a press conference on the Fukushima crisis that more radiation exposure is found next to a coal-fired power station than a normally operating nuclear one, because burning coal releases radioactive material embedded in the mineral.
Since the earthquake, there have been headlines of ''meltdown'', stories of radiation floating on the breeze to Tokyo, and obfuscation from the authorities about what is really going on. If the Japanese government's response has been less than transparent, the company that runs the power stations, Tokyo Electric Power, has been positively opaque.
One thing, however, is clear: nuclear power as a carbon-free energy source has taken a possibly fatal hit.
Germany has announced it will accelerate its planned shutdown of the industry. China, which had been bullish about nuclear, is now lukewarm.
In this country, nuclear power plants have always seemed likely to fall at the NIMBY (not in my backyard) hurdle. We don't seem to want to generate nuclear power in Australia, but it is here in another form and Australians have been happy to accept it. It comes as embedded power in all the products wearing names such as Toyota, Honda, Nikon, Panasonic or any of the hundreds of other Japanese items in our households. That is because 30 per cent of Japanese electricity is nuclear.
Last week, Australian scientist Lee Furlong, who has worked for the International Atomic Energy Agency, said of the Japanese crisis that part of the problem was that the industry there was entirely private. By contrast, in France, which gets 80 per cent of its power from nuclear, there is a high level of government control.
''The French are not frightened of government regulation - I think they still have the guillotine,'' Furlong quipped.
To the free-market high priests of today, any suggestion of government regulation is a step backwards. As for the rest of us, keen to maintain an economy in which we have jobs and can afford to keep the lights on, we might need to step backwards in order to step forwards.
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