It is too early for a resilience analysis of Japan’s cascading disaster, but here are some links. First on the fast variables, and then on the slow.
1) International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is posting their continuously updated report on situation at Update on the Japan Earthquake web page.
2) Christian Science Monitor Reports: Lax oversight, ‘greed’ preceded Japan nuclear crisis
3) In his New Yorker blog, Evan Osnos reflects on China’s Nuclear Binge. Rapid building combined with poor monitoring and corruption is not a good recipe for nuclear safety. He writes about the a recent corruption case of Kang Rixin:
His was a $260 million corruption case connected to rigged bids in the construction of nuclear power plants. Keith Bradsher, in the Times, wrote, “While none of Mr. Kang’s decisions publicly documented would have created hazardous conditions at nuclear plants, the case is a worrisome sign that nuclear executives in China may not always put safety first in their decision-making.”
4) Miller-Mcune writes Nuclear Disasters: Do Plans Trump Actions? about a new report from Union of Concerned Scientists which says that U.S. nuclear regulators are way too complacent about the possibility of a catastrophe.
So the most serious lesson already emerging outside Japan is about the pressures, driven by established nuclear commitments, to obscure information; compromise objectivity; and suppress political choice about energy futures. We may live in hope that there will come a time when more comprehensive and dispassionate attention will be given to the full global potential of viable alternatives to nuclear power. Many of these are manifestly more resilient in the face of technical mishap, natural disaster or deliberate acts of violence. Distributed renewable energy infrastructures, for instance, offer a way to avoid huge regulation-enforced losses of electricity-generating capacity when a series of similar plants have to be closed due to safety failings in any one. They minimise the compounding economic impacts of the knock-on self-destruction of massively expensive capital equipment, some time after an initial shock. They do not threaten to exacerbate natural disaster with forced precautionary evacuations of large tracts of urban industrial areas. And there is no scenario at all – unlikely or otherwise – under which they can render significant areas of land effectively uninhabitable for decades, let alone commit large populations to the potential long-term (and untraceable) harm of elevated low doses of ionising radiation.