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Articles on Japan after 2011
Apocalypse 2011
Articles on Japan before 2011

  • (march 2011) Apocalypse 2011. No country was as prepared as Japan for an earthquake and no country was as prepared as Japan for a nuclear emergency. The fact that this Chernobyl-style disaster took place in Japan is therefore particularly worrisome.
    The dilemma that countries like Japan face is not as trivial and the anti-nuclear crowd makes it sound. Nuclear power allowed Japan to achieve a high standard of living that presumably has allowed its people to live longer and healthier. Better economic conditions usually result in longer lives. Without the energy produced by its nuclear power plants millions of Japanese may have lived worse lives and died younger. When one judges all the people who will be "killed" by the radiations, one is not being fair: if dying younger qualifies as "being killed", then poor economic conditions "kill" too. Nuclear power makes a lot of countries richer than they would otherwise be. The trade-off is not trivial. You can go back and live like they used to live in 1900, but then you would also have the same life expectancy (less than 40).
    The fact that a nuclear disaster kills people is widely reported all over the world. However, car accidents kill about one million people worldwide every year. Cars are arguably a lot less indispensable than energy. Still, we never thought of banning cars. Coal mines kill a lot of miners. The numbers of miners killed in accident is known, but the real killing cannot be quantified: the average life expectancy for a coal miner is very low. This is similar to what would happen if there were nuclear radiation in populated areas. The difference is that the victims of coal are the workers themselves, not the users of the energy. Somehow society has decided that the slow death of a worker is tolerable whereas the slow death of a user of energy is not tolerable.
    One nuclear power plant is equivalent to several giant dams. If Japan had built dams instead of power plants (assuming that this would be possible in a country that doesn't have great rivers), the earthquake would have damaged the dams and perhaps killed a lot of people.
    The demand for energy will be increasing dramatically as developing countries continue to expand their economy. Thanks to those nuclear power plants those countries will become richer and their people will live longer lives. The choice is between returning to a world of widespread poverty and a world of nuclear power plants. There will be incidents, and there will be deaths. Whether the benefits offset the costs or not is a very subjective affair.
    The anti-nuclear crowd is right about one thing though: this is a decision that affects everybody. When a country decides to mine coal, it is causing pollution and deaths only on its own territory. When a country decides to build a nuclear power plant, it becomes a potential health hazard for all its neighbors (if not for the entire planet). At some point the United Nations will have to regulate the industry of nuclear power.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2009 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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    Articles on Japan before 2011
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