Welcome to The Atomic Village

Welcome to The Atomic Villagealt

Denko-chan (でんこちゃん), whose name comes from the “den” of electric power (電力, denryoku), the “ko” (子, child) in which female names so often end, trapping their bearers in a state of eternal childhood, and the generally female diminutive suffix “chan”, can be found everywhere in TEPCO propaganda. Here she is, with finger characteristically a-wagging, admonishing us to “Take care of electricity!””

These days, Denko-chan is perhaps more representative of the situation that the country and TEPCO find themselves in when rendered like this, in fan art:

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As an energy resource poor island, Japan has embraced nuclear power over the last several decades as a means to ensure security of energy supply. Growth in electricity supply was a key enabler of the Japanese post-war boom and commitment to high-tech industrial growth, but dependence on external sources would have entailed a major vulnerability. The oil shocks of the 1970s strongly underlined the danger of dependency on potentially unstable or capricious foreign suppliers, creating further impetus for nuclear development. The relative independence and self-sufficiency conferred by nuclear development also fitted with a characteristic Japanese cultural insularity. Prior to the earthquake and tsunami, nuclear provided over 30% of Japan’s electric power from 54 reactors. Continue reading “Welcome to The Atomic Village”

Fukushima: Fallacies, Fallout, Fundamentals and Fear

It will be a long time before we have a complete picture of the unfolding nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima, and much longer before the scale of the impacts can truly be understood. Misinformation and disinformation abound in an emotive and exceptionally polarised debate over the nuclear power industry. Teasing apart fact from fiction will be a major task. First we need to look at the latest information on the state of affairs at Fukushima, and then turn to the debate over the health impacts of radiation and comparisons with Chernobyl. Continue reading “Fukushima: Fallacies, Fallout, Fundamentals and Fear”