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Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Nuclear Lesson of Fukashima, Japan.

Nuclear energy is not worth the risk. I'm watching the footage out of Japan with bewilderment and disappointment that our greed for cheap energy is contributing to an already epic disaster. The nuclear genie is restless in Fukashima, north of Tokyo, and it appears at this hour that a partial meltdown of a severely damaged nuclear reactor may be unfolding before our horrified eyes. Flashbacks of the Chernobyl holocaust race through my mind with chilling anxiety. But, In the back of it all I hear Master Thich Nhat Hanh telling me to, "just breath." It's times like these that our Dharma practice can carry us through some uncertain and frightening events. As we all know, it's something that we should incorporate into our daily routine, so that it becomes us and naturally unfolds, especially in times of crisis.

According to the Dalai Lama, and others, we practice the Dharma for not only life, but death. He explains that the death bed can be a frightening time but if we are practiced in the Dharma, it can be less of a stress upon ourselves, and the loved-ones around us. It will have already prepared us for the dying process. Our breathing techniques and contemplations upon impermanence, no-self and interdependence can really bring a lot of peace to the frightened mind. After a life lived of letting go of the fear of death, I would think it would be easier to accept death's clinical and unbiased verdict.

Now, having said all of this, such a strong practice is easier said than done, but even simple knowledge about deep breathing can really calm a person down in a crisis. I use it often to calm myself down when I have a panic attack from my psychological disorder. I realize that it would be harder to practice under an environment of total devastation, but any practice under the belt is better than none. It is my hope, that should I be caught in such a horrifying disaster, my training would carry me through--even, hopefully a possible nuclear nightmare.

But, humans have a consumption problem--we are greedy to the point of risking the death of countless people, and even more injuries, just for cheap power, so that we can continue our life of unchecked desire. And, yet, we take a risk with nuclear energy on something we still don't fully understand or know how to contain upon meltdown because we don't want to have to live a life with less luxury and fulfillment of desires. Well, I don't like saying this, but this is what happens when we gamble with samsara.

The time is now to commit, as a world, to putting the nuclear genie, back into the bottle, as much as possible. We owe it not just to our children, and their children, but the billions of innocent sentient beings, who are living within their means, in balance and harmony with nature's limits and abilities. We must learn the lessons of interdependence, because if we human's mess up and ruin Earth, making it inhabitable, then we have the karmic weight of the death of all those beings to bear into the next life. I know that I don't want that on my conscience, so let's work together to make this world a little safer and peaceful.

~Peace to all beings~

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BD said...

Thank you for the reminder to breath James, this crisis has stopped me in my tracks,the whole nuclear thing makes me nervous. But you are right, just breath, what else can I do right now. Not Much,


I agree! My father did a 3-year study (for the American government) of children who survived the Hiroshima bomb. Later our family protested American and Soviet nuclear testing in a boat my father designed and built. (More on my blog His Scribe.)

ONE WAY TO HELP IN THIS DISASTER: the Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope (CRASH) is already on the ground in Sendai helping with relief efforts. CRASH equips and prepares churches and missions to be there to help their communities when disasters strike and coordinates Christian volunteers to work with local ministries in the event of a disaster. What they need immediately is money for satellite phones and $3,500 for each of the three or four survey teams that have just left for the area. Satellite phones will be used to keep in touch with teams being sent out and with the base camps being setting up. Site for donations:

Anonymous said...

Whilst I share your concern for the potential nuclear fall out in Japan I would like to point out that this plant was designed in 1971 and that modern nuclear plant design has moved forward considerably. In terms of building a back drop to a debate of the pros and cons of nuclear power I feel that using this particular tragedy as a platform to attack the industry might be somewhat misguided and premature. We would not attack boeing today because certain planes had fatal design flaws in the 70's (which they did). Whether for or against nuclear power let us at least agree to debate rationally and with all the facts at our disposal. Peace.

They call him James Ure said...

@BD...Yep, not much we can do besides trying to stay calm to help not only others but ourselves.

@Jessica...Thanks for the info on the Christian relief effort. Nuclear energy seems such a BIG GAMBLE and the stakes are so high that it only takes one slip-up and a thousand year nightmare is unleashed.

@Annonymous...Thank-you for your thoughtful response. As well as providing the information about the reactor being from the 70s. Still, as I said to Jessica, the stakes are higher with nuclear energy than say the Boeing plane crash example you raised.

As you said, there is a small risk these days but it only takes one incident to threaten the lives of countless people. As well as poison the Earth around it for thousands of years. For me, that's not a risk worth taking.

With a plane crash, as horrible as it is, the destruction is limited to the crash itself--but usually not to the surroundings around the crash site. Such a disaster (usually) involves the passengers alone and not the people living near-by.

While I am critical of nuclear energy after this incident in Japan, I have long been opposed to nuclear in either energy or weaponized form. This isn't the first time I've spoken out on the issue. I'm not necessarily saying that Fukashima is akin to Chernobyl--yet, but the risk overall is just too great for me to support such a gamble.

I'm all for studying it further but my opinion is that right now, it is just too risky. And, we still haven't found a safe or long-term way to handle the radioactive waste these plants produce.

Imagine, if we had nuclear plants in as much density as other energy plants--where does all that waste go? There are still just too many risks and questions for me to sign off on it but I do not begrudge others for opposing that view point. We all have our opinions. :)


I am concerned about the fact that nuclear weapons keep on killing after the war is over and people on both sides are friends. (Not that I like war or any kind of bombs.)

Ironically, living next to a nuclear plant exposes one to lethal radiation just as living next to a nuclear testing site does--radiation doesn't distinguish between peacetime uses or military uses. Enough radiation from either one can kill you just as dead. (See And it's cumulative. The more you get, the more you are at risk for various kinds of cancer, for instance.

Kaspalita said...

Thanks for this James. Have just written a post with links to the Tzu Chi Foundation if people want to donate (a Buddhist organisation helping homeless etc in Japan)

Tzu Chi in the US

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

This tragedy was heartbreaking, and I cannot imagine anyone not filled with sorrow and compassion for all the death and destruction from the quake and the tsunami. However I agree more with Anonymous than with your thoughts about the nuclear catastrophe unfolding north of Tokyo. That is also a tragedy. But I don't believe it is so caused by greed. I see nuclear power as a greener alternative than fuel. And I think it is much more understood than it was at the time these plants were built.

Greed is certainly a cause of much human suffering, but I do not think that we are seeing greed so much in action in the desire to use nuclear power, as the desire to have a cleaner and less destructive alternative source of energy.

My great hope just now is that each of us will do all we can to help with the crisis in Japan. It is surely devastating.

They call him James Ure said...

@Kristi...Well, nuclear is greener...until it's not.

When you take into account all the reactors around the world (with more being proposed worldwide) where one human error can cause a multi-generational health and radioactive disaster, the risk seems reckless.

And, this increases exponentially with time, because we are counting on each generation of nuclear engineers to avoid even ONE accident for generation after generation. And what about potential terrorist attacks?

I say it's greedy to use nuclear energy because it risks the death of countless living beings for the convenience of our insatiable modern lifestyle. Perhaps the answer to our energy needs is to need less of it--to conserve and live more like our ancestors did. They lived for generations without polluting the earth the way we humans do.

We need to face the fact that we can't all drive massive cars, live in massive houses, consume throw-away products or have a limitless supply of energy. I include myself in all of this by the way. I don't have all the answers but I've heard Thorium is a potential alternative to nuke energy.

And, we still haven't made a real, wide-spread, huge investment in wind, solar, tidal, geo-thermal or biofuel technology. Neither have we made a European style investment in public transportation. How about mandating hybrid cars as we did with seat-belts? Plug-in hybrids at your house where the energy it charges up with is directly from the solar panels of your roof!!

You say nuclear is cleaner but that's misleading because even if the energy is contained properly, the radioactive waste problem hasn't been adequately solved. You also stated that nuclear is less destructive but examples like Chernobyl say otherwise. Like I said, it only takes one accident--one incident.

Spiv said...

To the above: Thorium is nuclear energy, and still involves radiation and all that. It's "safer" as far as 'meltdowns' are concerned and is pretty decent on waste (compared to conventional nuclear). It also has the advantage of potentially being able to use decommissioned weapons material as a source fuel. However it has a long way to go research wise before it is an efficient option. And really, that's a problem with all the alternatives. We as a people should be investing a lot more money/resource in to researching all of these things (solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, battery tech which is at the core of all of the above and the reason electric cars are a lousy option right now, thorium, and more). We don't. Yet. I think this is changing though, but it is inevitable in my opinion.

In the mean time I think we should all educate ourselves on this nuclear incident. This is in no way another Chernobyl, and actually cannot turn in to one because it's a completely different kind of reactor. At the moment things are contained and being processed, with a relatively small amount of radiation having been released. Thankfully we have come a very long way in safety for these things.

This is the best information source I have seen on the subject:

For the record I also don't think nuclear is the "right" answer, but it is leaps and bounds ahead of coal (which dominates energy production in the world right now). I would trade our coal plants for nuclear without hesitation, but I think we are all in agreement that the right answers have to come in the form of truly clean and safe energy (while making all things that consume it more efficient at the same time). Batteries/energy storage is a killer for all of these things right now and should be at the top of our priorities.

Hybrids and electric cars are still pretty lousy due to weight and horrible production efficiency. Sadly the best thing you can do for the environment (as far as cars go) in the short term is to buy older used cars and keep them running for as long as possible.

They call him James Ure said...

@Spiv...Yeah, I did actually know that it couldn't be another Chernobyl. I guess my point was simply that the risk with nuclear energy is potentially, so deadly and the storage of the radioactive waste too difficult for me to support it. As of now.

However, I do support further research. I don't like coal either; and I'm not saying I have all the answers, that's for sure. Thanks for the info on thorium. :)

Anonymous said...

Well it seems that theory that it can't be another Chernobyl is terribly flawed, as it says in the geogia guide stones The powers elite want to reduce the population of the world to 500,000 managable slaves.What we need at this point is an avatar from above to come and put the kabosh on this.Man this is beyond evil, just when you think it can't get worse it does. Oh and btw the US has about forty or so of those same vintage plant designed and built by GE (we bring good things to life)The only thing left is to trust in the devine, and if we must die pray that it is the divines hand and not the powers that bes hand.
breathing, breathing, breathing......

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