Catastrophe in Perspective
Vol: 114 Issue: 15 Tuesday, March 15, 2011
On April 26th 1986, a power spike at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near Pripyat, Ukraine caused the reactor to explode, which led to the rupture of the containment vessel and fire which released a massive plume of radioactive fallout into the area.
The plume drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and Northern Europe. Large areas in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia had to be evacuated, and over 336,000 people were resettled away from the affected area.
In all, there were fifty deaths associated with the explosion and fire. All the dead were either emergency workers or reactor staff.
The accident released four hundred times as much radiation as the Hiroshima atomic bomb in 1945.
Since Chernobyl, the IAEA has established a scale, sort of like the Richter Scale, to quantify nuclear accidents. Like the Richter scale, it is exponential; each whole number represents a ten-fold increase in the threat.
Chernobyl was rated a 7 – the highest level ever recorded. Estimates vary wildly regarding how many died as a result of the radioactive fallout.
But the World Health Organization’s 2006 Report of the Chernobyl Forum Expert Group identified just 237 victims of radiation sickness, of whom 31 died in the first three months. There were no further deaths identified among the general population as a result of the accident.
An international assessment of the health effects of the Chernobyl accident is contained in a series of reports by the United Nations Scientific Committee of the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). UNSCEAR was set up as a collaboration between various UN bodies, including the World Health Organization, after the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to assess the long-term effects of radiation on human health.
UNSCEAR has conducted 20 years of detailed scientific and epidemiological research on the effects of the Chernobyl accident. Apart from the 57 direct deaths in the accident itself, UNSCEAR originally predicted up to 4,000 additional cancer cases due to the accident.
However, the latest UNSCEAR reports suggest that these estimates were overstated. In addition, the IAEA states that there has been no increase in the rate of birth defects or abnormalities, or solid cancers (such as lung cancer) corroborating UNSCEAR’s assessments.
The Chernobyl disaster is one of two nuclear accidents in the history of the world. The other was a core meltdown at Three Mile Island. The Three Mile Island accident resulted in a moratorium on new nuclear plants within the United States.
Although three are under construction, there hasn’t been a new nuclear plant completed and taken on line in America since 1966, thanks to the Three Mile Island accident.
The death toll from the core meltdown and subsequent release of radiation was – well, there was no death toll. Nobody died. Nobody even got sick.
The Three Mile Island accident was rated a five on the nuclear disaster scale.
The Kemeny Commission Report concluded that “there will either be no case of cancer or the number of cases will be so small that it will never be possible to detect them.”
Several epidemiological studies in the years since the accident have supported the conclusion that radiation releases from the accident had no perceptible effect on cancer incidence in residents near the plant, though these findings have been contested by one team of researchers.”
In Japan, a massive 9.0 earthquake (or is it an 8.9?) triggered a killer tsunami that essentially destroyed the entire northeast section of the country, claimed untold thousands of lives, repositioned the main island, shifted the earth on its axis and changed time.
The tsunami also knocked out many of the country’s nuclear reactors, including the Fukushima reactor farm, releasing clouds of radioactive steam.
The number of dead and missing – so far – from the quake and tsunami stands at just over 5,500 – although the toll is expected to climb into the tens of thousands.
The number of dead as a consequence of the Fukushima reactor meltdown stands at zero.
It is time to inject some sense of perspective into the story. Ninety percent of an iceberg is below the water line. Using that analogy, the nuclear disaster in Japan is just a small part of the exposed tip.
I am in no way minimizing the threat posed by nuclear radiation. Exposure to sufficient levels of radiation WILL kill you and exposure to less severe levels can cause cancer.
We saw that at Chernobyl where there were about a thousand cases of thyroid cancer. That is why the immediate treatment for exposure is iodine to prevent absorption into the thyroid. (With treatment, thyroid cancer is 98% curable.)
There are things that we know. And there are things that we don’t know. Then there are things we only think that we know.
We know about earthquakes and tsunami disasters. We don’t know much about nuclear disasters. What we know right now was summed up by France’s head of nuclear safety. (France is the most nuclear-dependent country in the world.)
According to Andre-Claude Lacoste, the accident was now “worse than Three Mile Island but not as great as Chernobyl”. That certainly sounds ominous.
But nobody died at Three Mile Island and relatively few died at Chernobyl.
The Japanese meltdown is therefore more serious than Three Mile Island because more reactors are in meltdown, but not as serious as Chernobyl because the Russian-made reactors had little or no containment fail-safes.
And despite the assessment from France, the Japanese meltdown is still rated as a four on the nuclear disaster scale. (Three Mile Island was a five – meaning it was ten times worse.)
Around the world, Germany and Switzerland reacted by suspending plans for new reactors. Italy and Poland said they would rethink plans to invest in nuclear energy, and Friends of the Earth urged the British government to scrap its own plans for new reactors.
EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told nuclear experts meeting in Brussels to discuss the Japanese catastrophe that the EU should start considering a nuclear-free future. (No knee-jerk reaction there).
What in the world is going on?
One of the unexpected surprises of the Japanese catastrophe was the disaster cost estimates. From all accounts, about a third of Japan has been all but destroyed.
Entire cities have been wiped out. Tens of thousands dead. Recall the images as thousands of automobiles were washed away.
In one video shot, I saw at least a dozen large ships smashed into kindling when they were carried into and then under a highway overpass.
Think of the helicopter-shot video of the tsunami rolling up the city of Sendai like a giant carpet – destroying a city of over a million people, washing five miles inland before roaring back out to sea. The carnage and destruction is incomprehensible.
The initial damage estimates (so far) from Barclay’s and Credit Suisse are around $180 billion dollars.
Now, take a look at the US National Debt Clock. In the top left corner on the second line is the US federal budget deficit.
That number, (at the time of this writing) stands at one trillion, three hundred thirty one billion, eight hundred and eighty-five million, (which clocked to eight hundred and eighty-six million in the time it took me to type the number out in words.)
Japan’s disaster helps to put that number into perspective. The destruction of Japan barely registers. Subtract $180 billion from the US national debt and it is still way over a trillion dollars.
Subtract the one trillion dollar figure and we could still rebuild Japan twice over with what we still owe.
Look down to the spot marked “Money Creation.” The debt clock shows that the Federal Reserve has created more than two trillion dollars out of thin air. Four trillion dollars in US debt is in foreign hands.
The trade deficit – just between the US and China — could rebuild Japan twice over. That’s just the trade deficit with ONE country.
Now to the really terrifying numbers.
Broken down by individual, the average net worth per citizen totals just $247,000.00. It sounds like a lot – but that figure includes Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc., etc.
That’s what the average American is worth. How much of that do we owe? All of it. Everything we have. Actually, we owe about four times everything we have – about one million dollars and change.
The Book of Revelation outlines twenty-one judgments that will befall “those that dwell upon the earth” during the Tribulation Period. The first four judgments are called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The first two judgments are political. The antichrist rides the white horse, followed by War, the rider on the red horse. The rider on the black horse brings economic collapse:
“A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” (Revelation 6:6)
The fourth horseman is Death, “and hell followed with him.” So what is the point? It should be obvious.
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)
This ISN’T the Tribulation. This is only the beginning of what is forecast to fall upon those that “dwell upon the earth.” Praise the Lord that He comes before it does.
“Wherefore, comfort one another with these words. ” (1 Thessalonians 4:18)