Way back in the Dark Ages when my dad was a kid, death by nuclear (or as he says it "nukular") weapons was a very real possibility, what with those trigger-happy Soviets and all. And, well, trigger-happy us.
Of course, everyone pretended it weren't so. A nuclear bomb was treated like, well, an earthquake - something bad that could be survived. Schools even had standard drills where students practiced curling into tight protective balls under their desks. My grandma told my dad to come right home if the bright light showed up.
Well, now we all know that nuclear weapons ain't something you really survive, but nuclear power is a different story. Nuclear power has a lot of benefits - it's cheap once it's running, clean burning unless something bad happens and gives people the excuse to say nukular a lot. Though, as Japan is showing us, there are a certain number of drawbacks - namely, if something horrible and act-of-God-like happens, things can get really bad, really fast.
We've got examples. There's Chernobyl. Everyone recognizes the name Three Mile Island even if we're a little muddy on what really went down there. For those who don't know:
- Chernobyl was a nuclear power plant meltdown that, well, went down in 1986 in Soviet Ukraine. It was bad. Really bad. One of the worst nuclear disasters ever - a power surge, a series of explosions and a plume of radiation that drifted all over the place. More than 300,000 people had to be relocated from the area and who knows how many more died from exposure to the radiation.
- Three Mile Island was a partial core meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station near Harrisburg, Penn. It happened in 1979. It scared the hell out of a lot of people. It didn't, however, lead to a bunch of cancer in the area, and that's still the worst nuclear shindig in U.S. history.
Not so much for Japan. So far, Japan's situation is worse than Three Mile, and people are mentioning Chernobyl in the same worried breath.
Remember a few days ago when the earthquake and all of the people we know over teaching English over there were the biggest worries on the plate? It's funny how stories turn.
Way back before anybody started thinking about nuclear power, Julius Caesar got himself stabbed to death on this day, the Ides of March. That move signaled the end of some things (like a republic) , the beginning of others (not being a republic) but for the first few days nobody really knew that.
So here we are now. A lot of people have pegged nuclear energy as the thing that will save America from it's oil addiction, and the problems that trail along with being addicted to anything.
We thought we were just dealing with an earthquake, but it's possible the story just turned.
Maybe it won't be so bad, or maybe we'll start hiding under our desks again. Standing in the moment, all you can do is tip your head back, look up and wonder. May as well, I mean, we all know the desk thing doesn't work anyways.
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