Sunday, March 13, 2011

In Time We Forget



A clear, easy to understand video about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the long term effects it has had on the region and its people.

Today I count my blessings, more so than others. I am home, I am safe, and I know that, at this moment, the ones I love most dearly are healthy and safe as well. I have clean water to drink, warm shelter, and air that I can breathe without worry of radiation poisoning. My home is not crumbled to the ground or floated out to sea. I know where my relatives are and they are easily reachable by phone if I desire peace-of-mind to know that they are okay.

I imagine that the people who live in Japan affected by Friday's Earthquake and Tsunami felt the same way as I do, only seconds before tragedy struck. In a matter of moments, as we all know, life can change.

To survive Friday's record-breaking earthquake was the first feat. As if that wasn't already devastating enough, a Tsunami soon hit that wiped away homes, businesses, airports, roads, and people. The death toll grows each hour, some estimates now at 10,000. The ballooning number of dead is reminiscent of other recent natural disasters that kept us glued to the television set or live newspaper feeds: New Orleans, Haiti, Indonesia. We watch in horror as stories unfold, our hearts sinking while we empathize with those faces who are injured, grieving, and walking around with a sense of deep loss and fear of an unknown future.

Those who survived the earthquake and the tsunami have yet a third possible disaster knocking at their door: Nuclear Meltdown.

A major nuclear power plant in Fukushima has been overheating and leaking radiation for three days and recent news reports say that a meltdown is likely in progress. It's hard to exactly define what a meltdown is, other than an extreme overheating that causes, as far as I can tell, the unit that houses nuclear materials to begin melting thus releasing the inside deadly poisons.

Already, citizens within a 12 mile radius of the power plant have been evacuated. But, if a true meltdown occurs, the consequences will be far reaching beyond a 25 mile wide stretch.

Recently, under the Obama administration, billions of dollars have been allocated for research into growing our nuclear power power facilities in the United States.

Billions of dollars.

Cost alone, and the fact that we could actually be investing that money into SAFE renewable energy research and resources, has me reeling. Add the disregard for human safety, and it is downright heinous.

As people of Japan face the terror of a possible meltdown, maybe we should ask them if they think that nuclear energy is the way to go.

Or, ask someone who survived the Chernobyl disaster, someone who watched loved ones die or whose children and grandchildren have suffered unimaginable illnesses and birth defects.

It's amazing how we have so conveniently chosen to forget the tragedies associated with nuclear power. Three Mile Island was a scare in the late 70's, and Chernobyl was the mother of all Nuclear disasters. (Could this soon change?) We are told that a Chernobyl-like incident won't occur because of new fail-safe precautions. I bet the residents of Japan were told this same thing, with an impressive 6" inch steel encasement "preventing any possibility of a meltdown."

Well, those who were on board the Titanic were told it would never sink.....

I became passionate about nuclear power during my 7th grade history class with Mr. Hutchinson. Nuclear power was a hot topic with the then-operating Maine Yankee. I chose to do a research paper on the subject and remember interviewing a Central Maine Power employee. He was absolutely insistent that our nuclear power plant provide cost-effective safe energy to the people of Maine. Despite his best arguments, at twelve years old I didn't buy it, and I still don't at forty-one.

The Chernobyl disaster occurred April 26, 1986. Pripyat, a city once inhabited by approximately 50,000 people, is today, in 2011, a ghost town with radiation levels far exceeding any level of normalcy by thirty-fold. The original radioactive plume drifted over large parts of the Soviet Union as well as parts of Eastern, Western, and Northern Europe. Over 1,000 humans died in the incident , over 336,000 survivors were resettled, and cancer and birth defects continued to rise dramatically with biological changes occurring at a chromosonal level. Soon after, 45 kilometers of forest turned red and died, and is today known as the "Red Forest". Animals died and suffered, became infertile, or if survived, produced offspring with numerous defects.

The last reactor at Chernobyl was shut down in 2000. Ultimately, 4,000 people are estimated to have died as a direct result of the incident due to cancer deaths.

Maine Yankee in Wiscasset demolished its reactor in 2004. It was a day to be celebrated. Still, though, years later, nucelar waste exists and the question remains; what do we do with it?

Two things for my readers to take from this post today:

1) Count your blessings.

2) Is nuclear power the best long-term energy solution if it means sacrificing peace-of-mind and wellbeing for ourselves and generations of loved ones?

Article about possible meltdown and current radiation exposure status (as of 1:14 p.m. EST 3/13/11)

8 comments:

Owl Who Laughs said...

Well-written and powerful. After reading your words (and watching the video) I found it impossible not to reflect on the deepest questions of life, including billions and billions of humans swarming and needing and interacting with Nature and all other forms of life.

Thank You!

Chris

Anonymous said...

Three Mile Island, which we knew as TMI, had an enormous effect on my family growing up and continues to exert a major influence on my attitudes and opinions. It represents the worst of uncertainties and the worst of human hubris.

SHANNA WHEELOCK said...

Anonymous -

I can only imagine the fear you grew up with. I pray we see a day when an overwhelming respect and caring for humanity overrides the present overwhelming greed.

Peace-
Shanna

Anishinaabekwe said...

Blessings counted! Sending prayers to Japan and of course for the healing of our Earth. This is a great post, nice work!

Anonymous said...

Shanna why aren't you speaking before congress or running for Office? Your voice should be heard! I remember Three Mile Island. I remember being so afraid that the world was going to end. I live just miles from the Seabrook Plant and I am fearful of what could happen... Pam Caswell

Shanna said...

Thanks, Anishinaabekwe. Your healing prayers are needed!

Shanna said...

Pam - It's horrible to have to as a child feel such fear (or as an adult for that matter!). No functioning nuke plants here in Maine - but we still live less than 30 miles from one. I worry, too.

Peace-
Shanna

PoedyPencilPrincess said...

I've shared this with all the people I know. It's so true. In time we do forget. This is a poignant reminder. Thank-you.

Jody