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Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in 1975, four years after it went online in 1971. Image Japan Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
Today FOP followed, from the safety of a vast geographic distance, the catastrophic consequences of human and record-breaking geologic forces converging and propagating outward from northeastern Japan.
This morning it seemed that Japanese design, technology, public policy, and cultural commitment to live consciously and deliberately in relation to the geologic force of earthquakes might prevail. Buildings swayed in Tokyo. Trains shut down automatically. Warnings went out. Commentators speculate that thousands of lives were saved because of Japan’s determination to live in ways that are responsive to the unpredictable forces that compose the realities of its geologic conditions.
But as the day, events, and news unfolded into this evening, it became ever more obvious that this quake continues to release enormous shocks of geo-energy. Like the tsunamis, consequences are ramifying both within Japan, and from Japan to the far edges of the Pacific.
By mid-day in New York, the story that we felt compelled to follow is the one whose outcome is absolutely uncertain at this moment. This is the story of the reactor in unit 1 at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, where earlier today radiation levels in the control room were reported to be 1,000 times above normal. At the time of our writing, the Japanese government has expanded the declared state of emergency to include five reactors at two power plants.
As Jane Bennett reminds us,”the electrical grid is a better understood as a volatile mix of coal, sweat, electromagnetic fields, computer programs, electron streams, profit motives, heat, lifestyles, nuclear fuel, plastic, fantasies of mastery, static, legislation, water, economic theory, wire, and wood— to name just some of the actants” (Vibrant Matter, p. 25).
The scenario that was “practically unlikely from an engineering viewpoint” is currently underway in Fukushima (download Japan’s Nuclear Energy Safety Organization’s Severe Accident and Accident Management PDF). As a result, today’s events could trigger a massive cultural shift in how humans perceive and regard the “usefulness” of nuclear materiality. From this moment of not knowing, we sense the bare reality that the nuclear can take the human-geologic convergence up to—possibly beyond—its limits.
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