Friday, April 15, 2011

Japan’s crisis

AS a people, Japan’s handling of its continuing crisis brought about a battery of calamities was no less than exemplary that has earned both envy and growing admiration of international bystanders. People suffering in silence were seen highly considerate with fellow victims especially when it came to relief distribution that otherwise exudes the worst in man in most countries—even the Hurricane Katrina experience of the United States.

But as government the scenario may be different. The raising of the provisional severity level of the nuclear accident at Fukushima No. I nuclear power plant by Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) to the worst rating of seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) has rocked the shaky foundations of a government that is just 20 months into power. At press time, the leader of Japan’s largest opposition party called for Prime Minister Naoto Kan to resign abruptly ending an easy political truce forged after the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Among other criticisms, Japan’s Prime Minister has been lately accused of surrounding himself with newly appointed aides, sidelining bureaucrats and causing confusion in a government already overwhelmed in the aftermath of the multiple disasters. “I think the time has come for the prime minister to consider his resignation,” said Sadakazu Tanigaki, president of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party. “To keep going under the current leadership would be very unfortunate for the Japanese people.”

A level seven rating described by the INES is “a major release of radioactive materials with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.” The only other nuclear crisis to have been rated level seven was the 1988 Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union.

As observers would have it, the political infighting seems to be raising fears that Japan will be left rudderless on its way to the huge task of reconstruction. Some say it could possibly prolong a political paralysis in a country that has already produced five prime ministers in just five years—touted to be weak leaders from both major political parties.

Be that as it may, but another major consideration is the growing global debate whether nuclear power should still be harnessed on top of all the renewable sources of energy. Proponents of the nuclear energy content that nuclear power is still the most sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions and increases energy security by decreasing dependence on oil. A good observation comes from the professor in the department of quantum engineering at Nagoya University in Japan: “The fact that we have now confirmed the world’s second-ever level 7 accident will have huge consequences for the global nuclear industry. It shows that current safety standards are woefully inadequate.” In the Philippines, the best way perhaps is to hammer the last nail for the eventual burial of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

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