I have had many people write me asking me what to do with regards to the nuclear reactor mess in Japan. By the time you read this, you probably will know more than I am telling you in this article.
First of all, we are watching a slow motion train wreck brought about by a very rare confluence of geologic events 1/2 way across the world. Fortunately, the same earthquake and tsunami didn’t happen in Washington/Oregon/California and cause a nuclear accident there (it could have and still can). We would have been just as helpless to fix the problem but much closer to it. The Japanese nuclear emergency workers are essentially kamikaze workers fighting that mess. I don’t know if we would be able to drum up such a heroic effort to stop the run away problem.
What are the effects on us likely to be. The major threat to the United States is actually economic since Japan owes over 800 billion dollars of US Treasuries (third largest owner of US debt). Assuming they get past the nuclear problem, they are going to rebuild and the way to raise money for that is to sell our debt on the open market. The Federal Reserve now buys 70 percent of our debt now, will they buy up the Japanese debt? Probably. Can you say massive inflation in the US from printing that much money to buy that many treasuries?
Secondarily, is the radiation (which is what everybody thinks is important). Radioactive Iodine is the biggest issue this far away. It gets into the air, spreads around the world, we breath it, it gets absorbed into the thyroid gland and you could die of thyroid cancer 40 years later. If your over 40 years old, your going to die of something else first. If your under 40, it might be prudent (according to our own Surgeon General) to obtain some supplemental source of iodine to flood the thyroid with (consult your doctor). Those allergic to iodine or seafood need not try this. Iodized salt will not do it.
Third, other nasty radioisotopes concentrate in our food chain by plants absorbing them, cows (for instance but by no means excluding every thing else) eating plants, concentrating the radiation, then we drink the milk or eat the meat. Being on top of the food chain has it’s problems. I might consider feeding your young powdered milk made before March 2011 for about a year if this gets really bad.
I am not suggesting to you that we are all going to suffer horribly from this event medically, (we might financially). There will be an increase in certain cancers over background rates as a result of all this. No one in particular will be effected but some will. It will be impossible to attribute those cancers to this event versus say Chernobyl (if you were young then). Radiation doesn’t discriminate on ages, sex or religious affiliation. Panic is silly.
I still think that we can get power from nuclear reactors but they should all be hardened to any potential disasters possible in the area they are in. How many have died because of pollution from carbon based fuels? Many more than nuclear that is sure. There are problems in the nuclear industry however. I am aware that NONE of the plants in the US are hardened from Electromagnetic Pulse. (EMP). This would be somewhat of a problem if a terrorist or enemy power detonated a nuclear bomb a few hundred miles above Kansas City Missouri. The radiowave/magnetic pulse from that event would avalanche electrons down from the atmosphere generating HUGE currents in our electric grid effectively knocking out the cooling system of any nuclear facility out there. Secondary systems may be effected too. Talk about a train wreck. Oh by the way, there is a significant chance per century that the sun, with a good solar storm, could do approximately the same thing. The best website to explain EMP is: http://www.futurescience.com/emp.html
OK, lets then consider taking out the 20 percent of our electricity that is provided by nuclear power. Or not. What are we going to replace that with? Solar, wind, I think not. Looks like natural gas to me. Investment idea?
The best websites to see what happened/is happening in Japan are: