When J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project, beheld the first atomic fireball in the New Mexican desert, he famously quoted a line from the Bhagavad Gita, “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
He had devoted his life for the previous few years to developing a theoretical process into a weapon of mass destruction. During the course of his work, he probably mused about the possible peaceful applications of the monster he had created, but he also knew that the difference between a weapon and a controlled power source was only one of degree and intent, not one of substance.
When you combine that with mankind’s record in battling the unforeseen forces of nature, it leaves you a little less credulous of the reassuring claims made by the nuclear power industry.
The Japanese probably know more about the effects of earthquakes than any other nation, and to their credit, the nuclear plant safety mechanisms they designed survived the earthquake part of their apocalypse. What they hadn’t banked on was that the backup diesel generators, which would have pumped water into the reactor vessels to cool the fuel, would be swamped by the resulting tsunami. Mere humans can’t think of everything.
Just when you think the Japanese people have had more disaster visited upon them than any nation ever deserved, this new horror looms above them. Even more tragically, they⎯uniquely among nations⎯are no strangers to the devastating capabilities of nuclear fission.