Mar
14
2014

Earthquakes and Nuclear Power Plants in Japan

Everybody knows that Japan is prone to earthquakes. In fact, there are quakes almost every single day.

What really matters are the “big ones”, though.
We all just revelled in sad memories as the “biggest one” had its third anniversary on March 11th, 3 days ago.

Stronger quakes can cause tsunami which are even scarier.
Because of that and what happened in Fukushima tourists think that it’s not safe to visit Japan.

A lot of people who don’t live in Japan simply don’t know that it really depends on where in Japan you live!

 

My Experience With Earthquakes in Japan

I’ve managed to “survive” 4+ years without any earthquake experience.
My first stronger earthquake happened pretty much a year ago.

Today, I experienced my second stronger quake in Japan. It was a M6-quake again and hit about the same regions as the one a year ago.

Earthquake in Japan March 14th 2014

Map Source: tenki.jp

The dates are also interesting, if you like playing around with numbers:
2013-04-13 and 2014-03-14

 

When I mentioned the quake on Facebook, a lot of people “freaked out”. It seems like many don’t know enough about quakes in Japan, so I decided to write another blog post about it.

Not every “stronger” quake is fatal in Japan. It’s a well-prepared country. The buildings won’t collapse easily and a M6 quake usually doesn’t cause much damage. There was also no tsunami warning issued. “Only” 17 people were slightly injured although the quake hit almost all of Western Japan.

 

Not Everyone in Japan is Used to Quakes

You’ve probably read how some people wrote about the quake and some in a “panicking” voice like me. emoticon
That’s because people who live in certain regions are not used to quakes, even here in Japan!
Especially the Chugoku region (Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori) doesn’t get hit often. Most people have been living there for decades without any quakes worth mentioning.
And “my” region, Kansai, has only experienced one severe quake in modern times, the Hanshin Earthquake in 1995.

Thus, for us a M6 quake is a BIG DEAL!! Most of us don’t know how to react, although kids learn about that in school in form of drills – everywhere in Japan.
The majority of my Japanese co-workers (including me) doesn’t have an emergency bag. Maybe we should get one, but we just don’t expect that we’ll need it.

So, an earthquake like that will shake things around, a few items might fall off shelves, but that’s about it.
The slight injuries are usually caused by things falling down on people.
Not really bad at all, but for people who are not used to it, it’s still pretty scary.

 

How Not To React When An Earthquake Hits

And just for your amusement, I’ll tell you what I did. emoticon
Although it was already past 2 a.m. I was still awake and out of bed when it started shaking.
It didn’t take me long to notice that it was a quake. Immediately I was wide awake and jumped under my tiny door frame.
However, the shaking just didn’t stop and a few tiny things fell off my shelves. So, I decided to escape to the broad rice fields outside.
I grabbed my smartphone, the door key and my coat. While shivering (hey, it was in the middle of the night and that quake really got me shocked!) emoticon I put on my shoes. When I was about to unlock the door, the shaking finally stopped, so I didn’t have to run outside.

But it took me some time to calm down again.
I guess as it was so close to the date of the sad anniversary of 3/11, I was even more frightened. emoticon

Obviously, this must sound like a joke to people from the Eastern Kanto region (e.g. Tokyo) or Tohoku where smaller quakes occur almost every day.
They’re used to quakes like that. They don’t make a big deal out of it.
But for us, it is still exciting and scary.

 

Nuclear Power Plants and Earthquakes

As March 11, 2011 has shown, a tsunami is not the only danger that can result from a strong quake.
In a country that is so prone to quakes, is it really safe to have so many nuclear power plants? And trust me, there are a lot!

This discussion has been going on for a long time now.
My home country, Germany, has decided to shut down all nuclear power plants after Fukushima happened.
Japan tried that as well, but it just doesn’t seem to work out.

Why?
Well, there’s one of the biggest cities in the world, namely Tokyo, and … it needs electricity!
Even though there were “power saving campaigns” and “scheduled blackouts”, it just isn’t enough to cover up the needs.
The current government under Shinzo Abe has thus decided to restart one nuclear power plant after another.

Obviously not everyone is happy about that. Thousands of people protested in Tokyo earlier this week.

 

Nuclear Power in Japan: Yes or No?

I’ve talked to quite a few people about this topic and I kind of understand both sides.

Someone said their company was asked to save energy. But if they do so, they can’t produce as much as they’re supposed to and so their business partners just look for other companies in foreign countries. It’s not good for Japan’s economy!
People would have to change their lifestyle at home and at work.

On the other hand, the danger of another strong earthquake and possible tsunami in Japan is very high. It’s really just a question of time.
Something like in Fukushima could happen again and that’s probably too much for Japan to handle!

What’s more important? Japan’s current economy or the ecosystem?

I’d love to hear your opinion about it!
I’m no expert when it comes to quakes, tsunami or nuclear power. I don’t know all the details, but who actually does?
There are only very few true nuclear power experts worldwide after all.
So, even if you aren’t an expert, what do you think about it?

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