I am continuing to get some rather touching emails and messages from people in various parts of the world, expressing their concern for my safety. I figure I ought to try and put a few more minds at rest.
Regarding the earthquake itself, it’s worth noting that I live in Shizuoka which is a full 320 miles from the epicentre of the earthquake. Yes we felt it, but only at a magnitude of 4. The Richter scale is logarithmic, which means that by the time the earthquake reached us it was 31 million times less severe than it was at the epicentre. Few, if any buildings were damaged, and the resulting tsunami might have mown down a mollusc or two but that was it.
You’ve probably also been hearing about the horrendous aftershocks. A couple of these have been clocked at a magnitude of around 6, but the epicentres of these have been in the same area as the big one (as well as being around 32,000 times less severe) which means that by the time it reaches The Shiz, the only thing that can detect it is a seismograph.
The nuclear reactors? Well first of all, we’re 215 miles from the nearest dodgy one. Secondly, this is not Chernobyl II. The reasons for my confidence in this matter are outlined in the document here, which provides a good, in-depth breakdown of the reactors and what exactly has happened without any of the scaremongering and sensationalism present in most of the national press. It’s an interesting read, but if you haven’t got time I’ve listed the main points here anyway:
- The explosions at the nuclear reactor were caused by pressure being vented from the core in the form of steam. Water can split into hydrogen and oxygen at extremely high temperatures and when this mixture ignites, well, you remember your chemistry experiments don’t you? This is pretty awful for the poor engineers that are working there, but makes no difference to the core.
- Radioactive material is contained within four layers; a ceramic with a melting point of 2800 Celsius, a zirconium alloy with a melting point of 1200 Celsius, a thick steel pressure vessel designed to withstand the high pressures that might occur during an accident (it was from this that the steam was vented), and a very thick steel-reinforced concrete structure. That final one is designed to contain, indefinitely, a complete core meltdown.
- “Core meltdown” does not mean Chernobyl II. The disaster at Chernobyl happened because all the fail-safes were shoddy (thanks to poor Soviet safety measures) and the hydrogen/oxygen mix ignited and blew a hole through everything releasing the radioactive material into the atmosphere.
Life in Japan now is no more dangerous than it ever was. In 2002 the United Kingdom there were 723,886 assaults, 348,169 car thefts and 1,201 murders reported to the police. In the same year, Japan had 55,766, 62,673 and 637 respectively. Let us not forget that Japan also had 68 million more people in that year. Now I’m no statistician, but I’m pretty sure that the probability of me getting killed or injured as a direct result of an earthquake or radioactive poisoning here is still less than that of being murdered or assaulted back home; especially living in London.
So stop worrying, please. I’ll keep you abreast of any minor updates on Twitter which you can see over there in the right-hand column. You won’t get any email/Facebook notifications for these so you’ll either have to keep coming back to this page periodically or “follow” me on Twitter. Thanks for all your messages and concern; I feel more loved than a puppy in a primary school!