Libmonster ID: SE-355
Author(s) of the publication: E. M. RUSAKOV

The upcoming earthquake of unprecedented destructive power in Japan was thought of for a long time: at least half a century ago. But it did not happen exactly where it was most feared, and it did not bring exactly the disasters that were first prepared for.

Mother Nature lives by her own laws. The trouble came not so much from underground as from the ocean. It was assumed that the earthquake will be in the area of Tokyo, and it occurred not in the country at all, but in the Pacific Ocean, 130 km from the north-eastern coast of the main Japanese island of Honshu. Most of all, people were afraid of cars thrown from multi-tiered city highways and people who died under collapsed skyscrapers (in the spirit of the Oscar-winning Hollywood disaster film of 1974 "Earthquake"), and thousands of people in villages and towns were swept into the ocean by a 10-meter tsunami wave.


Candidate of Historical Sciences

Japan Keywords:earthquake in 2011tsunami, accident at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant

They assured themselves and others that nuclear power plants were reliably protected from any natural disasters, but in Fukushima something happened that even according to some nuclear experts "could not happen." After all, unlike the explosion of Unit 4 in Chernobyl, located in the open air, in Fukushima, the reactors were in sealed reinforced concrete containers and were shut down, and the disciplined, corrosive Japanese do not seem to have the infamous Soviet bungling. And in general, Japan belongs to a select circle of high-tech countries.

It is also not the first time that the Japanese face tsunamis and typhoons (typhoon - big wind). These very words of Japanese origin have entered many languages of the world. Twice a typhoon saved the country in the XIII century. from the naval armadas of the Mongol Kublai Khan. Those tsunamis earned the beautiful name of" divine wind " - kamikaze. The current tsunami is one of those that have been called "killer tsunamis".

Alas, the future is unpredictable. But the human factor makes a significant contribution. After all, man-made disasters are created not by technology as such, but by the people who created it.


An earthquake, like a tsunami, is one of those natural disasters that often become a nightmare in reality. You stand as if enchanted by a bespectacled cobra, helpless, unable to move an arm or leg.

In fact, the Japanese had a well-developed instinct for self-preservation from earthquakes. Many of them, at the slightest concussion, instinctively rushed headlong into the street or jumped out of the windows. But working in the 60s on the top floor of what was then a "high-rise" building that towered over a sea of one-and two-story houses on Aoyama-dori near the center of Shibuya, I knew that my wife and I would not make it down with our two young children. It remained to crowd in the least dangerous place, as it was believed , under the door riser: the ceiling would fall from above rather than the riser. And you can't hide from the ceiling under the table.

And in those moments when we were standing in the middle of the swaying apartment, the thought of afterthoughts - the second, the third-always bored me. Often they became fatal.

But in the 60s, even Tokyo, with the exception of the business center near the Imperial Palace, consisted of wooden or concrete houses with one or two floors. Because of earthquakes, it was forbidden to build multi-storey buildings until 1968. But the builders found a solution that can roughly be described as a knot: it was "knitted" from the steel pillars of the foundation. And skyscrapers began to grow in Tokyo like mushrooms after a summer rain.

And you can't jump out of a skyscraper.

In Japan, the huge loss of life caused by the earthquake in the Tokyo-Yokohama area on September 1, 1923 is well remembered: 140 thousand people died then, however, largely due to the earthquake in Japan.-

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zharov. Taking into account the frequency and frequency of aftershocks, in Japan, as early as the 60s of the XX century, they began to predict the upcoming next most destructive earthquake in the Tokyo area. The prediction was based on a simple premise: since the last two strongest earthquakes in the capital - 1923 and 1855, when 7 thousand people died, were separated by a time interval of 68 years, then something similar will happen 70 years after 1923, i.e. approximately in the 90s. Kobe in 1995: it killed 5,100 people. But its power was "only" 7.2 points on the Richter scale 1.

To paraphrase the well-known proverb about generals who continue to prepare for the war that has already passed, we can say that the Japanese also did this. Training and preparation were carried out in the expectation of an earthquake in a big city, for the danger of fires. Much, even gigantic work was done, billions of dollars were spent. But the preparation was focused on one scenario - an earthquake as such, without "aggravating" circumstances.

About such a "trifle" as a tsunami, somehow forgotten. Moreover, the tragic lesson of the 30-meter tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean from Indonesia to Somalia in 2004 was not learned. At that time, at least 230,000 people were killed.2

This forgetfulness turned out to be a big disaster. After all, the lion's share of the dead and missing (and now, on March 23, when these lines are being written, their number has exceeded 23 thousand) became a victim of the tsunami. Moreover, the area of the town of Sanriku suffered from an ocean wave in the past: in 1896, more than 20 thousand people died there, and in 1933 - more than 3 thousand. 3

Forgetfulness was also evident in relation to security measures, coastal settlements in Japan, and nuclear power plants (NPP). There were plans to build new houses, but things didn't get off the ground. I think that now both towns and villages will be built higher. This did not help - the tsunami broke through 10 km from the coastline.


On March 11, the cooling systems of three of the six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant 240 km north of Tokyo failed as a result of a 9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami. On the second day, a hydrogen explosion occurred at one of them, and a couple of days later-at two more, and on the fourth, the"sump" pool, in which spent nuclear fuel (rods) were cooled, caught fire.

Then, with an enviable frequency, white or black pillars appeared over the Fukushima-1 during the next explosion. In an attempt to avoid melting the fuel, the liquidators pumped water with boric acid into the reactors to lower the temperature. Eventually, this method began to produce positive results.

"Debriefing" concerning the technical side of the elimination of the consequences of the accident is still to be done. But as for the reasons for what happened, experts have already spoken out - and very unflatteringly.

5 of the 6 Fukushima-1 reactors belong to the long-outdated Mark-1 type, designed by the well-known American company General Electric (GE). It was at such power units in 1979 that the accident occurred at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near New York, in the state of Pennsylvania. Before Chernobyl, this accident was considered the largest in the history of the world's nuclear power industry. As G. Denton, a former senior official of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission responsible for nuclear safety, noted in connection with the Fukushima accident, only after the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in the United States seriously thought about what would happen to Mark-1 reactors in the event of a serious accident. The fact was that "the design of the reactor did not take into account the danger of melting the fuel rod, then such an assumption seemed unthinkable"4.

At the insistence of the regulator-the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Commission-a number of design flaws in American nuclear power plants were eliminated.

Before Fukushima made in the United States orgvyvody did not reach. The accident also affected those vulnerable components of the system that caused a radiation leak at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant units. Just as no conclusions were drawn from the Chernobyl tragedy, which showed that the complete destruction of the reactor is more than possible.

The reactors at Fukushima-1 were not originally designed to withstand strong earthquakes and tsunamis. They withstood the current earthquake, but the 2.5 m high dam was not even noticed by the ocean wave.

Danger of storage practices

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spent nuclear fuel in basins on the territory of nuclear power plants, and even in areas subject to the threat of earthquakes and tsunamis, is clear even to a layman.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TERSO), the operator of the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant, became "famous" for withholding information back in 2007, when it was forced to close the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant after an earthquake near Niigata.


Even in the early 60s (I first visited Japan in 1963 as a translator for the Sputnik travel group), it was already hard to imagine that the Land of the Rising Sun would have rolling blackouts, long lines at grocery stores and gas stations, and a shortage of fuel for homes.

And suddenly, half a century later, a country famous for its phenomenal economic growth in the 60s and 80s was thrown back into the post-war devastation. People showed their best qualities: discipline, organization, teamwork, perseverance, patience. There was no sign of looting, even where the police were absent.

Japanese statesmen also showed "composure", in particular, the General Secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers, Yukio Edano, who was entrusted with the thankless mission of kamikaze from a PR messenger of bad news, i.e. official explanations about what is happening at the Fukushima - 1 nuclear power plant.

But its citizens rightly expected much more from the country's leadership.

The Chernobyl experience was partially used. The population was evicted from the territory where there was a threat of radioactive contamination, the authorities recommended that people stay indoors and organized the distribution of iodine tablets to prevent thyroid cancer. The latter is particularly susceptible to children, who became the main victims of Chernobyl (in addition to the liquidators who worked directly in the exclusion zone): according to the UN, in 1991-2005, more than 6,8 thousand cases of thyroid cancer were recorded among those who were under the age of 18 at the time of the Chernobyl accident.5

Nevertheless, at times it seemed that Japan's leaders were in a state of waking nightmare, showing lethargy and lethargy. Even during the Chernobyl tragedy, the Soviet leadership quickly began to receive a variety of information about what happened, including about radiation measurements abroad. And it cannot be denied that despite all the feverishness, mistakes, even crimes (people were often not provided with basic means of protection from radiation), huge efforts were made to eliminate the consequences of the explosion at the fourth power unit of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. First of all, it concerned the cessation of radioactive emissions into the atmosphere and the surrounding area from the destroyed reactor. It was filled with water, cooled with liquefied nitrogen and filled with a mixture of different substances. In the period from April 27 to May 10, i.e. in two weeks, about 5 thousand tons of various materials were dumped, including 2 thousand tons of lead, 800 tons of dolomite, 1.8 thousand tons of sand and clay. A shelter was built over the destroyed block, decontamination was carried out 6. In Moscow, a government commission was created almost immediately to analyze the causes of the accident and eliminate its consequences, operational groups in the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee and ministries and departments, and similar structures were created in Ukraine. In all regions of the Soviet Union, operational headquarters (180 in total) worked around the clock, providing material, technical and other assistance.7

And for all the poorness of the store shelves at that time, there were no serious failures in the supply of food, gasoline and electricity.

Japan - a small, rich country, most of which was not affected by the earthquake and tsunami - has not been able to help many people in need. A week passed, and people in the affected areas experienced an acute shortage of food and even drinking water, not to mention fuel for their homes. And this is

page 4

there were areas where many elderly people live (young people went to big cities).

It was only on March 17, i.e. a week later, that a government body was established to provide assistance to victims, which began to coordinate the work of various ministries and departments.

And even in the first few days, precious time was lost: they were too late to fill the superheated fuel rods with sea water. As early as 6 a.m. on the day after the earthquake, it became clear that the rods of the oldest reactor-1 were heating up and water had to be pumped in: at that time they were not damaged yet. But THURSO's company was slow to save its ownership of the rods. Only after direct instructions from Prime Minister Naoto Kan, which followed the steam explosion at reactor-1 in the afternoon, did the company start cooling rods in unit 1 in the evening, and in the rest-the next day8.

"This accident is 60% human-made," said a government official who requested anonymity. "They lost a 100-yen coin trying to raise a 10-yen coin."

The self-Defense forces were involved in large-scale cooling of the reactors only on the fifth day, when 4 of the 6 reactors were already damaged, and the remaining two were overheating. But they also had to wait about 20 kilometers for TERSO employees to show up.

The international community reacted almost instantly: 102 countries and regions offered assistance.

But Japan was a semi-closed country. In some cases, foreigners faced a wall of bureaucratic red tape and poor organization. Many rescuers, including Russian ones, arrived when there was no longer any hope of saving people under the rubble, they began to clear the ruins.

Russian rescuers and world-class nuclear specialists with experience in eliminating the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster waited for long hours in Khabarovsk for permission to receive an EMERCOM aircraft in Japan. The Japanese did not react in any way to the proposal sent through their embassy by Ukrainian experts who participated in the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl explosion, who advised their Japanese colleagues to cool the shut-down reactors of the Fukushima nuclear power plant with tin.

In the Japanese press, there were claims that the government refused even to help the Americans cool their nuclear reactors.


When the Chernobyl accident happened, one of the main problems was hiding the truth from the people. And the rumors only served to increase the panic.

People in Kiev quickly learned that the families of party and government bosses had already been taken out of the city when the May Day demonstration was held there under radioactive clouds.

That's when glasnost came to the USSR: there was too strong a negative response both in the country and in the world to the Chernobyl tragedy. There was and still is a myth that glasnost and the beginnings of democratization in the Soviet Union were "imported" by "agents of influence" recruited by the CIA (now these "merits" are attributed to the" world backstage","Washington city committee"). But the very term "glasnost" and the struggle for it in Russia go back to the second half of the XIX century.And Chernobyl could not be covered up with any propaganda.

In Japan, formal transparency was observed, as evidenced by the speeches of Prime Minister N. Kan and regular reports by Y. Edano.

But ordinary Japanese people themselves, including victims of atomic bombings, and the leadership and specialists of other countries complained about the fragmentary and unclear information about the series of accidents at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant, especially the most dangerous 3rd power unit, where plutonium is available. Even through the international channel of the situation and crisis center of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), information was received extremely sparsely and irregularly.

The head of the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Commission, G. Yatsko, admitted that the information available in the United States at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant is "very limited".

In general, the well-known tendency of many Japanese specialists in various industries to conceal and "clean up" unpleasant data has long been manifested.

The main source of information was the company TERSO. And now, after learning about the next explosion at the nuclear power plant not from the company's employees, but from TV news, even Prime Minister Kang could not stand it. He stormed into the company's office early in the morning: "What the hell is going on in Fukushima?" With the restraint of the Japanese, especially the officials, the effect would have been the same if one of the Russian statesmen had broken out into open-air abuse on one of our benevolent leading TV channels.

The Fukushima-1 explosions echoed around the world. The German government decided to temporarily decommission seven nuclear power plants built before 1980. China, Thailand, Venezuela and several other countries announced the suspension of their nuclear programs.

However, most experts believe that the Japanese nuclear accident will only temporarily slow down the development of the world's nuclear energy, but will not be able to stop it. There is no reasonable alternative to a peaceful atom yet. Now we are talking about tightening the safety measures of nuclear power plants, especially those under construction, removing obsolete power plants, increasing the share of gas and renewable energy sources (wind, solar, tidal and other power plants) in the energy balance.


About two months after the Chernobyl tragedy, I came to my homeland - to Kiev-to visit the grave of my father, who died a year earlier.

The lack of people on the streets immediately caught my eye: the city reminded me of the first post-war years, when its population was 3-4 times less than in the 80s. But this observation did not explain the feeling of some frightening unnaturalness, the scenery of a science fiction movie. As I looked closer, I realized what was going on: the first and last time in my life.

page 5

In my life, I found myself in a city where there were no children. They were finally taken away from the radiation-carrying clouds.

The radiation panic continued. People tried not to go out on the street, saved themselves as best they could: some medicines, red wine "Cabernet", tincture of mountain ash, etc. Dosimeters, as in Japan after the current disaster at Fukushima-1, the population did not have. But unlike the disciplined Japanese, our people immediately began to make them in an artisanal way. My childhood friend Anatoly Gorban, a physicist who has been constantly making something since childhood, showed me such a device. When turned on in the room, it made occasional gurgling sounds, but when he held it up to the window, it started to rattle like a machine gun.

A few months later, the panic faded into oblivion, my friend threw a dosimeter into the trash, and life went on as usual: glasnost, perestroika, completely empty store shelves, students sitting in tents in the center of Khreshchatyk (on the future Maidan), the declaration of independence...

A quarter of a century has passed since then. But even more than post-Chernobyl Kiev, I was struck by Hiroshima, which I visited in 1963, i.e. 18 years after the atomic bombing. Victims of unprecedented radiation exposure continued to suffer and die. But in the city, no visible traces of the atomic inferno were visible (of course, except for the skeleton of the surviving building, the shadows of people burned alive on the stone bridge, the bell and other memorial monuments).

The city was bustling, the grass was green, the flowers were blooming. But then there were still fresh predictions that there could be no life on the radiation-contaminated Hiroshima land.

In my opinion, those experts are right who believe that outside the exclusion zone, the radiation panic after the Fukushima-1 accident, as well as after the Chernobyl tragedy, is mainly psychological in nature. In any case, for Tokyo, as it was in Kiev a few weeks after the explosion. Especially for California or even the Russian Far East. It seems that the health of people, especially the elderly, suffered in Kiev, and now suffers in Tokyo more from psychological stress than from the small doses of radiation that clouds bring.

In addition to the liquidators who directly participated in overcoming the consequences of the Chernobyl accident and sacrificed their health and even their lives, and people who remained in the exclusion zone, there is only one category of the population that was seriously affected by radiation. As noted above, these are children who have become victims of thyroid cancer caused by radioactive iodine.

For others, this threat is more of a statistical nature. It seems to me that due to the lack of early cancer diagnosis, many more people who were exposed to radiation clouds died than from radiation.

Summing up the results of 20 years of monitoring the consequences of the Chernobyl accident, the UN scientific Committee, which studies the effects of radiation, noted that although children and liquidators are at increased risk of radiation consequences, "the vast majority of the population should not live in fear of serious health consequences from radiation exposure after the Chernobyl accident. Basically, they were exposed to radiation that exceeds the natural background.

page 6

by several times, and with the gradual decay of radionuclides, the threat decreases. This applies to the population of the three countries most affected by the Chernobyl accident-Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, and even more so to other European countries. Their lives were put to serious tests, but from a radiological point of view, the prospects for maintaining their health in the future are generally positive."9


Not only Mother Nature lives by its own laws, but also the world economy, which is indifferent to human tragedy. Cold calculation is also used by players on Wall Street and other exchanges.

The damage caused to the Japanese economy by the March disaster is estimated differently, but all estimates are based on $123 billion. Losses from the 1995 Kobe earthquake were estimated by the World Bank at $235 billion, and by the Japanese Government at over $300 billion. For an economy of $5 trillion, this is quite a feasible amount.

A negative impact on the Japanese economy may be caused not only by the suspension of production of cars, electronic equipment, etc., but also by the lack of electricity: in particular, it was decided to close Fukushima -1, which is 6 out of 50 reactors that provide a third of the country's electricity needs.

However, most experts believe that the March catastrophe may slow down the country's economic growth by 0.2-0.5% in 2011, and in 2012 will compensate for it.

A paradoxical situation has developed with the reaction of global financial flows to the catastrophe in Japan. The exchange rate of the national currency of the defeated Japanese country did not fall, as it usually does, but rose, reaching a record level for all post-war years of 76.25 yen per US dollar. This phenomenon is partly explained by the lack of yen: it is assumed that Japanese companies, in particular insurance companies, will be forced to sell their assets abroad and return to their homeland. That means they'll need yen.

But after a coordinated currency intervention by the central banks of the "big seven" advanced economies, including Japan itself, the yen returned to its previous level - about 81.7 yen per dollar.11

Due to the earthquake on March 11, the Japanese stock index Nikkei 225 fell by 12%, then rose by 5% 12. The Group of Seven's currency intervention helped to win back another 2.7%, with Japanese exporters pinning their hopes on the newly depreciated yen13. Moreover, Wall Street analysts believe that the shares of large successful Japanese companies such as Sony, Toyota, Canon, etc. were undervalued before the disaster and now is the time to buy them up.

This assessment was supported by the world-famous American investor W. Buffett, the third richest person on the planet.

The Bank of Japan's large monetary injections also had a positive stimulating effect: in the week following the disaster in Japan, it injected 34 trillion yen, or approximately $420 billion, into the Japanese economy. 14

After all, the country is rich: its gold and foreign exchange reserves reach $1.03 trillion, 15 and household savings have increased at current prices from 1,245 trillion yen in 1997 to 1,440 trillion in 2009, which is almost $17.8 trillion at the current exchange rate.16

However, huge savings have not yet helped overcome the country's two-decade-long stagnation due to the structural economic crisis, domestic political leapfrog and foreign policy turmoil.

Perhaps the current catastrophe will be a jolt that will wake up this half-asleep realm. I remember very well the battles with the police of Zengakuren students in the 60s. Their eyes burned, and these leftists grew into excellent capitalist managers. The current generation has fallen into a kind of "postmodern" lethargy, even resignation.

The Japanese are like those peoples who know how to pull themselves together in a dashing time. But they also need an "incentive", as the former head of Euroset, who was on the run and now acquitted, E. Chichvarkin, figuratively put it:"We don't take a step forward until we get a kick in the ass."

It is possible that the restoration of the country and its infrastructure, modernization can play the role of a trigger, the same reformist "new deal" that Franklin Delano Roosevelt made history.

And then the Land of the rising Sun will awaken from its slumber, lethargy, and stagnation and go on the path of rebirth, rising from the ashes, as it did after the Second World War and the atomic bombings.

In any case, I want to believe it.

* For more information, see: Rusakov E. M. In the captivity of patriarchy and provincialism / / Asia and Africa Today, 2010, N12 (editor's note).

1 -of-1923;

2 Ibidem.

3 Tsunami Early Warning System -

4 Washington Post, 16.03.2011.

5 Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation. United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. UNSCEAR, 2008. Report to the General Assembly with Scientific Annexes. Vol. II. Annex D. Health Effects Due to Radiation from the Chernobyl Accident. UN, N.Y., 2011, p. 14 - ort.pdf

Gerasko V. N., Klyuchnikov A. A. et al 6 Object "Shelter". History, status, and prospects. Kiev, Intergrafik Publ., 1997, pp. 59-60.

7 Україна: утвердження незалежної держави. 1991 - 2001. Київ, Альтернативи, 2001, с. 399 - 400.

8 Wall Street Journal, 19.03.2011.

9 Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation.., p. 19.

10 Ibidem.

Ajima Shinya. 11 G-7 Steps into Forex Markets, Shows Unity after Japan Quake. Kyodo, 18.03.2011.

Norton Leslie. 12 Buy Japanese Stocks // Barron', 19.03.2011.

13 Ibidem.

14 Washington Post with Bloomberg, 18.03.2011.

15 IMF Site. Japan. International Reserves and Foreign Currency Liquidity. 15.03.2011 -

Vistesen Clous. 16 A Detailed Look at Savings in Japan. Copenhagen. 22.01.2010 - pan.html


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