From Trinity to Fukushima

It has now been about two months since an earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant and, inevitably, news about the disaster are getting scarcer. Yes, inevitably, because the news cycle is just what it is, but also, very probably, because of the interests at stake in any major rethinking of the use and abuse of nuclear energy. So, nothing will change? Quite possibly. To put things in perspective, it is worth watching a clever work by a Japanese artist, Isao Hashimoto’s Nuclear Detonation Timeline, 1945-1998. It is a ten-minute video, showing one-by-one, on a map of the world, all the detonations of nuclear weapons ever occurred, with the exception of the two North Korean test in 2006 and 2009. You may want to ask yourself how many of those detonations did in fact occur since Trinity, the first nuclear test conducted by the U.S. Army in the desert of New Mexico on July 16, 1945, a couple of weeks before Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated. The number is simply staggering: 2055. Most of them were due to the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, but the other nuclear powers, Great Britain, France, China, India, and Pakistan, contributed their share. Israel, which also has a nuclear arsenal, albeit undeclared, appears to have not conducted any test of its own. Now, how many Fukushima is that? Actually, forget Fukushima, or Chernobyl for that matter. Even considering that no atmospheric nuclear test has been conducted since the 1963 Test-Ban Treaty, after which all tests took place underground, I think that is a sober reminder of how, historically, the issue of nuclear energy’s damage to the environment has been considered by, well, the powers that be. One should not look any further for plausible answers as to what is going to happen next, unless, of course, sanity will finally prevail in the minds of enough people and democracy will suddenly and unexpectedly start working.

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