Today, Japan's Fukui Prefecture experienced what is being called the most destructive nuclear disaster that the world has ever seen. With what is expected to be one hundred times the fallout of Fukushima following the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Japanese government has already created a three hundred kilometer containment zone around Japan Atomic Power Company's Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant. Experts have begun assessing the situation in Fukui, and preliminary reports show that the radiation may render as much as ten percent of Japan's landmass uninhabitable for the next five hundred years, displacing as many as twelve million people.
Although the reason for the plants sudden and violent explosion is still unknown, rumors suggest that the company simply didn't listen. Some ten thousand people are already presumed dead with upwards of two million more having been exposed to deadly levels of radiation. Emergency services to the affected areas have been indefinitely suspended because of radiation fears, and it is unclear as to when an evacuation plan will be put into action. All we can do now is focus on finding someone to blame for this tragedy.
WE DIDN'T LISTEN.
Sounds bad, huh? That's what I imagine it might be like should one of the fourteen nuclear reactors within one hundred miles of me decides to blow itself up.
HOWEVER, fear not (for my safety – because I know you care about me). My current employer (a junior high school) has ensured that we are prepared in the case of a nuclear disaster, and today we trained for just such an occurrence.
That's right, we had a nuclear disaster drill (and the fact that this is even a thing, worries me).
So what does a nuclear disaster drill consist of? To be honest, a lot of nonsensical doings of pointless things (like I've come to expect in Japan) that probably won't help at all in the case of an actual disaster.
For example, yesterday I was advised that today I would need to find somewhere off school grounds to park. And not just me – all teachers and staff. Why? Well because today we are having a drill and the parents need places to park when they come to pick up their children.
If you're thinking to yourself, “Now hold on just a second,” then you're onboard (if not, you probably work at my school and should immediately come out to me as an English speaker).
If there was a disaster, wouldn't we all be parked at the school? Are we all going to just not park at the school one day when we hear about the imminent nuclear disaster? Because if we are going to know about this ahead of time, I've got some news: I'm not coming to work.
As the staff fumbles with the archaic looking control panel attempting to get the alarm to sound, I quietly sit at my desk gazing out the window at parents casually entering the parking lot to retrieve their liberated children. Is this representative of what an actual disaster would entail? I have no desire to find out (although I highly doubt it).
I am a bit surprised they aren't just telling everyone to duck and cover. After all, the duck and cover campaign in the United States during the 1950s was highly successful (how many people died as a result of nuclear explosions? Zero). But I suppose that strategy must only be effective against nuclear blasts, not nuclear meltdowns. My mistake.
Does this mean that I am free to go home too? Of course not. The working culture of Japan mandates that I remain at my desk and continue to do whatever it is everyone thinks I am doing here (hint: I'm writing this). Even in the case of a nuclear apocalypse.
Fukui and it's fourteen reactors (the most of any Japanese prefecture) are certainly an exciting part of the Japanese landscape, but I don't know that this place should be at the top of your “places in Japan to visit” list (at least not unless you're expertly trained in nuclear disaster survival procedures as I now am).
At least none of the reactors are located in Echizen City (越前市) where I am currently based? But then again, if they were here, I would very likely be receiving a government subsidy for putting up with the fact that my very existence could be swiftly ended at any moment (as do the residents of the towns where the reactors are located).
Good luck everyone living in Takahama, Ōi, Tsuruga, and Obama (yes, there's a city in Fukui named Obama)!