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Why Transparency of Information is Necessary in a Wired World: Exhibit Fukushima Daiichi

March 16, 2011 3 comments

Have you seen how badly recent “incidents” at the Fukushima Daiichi I nuclear power plant have been handled? Are Japanese technocrats and officials NUTS?

In an era with peer-to-peer (social media) and transnational connectivity (internet), lack of official transparency almost guarantees that the worst fears are circulated, amplified eventually leading to a series of undesirable secondary/tertiary effects. If they don’t abandon their traditional ‘official-knows-best’ mindset, every single mistake and misstep will be amplified by subsequent analysis.

The cumulative effect of each cycle of obfuscation and subsequent disclosure almost guarantees that official credibility will decay faster than the troublesome fission products in those damaged fuel rods.

After what the 2011 tsunami-earthquake did to Japan, one would have expected officials to NOT complicate things any further by obfuscation about those “incidents” at that nuclear plant.

Everyone makes mistakes, and the vast majority of humans are forgiving IF you admit them quickly.

In previous eras, control of information and culture allowed the ‘elites’ to portray themselves as infallible- for short periods of time. Today that is not possible. I hope officials in Japan wake up to this new reality, though I doubt they will do so. Institutional inertia is a bitch.

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FYI: Cascadia Subduction Zone

March 16, 2011 5 comments

Could something like the 2011 Japanese tsunami-earthquake occur in North America? The short answer is- YES

The long answer is- Cascadia Subduction Zone

The Cascadia subduction zone (also referred to as the Cascadia fault) is a subduction zone, a type of convergent plate boundary that stretches from northern Vancouver Island to northern California. It is a very long sloping fault that separates the Juan de Fuca and North America plates.

Major cities affected by a disturbance in this subduction zone would include Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, Seattle and Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon.

It gets better..

The last known great earthquake in the northwest was in January 1700, the Cascadia Earthquake. Geological evidence indicates that great earthquakes may have occurred at least seven times in the last 3,500 years, suggesting a return time of 300 to 600 years.There is also evidence of accompanying tsunamis with every earthquake, and one line of evidence for these earthquakes is tsunami damage, and through Japanese records of tsunamis. A future rupture of the Cascadia Subduction Zone would cause widespread destruction throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Widespread destruction is a mild term for what would be essentially a humongous loss of human life and property.

Recent findings concluded the Cascadia subduction zone was more hazardous than previously suggested. The feared next major earthquake has some geologists predicting a 10% to 14% probability that the Cascadia Subduction Zone will produce an event of magnitude 9 or higher in the next 50 years, however the most recent studies suggest that this risk could be as high as 37%. Geologists have also determined the Pacific Northwest is not prepared for such a colossal earthquake. The tsunami produced may reach heights of approximately 30 meters (100 ft).

You have seen what tsunamis of 1/3rd that height recently did in Japan. Factor in the potential tsunami-amplifying effect of various narrow passages between Vancouver Island (Victoria), Vancouver and Seattle. Even a 50 feet tsunami on the open coast of the pacific northwest WILL become a monster of unforeseeable proportions once it is amplified by the various narrow inlets, straights, coves, and islands in the Victoria-Vancouver-Seattle triangle.

Let me remind you that the PNW was sparsely populated in 1700 (last time). If a similar event occurred today- a significant part of the built up areas in Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle would be wiped off the face of this earth. There would be very little warning of any tsunami, given the short distance from the fault to the shore (less than 1 hr- tsunami travel time).

Parts of Vancouver and Seattle also face the prospect of earthquake-induced soil liquefaction. It is a safe bet that an earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or above in the cascadia subduction zone near the pacific northwest will kill tens of thousands (minimum) through a combination of tsunamis and earthquakes plus cause extensive structural damage in large parts of major coastal cities/towns in that area. I personally would like to see final casualties in the hundreds of thousands and, touch wood, single digit millions (mostly on the canuck side).

Moreover, survivors may not want to keep residing on the PNW coast. In combination with a low endogenous population growth and lack of real productive industries (except maybe Seattle), it will eventually shatter the lives of millions- and provide endless entertainment for people like me.

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