(More pontifications from the purple velour armchair)
While the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi has slipped from the front pages (and even the inside ones) of much of the world’s press, it became clear on May 12 that reactor No. 1 was far worse shape than TEPCO had suspected, at least publicly—although it came as no huge shock to this dilettanteish student of the only comparable incident, Three Mile Island—with the core in complete meltdown, a situation likely to have been replicated in reactors No. 2 and No. 3.
The response of Kunihiko Takeda, Vice-Chancellor of the Institute of Science and Technology Research at Chubu University, Director of the Asahi Chemical Industries Uranium Enrichment Laboratory (1986-1991), recipient of the Special Award of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan (1990), anthropogenic climate change denier, pointless controversialist, general buffoon, and a man whose views, unusually for a scientist, are largely unencumbered by empirical evidence, was that:
It’s neither a surprise nor bad news. This means TEPCO has been pumping lots of water in the reactor without knowing what exactly is happening in it, which is the best thing TEPCO could do.
A response that in this reader prompted a mixture of reactions: laughter, recollection of the Upton Sinclair quip, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”, marvel at the eternal optimism of the sunlit mind, and despair at the state of higher education. At least the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in its latest update as of this writing, has the decency to concede that, “Overall, the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious”.
Letdown and putdown, takedown and breakdown, comedown and meltdown—compound nouns derived from phrasal verbs and the adverb “down” are, well, real downers, and it’s no wonder that the IAEA prefers “core melt accident”. “Meltdown” will suffice for me, although the question of whether we have indeed survived will remain moot until cold shutdown, one compound “down” noun that will come—perhaps in a year’s time—as blessed relief.
The roles of nuclear power and renewables in the solution to the twin crises of energy depletion and climate change that two centuries of fossil fuel addiction have wrought are of course subject to monstrously complex debate and beyond the scope of meaningful contribution here from me, who like many, resents being forced to think about things nuclear and who would much rather be writing about the decay of hot-springs resorts than the decay of radioactive isotopes.
For now I choose to take refuge in black humor, and it is therefore with pleasure that I present a garment whose time has come, the Plutonium kun T-shirt.
The tee is available in a choice of white or speckled gray from Tokyo T-shirt outfit Small Design here, for Y3,400 ($42)—not cheap, true, but then quality rarely is.
When I first wrote about Plutonium kun on April 2, I mentioned how hard it was to track down shots of the elusive lad. It isn’t any more, as he has gone viral (in Japan at least), as an image engine search for プルトくん or プルト君 will show. It’s my ardent dream, although an unlikely to be fulfilled one, that he become as internationally famous as the nuclear trefoil—or at least as famous as Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy from The Simpsons.
While the Plutonium kun tee has understandably streaked to the top of its sales ranking, Small Design has been churning out other T-shirt designs inspired by Fukushima Daiichi, including this one, hot off the screenprint press, in commemoration of the confirmation of the meltdown
and this one,
inspired by a prankster’s brilliantly surreptitious addition
to the Myth of Tomorrow mural at Shibuya station by legendary avant-garde artist Taro Okamoto, a story that has only barely seeped out into the global media.
Order your nuclear tee now and wear it with pride —all the best people are sporting them this season.
[With many thanks to reader Jeffrey for the tip-off]