Fukushima. Fukushima. One year ago, that was one Japanese word that we all knew and we all knew how to pronounce. It was the beginning of a time that we thought might come someday, but that we all have dreaded looking at in our own futures. The dawn of nuclear energy was seemingly born in war and violence. We decided to harness the energy for more than war. We thought that it would provide cheap, safe, environmentally friendly energy with which to power our energy focused societies.
Well, it seemed like a good idea. I think we all know that at it's heart, it was inherently dangerous. Dangerous in ways we thought we might control it and yet, we forgot, or better said, ignored that we are only we and mother nature is mother nature. We cannot control her. We are just fleas on the back of a giant leopard. We are nothing to the power of the earth around us. A lesson our ancestors knew and respected, but a lesson we seem bent on ignoring.
It is man's great prowess to control all things in his world. All that is weak bends under his strength and yet, nature, not so much. First an earthquake, then a tsunami, I picture her saying "Who's the bitch now?"
Many people lost their lives last year and are still struggling to rebuild a life. Some without the very livelihood that once was. It is impossible to account for all the missing washed out to sea, impossible to forget thousands fleeing for their lives, just steps from the approaching sea.
It was an ordinary day. Just a beautiful, bright, sun shining day.
Ask yourself, is your reactor in your area on safe ground? It is placed on a fault? Can it be easily switched off, is it being properly maintained?
There was a woman. For twenty years a man ate in her little, simple restaurant. From the first day he arrived from the U.S. at his assignment as a nuclear technician, the person who brought him there, introduced him to the woman's restaurant. It was not far from his apartment. So eveyday, he ate at her restaurant.
Carl Pilliteri ate there all the time; the woman who ran it even invited him for Christmas one year. After he and his crew survived the quake he got into the exclusion zone and found it abandoned.
He sent a request to an English language newspaper, The Japan Times and also some friends. He wanted to know what happened to this woman who had been such a part of his life in Japan. He did not even know her name. He did not even know the name of the restaurant. It was in Japanese and he could not read it. So he contacted a friend to help him find her restaurant. On a trip back he did locate the restaurant. It was locked up. It had survived but was in the zone, as was his apartment. He had been allowed to return.
The newspaper contacted him and did a story on it. Shortly after this was done it was reported to him that she was alive, but did not want to let out her personal information. You must give permission to have someone give out your address.
Carl was hoping for closure to all the horror he had witnessed and wanted to help this woman somehow. He knew after a subsequent visit to clean his aparment and retrieve his wedding ring, that the restaurant was still abandoned, only now instead of being locked up in the zone, it was open and now empty.
He had hoped that he could muster up aid for Mrs. Owadasan (her name coutesy of the newspaper report, I am not sure of the spelling). It was then he also learned the name of her restaurant, it was IKOI, which meant rest, relax and relief. Ikoi He wants to do more for her. He felt rest, relaxed and relief when he ate there. This place provided a fixture of familiarity in his life. He loved the chicken that she made.
He knew that many people were having difficulty starting over and he felt he could do something for this woman.
He wants to keep one foot on the ground. After the nuclear accident he knew he was changed. He spoke to a therapist by phone more than once, and he knew he was differnt. He wanted to keep one foot on the ground at all times. He did not say this, but I think it was his way of wanting to be ready to run, to escape. In the darkness of the first reactor, the first one which later blew, he and his team were trapped. They had to feel their way and rescue themselves and a crane operator who was several feet up in the air. In that massive space, the normal sounds became terrible noises due to the unbalanced giant turbine. It was a hell. At one point he describes a Japanese co-worker putting his arm around his waist in the dark, to steady him and he putting his arm on his shoulder. He prayed aloud and asked why this day would be his last, here in this place.
They survived, but a four man team who passed him in the far parking lot up hill had been given an order to return to the turbine to that number one. They were probably told to shut it down. He remarks that as they passed, all dressed alike, all about the same size, all seemingly the same in a way, they looked up and acknowledged him. They went single file to the reactor, and moments later the water came. He has no idea what the fate of those men were, but he can quess. We can all guess. Fukushima.
He gave this interview in an unwilling but willing sort of way. It was brave in a way, as many are silent on this. They are still working in the field, as he is too, but silent for many reasons. He wanted to be a public voice.
He is willing to be a public voice on this to help himself and his family. He is suffering a kind of post-traumatic stress. He is not at rest yet, it was not enough, he thought if he spoke to someone about it; shared it, the chronological order of telling it, it would help. It is not easy to tell.
Struggling through some of it, he thought that this was it, some of the closure he is trying to experience.
People are the most important thing to him now. Recently he had observed two people who were walking their dogs that had an unfriendly exchange that seemed most unnecessary. It made him feel sad, and he wanted to tell them at some level not to waste their life doing this.
It struck him that he had been given a reset for his life. That reset is available to you and me, through his experience with near death, catastrophe and escape. Like so many other people who witness monumental tragedy first hand and live to tell about it, it has profoundly affected his life. It can also change ours. We can live his confrontation with disaster through his story and imagine how we might feel and value our lives differently.
He feels like he was reset, that he is a decent man, and the event a humbling experience, to be in that nuclear plant, and survive the incident. He is more in tune with his humanity and still struggling to be at peace.
" When the earthquake shook northeast Japan last March, Carl Pillitteri was leading a team of technicians in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Pillitteri eventually led his team out of the building and retreated to a hillside where he saw the approaching tsunami slam about 100 feet from him. He was one of some 40 Americans working at the plant that day, and he spoke exclusively in this interview with Alex Chadwick, featured here as part of Salon’s partnership with the APM radio show, “The Story.” You can listen to the full audio interview here. It is also part of the radio documentary series “Burn: An Energy Journal.” from Salon
Here is the podcast with the interview:
" Since the March 11 disaster, nearly all of Japan's operating reactors have shut to refuel and may never restart. Several countries have questioned the safety of existing reactors and Germany has launched an ambitious plan to replace electricity from its nuclear fleet with renewable and other power sources.
"We believe nuclear power, in the long run, doesn't have any future," Johannes Kindler, vice chairman of a German regulatory agency, said at the IHS CERA energy conference in Houston this week. He said a decision to shut older German reactors was prompted by Fukushima safety concerns and cost issues.
"If you don't believe (nuclear) has a future, it's reasonable to get out as early as possible," Kindler said."
What is your state or county or country doing about it's nuclear reactors? Do you know?
Copyright 2012 by SheilaTGTG55
This report is based on information provided in a podcast and my own interpretation of the events described.
"Your life is a do-over," says Billy Crystal in City Slickers. "You've got a clean slate."
Crystal is addressing his pal who, nearing 40, feels he is at a dead-end. "I've wasted my life." Brunno Kirby's character laments. Crystal tells him that he can start over again. His life can be a do-over."