Saturday, December 28, 2013

An Incident at Fukushima Daiichi, Part 2, Prelude to Disaster, Hiroshima & Nagasaki

Picture Legend:
1. Fourth Grader
2. Trinity Test
3. Japan attacks
4. Tokyo after March 10th
5. Map of the bombing runs
6. Little Boy
7. Hiroshima afterwards
8. Fat Man
9. The Explosions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki
10. Nagasaki afterwards
11. Tsutomu Yamaguchi
12. V-J Day

   On August 6th, 1945, the United States tested a nuclear device for the 2nd time. The first test had taken place 3 weeks earlier on July 16th, in the deserts of New Mexico using  an implosion-design plutonium device. The detonation, code named Trinity, produced the explosive power of approximately 20 kilotons of TNT (trinitrotoluene... C6H2 (NO2) 3CH3), which as every 4th grader knows equals approximately 56,000,000 mega (1 million) joules (equal to the energy expended (or work done) in applying a force of one newton (the amount of force  needed to accelerate 1 kilogram of mass at the rate of 1 meter per second squared) through a distance of one meter (1 newton meter, or Nm), or in passing an electric current of one ampere through a resistance of one ohm for one second) of explosive energy. The energy density of TNT is used as a reference-point for many types of explosives, including these new nuclear weapons, the energy content of which is measured in kilotons (~4.184 tera (trillion) joules) or megatons (~4.184 peta (quadrillion) joules) of TNT equivalent.
   The Trinity test worked so well (and didn’t ignite the atmosphere as some had speculated) that the powers that be decided to test it again, this time using uranium (140 pounds of uranium-235) as the fissionable (fission being either a nuclear reaction or a radioactive decay process in which the nucleus of a particle splits into smaller parts (lighter nuclei). The fission process often produces free neutrons and photons (in the form of gamma rays), and releases a very large amount of energy) material supplying the explosive force. As mentioned above they tested it on August 6th, at 8:15AM, at about 918 feet, plus or minus 65, over the Japanese city of  Hiroshima, an embarkation port and industrial center that was the site of a major military headquarters. 
   At first glance one could speculate that this action might have had adverse consequences for the Japanese populace over which this device exploded. Indeed, that is the case. As a matter of fact the American government, and it’s armed forces were counting on it. 
   You see the Japanese had previously been rather obstreperous by sneakily attacking the American navel base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii back in 1941, and thereby initiating America’s participation into World War II. You may have heard of it. Well we weren’t going to let something like that pass, so we declared war on Japan the very next day, December 8th. Germany and Italy, which had already started trouble in Europe, jumped on the old war bandwagon and declared war on us, then we declared war on them, so America was now involved in major conflicts on two fronts, the European and the Pacific. Fighting a war on two fronts is not at all cool, just ask Germany after it double crossed Russia and started fighting them on it’s eastern front while still fighting the rest of Europe on it’s western front. This eventually led to it’s demise in April and May of 1945. 
   Yet the United States had the advantage of having big oceans between itself and it’s adversaries, and we were never attacked again on our own soil during the war (although we thought the Japanese might, see  Steven Spielberg’s “1941“).  
   After Germany surrendered, the conflict in Europe ended, but the Japanese didn’t quit. Since the Battle of Midway we had slowly been taking back territory that they had previously taken by Japan. Saipan, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, on and on, to the point that we were able to run bombing missions on the Japanese homeland, and Tokyo, it’s capital. And we bombed the hell out of them causing horrendous damage to life and property. Japanese industrial production dropped as half of the built-up areas of 67 cities were destroyed by B-29 fire bombing raids. On March 9th through the 10th alone, approximately 100,000 people were killed in a firestorm caused by an attack on Tokyo, which was the single most deadly air raid of World War II. They still wouldn’d give up (the Japanese culture was probably the cause of that, being a point of pride to not surrender, preferring to die first). We had blockaded Japan’s trade routes, cutting off their food and oil supplies, and mined their harbors and waterways by air. Still they wouldn’t give up.   
   There were few conventional options remaining other than to launch an invasion of the Japanese homeland which would have been met with the greatest resistance yet seen in the war, with the loss of life, for both Japanese soldiers and citizens, and American and Allied troops too horrible to contemplate. 
   Fortunately, or unfortunately, which ever way you want to look at it, the United States had been developing an atomic weapon since 1942 (the development of this weapon was called the Manhattan Project (see the fine 1989 film “Fat Man and Little Boy,” starring Paul Newman and John Cusack), and was in direct response to Japan and Germany attempting to create their own bombs). After the success of the Trinity test the United States had a working atomic bomb, which President Truman used in  lieu of an invasion, and on August 6th, 1945, a Silverplate Boeing B-29 Superfortress named the “Enola Gay,” after the pilot’s mother, dropped it’s weapon, a device called “Little Boy,” and 140 pounds of uranium 235 converted into heat and radiation, exploding with the energy of 16 kilotons of TNT.  
   Some 70,000 to 80,000 people, or some 30% of the city’s population were killed by the blast and the firestorm that followed, some 20,000 of whom were soldiers. Another 70,000 were injured. Over 90% of the doctors and 93% of the nurses in Hiroshima were killed or injured.
   There were about 76,000 buildings in the city at the time, and 92% of these were destroyed by the blast and fire. The explosion was so powerful that it damaged 60% of the buildings over 3 miles away from the point on the ground over which the bomb exploded. It is said that only 6,180 buildings (8%) remained suitable for use in and around the city. An area of 5 square miles was transformed into a wide stretch of radioactive ruins.
   About 140,000 were dead by the end of December of that year; 90% of these were thought to have been killed within 2 weeks after the bombing.
   President Truman addressed the American people.
    "We may be grateful to Providence" that the German atomic bomb project had failed, and that the United States and its allies had "spent two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history—and won." Truman then addressed Japan:   
   “If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already well aware.”
   The Japanese government did not react. Emperor Hirohito, his ministers, and the War Department weighed their options, devising conditions for surrender. 
   Japanese physicists went to Hiroshima and examined the damage, reporting back to Tokyo that the city had indeed been felled by an atomic device. 
   Always ready to join a party, at two minutes past midnight on August 9th, Tokyo time, Russia declared war on Japan, sending it’s infantry, armor, and air forces into Japanese held Manchuria. Now Japan was at war on two fronts.
   The Japanese military estimated that the Americans couldn’t have more than one or two more bombs, so they decided to endure one or two more attacks, acknowledging "there would be more destruction but the war would go on. (sounding like our own home grown neocons)" American code breakers intercepted the Japanese cabinets' messages and reported them back to Washington.
   At 11:01AM, August 9th, the same day the Soviets had declared war on Japan, the “Fat Man” device was dropped on one of the largest seaports in southern Japan, in the city of Nagasaki (Nagasaki had actually been the alternate target that day, cloud cover obscuring visibility over the primary target, the city of Kokura). 43 seconds later the bomb exploded 1,539 feet above the ground, transforming 14 pounds of plutonium into radioactive heat and energy, yielding the  equivalent of 21 kilotons of exploded TNT.
   For a radius of 1 mile directly below the detonation everything was destroyed. The explosion generated heat estimated at upwards of 7,050 °F, and winds at 624 MPH. Fires instantly broke out. 
   As far as the military targets were concerned approximately 58% of the Mitsubishi Arms Plant was damaged, 6,200 out of 7,500 Japanese employees were killed, including students who had been drafted into service there. The Mitsubishi Electric Works was  on the border of the main destruction zone and only suffered 10% damage. The plant that built the Type 91 torpedoes used at Pearl harbor, the Mitsubishi-Urakami Ordnance Works, was completely destroyed.
   Total casualty estimates for immediate deaths that day range from 40,000 to 75,000. Total deaths by the end of the year may have reached as much as 80,000.
   About 160 people were directly affected by the explosions of both bombs, like Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who at the age of 28 had been in Hiroshima on business for his employer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (freaking Mitsubishi! Makes you want to go out and buy a Outlander Sport, doesn’t it?) and was actually on his way home on August 6th, but had forgotten the pass that allowed him to travel, and went back to work to get it when the Little Boy bomb exploded. The explosion ruptured his eardrums, blinded him temporarily, and left him with serious burns over the left side of the top half of his body. He rested for awhile before setting out to find his two colleagues who had also survived. They spent the night in a shelter before returning home the next day. Where did he live? He lived in Nagasaki, and after receiving medical treatment for his wounds he returned to work on August 9th. While describing the Hiroshima blast to his supervisor the Fat Man bomb exploded about 2 miles away. He survived that explosion unscathed, and lived to be the only Japanese citizen recognized by the government to have survived both explosions, in March of 2009.
    Late in his life, he began to suffer from radiation-related ailments, including cataracts and acute leukemia, and he died in 2010 of stomach cancer 71 days shy of his 94th birthday.
   It is estimated that about 1,900 cancer deaths could be attributed to the after effects of the two bombs. An epidemiology study by the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) states that from 1950 to 2000, 46% of leukemia deaths and 11% of solid cancer deaths among the bomb survivors were due to radiation from those bombs.
   America was ready to drop more atomic bombs if needed, the next one would have been ready by August 19th, with 3 more in September. Fortunately the Japanese government decided to surrender (the Soviet Union having declared war on Japan was a large factor in that decision), and V-J (Victory over Japan Day) was celebrated in the United States on August 14th, the day the above picture of the woman in a white dress assaulting a sailor in New York took place. The occupation of Japan by American forces began on August 28th, and the Japanese formerly surrendered on September 2nd, on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor, where Godzilla lives.
   The atomic explosions and fire bombings of Japan during World War II were of course huge tragedies with the resulting loss of life in the hundreds of thousands. A man-made tragedy that could have been avoided in so much that war can be avoided.
   The United States occupied Japan until April 28th, 1952. During that time the secret police were abolished in October of 1945, women became involved in politics the next year, and reforms in education, and a move toward true democratization of the country took place (the Empire of Japan was dissolved on May 3rd, 1947). 
   In 1946 war crimes trials took place lasting over two and a half years, with twenty-eight Japanese military and political leaders charged with Class A crimes, and more than 5,700 Japanese nationals charged with Class B and C crimes, mostly involving prisoner abuse and torture.
   “Following World War II war crime trials were convened. The Japanese were tried and convicted and hung for war crimes committed against American POWs. Among those charges for which they were convicted was water boarding." -American political consultant Paul Begala
   I’m almost positive that the Japanese insisted they were just using enhanced interrogation techniques. 
   Emperor Hirohito and his family, even those actively in the military, were immune from war crimes investigations and never brought to trial, the reason being that the Allied Commander, General Douglas  MacArthur and President Truman wanted to continue to “look forward,” and not get bogged down in what may or may not have been atrocities committed in the messy past. 
   Japan has since become one of our greatest allies, joining the Western Bloc (countries allied with the United States and NATO against the Soviet Union and its allies during the Cold War) after the occupation ended. Japan demilitarized, relying on the United States for it’s defense needs (by this time the United States had advanced it’s nuclear weapon technology, deploying devices like the B41, a thermonuclear (a fusion device, driving it’s energy as our Sun does, where two or more atomic nuclei collide at a very high speed and join to form a new type of atomic nucleus. During this process, matter is not conserved because some of the mass of the fusing nuclei is converted to photons (energy)) weapon deployed by the Strategic Air Command in the early 1960s. It was the most powerful nuclear bomb ever developed by the United States, with a maximum yield of 25 megatons (The energy contained in 1 megaton of TNT is enough to power the average American household (with a refrigerator) for 103,474 years). 
   During the 1960s and early 1970s, Japan entered a period of rapid economic growth. Japanese companies and people were buying up American properties left and right, to the point that it became a national concern, and it was postulated that Japan was then doing economically what it hadn’t been able to do militarily during the war... taking over our country bit by bit. 
   And during this time Japan developed it’s own nuclear technology, to be used for peaceful purposes (just like Iran), building thermal and nuclear power plants, the most impressive being the Fukushima Daiichi NPP plant in the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which was first commissioned in 1971.
   The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are notable for being the only examples of nuclear weapons being used in war. As mentioned above these were man-made disasters. 
   The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of March 11th, 2011, was also a result of human error, or man-made if you will, which happened to be triggered by a 9.0 (MW) magnitude undersea earthquake. 
   9.0,  that’s a pretty hefty earthquake by anyone’s standards.

To be continued. 

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