Japan nuclear explosion - Reuters - 12.3.11
Smoke rising from Fukushima Daiichi 1 nuclear reactor after an explosion on March 12, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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No science fiction writer could have written such a plot with any credibility: Of all the countries in the world, Japan - victim of the only two atomic bombs ever dropped in war - is once again in nuclear danger. In a sense, this is the third strike this week against the island nation. After last Friday's tremendous earthquake and the subsequent tsunami, which according to unofficial estimates killed tens of thousands of people, the problems in a series of nuclear power plants arrived, threatening to realize the nightmares of every scientist, engineer and statesman.

Although yesterday, five days after the disaster, the Japanese government tried to reassure its citizens, reporting a steep decline in the level of radiation measured outside the damaged reactor in Fukushima, it's no surprise the all-clear sirens were greeted with skepticism. The series of mishaps worsened further when additional installations, including near Tokyo, joined the list of problematic reactors, even if not with the same intensity. The atypical Japanese willingness to accept assistance conveyed a recognition of the seriousness of the hour.

In addition to the tremendous sympathy for the suffering of the Japanese people, and everyone's fear of an economic chain reaction, the story of the tsunami and Fukushima seems to be sending another gloomy message. Japan, which is one of the most industrialized and advanced countries in the world, is a victim of progress. The nuclear genie has emerged from the reactor. This country - which is so energy hungry, which aspired to reduce its dependence on imported oil - has discovered that the substitute that was considered clean, safe and immune to an external embargo, is realizing the very risks that over decades were shoved aside into an ostensibly unfeasible footnote.

The Israeli ambassador to Tokyo, Nissim Ben Sheetrit, had the sense to evacuate the families of the diplomats from Japan, so they won't be in danger of radiation or suffer from the tribulations in the capital. In the overall context, it will be a gloomy outcome for Israel if Japan and others become more dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Israel would do well to accelerate the efforts to rely on other sources of energy, such as sun and wind, and to carefully reexamine its own nuclear economy - both for security needs and for civilian needs - in light of the events in Fukushima.