Sunday, March 20, 2011

Japan's Emergency Makes Us in Italy Ask Questions

The devastation in Japan has rocked the world. That population has suffered a tremendous earthquake, a horrible tsunami and now faces nuclear radiation problems, already knowing its effects all too well after my country's final military blow to the nation at the end of World War II.

So much has already been said about the subject in the last week. Many Americans on the West Coast have thought about their own preparedness, since they are also part of the Pacific Ring of Fire activity, including severe periodic earthquakes. If you haven't made your own emergency kit, which all the Japanese seem to have, and live in that area, consult this Blogher post with a professional list, advice and comments.

We in Italy find ourselves in an earthquake zone as well. Aquila had its terremoto just under 2 years ago at 5.8 on the Richter scale. See my post. The city still hasn't even started to rebuild the downtown historic area. Many questionable building practices in the area were questioned in light of how easily some of the structures fell during the quake, especially a university student housing complex which killed many youth.

Japan's recent experience was, some say, 30,000 times stronger than Aquila's. Hardly anything in Japan fell during the actual earthquake because the culture has been so careful about its construction regulations. But there were horrible effects anyway, coming from the "angry" water and damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Here in Italy, the government recently decided to push for a plan to build nuclear reactors to help alleviate the country's energy needs. After the nuclear disaster in 1986 in Chernobyl, Italy had passed a referendum to not build any nuclear power plants. Two years ago the tune changed. Nuclear energy has been an appetizing solution in addition to renewable energy. Plans were in place to start building soon.

Now even those in favor of the nuclear solution in Italy just started to serious reanalyze the need for that dangerous energy option. Italy could have a similar problem to any future nuclear reactors that are built. An earthquake could cause the reactors to malfunction and leak radiation. This is in addtion to other problems like human error and the eternal problem of where to deposit nuclear waste.

FYI the province of Padua is one of the strongest areas in the research and development of alternative energy. We have many businesses that have sprung up recently, especially for the photovoltaic option: ex) Helios Technology S.p.a., Solon S.p.a., and XGroup S.p.a. Exactly a year ago, the city of Padua announced that it would install the panels for free on your house after an analysis of the architectural and urbanistic situation. The city teamed up with banks and the companies mentioned above to start installing not only for private people, but also on public schools and other public buildings. The city has at least 20 schools with solar panels, at this point.

Recently the government froze incentives on renewable energy sources like photovoltaic, real options that would cut the demand for nuclear plants. Some suggest this is exactly the reason why the funds were cut. Nuclear had to be the clear and single need. The Paduan companies are suffering the consequences with a drop in business. They have been worried about their future as well as the progress of renewable energy in Italy.

But Madre Natura (Mother Nature) has spoken. Japan's example makes the choices very clear for us in Italy. Nuclear is too risky.

Let's keep the money flowing into renewables.


  1. Thanks Irene for an interesting post, it makes me so sad to see the world in such turmoil not just from natural disasters but the fighting also.

  2. The Middle East is a whole other topic, and Italy is partially in the Libyan mix. I agree, it's so sad.

  3. intresting post; It's all thrue, but it lets us a feeling of sadness; we can't control mother Nature, we need power-energy to live our modern live.