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Is Triage the New Endgame?

March 28 – Where do the people of an irradiated nation go to get away from the radiation? Are they divided up between all nations? Can they be forced to leave their home? What if other countries are afraid of them, or feel they are unable to provide for them? Do only the obviously sick leave? How can a country that has scorned gaijin (foreigners) in the past be expected to send its citizens to live amongst them now? What will it do to all of us to simply stand by and watch them die? There’s no shortage of happier topics to write about, and I will write about them in future weeks, but I think this is a subject worthy of our attention. Oh – just so you know, I DID write the article about The Joy of Cooking , but it’s a bit longer than what I usually write for this blog, so I sent it to Transition Voice ( I hope it will appear there in the next few weeks. This question of “where do the Japanese people go to escape this developing plague” has been nagging at the back of my mind for awhile. In looking at this morning, I encountered Grist’s take on Joe Cirincione’s remarks of yesterday, made on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. Mr. Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, has devoted his adult life to the nonproliferation of atomic weapons and nuclear power. His vita is long and impressive; you can find it at the Ploughshares website. What follows is his view of the worst-case possibilities: “My best guess [as to how this ends] is there is going to be a bigger breach than we’ve already seen – and we suspect there’s breaches in the number 2 and number 3 reactors – there’ll be a bigger breach, it’ll force the evacuation, and we’ll see, I think, at least two core meltdowns and possibly two, maybe more, pool fires, and it will end very, very badly. That’s what I actually think is going to happen. I hope I’m wrong. I hope they contain it.” As I understand it, the spent fuel rods are kept in pools of water indefinitely; when they are first placed there, they are superheated. They are lethally radioactive (radioactivity is simply not a quality found in conjunction with normal life qualities, particularly in the quantities found in these pools). The pool fires to which Mr. Cirincione alludes would produce life-ending results. For how many? For how long? I don’t know enough to answer questions like that. Thank G-d I have brains enough to think to ask them. So there you are: you’re Japanese, and the worst happens. You’ve been subjected to sickening doses of radioactivity, as have millions of your countrymen. Obviously, healthcare in your country is being delivered on a very piecemeal basis. In areas only tangentially impacted, or not impacted at all, by the earthquake and tsunami, the state of healthcare may be normal. However, even the hospitals in these areas of Japan are full, caring for the injured and sickened from northeastern Japan. Hospitals in north-eastern Japan simply cannot be counted on for anything more than what the average layperson might be able to do. Add to the mix the fact that doctors and nurses have been subjected to radioactivity, just as you have. This is a recipe for massive loss of life. No more hypothetical questions. You, lucky reader, are NOT in Japan. You’re many thousands of miles away. The worst hasn’t happened – yet. Japan has not asked for international evacuation. Shouldn’t we be asking our military to take the victims of the earthquake and tsunami on board, once food and medical supplies have been off-loaded, so that Japanese hospitals can do their utmost to help those poisoned by radioactivity? No, they’re not hospital ships, but those not in critical condition could be brought here, and elsewhere, for treatment. No, it wouldn’t be everybody, but eight aircraft carriers can carry a lot of people. Like it or not, triage is now a fact of life for the Japanese. That’s what I think we should do. What do you think?


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