Saturday, March 19, 2011

Burying Fukushima?

On solutions to the nuclear crisis in Japan: If the decision is made to entomb the entire Fukushima complex, as has been most recently recommended by physicist Michio Kaku, at least one constituency needs to be informed: The future.

In the 1990s, the concern among American nuclear physicists was over nuclear waste and how to warn future generations of its existence. What signage would be required? What barbed-wire fence would last for 10,000 years?

From "The 10,000-Year Warning: Alerting Future Civilizations about Our Nuclear Waste" by Gary Kliewer, in the September-October 1992 issue of THE FUTURIST:

"How could you label Pandora's box so that on one would mess with it for 10,000 years?

"The U.S. Department of Energy recently asked a panel of experts to design a marking system that would warn people against digging into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico, where radioactive materials from U.S. nuclear defense operations will be permanently entombed. The markers need to last as long as the danger, and this waste will pose a threat to human health for 300 generations.


"The panel confronted a number of challenging questions: How do yoo make a sign that will never fade away? What languages do you use? What surface do you write the message on? How do you relay a clear message to an audience so distant in time that you cannot know its culture, politics, level of technology, or religion?"

One of the answers to those questions drew from ancient wisdom: using symbols like the hieroglyphics carved in Eygptian pyramids, so the messages would convey our warnings pictorially.

Kliewer wrote:

"By setting down in granite symbols the contradictory messages of the creative and destructive powers of our technology, perhaps we are leaving a far better message in the desert than we intend. Our descendants will see that we, a civilization lost in their distant past, cared for their safety. Perhaps they will also see that we understood both the natural world and our place in it. Our warning will imply the hope that they too will look ahead for the well-being of their descendants."


Cynthia G. Wagner is editor of THE FUTURIST.

No comments: