When we last left the exciting Fukushima earthquake/tsunami story, it had been determined that the Fukushima nuclear power plant suffered almost no ill effects from the largest recorded earthquake in Japan's history and the fifth-largest ever recorded on the planet. They had built the reactors deep in solid rock and they withstood the upheaval just fine.
Then the tsunami came along, knocked out the backup generators, and the whole thing went into the toilet.
Then the Japanese government freaked out and shut down all of their nuclear power plants due to 'safety concerns'. The first one finally went back on line a few weeks ago, a year and a half later.
Now, a little panic and overreaction from a government is hardly anything new. We see it here all the time. Some 11-year-old moron puts out an eye with a bottle rocket and immediately all fireworks are banned throughout the greater tri-county area. About the only thing they have in some places these days are sparklers and snakes. Happens all the time.
But then Germany got into the act, likewise shutting down all of its nuke plants over 'safety concerns', all of which raises one of the greatest questions of all time:
They have tsunamis in Germany?
Earthquakes, sure, but, as Fukushima testified, nuke plants can be built to withstand earthquakes just fine. So, what the German High Command is really saying to its citizenry is, "We're afraid we might get hit by a tsunami any minute now." That, all by itself, might have earned Germany the coveted Fool of the Decade award.
But it gets much weirder than that.
When they built Fukushima, they constructed a sea wall that would withstand the highest tsunami in Japan's recorded history, back in the 30's. These people obviously aren't fools, and they knew well that (1) the reactors would probably withstand a major quake just fine, but (2) a tsunami breaching the sea wall might do them in, so they obviously put a lot of research into it.
Okay, so why did the tsunami breach the sea wall?
Because it wasn't a tsunami.
Turns out, that wasn't a tsunami after all that swept into northeastern Japan last March, killing nearly 20,000 people and launching a major nuclear and environmental crisis.
That was two tsunamis that merged far out at sea and rolled swiftly toward shore, more than 135 feet high. That means the speeding wall of water was almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty, torch to toes.
They've been studying data from a trio of satellites that fortuitously happened to be passing over that part of the Pacific Ocean on Friday, March 11, Japan time. And they have now confirmed what until now had only been hypothesized:
It proved that separate massive water movements, ignited by undersea earthquakes miles beneath the ocean surface, can grow and actually merge their massive energy and water volumes to roll across scores of miles of ocean undiminished by distance. They are, it now appears, shaped and steered by the unseen contours — the ridges and mountain ranges — of the ocean bottom beneath.
Until now, such twin tidal waves had never been observed, just theorized as possible explanations for such devastation as the 1960 Chilean tsunami that traveled trans-Pacific to kill about 200 in Hawaii and Japan.
"It was a one-in-ten million chance that we were able to observe this double wave with satellites," said Y. Tony Song of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. "It was like looking for a ghost. A NASA-French Space Agency satellite altimeter happened to be in the right place at the right time to capture the double wave and verify its existence."
So, to sum up, not only did Germany shut down its entire nuclear power industry because they were afraid of getting hit by a tsunami, but it turns out the tsunami they based this on was such an unlikely event that, until now, it had only been hypothesized.
Maybe Germany and Japan would like to share the award.