7    Uncertainty as insecurity

Lessons on preparing for contingencies in Japan

Oscar A. Gómez

If there is a type of disaster for which the Japanese are prepared, it is earthquakes. In particular the Tohoku (northeast) region is shaken every thirty to forty years by a tremor of around 7.5 in magnitude, and since the last one was in 1978, most of its dwellers were, to a certain extent, expecting it. They did not know exactly when and where it was going to happen, but there was no doubt about its eventual occurrence. What was not known was that seemingly every thousand years a full 9.0 earthquake could trigger a massive tsunami well beyond contingency plans, and that nuclear power plants might not be ready to endure such stress.

There are plenty ...

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