The Nuclear Curse

There can be no doubt that the present suffering and hardship that is being endured by the unfortunate people of Japan has drawn worldwide attention and widespread sympathy to the plight of all those who have been caught up in the appalling tragedies that have hit their country.

Japan and it’s people had suffered enough in the middle of the last century when the Americans had unleashed the original nuclear or atom bombs as these were then known by on two Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagosaki which were blown to smithereens and in which tens of thousands of people died as a direct result of the bombing or who later died from the effects of radiation sickness. In those bombings the Americans had ushered in a new and frightening technology to our world which was later harnessed and adopted for so-called peaceful purposes such as the production of nuclear energy as a means of generating electricity or use in medicine.

The following year after the Americans had bombed Japan they exploded some more nuclear weapons in trials and experiments to find out what effects it would have on wildlife both on land and in the oceans. That was in 1946 when the war was over and the Japanese had surrendered.

These trials on one occasion took place in an atoll in the Pacific Ocean and the explosion was recorded in the seismograph at the Jesuit Retreat House and College of Studies, Rathfarnham Castle where some of us were employed on the staff at the time. It would appear that these tests were carried out by the Americans without regard for the nuclear fallout that might be caused to the people as well as all life in neighbouring islands or other areas in the region.

But the terrible disasters that have occurred in Japan during recent weeks while the tsunami and the earthquakes have done considerable damage and have killed thousands of people at least these have been natural disasters which nobody could help or foresee. The nuclear fallout and radiation that has come about from the damaged power stations and nuclear plants on the other hand is to a great extent a man-made disaster and goes to illustrate the major risk that is associated with this form of energy in several areas throughout the world where such stations have been installed. The radiation fallout on land and sea in Japan is now the most serious and frightening problem that the country is faced with.

For a country that recovered so quickly from the second world war after being defeated to become one of the greatest economies in the world it is surely a major tragedy that the Japanese people have been struck down to such an extent but it certainly goes to show the considerable dangers of nuclear fission. Previously there was the Chernobyl disaster which is still having its effects on the people there. In England and other parts of Britain the nuclear plants there are far too near us for comfort, particularly in Sellafield and Cumbria where in some instances nuclear waste is being dumped into the Irish sea. If any accident happened there, with the prevailing winds coming in from the west, thousands could be killed in England and Wales by radiation. We might escape for some time but a change in the wind direction could eventually affect us as well. The fact is that there is no such thing as an entirely safe nuclear power station and that has now been proven in Japan where it will take years, perhaps decades, to clean up the mess and bring the situation there back to something approaching normal. When some of us were serving for several years in the Civil Defence we learned a whole lot about nuclear fallout and how to counteract its effects. While indeed there are several precautions and practical measures that might be taken to save lives in case of war or a nuclear accident, there is however no magic formula yet available.

Let us take a look for instance at what might occur in a hypothetical scenario without wishing to scare people, if God forbid Athea was hit with an explosion from a nuclear bomb. The village and surrounding area within a mile or so would be completely wiped out. Back the Lower Road beyond the mile limit, out in Upper Dirreen and the eastern side of Knocknagorna, Toureendonnell and across the east side of Templeathea, Glenagore, Knockfinisk, parts of Coole West, Coole East, Cratloe and in some parts of Gornagross and Upper Athea would be structural and blast damage to many buildings, but beyond five miles from the site of an explosion the material damage would be somewhat less and ten miles away then it would hardly be noticed. But of course the radiation fallout could spread far and wide beyond the bomb site, or a nuclear accident and that is what is happening in Japan at the present time. Radiation fallout is for the most a silent killer and this country is fortunate that we have no nuclear power stations. Many years ago, by all accounts, a certain Government Minister was anxious to set up a nuclear power station in Carnsore Point in Wexford, but thankfully and fortunately the proposal did not go ahead, perhaps the other members of the Cabinet might have turned it down.

It is really grand to look out my window on those early April mornings and watch the turbine blades spinning on the high hill of Dromada wind farm producing clean eco-friendly electricity compared to the highly dangerous and often lethal nuclear plants that are situated in so many different countries throughout the world and where there is always a potential risk factor with devastating consequences.


Late Ned O’Shaughnessy

Sympathy is extended to the nephews, nieces and other relatives of late Ned O’Shaughnessey of Knockdown. Ned, who had been a resident of St. Ita’s Hospital for the past number of years where he was well cared for, was a cheerful, friendly and good humoured person who was always good for a song at a wedding, party or just a gathering of friends.

Even at the last concert that the Ceol Luimnigh group performed at St. Ita’s Hospital Ned joined in singing his favourite song “Shanagolden” which he used to sing just as good, or maybe even better, than a professional.

Some years ago Ned took part with some more of us in an RTE 1 television programme. In his younger days Ned spent some years working in England before he returned home to look after his aged parents in Knockdown. May his soul rest in peace.


Other Recent Deaths

Sympathy is extended to the family and extended families of late Bridie Scanlon (nee Mulvihill) of Upper Athea. She was a gentle and well-liked member of the local community and her death is widely regretted. May her soul rest in peace.

The death also recently in a Newcastle West Nursing Home of Peg O’Mahony, South Keale. Peg was a member of a well-liked local family and had many near relatives and friends throughout the local area and further afield.

May her soul rest in peace and sympathy is extended to her nephews, nieces and other relatives.