There’s a reason the most carefully planned fallout shelters of the fifties and sixties were built several feet underground with elaborate double and triple door entrances. And apparently, the current Japanese authorities reporting on the conditions at Fukushima #1 Nuclear Plant are hoping no one remembers.

Well I remember. My early school years were dotted with duck and cover drills, Tuesday city-wide air raid siren tests, and listening to my father, uncles and their friends periodically arguing about exactly how far underground a fallout shelter would need to be buried to avoid radiation seepage from the soil into the concrete walls; how thick those walls would need to be and then how long people would need to remain underground without ever opening the inner or outer doors in order to completely avert radioactive contamination. They were grisly topics of conversation, the kind you really didn’t want to overhear but couldn’t stop yourself from sitting on the upstairs landing, out of sight, soaking it all in.

I grew up listening to educated men and women discussing the horrors of Hiroshima, how both governments, theirs and ours, could have behaved better and in the end how the after-effects of that bomb, as devastating as they were, compared to a nuclear meltdown of the proposed power plants in the U.S. would become monumentally insignificant.

I am not an expert on or well-versed in the topic of radiation poisoning or exposure. I don’t know a rad from an ohm. What I do know is that in 1979 a nuclear explosion that occurred in a NY plant caused radiation to seep into the Long Island Sound and within 15 years Long Island health statistics reported the populated areas surrounding the sound had the largest percentage and most incidents of male breast cancer in the world. Prior to these stats becoming public, few people were even aware that male breast cancer existed.

It has been suggested that when the waters in the sound became radiated, unlike other waterways affected, the geography of the sound itself encapsulated the radiated water, making it slower to disburse the contamination, as opposed to the surrounding rivers which flowed always in one direction, out to sea. It was suggested that when authorities tested these waters and found the levels of radiation outside the known safe levels, they simply raised the safe levels to agree with the results of their tests because – it would have been impossible to move that many people out of harm’s way.

And whether that theory is true or not, that’s the mindset I find myself thinking about this week, each time I hear the announcement “those living within a 20 km radius of the plant have been evacuated – those who either could not be moved or choose to remain behind and those living just outside the 20km radius were instructed to stay indoors and keep your house air tight.”

“Stay indoors – keep everything air tight.” Really? Because all these homes and buildings were hermetically sealed? Because wooden walls, terra cotta roofs and glass windows will protect people from radiation? And how long before the air inside these sealed homes becomes too stale to breathe? We’re taking these people supplies of oxygen, right? Along with food and medical supplies, transistor radios and power generators?

I’m not certain, but I think this is where we’re all supposed to just be quiet and look the other way.

============ UPDATE============

This link will take you to an Alaska website called Frozen Justice. The blogger is in touch with a person in Japan who is translating the Japanese news reports and feeding it to Frozen Justice. It’s the closest we’re going to get at the moment to an unfiltered, live report. The blog repeats itself in the middle – I’m guesing the writer is really tired…