Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TDR : Is the Unthinkable Becoming a Possibility?

Let's put it this way: if i had posted this article only one week ago probably everyone would have thought "Tokyo Disney theme parks in danger of radioactivity? Is he totally insane?". The devastating Japan earthquake and tsunami happened only six days ago and it's a catastrophe of such gigantic proportions that in less than six days what was unthinkable is becoming possible.

The nuclear reactors of Fukushima nuclear plant are almost out of control, the nuclear agency declared yesterday that the accident is now considered to be on "level six" - next level is level seven which indicates a nuclear accident as serious as the one which happened in Tchernobyl - and when you hear a president saying that the situation is "totally dramatic" or a minister who declares after a meeting with his Japanese counterpart that the situation "is extremely serious" you begin to understand that they know something that we don't know. In two words, the gates of hell have just opened at Fukushima nuclear plant and the situation is almost totally out of control. Which means that the risk to reach a situation similar to what happened in Tchernobyl in 1986 - with radioactive elements sent in the air - exist and can't be exclude. And at Fukushima they have problems on four nuclear reactors instead of one...

Above and below new pictures of Fukushima nuclear plant showing the damaged reactors

As you probably all watched these last days on TV this dramatic event i'm not going to play the "Bill Nye the Science guy" to explain what would be the worst scenario, you all know that the risk is to have highly radioactive elements like xénon, krypton, césium-137 and iode-131 being sent in the atmosphere, without a possibility to stop them. To give you an idea how long the effects of a "level 7" nuclear disaster can last, in Tchernobyl, 25 years after the nuclear accident there is still a forbidden zone 30 kilometers all around the site where NO ONE can enter and another zone more than 100 kilometers all around the site in which it is always forbidden to live. And this will last for a looong time... Because the japanese reactors have a different design than the one at Tchernobyl the same kind of explosion that happened 25 years ago might not be possible but unfortunately that's not the problem. The problem is to have radioactivity elements leaked and moving in the atmosphere whether it is by an explosion or gentle winds.

The picture above show the location of towns with more than 500000 inhabitants and distances from Fukushima nuclear plant

Let's come back to Tokyo. I wish with all my heart that we won't reach the worst scenario - we will know that in the next days - but if it happens it will be a tremendous tragedy. Tokyo, one of the biggest city in the world with 13.5 million people, is only at 200km from the Fukushima nuclear plant and chances of contamination by radioactive elements sent in the air are high - yesterday, radiation levels in Tokyo were 10 times higher than normal but this is still an "acceptable" safe level. In case of a radioactive cloud the contamination might touch not only Tokyo but also, depending of the winds, a big part of the country, not to mention foreign countries near Japan. The impact on Japanese economy will be dramatic - just look to what is happening at Tokyo's stock exchange since last Monday - and as Japan is the third economy in the world it will have an effect on other countries economy...

If radioactive elements reach Tokyo what do you think that will happen to Tokyo Disney Resort? I hope you don't think that TDR is living under a bubble which won't be affected by what will happen outside. If there is a radioactive contamination through the air which reaches Tokyo it will also reach TDR, there is little doubt about that. Depending of the level and dangerousness of the radioactivity Oriental Land Co will have to decide if guests can enter the parks or not, right? Do you think they will say "come in the parks, don't pay attention to the césium-137 and iode-131 floating in the air, just enjoy the rides and take a good shower when you'll be back home and everything will be fine"? Probably not. What we will see - although i doubt they will accept anyone to be a witness - is surrealistic scenes with TDR people all around the parks checking the radioactivity level with Geiger counters and then announce that parks are closed "until further notice" if the radioactivity is too high.

I know it looks unbelievable, but what is even more unbelievable is how - in less than six days - what was so unthinkable that it didn't even enter our minds just became a possibility that we can't exclude - even if, once again, i really really hope that it won't happen and that we will never see "Warning! Radio activity!" signs at TDL or TDS.

There is something fascinating when you look at the destiny at work: you understand that we don't control anything, that man is not stronger than nature, that it was just an illusion. An illusion which, when everything goes awry, can have serious dramatic consequences.

EDITED : I will update this article with the latest news of the situation. For those of you who might think that this article is excessively alarmist (it's not my goal but i know that some of you will think it is) here is the latest facts:

But first, you can watch the latest news, live on the site of the japanese NHK TV HERE. It's translated in english. Also, for all donations to help japanese people please go HERE.

- LATEST: Director of Nuclear Security Institute announced today that, so far, the radioactivity released at Fukushima nuclear plant is equal to 10% of what has been released at Tchernobyl in 1986.

- LATEST: Taiwan and South Korean authorities announced thursday March 17 that unusual high radioactivity levels were detected on passengers coming from Japan.

- LATEST: Tadashi Nishimura, an official with the Osaka Ryokan and Hotel Association, said Wednesday that "Due to last Friday's quake, our members have been reporting increased cancellations. But we do need to start thinking about what would happen in the event Osaka suddenly sees large numbers of people from Tokyo looking for rooms," he said.

In Kyoto, where hotels and ryokan over the next couple of weeks were previously almost fully booked for the cherry blossom season, the prefecture said it is starting to consider measures to deal with sudden spikes in mid- and long-term demands for hotel rooms. Kyoto is only about two hours and 20 minutes from Tokyo Station by the fastest trains. "Discussions on a scenario that requires responding to the arrival of refugees from Tokyo are expected to begin soon," said Shinya Iwako, a prefectural official.

In Kyoto and Osaka prefectures, there are more than 500 hotels and ryokan, plus another 340 or so in Hyogo Prefecture. Over the past few days, a number of people from Tokyo have been arriving at Kyoto Station and Kansai and Itami airports with plans to stay in the region for an indefinite period.

- LATEST: UK Foreign Office asked british citizens living in Tokyo and North-East Japan to move away from these regions. The German government suggests to all Germans in the area to leave Tokyo and go south of Japan as soon as possible.

- Japan prime minister Naoto Kan announced this morning that "radioactivity levels have considerably increased in north-east region of Japan and up to Tokyo. At Ibaraki, north of Tokyo, the radioactivity level was 300 times superior to the normal level with 15,8 microsieverts per hour". Nevertheless, Japan authorities consider that this level of radioactivity is not dangerous for human beings. So why is the "normal radioactivity level" has been fixed 300 times lower than the one currently measured at Ibaraki? And this is just five days after it all began. We'll check the radioactivity level in one week, let's hope it go down.

- Yesterday, as the level of radioactivity became too high at Fukushima nuclear plant they decided to send water on the reactors from helicopters. This morning it was announced that it was no longer possible to do it with helicopters because the radioactivity which is released from the reactors is now too high to get close to them even from an helicopter. Hopefully this might change but i wouldn't bet on it.

- It's now almost sure that TDR Parks will not re-open on March 22 and apparently Oriental Land might decide to don't resume parks operations before the end of April. All this situation is smelling so bad that yesterday Oriental Land has announced that "they offer to send any international cast member back home if they want, with the promise that their job would be available when the situation returns to normal".
They have to check everything in the parks to make sure there is no hidden damages, repair the damages caused by the earthquake on the parking lot, and not to mention reduced power supply which makes park operations difficult if not impossible. The hidden truth is that they're probably just like everyone in Tokyo, praying that the unthinkable don't become reality.


john321 said...

I usually like your postings, but you're not checking your facts here.

First of all, the parking lot of TDR was NEVER affected by the tsunami. The resort is located in the bay and surrounded by a sea wall. So, first of all, the effects of the tsunami inside the bay were already extremely reduced and no match for the sea wall. The water damage on the parking lot was from broken pipes and possibly liquefaction.

Now back to the rest of the article, that is, in my opinion, only based on feelings, not on any facts whatsoever.

The problems that OLC are facing are not longterm fallout/washout problems. I don't want to downplay the problems at the Fukushima I plant, as they are very worrying and beyond belief. But, even if the worst would happen, the impact on Tokyo in the medium to long term would be minimal. In the short term, the fallout and/or washout can cause considerable health problems if the worst happens, but it is not like they abandonned Kiev after Chernobyl either.

The biggest concerns for OLC are totally different and are rather economic:

- How many people will have the need to visit OLC properties after such a disastrous chain of events? How many years does it take before the economy recovers?
- Where do they get the power to run their facilities? Remember: Japan has lost about 30% of their power generating capacity. Many nuclear plants are badly damaged and especially with what now happened, they won't be running again quickly. (As in, it will probably take months, years or in some cases facilities will be total writeoffs...) On the long lists of facilities that will be granted stable power by the government, TDR will be close to the bottom. So, how do you run facilities like this, without any guarantee for stable power for the upcoming months?

Anonymous said...

i'm sorry to say this but a lot that you have said is extremely distorted from the truth. I am currently living in japan and can tell you that a radioactive catastrophe is not only unthinkable but also IMPOSSIBLE. the reactor are not out of control as the international news station are rambling about, no one i have met is worried about a nuclear meltdown, and OLC has delayed the reopening because they have to estimate the amount of damage to repair before everything is operational and safe again (it was announce on television). All this misinformation made by all those news webs site is annoying. Japan will prevail, not crash and burn like everyone is implying!

CheriBibi said...

Let's keep it a Disney blog shall we ?

Alexandre said...

You obviously have no idea what you're talking about, so does everyone else in the media...
There is no way that the reactors will become like Tchernobyl because the problem is compete different. In Tchernobyl, the failsafe system failed and cause a cataclysmic meltdown, and the reactor did not have a confinement chamber, thus the gas and radioactive particle could escape. The japanese reactors, two of which have been neutralized already btw, have their failsafe on and the internal reaction was stopped, and the are protected by confinement chambers, the cloud of vapor were realized intentionally by the japanese engineers to relieve the pressure inside them. The problem is that they are over heated and the japanese are trying to salvage them. No one is panicking about a nuclear disaster and if all hopes of salvaging the two other reactors fail, they will simply flood them with sea water, like they did with reactor 1 and 3. All of this was explained over and over by japanese media but no one else seem to think it was worth mentioning...

So I beg you to stop spreading this nonsense about nuclear disasters, it is complete bullshit.

Alain Littaye said...

To john321: You're perfectly right about the parking lot, the problem came from the earthquake effects and not the tsunami, i'm gonna change this in the text right now. You're also right on the economy and power concerns for TDR, there is no doubt about that, but where you're not necessarily right is on the consequences of what's happening at Fukushima nuclear plant. Absolutely no one knows how all this will end, except that it's probably gonna have a bad ending. How big will be the bad ending is the real question, and right now it's fifty-fifty. We'll probably know more in the next days.

To Anonymous: Thinking that a radioactive catastrophe is not possible is more blind optimism than anything else. I don't know in which part of Japan - or on which planet - you're living - or how unreliable the japanese news are but i can tell you that it's not what the best experts in the world are saying. Anyway, i wish you'll be right.

To CheriBibi: If we can't talk about the fate of Tokyo Disneyland in a Disney blog, then what can we talk about?

Will said...

The German government suggests to all Germans in the area to leave Tokyo and go south ASAP.

Alain Littaye said...

Not only i'm certainly not going to stop talking about what is happening, but the best advice i can give to anyone living in Japan is to have a read at foreign news as it seems that there is a BIG difference between what is said in Japan and the reports from foreign nuclear agencies.

I don't think the japanese government is lying, i think they don't tell all the truth on how serious is the situation. There is not one good reason why the foreign nuclear agencies would say bullshits about what is happening. Not one. On the contrary the japanese government can't say "run! run for your life!" to the people if it was the case. If you're french, it's interesting to read this article from french people living in Japan:


and also this one, perfectly explaining the situation (always in french language):


john321 said...


I happen to be an engineer with a scientific background and I also happen to have family in the nuclear industry. Me myself and them are both extremely concerned about what they're seeing.

Also, the biggest threat probably aren't the reactors themselves. The containment structures around them should keep the majority of the radioactivity inside by design, even in case of a full meltdown. Even in the probable case of damage to the containment structure, the release of radioactivity will probably be manageable for the wider environment. (You surely DON'T want to be near that.)

The biggest threat comes from the spent fuel rods inside the spent fuel pools. Also, it is not clear if the fuel inside the pool in the damaged containment building in reactor 4 is fuel on the end of its cycle, or if it was just temporarily unloaded for reactor maintenance. In the later case, you have very reactive fuel that could eventually even go critical again and then we basically have a second Chernobyl.

But still, Tokyo is about 200 KM away from all this. In the end, a containment will be established and life in Tokyo will go back to "normal", once the major fall out has passed. Back in 1986, many countries faced the fallout of the Chernobyl accident, but we're still here, aren't we?

So, posting pictures of a TDR as a radioactive exclusion zone is more based on misplaced emotions than on possible facts in my opinion.

Yet again, people in Japan shouldn't put their head in the ground, the situation IS very critical and if you live in a possible fall out zone, you should try to get away while that is passing to avoid long term health problems.

Alain Littaye said...

To john321: John, the pictures are not even misplaced emotions, they're just here to illustrate the article. Some of you might find them provocative but i have too much respect for the intelligence of my D&M readers to think they will take them at the first degree.

Now, about what's happening at Fukushima nuclear plant: i quite agree with you and "on the paper" things should happen as you say. The problem is that, sometime, LIFE doesn't work like what is written on the paper. Everything should follow a scientific logical and sometime what's happening defies the logical. The reason why - and i'm not going to explain you this in details today as it will be too long - is because there are other forces which are involved in what is happening in life. To make a long story short: on the material plan things follow a rational logic. But there is another plan which is why things happen at the time they happen (why, for instance, this week and not six months ago) and it is there that exist invisible forces which are beyond anything, something close to what we call destiny. What is happening now in Japan is terrible and frightening, but believe me, this year is going to be for the world an explosive one. It began in January with the revolutions in Arab countries, it goes on this week with the tremendous earthquake and nuclear plant out of control, and that's just the beginning.

Mark said...

Alain, I say keep posting information- even if it is only your educated guess. Stuff is happening everywhere we look. Reminds me of Jesus' words in Matthew- wars, rumors of wars, earthquake and famines. I'm no alarmist, but the Bible is sure making much more sense lately!

Marco Antonio Garcia said...

Thank you very much for the updates Alain, they're very appreciated!

This is really a huge catastrophe and I vary sad one, I wish all the best to the Japanese people and I'm sure they will recover from this tragedy as they are a very proud, hard working (even tough past generations were more than the current one), determined and highly educated nation, and they've been through worse things. I really admire the real heroes that are working to prevent a nuclear catastrophe.

Regarding the apocalyptical predictions, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I really disagree. There were always big disasters, for instance, in 1755 there was a huge earthquake followed by a Tsunami that almost completely destroyed Lisbon (one of the largest European cities at the time), and in 1692 another earthquake annihilated Port Royal, the capital of piracy in the Caribbean, and most of the city fell into the sea. There was even a year without summer in Europe, in which Lord Byron wrote Darkness, and in all these events there were religious people talking about the end of the world, the bible, and all this nonsense. It's just that the telecommunications were not as developed and it was less documented.

Regarding wars, even tough there are many, we're living in very peaceful times, because the last big war was 66 years ago. The world has never been a peaceful, disaster free place, but it keeps on going.

I just wish that Japan and TDR recover fast and continue to grow. TDR is my favorite Disney Resort, with the best parks and hotels, that are unfortunately very far away and expensive, but definitely worth going to.

CheriBibi said...

Let's be honest as much as I love Tokyo Disneyland, if the whole Tokyo Area were to become radioactive as your photoshop implied, the fate of Tokyo Disneyland would be the last of our worries. Wouldn't it ?

Unknown said...


First i have a great respect for your blog and your information. However in this case, you are completly false. Indeed LIFE is different then on paper. Think of Disneyland paris with its high attendance predictions. There are a lot differences in this case!

First, nucleair power is part what we call exact sciences. Economics is predictible in a very high degree but is never exact. Science will always follow the natural laws and is predictable for every scenario. Further you take Tchernobyl as example, in which a 100km is set where it is forbidden to live. Tokyo is at least(!) 200km so there is no permanent closure zone.

Your reaction is that foreign media are reporting on the basis of foreign goverments to leave Tokyo as it is not safe. The reason why other countries do advise this to their residents is that they expect that tokyo CAN possibly if everyone wants to leave can become in chaos. NOT because of the radiation but beacuse of sudden fear! Although this has indirectly a link with a Fukushima disaster. This has nothing to do with radiation hazard. Another reason for example the US to advise to not come in a 90km zone from the plants is the same as wel that foreigners can get left behind in case of evacuation beacause they to not speak or understand Japanese good enough. So indeed other countries advise to leave Japan this is NOT beacause radiation hazard!

Universal Studios Japan already reported to be open. I expect that TDR will open as soon as possible. People who can afford will need distraction from the devastation and the missery. And in southern Japan the people still want to go on holiday.

Hoping you will keep posting. Your posts are always tremendous however this particular one is somewhat one-sided, in contrary with all your other extensive and balanced posts.

Hopefully we will get an update on Disneyland Paris from you soon. From the World of Disney Store, the Earl of Sandwich, Star Tour II, Little Mermaid, Ratatouille (with confirmation of CEO of Euro Disney Mr. Gas) and the development maps for Val d'Europe with a Backlot hotel on it!

David N. said...

There is one ironic thing about this whole tragedy: In the article you said that this all proves that man is not stronger than nature. In fact, nature itself wouldn't be strong enough to cause such a catastrophe, if man wouldn't have built nuclear power plants. So, "thanks" to man, Japan is not only facing massive "natural" destruction by earthquakes and a Tsunami, but also have to cope with "man-made" nuclear fall-outs.

Alain Littaye said...

To Marco Antonio Garcia: Thanks for your comment, Marco. Personally i'm not doing apolyptical predictions but simply saying that due to the development of the situation things that were unthinkable one week ago are now not anymore unthinkable. Of course i wish that the worst will not happen, but we better cross our fingers.

To CheriBibi: Of course if the worst was happening in Tokyo area (or elsewhere in Japan) the fate of Tokyo Disneyland would go in the background but i'm sure that anyone who have visited the parks will be extremely sad to learn they would never be open anymore.

To Barth: I totally agree with you on the facts that nuclear power and economics are exact sciences and follow the natural laws. And it's also true that the reason why foreign governments are asking their citizens living in Japan to go on the south or come back home is not based on the fact that there is radiations in Tokyo (there is not right now) but on their fear that it might happen. It's just a measure of precaution, perfectly understandable in this situation.

To David N: You're right, if man didn't built the nuclear plant nature wouldn't have created it by itself. But that's the Promothean aspect of the affair (in mythology Prométhée is the one who wanted to steal the power of gods). In their quest and facination of power humans have played with powers that are far beyond their capacity to control them. They think they can control them (in this case by building containments around the reactors) but finally nature is stronger and now the Pandora box is open...

Marco Antonio Garcia said...

To all of you who are interested in the real Japanese radioactivity situation, this is an excellent news:


Anonymous said...

Your photoshoped images are silly and juvenile as they relate the actual information of the post. It tempts me to not want to visit or link to your site anymore.

It's pure "alarmism" as time will prove.

Alain Littaye said...

To Anonymous: considering that i'm almost 56 i am tempted to take your comment as a compliment.
However, as i've already said in an answer to a comment above, the images are just here to illustrate the article. If people take them at the first degree, thinking that it will happen in the next days, i can't help it.
I want to say once again that i don't say in my article that this is what is going to happen, i'm just saying that what was not even thinkable as an eventuality one week ago is now not 100% impossible. VERY probably it will not happen and this is what i wish of course, but saying that it definitely cannot happen is not objective. Hopefully they will get the situation under control at Fukushima and everything will be fine for Tokyo and TDR.

Anonymous said...

So you are illustrating what will "VERY probably not happen" to illustrate the article of what has happened?

The logic of illustrating what isn't because it could be, is silly and it comes across as puerile and alarmist.

Alain Littaye said...

Are you completely stupid or what? The title of the article is: "Is the unthinkable becoming a possibility?" and it means exactly what it says, we're talking here about a possibility not something which had happened. The pictures are only here to illustrate that, it's like when you're reading an article talking about the future life on Mars, no pictures are existing so they create pictures to illustrate their article, it's just as simple as that.
Anyone who see my "radioactive" TDL and TDS pictures and believe that it already happened for real is totally dumb. I've said above in an answer to a comment that i had too much respect for the intelligence of my D&M readers to think that they will take the pictures at the first degree but with comments like yours i begin to have some doubts...