Archive for March, 2011

The Tsunami Disaster in Japan

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

On the Sunday following the tsunami disaster in Japan I was asked to lead a prayer for the people of Japan.  As I prayed about what to pray, three sections of scripture came to mind.

The first was the one I always think about in relation to disasters, found in Luke 13:1-5.  Concerning cases involving Pilate killing a number of worshippers and a tower falling on some people in Siloam, Jesus said these things did not happen to those people because they were especially great sinners, but that “except you repent you will all likewise perish.”  In other words, these earthly disasters warn of a far worse eternal disaster.

The second was the story of the rich man in Luke 12:16-21 who tore down his barns and built bigger ones to hold his increasing wealth, and who said to himself “take your ease, eat drink and be merry.  But God said to him You fool. This night your soul will be required of you and then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”  In other words, a successful earthly life is worthless if you are damned.

The third was the account of Jesus’ visit to Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-41 where Martha complained that Mary was not helping her with the preparations but was just sitting at Jesus’ feet.  Jesus replied “Martha, Martha, you are anxious about many things, but one thing is needful and Mary has chosen that better part.”  The one thing that is needful is salvation in Jesus.

At the time of the earthquake, like the rest of us, millions of Japanese were rushing about their business, worrying about material acquisition, promotion, getting even with someone, or whatever.  A few moments later, none of that mattered.  Now all that matters for thousands of them is the state of their souls and their relationship with Jesus.

Before disasters, we are usually preoccupied with our earthly affairs and have little time for God.  After a disaster, we wonder how God could have let this happen.  Perhaps God must allow these disasters as a wake up call for man to realize his precarious state and seek after God.  The disasters of this life are bad enough, but nothing in comparison to eternal damnation.  If our lives and thoughts are not grounded in faith toward God we are not ready for either this life or the next.  One thing is needful.

Proverbs 19:3 says “A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord.”   Don’t let this be your epitaph.

Japanese Nuclear Situation

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

The post tsunami reactor problems at the Fukushima group of four GE designed Boiling Water Reactors is much in the news.  The best source for accurate up to date information I have found is nei.org.    Good diagrams are available at this NRC site.

  Apparently, after surviving the earthquate which was seven times more energetic than that for which they were designed, the operating units shut down, there was a loss of offsite power, and the emergency diesels started properly.  Then the tsunami arived and went over the tsunami wall, flooding the site and disabling the diesels.  This left the site with no electical power.  Like all nuclear plants of the current generation (Generation II) the Fukushima plants require electricity to remove decay heat from shut down reactors to prevent fuel damage.

After operating at power, the Uranium oxide fuel in reactors fissions, building up an inventory of highly radioactive fission products.  Some of these fission products are gases like Xenon while most is solid material like Cesium and Iodine.  All of it is first contained in the fuel by a metallic cladding made of Zircolly. and assembled in a cylindrical core made of may vertical fuel rods.  This is covered with water.  In the case of BWRs, boiling takes place in the core and steam rises to the top of the reactor vessel where it goes to the steam turbine to make electricity.  So the highly radioactive fission products are contained first by the cladding, then, if this fails, by the reactor vessel, and finally by the containment structure.  Spent fuel assemblies containing large quantities of fission products are also stored in pools of water outside of the containment structure.

Without electricity, pressure builds in the reactor vessel until relief valves open and the water blows out as steam until the fuel assmblies in the core are uncovered.  (With electricity they would just pump in more water.)  When uncovered, the Zircolly cladding heats to 2200F and reacts with the steam forming Zirc oxide and Hydrogen, and allowing all of the gaseous and some of the solid fission products to escape the fuel into the reactor vessel.

In an effort to recover the fuel the Japanese are apparently using fire trucks to pump sea water into the reactor vessels.  To get the water in they must vent steam (now containing lots of gaseous and some solid fission products, and hydrogen) into the atmosphere.  At first they vented it into the normal square building that covers the containment building, where the hydrogen mixed with oxygen and exloded, destroying the top part of the square building.

So most of the fission products are still in the core.  The gaseous fission products are being released to the atmosphere every time they have to vent the reactor vessel to reduce pressure enough to be able to pump in more sea water.  This accounts for the periodic increases in radiation and periodic short term evacuation of workers.  These gaseous fission products “shine” radiation on people as it passes them but being inert gases are not absorbed by the body, and eventually just blow away and are diluted to safe levels in the air.  This is why they tell people nearby to stay in doors and let it pass.  At Chernobyl, there was a fire in the graphite matrix of the core which propelled massive quantities of solid fission products into the air as smoke.  There is no graphite and no similar mechanism in this Japanese case.

The spent fuel pool in Unit 4 is variously said to be either empty of water or not empty of water in conflicting reports.  If the spent fuel rods in the pool are uncovered they can also fail, releasing fission products directly into the air.  This is where they are having helicopters try and drop water into the pool.

It is reported that they are trying to  bring an electrical cable into the plant to resore electrical power which would allow some normal safety equipment to placed in service.  This has to be done to get control of this situation.

The political fallout of this should be interesting.  We are about to see a major multi-reactor accident in a country with standards like ours where essentially all of the redundant safety features fail.  They failed of course because they were subjected to an event far beyond that for which they were designed, but we will see what really happens if all that stuff doesn’t work.  I predict that the answer will be “not as much as you think.”  They just had a major earthquake and tsunami that wiped out entire cities and killed at least 10,000 people.  even more are dying from cold, thirst, and starvation right now.  Yet when all is said and done, there will likely be no one in the civillian population killed or noticably injured by the radiation.  So if the worst case nuclear accident comes to pass and kills no one outside the plant, is nuclear power really so much more dangerous than everything else we do in modern society?  Is it more dangerous than building cities near the coast?

Why are we Losing?

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

R. Albert Mohler, president of the Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville Kentucky, has a thoughtful article on why so many Americans support gay marriage.  Mohler describes how certain world views which have gained acceptance over the years set us up to see gay marriage, an oxymoron, as making perfect sense.  The three ways of looking at things he describes are:

A Progressive Theory of History – in which history is moving in a “liberating” direction.  First we freed the slaves, then gave women the vote, then had civil rights for blacks and women and everyone else, so why not liberate the persecuted gays?

Radical Individualism – wherein the needs of the individual to be him or her self and do their own thing outweighs their obligation to others.  As for God, surely He wants us to be happy.

Moral Autonomy – what is right for you is not necessarily right for me.  There is no absolute right and wrong, or if there is one, we have no way of knowing it.

Mohler points out that these complimentary ways of thinking have become widespread, even influencing the thinking of most Christians, and that gay rights activists have skillfully framed their arguments in terms of these principles.  His main point is that Christians think that way also and thus cannot make a strong counter-argument.

This description of the way things have progressed brings to mind the passage in Romans 1 where because men chose to abandon the knowledge of God, God gave them over to gross immorality.  Acceptance of this three part world view constitutes a rejection of godly thinking.  Without godly thinking, how can there be godly conduct?

But Mohler’s article is also an example of the many articles written that describe how we are losing the culture without explaining why.  Why would a Church of great numbers, commissioned by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, be so powerless?  Three possibilities come to mind:

  1. God is not as powerful as the devil.
  2. These are the end times in which God has ordained that we lose until Jesus rends the skies and comes back to fix things.
  3. The Church is blowing it somehow such that God is not willing to help us until we get right.

I vote for number 3.

The measure of the Church or of any church in particular is how faithfully does she testify concerning the question “who is Jesus?”  Jesus will wage war on behalf of  His Church when she is bearing faithful witness concerning Him to the world.  A compromised or defective witness?  Not so much.

With few exceptions, the Church in America preaches the doctrine of the partial Lordship of Jesus, in which He is the Lord of your life and the Church, but not Ruler of the Kings of the earth (Rev1:8).  We accept the proposition that human governments should be pluralistic and free to make law contrary to God’s moral law.  We call this rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

But everything belongs to God, including Caesar, who is His minister (Rom 13).  Civil government is obliged to conform its laws to the moral law of God or suffer judgement.  And the Church is obliged to point this out without fear or favor.  In other words, the Church is to preach the comprehensive Lordship of Jesus rather than just a partial Lordship. 

As long as the Church fails to bear full witness to who Jesus is, things will indeed continue to get worse and we will keep losing the culture.  But if we repent of our error and begin to preach a comprehensive gospel, if we give faithful testimony to the King God has set on His Holy Hill (PS 2), then we can expect Him to come to our aid and fight our battles.  Things are not destined to get worse and worse.  It is up to us.