Technological Damnation 93: Technological Disasters

When we covered Environmental Damnation 18: Natural Disasters, we noted that natural disasters — including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis — are on the rise. However, these aren’t the only disasters that can bring your supply chain to ruin. Man made disasters stemming from technological advances can also disrupt, and sometimes destroy, an entire supply chain (region).

Three major disasters we need to be on the lookout for are:

  • Nuclear Meltdowns

    While the proponents might like to sell us on how clean nuclear energy is compared to petro-carbon alternatives, the fact of the matter is that while the energy is clean, the waste is much dirtier, with Plutonium-239 having a half-life of 24 Thousand years and Neptunium-237 has a half-life of 2 Million years! Plus, while an explosion at a petro-carbon energy plant might wipe out the plant and immediate surrounding area, an explosion at a nuclear power plant can make an entire city, or even a small state, uninhabitable for millennia! For example, the 30 km exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl will not be safe for human life for another 20,000 years (and even today, 30 years later when [over] half of the iodine-131, caesium-134, caesium-137, and strontium-90 — the four most harmful radionuclides that spread as a result of the explosion — have reached their half-life, workers are not allowed to work in the zone for more than 5 hours a day and not for more than one month at a stretch due to the ongoing risk to one’s life).

  • Chemical Leaks

    Most of the chemicals we use in manufacturing and production need to be transported, and most are transported by tanker truck or rail car (or pipeline between plant locations), but some are transported by barrels, especially when being shipped by sea (or air). Leaks can be dangerous if the chemical is explosive, acidic, or poisonous, especially if the leak is near a populated area or a water supply. For example, the Bhopal disaster of 1984 exposed over 500,000 people to methyl isocyanate (a toxin often used in pesticides such as Carbaryl which are designed to kill bugs hardier than us, and banned in many countries) and resulted in 3,787 confirmed deaths, 3,900 severe and permanent injuries, and 558,125 reported injuries.

  • (Natural) Gas Leaks

    Gas leaks, whether chemical or hydrocarbon, are among the most dangerous leaks, and natural gas leaks are among the most dangerous. Not only are they toxic (as we are talking about a mixture of methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, etc.), but they are also highly explosive, requiring only a single spark to (potentially) obliterate an area the size of (multiple) city blocks. Recent examples are the 2012 explosion in Springfield Massachusetts that destroyed 2 buildings and damaged 42 and the 1992 explosion in Guadalajara that killed over 200, injured 500, and left 15,000 people homeless.

The more we progress, the more we need more, and, stronger energy sources and more chemicals to produce our new technology, and the more danger we place ourselves, and our supply chains, in.

This necessitates the need for more safety audits, more safety practices, and more oversight — especially as more regulations start popping up to try and prevent more accidents and control dangerous substances. So not only do you have to worry about the well being of people in your supply chain, you have to worry about the well-being of your brand if you fail to maintain top safety practices, go afoul of regulations, or take your time switching away from dangerous chemicals or energy sources to more environmentally friendly sources.

This damnation always needs to be at the back of one’s mind or when it unexpectedly rears its ugly head, one will not be ready.