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Fukushima: evolving fear into fact

by David Roberts and Ted Lazo

Masao Yoshida had been the chief manager of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi (No. 1) nuclear power plant for just nine months when, on March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a triple nuclear reactor meltdown. The plant spewed radioactive material into the air and water, terrifying the Japanese public and much of the world.

Yoshida’s death last week from cancer under the pall of that nuclear disaster brings to mind how vulnerable facts can be to distortion.

In the accident’s wake, a lack of trustworthy information — and an abundance of misinformation — fueled fear among the public, both in Japan and abroad. As we learned from the Three Mile Island (United States) and Chernobyl (Ukraine) accidents, stress can be at least as harmful as the radiation exposure itself. Thus, a veracity rating in the same spirit as The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, which rates the reliability of politicians’ statements in “Pinocchio” units, may help to save lives in future public health crises.

A fearful public quickly lost confidence in official communications channels after repeated failures. People looked instead to the news media for information, but the media could not be relied on fully, either, with even the most respected outlets unnecessarily feeding public anxiety.

Accurate information was understandably difficult to obtain in the weeks immediately following the accident, but misinformation persisted even when scientific data on radiation levels and reactor stability had become more readily available. Even The New York Times, which provided some truly excellent on-the-ground reporting, contributed at times to public alarm during the recovery, owing to misleading — and sometimes incorrect — statements. Three examples of reporting that was clearly flawed at the time, not just in hindsight, demonstrate the point:

(1) In October 2011, the Times compared radiation levels in “hot spots” in Tokyo to “some contaminated areas around Chernobyl.” The information was technically accurate, but the menacing impression of pockets of radioactive apocalypse was not.

The article uses the reference point of “37,000 becquerels per square meter, the level at which zones were considered contaminated at Chernobyl,” but fails to mention that this boundary is for the most peripheral of the Chernobyl-contaminated zones and is considered habitable.

The associated potential “dosage of more than one millisievert per year” could more comprehensibly (and much less frighteningly) be likened to the approximate difference in additional annual radiation exposure that the average U.S. resident experiences compared to the average Japanese due to natural background radiation. Even this non-Chernobyl comparison overstates the real dose, as it is analogous to a large contamination zone rather than a localized “hot spot.”

(2) Likewise, the following January, the Times reported that Japan’s government would soon impose stricter food-safety radiation regulations, “bringing Japan in line with most developed countries.” This statement, made in passing, wrongly implied that Japan’s regulations at the time were notably lax, heightening the paranoia about what were already some of the world’s most strictly radionuclide-regulated food supplies (even before restrictions were further tightened).

(3) Two months later, in an ominously titled article, “Japan Nuclear Plant May Be Worse Off Than Thought,” the Times called into question the stability of one of the reactors. After citing test results showing that water levels in fuel-containment vessels were lower than expected, the article described worst-case scenarios, such as overheating and leakage of contaminated water into the ground or ocean.

But the Times neglected to mention that tests of the water’s temperature conducted simultaneously actually suggested that the situation was stabilizing.

Fearful communities are deeply affected by this type of reporting. While enormous amounts of time and resources have been dedicated to learning the technical lessons of the Fukushima accident (and rightly so), not enough have been spent on trying to understand and address the damage to public health caused by misinformation.

Ideally, trusted experts would regularly be on hand to inform a more scientifically literate public and press.

What could be done now to improve post-crisis reporting would be to introduce a sort of scientific ombudsman — someone with strong credentials, access to the world’s leading experts, and a talent for communicating technical concepts to the general public effectively.

International news sources could employ such a person expressly to assess statements issued by governments, journalists, and commentators on large-scale public health crises such as nuclear accidents, epidemics, and oil spills.

In the wake of the Fukushima meltdown, a trusted expert handing out veracity scores, or “Pinocchios,” in a respected newspaper would have given the public a greater sense of certainty in an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. That would certainly have been extremely popular among a public desperate for reliable information.

One hopes that, during the next major public health crisis, when people are foundering in a sea of unverified, often-alarming information, such a system will be in place to help keep everyone afloat.

David Roberts is former science adviser to the U.S. ambassador to Japan. Ted Lazo is deputy division head for radiation protection at the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency. © 2013 Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org)

  • Richard Werkhoven

    Enough of this rubbish!

    The reactors melted down in hours.

    The official reports denied this was happening.

    The media reports I heard were quoting an ‘expert’ from MIT saying it couldn’t be a problem.

    Meanwhile the NRC was saying things internally about loss of containment being inevitable.

    Saying the risks were not there cause some media got it not quite right is a bald faced lie.

    The NRC was getting conflicting information about the state of the fuel pools.

    SFP 4 didn’t become a major catastrophe cause the maintenance procedure was not followed and water was left in the reactor – and because the gate seal failed and leaked that water into the fuel pool. In other words a double failure resulted in avoidance of major disaster. Hardly any reason to pretend it was all fine and blame the media for the worries.

    The NRC had the risk caluclated – it was far worse than any of the ‘hysterical’ predicitions. In fact the software could not cope with source terms that large and therefore the evacuation radius given was not high enough.

    Rather than repeating lies to us and bringing up the same old ‘hysteria’ rubbish – I recommend reading the NRC transcripts and studying the NUREGs and the industry studies on Fuel pool risk.

    Lazlo & Roberts you are either ignorant of your supposed field or lying. The evidence is there to show it and from the NRC’s internal documents.

    • Guest

      The government admitted there were meltdowns in progress very quickly after the disaster – why do you perpetuate the lie that they did not?

      • Richard Werkhoven

        The meltdowns happened in hours.

        TEPCO denied this was happening.

        The government said more than TEPCO admittedly but not at the time it was acutally happening.

        The world was waiting and watching for meltdowns long after they had occured. Check timing against reports.

        In fact it was only the later release of the data from the logs that showed exactly how soon the meltdowns occurred – and everyone except TEPCO had no idea.

      • Masa Chekov

        Go look at the historical news reports – it was confirmed by the government very shortly after speculation began regarding meltdowns that they were in fact occurring. This is well documented.

      • Richard Werkhoven

        1. You have to name which moment if you wish to be pedantic. Edano did at some moment refer to meltdowns and got widely criticised. I am aware of that.

        2. Michio Kaku meanwhile was having his character assasinated for talking about meltdowns etc in US media.

        So my point is valid and you are splitting hairs without giving dates etc.

        Offical story from TEPCO was no meltdowns which is what I said.

      • Masa Chekov

        Edano mentioned meltdowns on 13 March, from news reports I found.

        Michiko Kaku deserved to be roundly criticized. He was alarmist and wrong. I think he contributed much to the atmosphere of fear and panic. I was so shocked to hear the junk coming out of the mouth of someone as educated and respected as him. He could have provided a rational, balanced, informed viewpoint but he chose not to.

      • Richard Werkhoven

        Michio Kaku did paint the extreme picture at times. I did not use him as a source of understanding.

        My issue though is that he was criticised for the parts that were not extreme.

        In fact some of these positions painted as extreme were in fact likely or had already ocurred.

        This is my point – not that there were not extreme positions put generally – just that the real positions being stated resulted in character assasination.

        The pro-nuclear people repeatedly put up false positions to paint the situation as worrying but not dangerous and to paint the problem as specific to Fukushima and old plants etc. This is in fact untrue.

        A lot of the problems that ocurred at Fukushima and those that could have ocurred are covered in the NRC & insudtry studies.

        To state any of these actual internal industy positions resulted in tantrums on many ocassions.

      • Masa Chekov

        Well, if you make extreme statements rational people tend to filter out the rest of what you say. Human nature.

        I’d be careful with lumping people into pro and anti-nuclear camps. I’m definitely pro-nuclear if there is strong and transparent regulation and a culture of quality and safety in the operation of the plant. It’s a good choice in that environment until renewables (hopefully) take over in the coming decades.

        But Tepco and their ilk? Don’t want them to exist anymore, let alone run anything as complicated and potentially deadly as a NPP.

      • Richard Werkhoven

        I’m talking about specific criticism in articles posted about the situation. It’s nto about filtering it’s about messaging in return.

        There are people who are definitely pro or anti nuclear even if most people aren’t. It is these people I refer to.

        If there was regulation that was effective then nuclear would be safer than it is. There isn’t from all the data I have seen.

        I started looking at ways to improve nuclear as I believed it could be a lot better if re-thought from first principles to change the obvious flaws introduced by the history of it’s origin.

        I stopped when I discovered that Nuclear cannot be a major source of our electriicity for global warming reasons.

        Thorium unfortunately is currently largely being promoted & researched by zealots who are too keen to overlook the actual safety issues and lie to argue some sort of absolute safety that is clearly not there in their designs.

        Tepco may just be the obvious source of disaster, but if you look at what happens fairly often in US nuclear plants where the situation gets close to disaster then you have to ask who is not of Tepco’s ilk?

      • Masa Chekov

        Thanks for the nice reply – I too wonder about why some are so big on Thorium. It’s technology that has never been deployed, the risks (and benefits) are unknown.

        One question – you say; “I stopped when I discovered that Nuclear cannot be a major source of our electriicity for global warming reasons.” I don’t understand this – it seems to me that this is one of the two big advantages of nuclear, the lack of air pollutants (the other being very high energy density). What do you mean?

        “Tepco may just be the obvious source of disaster, but if you look at what happens fairly often in US nuclear plants where the situation gets close to disaster then you have to ask who is not of Tepco’s ilk?”

        Excellent question – certainly not the US. If anything I suspect the US regulation is much more lax than Japan’s was prior to 3/11. I remember the head of the US NRC spouting off that ‘This sort of disaster could never happen in the US, our plants are safe’, which is the exact (dangerous, arrogant) attitude TEPCO took with disaster mitigation strategies at Fukushima Daiichi.

        I would hope that the European regulators are much more on the ball…..?

      • Richard Werkhoven

        Some risks are hidden in the reason they give for low proliferation risk – A thorium reactor produces U-232 & U-233 which it then burns. U-232 is supposed to make the U-233 not a bomb risk cause U-232 is too dangerous to handle & seperate the U-233 from. Nice material for ddirty bombs & actual Uranium risk therefore.

        Yes – what Happened in Fukushima could easily happen in the US and the floods recently came close to causing same issue. US is a clever terrorist away from major disaster.

        Problem is the reactor designs are all cost/safety trade-offs and the European reactors are no exception. I doubt the European reactors are any safer when you get major events. All reactors are basically same safety design of kludge on kludge to achieve statistical safety.

        The global warming issue tends to be tought of as air pollutants – but this is of course just the current major factor. The reall issue is rate of energy in vs rate of energy escape. The global temperature is the temperature required to release the heat with the current input & insulation factors.

        Anything we do to increase the energy input will raise the temperature. Burining fuel or fission or fusion will input energy – this energy mostly becomes heat after it is electricity.

        Solar & solar deriviatives do not release stored energy, they capture energy input. Therefore solar derivatives do not add to the heat to be released and therefore do not raise the temperature.

        There are exceptions such as off planet solar which would potentially increase the energy input. Also solar can be deployed in such a way as to reduce the heat reflected back into space etc.

        Right now the level of electricity generated by Nuclear is not as big a problem as CO2 but this will change as use of electricity increases. Waste heat from nuclear plants is an issue locally already and electricity to heat in cities is already having local warming effects.

      • Sam Gilman

        I think you’ve slightly misunderstood global warming. It’s true that it’s ultimately an issue of energy in, energy out, but the amount of energy released by us from fossil fuels or any other stored energy such as uranium is not the problem at all. It’s simply a pittance in terms of the amount of energy flowing in and out every day and night from the sun. It’s increases in CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases (and a corollary increase in water vapour as an amplifier) trapping energy from the sun that are the causes of global warming.

        If some of the world’s major climate experts strongly support nuclear power as an immediate method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (as they do), then I think we can safely assume nuclear is not a contributor to global warming. Whether you dislike it for other reasons is another matter, of course.

      • Richard Werkhoven

        No I haven’t misunderstood it – you haven’t done the maths and have assumed based on the currently discussed knowledge.

        As I said right now CO2 etc. is the greater factor but longer term we cannot keep increasing energy input.

        Re-read what I said – I was quite careful to spell out what you thought you would be telling me as if I didn’t know.

        Believe me I’ve had this discussion many times.

        No we can’t assume Nuclear is safe or the answer – sorry!

        Stop your assumptions and learn something!

        And re-read what I said about looking for safer and better Nuclear – I meant it.

        It’s always fun to say the basics – and watch the nuclear supporters fall over themselves first before I go into more detail.

        And they all say what you say to rule out any inconvenient theory rather than try to find the truth.

        Try being original and considering Nuclear may not be the answer and that maybe what a few (not most) climate experts say is wrong in the bigger picture.

        Clue: In the 1800′s CO2 was a known potential problem of coal but was thought to be not significant for 1000 years. See how that went!

      • Sam Gilman

        If you have “done the maths” on this, have you submitted it to a peer-reviewed journal? If you haven’t (and I urge you to do so because it’s a really interesting result not yet widely known by academia), then it’s really difficult to take what you say at face value, particularly given the views of well-established scientists such as James Hansen, Tom Wigley and James Lovelock, and the lack of established climate scientists saying the release of energy from nuclear power is a climate change threat. Actually, there’s a lack of mainstream anti-nuclear environmentalists saying it too, and one would think they would be quite loud about that. I hope you understand why I’m sceptical about your claims.

        As I said, there are other reasons people have for opposing nuclear power. Have you thought of choosing one of those instead?

      • Richard Werkhoven

        1. No this is not my theory.

        2. The result of this knowledge was not happyness it was in fact very disappointing.

        3. This also means we can’t look forward to ‘endless’ fusion power which is quite upsetting because I was hoping for it.

        4. You can’t base anything on the fact that someone or a group is not talking about something.

        5. I think this falls into TANSTAAFL

        Here it is – hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but it’s important we don’t repeat the CO2 mistake.

        http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21328492.800-taking-the-long-view-on-the-worlds-energy-supplies.html#.Ufhx7RYxYkI

        http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21328491.700-power-paradox-clean-might-not-be-green-forever.html#.Ufhx5RYxYkI

        Now if you can prove it wrong by actual science (not just what you and other’s don’t know yet) then I will be pleased.

        I don’t want this to be true at all. It just is as far as I can find out. Nobody has offered an actual disproof, just the same argument that now is all that counts or your argument that ignorance is bliss.

      • Sam Gilman

        Here’s what your link on waste heat from non-renewables says: Electricity generation involves waste heat. Generation from any fuel-based system effectively adds to the global temperature. However, the amount of waste heat that we generate is miniscule, “tiny in comparison”, in terms of global warming. The contribution of waste heat to the global climate is 0.028 W/m2. In contrast, the contribution from human greenhouse gases is 2.9 W/m2 – a HUNDRED times more significant. At current levels of energy consumption it’s clearly trivial. The article is absolutely clear on this. It’s just not worth worrying about at current energy use levels compared to the long-term impact of our current CO2 production. But…

        But here’s the scare story: Eric Chaisson – who also accepts heat waste is not a problem right now – has calculated that if we increase our non-solar energy consumption based on current trends from 15TW at any given moment to 5000TW (333 times, or 33,333%, greater) over the next 200 years we could generate 3 degrees of warming from waste heat. Or, taking population growth models into account, over the next 320 years. He gets these figures by assuming we continue to increase our energy consumption at the current rate until developed and developing countries achieve energy parity. As he says himself, it’s a back of the envelope calculation. He does not consider how this 33,333% increase in non-renewable energy fuel demand will be met, or why rich country waste heat generation should rise in a general linear fashion. It’s a very interesting point to make (I hadn’t come across his article before – thank you for that) and we should be aware of it in case we ever get fusion to work. However, should we embark on a black-and-white energy policy for the next fifty years because of it? Not even Chaisson would agree with that.

        Here’s the thing. No “100% renewables” model I have seen even tries to claims that we can generate anything like 5000TW from renewable sources. “100% renewables” models, based on current and just-around-the-corner tech, are typically prefaced on us being able to limit our energy use to current levels, not levels 33,333% higher than now. Why should that assumption not also apply to energy models that include nuclear power, specifically when we’re making a comparison? What you’re inadvertently doing is cherry-picking overtly simplistic worst case for nuclear-only (which noone is suggesting) against heroic best case for renewables-only. The article actually suggests a few hundred TW of non-solar-origin energy would be tolerable, so in any case we’ve got some leg room at the moment.

        Of course, in the long term, as Carl Sagan is quoted here as saying, we are going to have to rely on solar-powered energy sources (including wind and wave). But we have an immediate crisis on our hands in the form of high CO2 generation, while our renewables technology is not yet ready for purpose – even the most optimistic serious models say it would take forty to sixty years to reach 100% renewables, and that’s provided there are no technical or political obstacles to masses of windfarms, solar arrays, mass storage and lots of new high capacity low-loss power lines. Saying we shouldn’t use low CO2 nuclear now because in (let’s say) a hundred years time we’ll have finally managed 100% renewables doesn’t make sense. All the numbers point to an obvious solution: use baseload nuclear and renewables-supporting gas to bridge the gap between now and a 100% renewables future. Otherwise, you’re choosing to tide ourselves over with fossil fuels that emit both waste heat and the 100-fold more serious CO2.

        In short, you’re saying “don’t use nuclear now, because if you used hundreds of times more of it than you would ever intend to use, and for way, way longer than you intended, we’d have serious warming.” I don’t think that makes sense. As Eric Chaisson, says, “Everyone agrees that something must be done to stop the rise of CO2 in the near term, and then we need to worry about excess heating of our atmosphere by energy usage in the long term.” Do you think Chaisson is wrong?

      • Richard Werkhoven

        “Do you think Chaisson is wrong?
        ” – the answer to that attempt at logicing me into a corner is – Forget it. Nuclear is not the only answer.

        And No! I said I stopped looking at how to improve Nuclear power cause it is not the long term answer to major power needs.

        So your supposed correction of what I said is just missing what I said.

        There are other solutions to short term besides Nuclear power that are long term solutions.

        For my country it would take 10 years to get Nuclear started let alone solve any problems. Whereas wind power is already cost competitive with coal even though we are an exporter of coal.

        We also have solar boosted Gas power.

        We are now getting an enourmous solar PV power station built.

        We have very expensive power – but the cost is not in the power generation it is in the distribution.

        To solve the distribution cost question there is a study running that is testing technology to solve the issue. The clear success story in that study is Solar & battery storage distributed through the grid.

        Yes battery storage that is commercially available has been tested on a large scale for 18 months or so and can reduce our energy costs.

        As I said – the current heat generation is not yet the issue but it will be.

        BTW there are reputable studies that show we can go 100% renewable much quicker than your figures – and at low cost.

        Maybe you can’t? Sweden would have trouble with solar based on my analysis for instance.

        But certainly an energy dependant heavy per capita user of electricity like my country can.

        So don’t play the game of Nuclear is only option for now – cause it’s not true.

        And don’t pretend you are correcting what I said by misreading what I said. It’s stupid.

      • Sam Gilman

        You said:

        the answer to that attempt at logicing me into a corner is – Forget it. Nuclear is not the only answer.

        I’m not “logicking you into a corner”, I’m offering counterevidence to your stated interpretation of a study. I actually went and read not only the article you linked to, but the academic article it was based on. I read the academic’s own view of his work. It seems to me he would not view it the way you do. Your blocking response clears something up, though. You’re not anti-nuclear because of anything Chaisson wrote. I think your view precedes your consideration of evidence.

        We all have to examine the details of any choice, because this debate raises emotions and challenges prejudices. It becomes very easy to leap on anything that supports an emotionally founded position. A good example – and I’m not getting at you here, but at the renewables-only crowd in general – is your statement that electricity from wind power is cheaper than that from new build coal in your home country. This almost certainly comes from a piece of research by Bloomberg New Energy Foundatation.

        Unfortunately, they have portrayed this as meaning that coal can simply be replaced by wind power and for lower cost. Great, whoo-hoo, problem solved! Except…

        Except that, and this is tedious, but actually very important, what they mean (and were later forced to admit) is that the cost of electricity per unit generated from wind power is cheaper than that from a new coal-fired power station only if wind is a minor source of electricity and not trying to emulate baseload supply. That is, it is not the same as “we can build wind instead of coal”, for the simple reason that we don’t simply need electricity, we need it when we want and at the supply we want. If we want wind to mimic the baseload characteristics of coal (constant, controllable) then it costs an awful lot more.

        In other words, their “wind is cheaper than coal headline” can only be taken to mean “wind can replace coal and cheaper too” if one omits the costs of new grid and transmission lines, new storage (which we don’t know how to build yet), massively higher wind capacity (if we want to balance out wind supply by having turbines everywhere and enough left over for storage) and also maintenance of the gas back-up just in case.

        What’s very frustrating is, much like climate change deniers run around the Internet parading misleading headlines every time a reputable scientist qualifies a climate statement, hoping no one will look at the details, all-renewables advocates (many of whom are openly industry representatives or funded by them) run around waving headlines saying “look! problem solved” without examining the details themselves.

        I agree with you the problem is difficult, and every path seems to present unpleasantnesses and difficulties. The goal is a stable and sufficient electricity supply that is safe for humans and not damaging to the environment. These three criteria are not independent of each other, but they all need to be considered, and we need to be open about any trade-offs we make.

      • Richard Werkhoven

        No – you offered my interpretation of the study back to me as a correction of my interpretation.

        Any new plant is going to require transmission lines.

        Wind power is up & running here and is cheaper than coal in reality – not just a headline about the future.

        Storage is up & running here at 60 sites.

        Sorry but you are outdated.

      • Sam Gilman

        Reply 1: Richard, as with the Chaisson material you were relying on earlier, I simply went to the source of your assertion, and explained why it didn’t say what you were claiming it said. The very least you could do is explain where my analysis is wrong. If I was in your position, and if you were as concerned as me about climate change, I would want to address these points rather than ignore them, just in case there was something to them. Notice how I’ve gone away and read your links and considered them in detail?

        Are you really interested in decarbonising, or are you only interested in some weird Internet-based ideological battle?

        The “wind is cheaper than coal” is not just a headline; by the authors’ own admission, it’s an incomplete headline. It should read “wind is cheaper than coal in Australia at low penetration”. To be clear, in case you’re not familiar with how grid systems work, “low penetration” straightforwardly means “is not a big part of the supply system”. That is, wind is cheap so long as you’re not trying to do it on a large scale. To replace baseload (ie always on) coal with “baseload-style” wind requires large scale, high-excess-capacity wind, spread geographically very wide, with storage or thermal back-up. Hence the headline is, despite their protestations, misleading. It does not mean what you imply, which is to say, it does not mean we can simply replace coal with wind. If you’re genuinely interested in decarbonising, then you need to either accept this point, or explain why (rather than assert that) it doesn’t matter.

        You say that “Any new plant is going to require transmission lines”. True, but not all transmission is the same. For renewables to work at a large scale, we need to be able to transport electricity over very long distances in order to smooth out the supply: shipping wind and solar power from where it’s sunny and windy at that moment, to where it’s not sunny and not windy. This requires High Voltage cables with low loss of a sort conventional grids don’t use. This is the sort of cable that Germany is trying to build to bring together solar from the south with wind from the north. Germany also has the grids of other countries to help balance supply. Australia and Japan don’t, so the building out of such grids is essential and cannot be ignored. Again, this is something that has to be grasped if you’re genuinely interested making post-carbon energy work, and particularly, if you’re going to make idle boasts about renewable systems being cheaper. It isn’t simply a matter of building the turbines and panels. Ironically, one of the problems Germany faces is that these cables are going to cut through a fair amount of nice forest, which environmentalists not good at joined up thinking are opposing.

        By the way, you’ve made repeated reference to “ten years”. Is this is reference to the Beyond Zero Emissions study that claimed Australia could convert to 100% renewable by 2020? Unfortunately, the report is based on a series of heroic assumptions. One set is about socioeconomic change: it assumes the end of domestic flights, households using one electric car, half of all freight moved in ten years to electric trains. This is to effect a 60% reduction in energy use that even then actually doesn’t add up. Given that you were initially worried about how we will increase energy use (Chaisson’s research), I’m not quite sure what you make of BZE’s assumptions. Personally, I don’t think they are at all realistic. One might feel good about oneself for having told people to make these massive lifestyle changes, but I don’t want to be “right”, I want to mitigate climate change in reality, and that means acknowledging that we cannot rely on the immediate abolition of modern life for our plans to work.

        Australia, one of the worst per capita CO2 emitters, is probably about to elect a climate change denying prime minister. I’m really worried that an environmentalist culture of proposing unrealistic plans will play into his hands. The horrible irony is that Australia is one of the best places to try out a renewable-only long-term strategy: it’s sparsely populated (renewables are very low density energy sources), with good solar and wind resources. That is going to take time. Meanwhile, ignoring one of the only two proven large scale low CO2 sources of energy is, for me, irresponsible, given the urgency of tackling CO2 emissions. The situation for far more densely populated, less sunny Japan is all the more serious.

        I urge you to be more hard-headed about whether renewables plans actually work, and what is actually required to make them work. The goal must be to reduce CO2 emissions as fast as possible, not to live out a green romantic fantasy of being in harmony with the sun. We have time for that later.

      • Sam Gilman

        Reply 2: About storage: you say there are “sixty sites” up and running. I couldn’t find any reference with that number, so could you tell me what kind of storage, what capacity (as a proportion of demand) and how long it can hold that storage for?

        Here’s a really good blog post by an environmental researcher in the UK about the issue of storage for renewables. If you have anything like this for your own country, that would be great.

        The thing is, at the moment, as far as I know, we don’t have any great ready-to-go large-scale, long life electricity storage solutions save pumped hydro (aka pushing water up a hill) or the manipulation of flow at hydro stations to achieve the same effect, and the availability of either of those depends on geography. Anything else is either not adequate or still very much in development. You say I’m outdated. I worry that you’re rather a few years ahead of 2013.

      • Richard Werkhoven

        To put it another way: a few opinions do not make Nuclear safe or right, Your opinion certainly is not based on much is it?

        Current effects – EPA vs your few:
        http://www.epa.gov/hiri/

        As I said above.

      • Richard Werkhoven

        Standard stuff – miss the point and argue about something I did not in fact say.

        My point was that what was happening was bad but not as bad as what might have happened except for a few lucky breaks.

        The fear spread by the media was in some cases overblown but that was not the problem – there was real risk that just didn’t happen to pan out.

        The errors in the media went both ways.

        TEPCO lied as to the risk and a whole pile of Nuclear fanboys lied as to the risk and continue to do so.

        The Japanese Govt tried to find the right path through the mess but they are not a single person nor was there only one view put out.

        I did not criticise the Japanese Govt. You claimed I did because maybe you misunderstood the information sources at the time.

      • Masa Chekov

        Sorry, but you said “The official reports denied this was happening.” Who else would you be referring to but the government?

        It seems to me the bad aspect of the government’s involvement is in the poor planning and very, very lax regulation, not so much the response.

      • Richard Werkhoven

        I’m a little touchy from too much talking to nuclear people. I spot red herrings early and respond hard.

        Offical reports from the Govt were based on misinformation and lack of information and withholding reports.

        The real official reports were from Tepco. They had the data they just controlled the access to some of it sometimes just by incompetence.

        The Government, in terms of elected members were landed with a mess.

        The layers of ‘regulation’ actively supressed bad news reaching the PM and the people.

        The possibility of Kan & Edano being able to respond well was low due to active interference at all levels between them and the Plant manager.

      • douglas black

        The response of the government was & is horrendous.

      • Bradley Fried

        Why are you trying to revise history? They did not admit that meltdowns were in progress for several weeks. I was there and glued to my TV set the whole time. In fact, the government was adamant that no meltdowns were occurring even when foreign observers could verify meltdowns from thousands of miles away based on the composition of radioisotope releases from the reactors into the atmosphere.

      • Masa Chekov

        As I said elsewhere in this thread, the Japanese government said that meltdowns were likely on 13 March. Not several weeks – 2 days after the tsunami.

        Look it up.

        The announcements several weeks later were confirmation of what had been widely assumed (again, this was said publicly right as the disaster was unfolding).

      • Richard Werkhoven

        Yes Edano said likely on the 13th – on March 12th the reactors had melted down.

      • Em666

        FROM Tokyo (AFP) March 13, 2011
        Japan’s top government spokesman Yukio Edano said Sunday that radioactive meltdowns “may have” occurred in two reactors of the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant.

        Asked in a press conference whether meltdowns had occurred, Edano said “we are acting on the assumption that there is a high possibility that one has occurred” in the plant’s number-one reactor.

        “As for the number-three reactor, we are acting on the assumption that it is possible,” he said.
        ———————

        I think the issue here is that Edano talks of “possibilities” rather than actual occurrences. This beating around the bush is not sending a clear message. In fact, he admitted later (at the end of May) about why he did not clearly say that meltdowns happened at the time:

        Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano (at that time) Says “I didn’t refer to the meltdowns because it’s self-evident”
        English translation of an excerpt from a Japanese article: [ITAI-NYU-SU(Sore News)] June 3, 2012

        So yes Edano did say it was “possible” that meltdowns happened but he and TEPCO probably KNEW that meltdowns had already begun, but did not want to clearly state that fact — presumably, as it would cause panic among the population. So while it is not a denial of meltdowns it is not exactly a clear confirmation either.

        They also minimized the severity of meltdown using terms like “partial meltdowns” or that citizens are in “no immediate danger.”

      • Masa Chekov

        “I think the issue here is that Edano talks of “possibilities” rather than actual occurrences. This beating around the bush is not sending a clear message.”

        I fail to see how that is not sending a clear message. They DIDN’T know for quite some time – there was no way to get equipment in to check the status of the reactor and containment, that’s why the words “possibility” and “probability” are used. That doesn’t mean “we don’t think it’s happening”, it means “we do think it’s happening and can’t confirm it”. Which was exactly the case.

        “…he and TEPCO probably KNEW that meltdowns had already begun, but did not want to clearly state that fact — presumably, as it would cause panic among the population… ”

        This is honestly ridiculous. Say the doctor says to you “there is a high possibility that you have cancer, and while we cannot confirm this until we operate and see for sure, we are assuming you do so we need to operate” vs “you have cancer, and we need to operate.” Do you feel any different at all with those two statements? I don’t at all. In either case I am preparing for what that diagnosis means, just like millions prepared for what the diagnosis of “three reactor meltdowns” would mean.

        And

        “They also minimized the severity of meltdown using terms like “partial meltdowns” or that citizens are in “no immediate danger.”"

        Partial meltdown was an accurate technical term! It didn’t minimize anything. And those who were in immediate danger were moved – did you not notice this?

        I really think you are not seeing the big picture here because you so desperately want to be mad at all involved. I think you need to look objectively at what was said and what that means. I don’t see how any of the quotations you posted are minimizing anything at all.

      • douglas black

        I was here 75 miles from Fukushima when it all happened, and still am here. I was witness to every broadcast for fear of my life. My bags were packed and car readied for immediate evacuation. Although possibility of a partial meltdown was briefly mentioned in a hasty news conference, it was thereafter repeatedly and thoroughly denied on national news daily. It was denied systematically with the use of graphic charts & ‘expert’ discussions by the media to all of us.
        It wa not until 2 months later that a meltdown in reactor #1(only) was reported, while suggesting that it had happened much sooner, resulting in harsh criticism by the public. The other meltdowns were denied for some time to come.
        Any explanation as to the type of explosion that happened in Unit #3, and the severity of it, is still basically unknown to much of the citizens.

        Denial, distortions, withholding the truth, along with outright lies are a track record still in motion. It would be another perpetual lie to distort any of this fact.

      • Masa Chekov

        Your recollections are wrong, Douglas – go look through the media accounts from the time. It was widely reported on 13 March that the government suspected meltdowns were occurring and was proceeding as if that were the case.

        I am not making this up – go look at contemporaneous news reports of Edano’s presser on 13 March and you will see this.

        Even TEPCO did not fully deny meltdowns were occurring, they were just being very dishonest and slimy about confirming that they had occurred. But everybody knew they had, right?

      • charlesjannuzi

        They never discussed what that actually meant. They never discussed what loss of containment meant. They keep making it sound like they can get the reactors back under control and in stable shut down. But they can’t even explain what they actually have on their hands–or melted into the water table or leaking into the Pacific.

      • douglas black

        Nothing about my recollections are wrong. I lived it, & am still living it. I heard ALL of the live am radio broadcasts of each press release, beginning from the circumstances directly after the earthquake with no electricity, and the national tv news for months on later. I am the one that tried to convince my neighbors and the inlaws that there was a meltdown. No one would believe me until it was confirmed 2 months later.

        I don’t know where you were, but you are greatly distorting the truth of what was revealed by the government and how the media presented it to the people, daily, real time.
        Even the current leak into the ocean is a criminal farce. They refused to confirm it until THE VERY NEXT DAY AFTER THE NATIONAL ELECTIONS, (which of course elected the pro-nuclear party), even glorifying the opening of a nearby beaches, -though all along it was visibly apparent that it was leaking just by watching the contained radioactive water rising and lowering with the tides…

      • Masa Chekov

        Douglas. You are wrong. I cannot make this point any clearer. Edano on 13 March said that meldowns were likely occurring and the government was preceding as if they were. 13 March. This was widely reported both domestically and abroad. I don’t know why you refuse to do a little google search for relevant articles yourself, but you can find this on BBC, etc.

        My company even provided a daily summary of known information regarding the status of the meltdowns to Japan-based employees and upper management directly culled from public information provided by the government (from MEXT, perhaps?). This was ~20 March and on or so. There was VERY detailed estimates of the percent meltdown, etc. Again, directly from the government.

        “I am the one that tried to convince my neighbors and the inlaws that there was a meltdown. No one would believe me until it was confirmed 2 months later.”

        This is quite frankly ridiculous. I don’t know a single person in Japan, Japanese or foreigner, who wasn’t talking about the meltdowns immediately after they occurred. Why the heck do you think everyone was fleeing radiation leaks after 13 March???

      • douglas black

        I am wrong? I am not wrong. I am here & I lived it real time through family, friends & community. It is not something that one can be wrong about. It is reality, and the denials are still an ongoing reality.
        Do not try to change history.

        Also, this post has nothing to do with the foreign media.

        I do not have to look anything up. I lived it.
        Meltdowns were systematically denied as unconfirmed until May. You look it up. I watched it all live & clear.

        “This is quite frankly ridiculous. I don’t know a single person in Japan, Japanese or foreigner, who wasn’t talking about the meltdowns immediately after they occurred.”
        Come by sometime and I can introduce you to a few cities of people! I was aware of much going on by my own research, but the majority of people all around believed what they were told by the daily national newscasts. -Computer graphic simulations illustrating that a meltdown was not yet confirmed were broadcast….

      • Masa Chekov

        Yes, you are wrong.

        “I do not have to look anything up.”

        Willful ignorance is lovely. You won’t even confirm your recollections. And I love what you are deliberately leaving out in your comment, it’s telling:

        “… illustrating that a meltdown was not yet confirmed…”

        But saying from the very beginning – right after the crisis started, that it WAS ASSUMED that it had. Why do you continue to ignore that? It’s crucial!

        To use an analogy, imagine you are sick with say something related to your gall bladder. Your doctor cannot confirm for sure that the problem is your gall bladder, but he assumes that is the problem due to the symptoms. He will act as though that is the problem and perform surgery, after which there will be confirmation.

        You’re the guy saying the doctor is denying there is a problem with your gall bladder.

        It’s ridiculous. “Not yet confirmed” doesn’t mean “we don’t think it’s happening”, it means…. “Not yet confirmed”

      • douglas black

        Where are you Mr. Google?
        Maybe you should come closer and ask the people yourself? You are claiming fact priority to a single, briefly spoken, half-way acknowledgement over the sequential 2 month reality of government denials, until a meltdown(only 1) was actually admitted in May.

        “Not yet confirmed” is not the same as the repeated broadcasts of denials.

        “Willful ignorance is lovely.”

        You are speaking to a person that has kept every major national Japanese press release concerning the man made calamity since day 1 on file. I also have hundreds of municipal radiation readings from around the evacuation zone that were taken several times every day since Day # 1, much before some areas were eventually evacuated.

        You are talking to a person that lived it.
        All I have to do is ask my partner, her family, my family, my friends, my neighbors…. They all remember it like yesterday because we live here. You must be a boneheaded nuclear shill trying to polish over the truth of events.
        Nothing could be farther from the truth that you are twisting. Everyone here remembers as if yesterday.
        Come over to reality.

        Go back to my first post here and start over.

      • Masa Chekov

        Do you want a cookie or something?

        You’re wrong. You’d be better served by realizing that now. Instead you call me a “boneheaded nuclear shill” and wallow in your ignorance. Because if you think

        “”Not yet confirmed” is not the same as the repeated broadcasts of denials.”

        You are the one truly in denial. Just a patently ridiculous statement.

      • Tuna

        I agree with you. I’m in USA and when it happened I wasn’t there. However my family live 70 to 80 miles from those problem nuclear plants. People in US knew more than half way it was melt down immediately! I’m fed up Japanese media&weird Japanes Government! I live in USA for 24 years and I never missed there really.

  • Ron NJ

    Another thing that would help tremendously would be for each of the parties involved – notably the Prime Minister’s office, NISA, TEPCO, or whomever – to have a few competent translators if not regularly employed (temporary contract or dispatch worker more like, but Japanese labor issues aside) then at least on call. It became incredibly clear when translating documents from these three organizations in the week following the Tohoku disaster that there wasn’t even a single translator employed full time between them. It showed, to me, a complete lack of interest in engaging with the outside world. To top it off, it was also quite clear that when foreign (English) language documents or translations were issued, they were either substantially less verbose than the originals they were intended to replicate, or in some instances contained substantial and significant translation errors.
    I am very glad that the PM’s office eventually retained a foreign translator for their press conferences and hope not only that they continue in that regard, but that other organizations in Japan follow their lead. It would go a great way towards easing international concerns and ensuring that both domestic and foreign media are able to report on situations accurately, correctly, and promptly if there is not only an increased dissemination of information, but also if more people are able to independently check facts and follow developing situations in real time without having to rely on unofficial volunteer translators.

    • Guest

      I would hope that foreign news organizations employ reliable translators and not rely on government supplied ones.

      • Ron NJ

        In a perfect world, absolutely, yes, we’d like for everyone to have their own babel fish. The first line of defense, so to speak, against misinformation is the corpus of ‘official’ translations of the original media, which is why it is so critically important that the organizations themselves take up the responsibility of having translators around – especially in the case of, for example, nuclear disaster, where there is definitely an obligation on the part of the authorities to communicate with the outside world, and the inward-looking-Japan complex simply cannot be tolerated as a matter of public safety in global terms.

      • Masa Chekov

        It’s not in a perfect world, Ron, it’s in a normal world. The news organizations are responsible for the information they report – they need to have their own reliable translations. I can’t imagine a scenario where people would be demanding official Russian or Japanese translations from the UK government, for example.

        How many language translators would the government need to employ? Korean, Russian, Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, English, French, German, Italian…? Obviously English would not be the highest priority.

      • Ron NJ

        I appreciate where you’re coming from and your playing devil’s advocate and all, but let’s be honest: No one would demand Russian or Japanese translations from the UK government as their official documents are already available in the de facto global lingua franca, of which there are quite literally billions of competent speakers.
        The same cannot be said for Japan, and if the PM’s office is going to hold press conferences effectively wagging their finger at the rest of the world saying “make sure you report accurately and correctly!” then they have a duty themselves to at least meet everyone else half way.

      • Masa Chekov

        If you are Chinese, Russian, French, etc you would not consider English to be any sort of global lingua franca. English is only the third most widely spoken language by number of native speakers – Mandarin and Spanish have more.

        If translations would be provided they should be for Mandarin, Korean, Russian – the languages of Japan’s neighbors and the foreign languages spoken most by foreign residents of Japan (Mandarin/Korean, that is).

        Unless you prefer MORE confusion by expecting the government to provide English translations but not the other more widely spoken languages?

      • Miura_Anjin

        I think if we are speaking about providing clear and concise information for the international community, then English is an absolute necessity. I’m sure the vast majority of reputable news sources in the world have the capacity to understand information provided in English and then, if necessary to disseminate that in the language of the country in which they are based. Der Spiegel, Russia Today, Le Monde, China Daily, Al Jazeera and so on are all readily set up to deal with the global lingua franca. The same simply cannot be said of Korean or Russian, never mind Japanese.

      • Masa Chekov

        ” I’m sure the vast majority of reputable news sources in the world have
        the capacity to understand information provided in English and then, if
        necessary to disseminate that in the language of the country in which
        they are based.”

        You’re proposing double translations, then? How is that supposed to improve clarity? I can’t see any way that doesn’t make the situation worse.

        The news agencies should just employ reliable, qualified translators like every other international business does in Japan, and like they do in other countries around the world.

      • Rockne O’Bannon

        Le Monde and the New York Times could not afford it. CNN could not afford it.

        You think TEPCO were clowns? Uh uh. They did their jobs and then some. I will never forget the Le Monde reporter whining on a Japanese news show, “How can we report anything when they don’t tell us what to report? I don’t read Japanese!” It was pathetic. On the same show, they had an Izvestia guy on, and he at least reported to his readers that his dosimeter gave higher readings on the plane than in Tokyo. I mean, at least he was able to report something.

        No foreign reporter deserves a grade higher than a C through the whole thing. How can anyone blame a government for that?

      • Masa Chekov

        “Le Monde and the New York Times could not afford it. CNN could not afford it.”

        NYT has bilingual reporters like Tabuchi (born in Japan).

      • Rockne O’Bannon

        So what part of “they dropped the ball” don’t you understand? I don’t care where they were born, they handled the reporting like lazy slobs.

        They could have done a better job for the world if they had just opened a copy of the 3 12 Kahoku Shinpo and started reading, but no, the west reported everything from Singapore and Hong Kong. They waited for the Kan naikaku to report everything in English rather than sending people to Fukushima or even Sendai. They talked to Greenpeace and “The Union of Concerned Scientists” rather than GE engineers. They did an absolutely pathetic job and gave their readers no useful information… only panic.

        Or are you arguing that they competently did their job and that everyone was well informed by the Western press?

        I was in an area with no communications or electricity for DAYS after the quake, and I was more accurately informed than Asahi or New York Times readers. The New York Times, CNN, and the BBC were scooped by reporters of a little local paper in Tohoku.

      • Masa Chekov

        Of course they dropped the ball! I’ve been saying that ever since 3/11. But it’s not because they didn’t have Japanese staff, they just didn’t have reporters who understand science reporting.

        “Or are you arguing that they competently did their job and that everyone was well informed by the Western press?”

        Absolutely not! Even this paper has a huge problem with getting facts right about Fukushima to this day, and without exception (that I have seen) the foreign press has done an extremely poor job of providing clear and accurate information.

  • tiredofdogma

    If I was relying on powerpoint briefings by industry and government officials with commensurate career status as Roberts and Lazo, I would arrive at the same conclusions. Garbage in, garbage out.

    There is a source term in contact with the bedrock under at least one plant. This source term is in the direct path of the groundwater flow, between the hillside behind the plant and the ocean. The senior people in every associated entity are chasing ghosts looking for the source of the radioisotopes.

    It’s time for a disciplined, methodical, science and engineering approach. And it includes multiple critical paths, not the keystone cop/whack-a-mole approach used to date.

  • dosdos

    The truth of the matter is that more radiation was released from Fukushima Dai-ichi than from Chernobyl, by over 180%, almost three times the aggregate. The facts are there, yet the governments of the world and the media continue to ignore this, even two and a half years after the event. The government of Japan has repeatedly covered up facts regarding the meltdowns and releases, favoring instead the factors to prevent economic backlash, rather than the health and well being of the people of Japan. Many thousands of Japanese citizens have suffered from radiation poisoning, displaying all the classic symptoms, yet the government run medical facilities continued to attribute these symptoms to anxiety. It has been a coverup of major proportion, and it is the shame of Japan which it must endure in the years to come as the effects of radiation upon its populace become more and more pronounced.

    • Richard Werkhoven

      To me the total released is not really the issue. It’s the fact that it has made life difficult for so many.

      Fukushima was a near miss and not the disaster it could have been.

      • Guest

        This is very true – the whole scenario could have played out a lot differently, both positively and negatively. Certainly the crisis could have been averted in the first place had TEPCO not been so arrogant and reckless in their disaster preparation (and the gov’t oversight so lacking), and had the reactors sustained further damage it’s possible the site could never have been cleaned up and the spread of radioactive matter much more widespread.

        I feel for all the people of Tohoku who were killed and displaced by the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster. It’s an ongoing crisis that Fukushima is just one part of.

      • Rockne O’Bannon

        You most demonstrably do not “feel” for the people of Tohoku. Most of the people working at Fukushima Daiichi were “the people of Tohoku” and you malign them every chance you get.

        TEPCO was no more reckless and arrogant than, say GM was when it would not install seatbelts in the 50s. Tens of thousands died from that decision. Do you “feel” for those people too? Do you feel for the people of Bhopal?

        TEPCO is a publicly owned company with a duty to operate responsibly. There is no way they could be expected to drop everything they were doing just because of some wild, kookoo idea that a 9.0 quake and a 20 meter tsunami would strike in the millennium, let alone this century. Did anyone who “predicted” the quake get up and say, let’s spend 100 billion dollars this year to get ready!! Nope. Where was the courage of their convictions then? Waiting for 20/20 hindsight, I guess.

        And if you really “feel” for the people of Tohoku, then why aren’t you railing about the petrochemical companies that got THEIR filth dumped into our oceans and rice paddies and don’t have a single regulatory hurdle while rebuilding? They did not even pay damages.

        Oh yeah, because it is PCBs and not radiation. Who cares, right? It just does not conjure the same “feel”ings, I guess.

      • Guest

        “Most of the people working at Fukushima Daiichi were “the people of Tohoku” and you malign them every chance you get.”

        Ladies and Gentlemen, we have officially entered the bizarro zone! 95% of people posing accuse me of being a TEPCO or nuclear industry shill, and along comes Rockne to not just disagree but to say that I irrationally hate TEPCO.

        Classic. It’s as if you’ve never read a thing that I have written.

        “Do you feel for the people of Bhopal?”

        Oh, absolutely! Those affected by that disaster have never been able to receive any justice since everyone involved fled like cowards. A completely disgusting, shameful situation.

        “There is no way they could be expected to drop everything they were doing just because of some wild, kookoo idea that a 9.0 quake and a 20 meter tsunami would strike in the millennium, let alone this century.”

        Hmm, yet the official recommendations were to increase the plant defenses against tsunami. It’s hardly a once-in-a-millenium event. Regulation was too weak to force them to do so. And this is exactly why there needs to be strong regulation – safety can be very expensive, and if it is going to cut into the profits it will rarely be implemented.

        “let’s spend 100 billion dollars this year to get ready!!”

        Would hardly cost 100 billion dollars, and you know it.

        “And if you really “feel” for the people of Tohoku”

        I do. Don’t put that in quotes. You don’t know me, Rockne, so do not insult me.

        “They did not even pay damages.”

        Pay damages for what? Getting destroyed?

        You need to be honest here – which nuclear plant/agency/industry group do you work for?

      • Rockne O’Bannon

        “Official recommendations” and 300 yen will get you a cup of coffee. Neither you nor anybody else was willing to shell out big bucks for a thousand year quake, period. And that includes TEPCO, oil refineries, national and prefectural governments. Heck, most people do not even participate in quake drills (Do you?), and you expect them to be prudent about things that happen once every 30 or 40 generations?

        And who says it would not cost 100 billion? Once we start fearing 1000 year quakes, some joker will come along and say, “Let’s get ready for a 9.5 quake, or a 10,000 year tsunami!” Hey, when we throw rationality out the window, why split hairs? What is a few billion more or less, right? Think of the children!

        No. Rational people made the rational decision not to spend huge amounts of money to prepare for a low probability event. They let rate payers in Tokyo keep their money instead. They happened to be wrong. Rate payers in Tokyo were richer for it. End of story.

        If you really “felt” for the people of Tohoku, you would be wailing and protesting about the chemical companies getting away without any penalties for destroying people’s fisheries and rice paddies. You would stop spreading nonsense about Fukushima so its residents can sell safe produce and live in peace. You would let Tohoku settle its energy problems without interference from foreign and national interests. You would recognize TOKYO’s responsibility to the people of Fukushima instead of saying that the whole nation should be responsible.

        I love your ad hominem attack there at the end, Masa. You have a monopoly on reason, right? So why bother to share your wisdom with everyone? And why assume that someone who disagrees with you must be paid to do so? Being reasonable really is just a way of life for most people.

      • Guest

        It wasn’t an ad hominem attack, Rockne. It’s clear you do work in a related field, so I am wondering which agency or company that is. If you take that as an ad hominem, so be it. But I notice you didn’t actually answer the question. From that I can guess the answer.

        “Heck, most people do not even participate in quake drills (Do you?)”

        Yeah, honestly.

        “Rational people made the rational decision not to spend huge amounts of money to prepare for a low probability event.”

        It wouldn’t have taken a huge amount of money to prepare for this. It was simply poor planning and official arrogance that they had prepared enough (they = both TEPCO and regulatory bodies). Basic safety involves constant improvement, and it’s quite clear that nobody involved had any interest in that.

        “wailing and protesting about the chemical companies getting away without any penalties for destroying people’s fisheries and rice paddies”

        Evidence???

        “You would stop spreading nonsense about Fukushima”

        ME? Like what? I think you have me confused with someone else.

        “You would let Tohoku settle its energy problems without interference from foreign and national interests.”

        I don’t even know what this means.

      • Rockne O’Bannon

        I don’t do work in a related field, and I don’t even know why you would get that impression, much less make accusations. How could you possibly know? And if you don’t know, how can you accuse? Zero information. Maximum volume.

        You know what you need to do? Go argue with Sam Gilman. You two just love to attack people for whatever reason seems to make sense to you at the time. You slander people, don’t admit when you are lying, and don’t apologize when you are wrong. You also both love ad hominem attacks unapologetically. You are both pretty despicable and I hope I don’t ever meet someone like you in real life. I haven’t actually.

        You have heard nothing about rice paddies and fishing grounds destroyed by chemicals in Miyagi and Iwate simply because the pollutant is not radiation. It gets zero press. It gets zero compensation. It is at least as extensive as Fukushima’s problem, and the effects are more dangerous for humans than radiation.

        Tohoku produces energy and products for the rest of Japan, and let’s just say mostly Tokyo. Tokyo wants to interfere with what happens in these rural areas in terms of exploiting them just to feed their glittery international electric consumer lifestyle. When chemicals get spilled and radiation gets released and the rice gets ruined, the people of Tohoku pay the price. Even Greenpeace does not care a whit about Fukushima’s people. They only want to advance their agenda. They will frighten and panic Fukushima’s people before they will admit that many of the areas with low radiation are fit places to live.

        They will rail on and on about whale killers of the Tohoku coast, but when the Tohoku fishing grounds got ruined by petrochemicals, where was Greenpeace? Nowhere to be found. They lost a golden opportunity there to show that their ecological goals are more important than politics. I learned a lot about Greenpeace.

        The truth is that organizations are exploiting this whole thing and individuals pay the price. Any way you look at it, if Tohoku had been left to take care of its people without interference, we would be better off today.

      • Masa Chekov

        “I don’t do work in a related field, and I don’t even know why you would get that impression”

        Because you are the only person I have ever heard defend TEPCO, and that plus you live in the area leads to a conclusion that you are connected. If you are not, why

        ” And if you don’t know, how can you accuse?”

        Accuse? What a strange choice of words. I said it seems you did, you did not deny it. I did not “accuse” you of anything. It’s not an accusation to say it seems like you are connected to TEPCO or the industry. I don’t know why you think it is, it’s a comment. You are criticizing me for speaking at “Maximum Volume” but this is the most hyperbolic thing. After all, it’s you who decided to take a flying leap at me a few posts ago and accuse me of all sorts of thought crimes against Tohoku and TEPCO for no reason. Now I am the one speaking at “Maximum Volume”?

        You have a strange way to engage fellow commenters, Rockne.

        “You two just love to attack people for whatever reason seems to make sense to you at the time. You slander people, don’t admit when you are lying, and don’t apologize when you are wrong. You also both love ad hominem attacks unapologetically. You are both pretty despicable and I hope I don’t ever meet someone like you in real life.”

        What is your problem? I’ve never had a conversation with you until you commented to me a few posts ago, and you throw the absolute worst garbage at me that you can. Who’s the one using ad hominem attacks here?

        I have no idea what is running through your head but you might want to step back from the keyboard. I never attacked you. You have strongly attacked me. Get some perspective, young man.

        I’m done with you until you apologize for your horrible, unwarranted attack. I have no idea how this nonsense made it past moderation.

      • Guest

        My reply has disappeared for some reason. I’m not going to repeat it. Just

        “You know what you need to do? Go argue with Sam Gilman. You two just love to attack people for whatever reason seems to make sense to you at the time. You slander people, don’t admit when you are lying, and don’t apologize when you are wrong. You also both love ad hominem attacks unapologetically. You are both pretty despicable and I hope I don’t ever meet someone like you in real life.”

        This should never have made it past moderation. I have never attacked you personally and you have done nothing BUT attacked me personally. I don’t know who you are or what your agenda is but you need to apologize IMMEDIATELY for this unwarranted attack.

      • Guest

        Dear JT moderator: I don’t know why you leave this offensive, libelous and abusive comment up and keep deleting my comments.

        This is a ridiculous situation that you need to rectify. Now.

      • Rockne O’Bannon

        OK. So you feel for the people of Bhopal, and you feel for the people of Tohoku, but you don’t care a whit for people damaged by chemicals that were leaked by chemical companies operating along the Tohoku coasts. Does that make sense to anybody?

        One more exercise, and pay close attention. You have mentioned that the western media have competent people. Well, if that were true, then why have they not covered the fact that in over two years, funds earmarked for use by by charities for 3 11 victims have not been given to 3 11 victims? I will name the Red Cross, but many many organizations have to be included. Only about HALF of the designated funds have been disbursed. Why has this not been investigated thoroughly?

        I suspect it is because of journalistic incompetence or corruption, but it is also because, if one says “I feel for the people of Tohoku” nobody questions their motives or competence. I think you understand all too well how that goes.

        Suffice it to say that I am really tired of people who say that journalists are doing a good job for Tohoku, and really, I don’t trust anyone who says “I feel for the people of Tohoku” if they don’t know what the real issues are. They all have some other agenda.

      • Masa Chekov

        The chemicals leaked along the Tohoku coast were quite insignificant in relation to the other tsunami damage and the problems caused by Fukushima Daiichi. Whereas in Bhopal it was, what, 4000 deaths caused by incompetence?

        I fail to see the equivalence, honestly.

        I don’t have any agenda, Rockne, I’m just a long term resident in Japan and fan of facts, that’s all.

    • Masa Chekov

      “Many thousands of Japanese citizens have suffered from radiation poisoning, displaying all the classic symptoms”

      There is not a single reputable scientific source who would agree with that.

      You need to provide your source for such a ridiculous allegation.

  • Shara Bingham Mills

    This must be where the reason of mind made by Japanese and the common sense as the kind that Americans are made -of part ways.
    I have been reading the New York Times and to this day they still can’t get ALL of the story together.
    I have been following the story since the incident.. I went to media sites and they just phoned it in. There aren’t that many journalist willing to go there. They don’t know the technical aspects at all. When Time the blog posted their story I wished it was a magazine so I could throw it on the floor and step on it.
    There are other ways to get information and I rely on what your scientists and young brainiacs are telling us.on the web. The whole world is in this discussion whether that suits your government, your caste system ar your feelings.
    I wish the Government would have taken the advice of your older scientists that were willing to give up their lives to try to fix this ELE. How gallant and truly beautiful that these elders should attempt to do such a thing.
    We are all in serious trouble. Japan, you built a radioactive castle on the sand. What in hell were you guy’s thinking?

    • Rockne O’Bannon

      I don’t know why you expect the New York Times to know what is going on.
      They reported the whole thing from Hong Kong and Singapore. Go back and check the by lines if you don’t believe me.
      My local Tohoku paper gave me more timely and better information every day. They DELIVERED ON 3 12 for heaven’s sake.
      All of the western media dropped the ball. And Tokyo too.

  • Lilly Munster

    What a load of fresh horse s*&^ I couldn’t even finish reading it. Double irony that a couple of nuclear industry insiders are complaining about the media.

  • Marilyn Ivy

    Where has it been proved that “stress can be at least as harmful as the radiation exposure itself”? “As we learned from . . . Chernobyl”? Is that what we learned from Chernobyl? That’s not what I learned from Chernobyl. Rather, I relearned in palpable form what I already knew: the extraordinary dangers of radiation exposure. To trivialize those dangers by comparing them to stress is nothing short of obscene.

    • Rockne O’Bannon

      Go learn from Chernobyl.
      And stay there.
      This is a different country. A different century. A different reactor. A different incident.
      Does it occur to you, even in the slightest, that maybe Fukushima is not Pripyat?

    • Sam Gilman

      If I may offer a slightly more helpful response than the one already given. “the mental health impact of Chernobyl is the largest public health problem unleashed by the accident to date” is the consensus expert opinion of the UN Chernobyl forum. You can find the pdf report, published by the World Health Organisation here.

      The report also goes into detail about the various cancers caused by the radiation. The main form of cancer that was found was thyroid cancer, which is almost always curable, although I understand that hormone treatment is thereafter necessary. Beyond that, they estimate (based not on direct evidence but projecting out from estimated radiation doses) that around 4000 lives out of over half a million liquidators may be shortened – an amount actually small enough, given the high incidence of cancer anyway, to be very difficult to detect. This estimate may even be a little high: there is debate within science over whether there is actually an effective threshold below which radiation has no cancer impact. The direct number of confirmed deaths due to Chernobyl radiation is surprisingly low: 56 (49 accident workers and 9 children from thyroid cancer).

      The psychological effects resulted in alcoholism, risky behaviour, depression etc. in populations far wider than those actually affected by radiation. The elective abortion rate also went up right across Europe. That is, people who were not actually at risk of radiation were acting as if they or their children had been given death sentences. This is why it’s important not to overestimate the risks or spread fear. We already see mental health problems (depression, alcoholism, child behaviour problems) in the area with people who we can be really very confident are not at risk of developing radiation-related diseases.

      So yes, radiation can cause serious health problems, but that doesn’t mean we should go around telling people not actually at risk that they are. Unfortunately, people who think they’re doing good by exaggerating the health risks from Fukushima – and these are typically people who are aware of the UN reports but choose for their own psychological reasons to believe there’s a large scale global conspiracy in medical science – are actually doing a lot of bad.

  • Roy Warner

    From the wiki piece on Fukushima that has citations: Edano initially mentioned that a partial meltdown was possible on the 13th, with a lie “I am trying to be careful with words… This is not a situation where the whole core suffers a meltdown”. In point of fact, it was such a situation, three such situations, and he and TEPCO knew that. Then he denied meltdowns. Then he finally admitted meltdowns in three reactors.
    More from the wiki piece: “The IAEA recommended expanding the evacuation area, based on its criteria of 10 MBq/m2. Japanese Secretary Yukio Edano stated the government would wait to see if the high radiation continued.[40]”
    In sum, the Japanese government ignored even the IAEA in its haste to deny the potential for threats to public health. “the article described worst-case scenarios, such as overheating and leakage of contaminated water into the ground or ocean.” David, Ted, mates, have you read the papers recently? Leakage of contaminated water into the ground and ocean are established facts.

    • Rockne O’Bannon

      Nice police work, Roy. But, you are making up the part about “they knew it.”

      They did NOT know it, and they were avoiding guessing, and when they said anything, they said they were guessing. So… where do you get LYING and DECEPTION from that?

      It is not a matter of “finally admitting.” They told everyone when they knew FOR SURE. Sorry that was not fast enough for you, but really Roy. What the heck did you care? You and your buddies in Tokyo had already looted all the convenience stores anyway. Given that the radiation situation was a known quantity, what is an extra day or two or 20 going to make a difference in whether there was a meltdown or not? It truly was and is an academic question at a time when there were practical matters pressing.

      You all wanted “worst case scenarios.” Sheesh. I already knew the worst case scenario. The only people who wanted to hear THAT were the people who write headlines. But when you did not get that speculation from the people with the actual knowledge, you called them liars. I was here. I saw it happen.

      Here in Tohoku, we wanted facts and we were willing to wait for them. We did not loot stores. We read the paper and paid attention to people who had the knowledge, not pinheads from Washington or New York.

      And here you go again: “sumbody’s got to be lying!” Just calm down, take a deep breath. Nobody is dying. Everything is fine. Things are getting sorted out. If people in Tohoku aren’t panicking, why are you?

  • Rockne O’Bannon

    There is a lot of “I live near the plants and the government said this.” in the comments below.

    Well, you are all wrong.
    Whatever anyone SAID on 3 13 about a meltdown was sheer WAG speculation! This is what everyone forgets: no meltdown could be CONFIRMED until a month.. two months.. three months later?

    It is not a matter of someone lying, or even he said/she said. The plain fact of the matter is that everyone outside of Tohoku was in a total uproar speculating over something that God herself could not confirm. Don’t say TEPCO lied, or the government lied. Whatever the truth came out to be, nobody lied. TEPCO had the most to lose not by DENYING something, but by being INACCURATE. So they did not make stupid guesses no matter how much people wanted them to. Can’t people see that? People who had nothing to lose by being wrong were being babies by demanding that adults make up something for their headlines.

    The government gets my blame because the US NRC, which was disgraceful, railroaded the government into saying things and making speculation on matters that it could not have known. When it turned out the NRC had lied to Congress, they basically said “OOOPPS my bad” and left Kan twisting in the wind.

    Let me take this opportunity to thank TEPCO and the Tohoku media for giving me the BEST information to cope with that crisis. People I know who based their decisions on Tokyo media and world media did and said the stupidest things. Some of them packed up their belongings and their families and drove over icy roads at night for no reason whatsoever, and had to come back home weeks later with 100 gallons of gas in the back seat… can you say KABOOMM? Did more people die on those highways than from Fukushima radiation? You betcha!

    Information for people in Tohoku was life or death… the rest of the world was just playing around and making guesses.

  • Winky

    We better prepare for relocating 40000000 people cause when those 1300 fuel rods go off Japan will be a wasteland. Tepco already lied about contaminated water going in the ocean. Now we are supposed to trust these nuclear nerds.