The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I have purposely delayed commenting on the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan until time had passed and better understanding of these sad events was possible. I did, however, watch in amazement as the main stream media in the United States all but abandoned the real story (the earthqualke and tsunami) and focused hysterical coverage on the “nuclear Armageddon” that occurred at the Fukushima reactors. Not surprisingly, MSM coverage was inaccurate, was presented with no context, and was overwrought and overdone. CNN and its brethren suffered their own meltdown.

It’s also interesting to note that as soon as the first bomb dropped in Libya, the MSM, like an ADD child, seemed to forget Japan and shifted its focus to the Middle East.

There is no question that the failure and partial meltdown of the Fukushima reactors is a very serious event. But there’s a difference between very serious and “OMG, everyone in Japan is going to die! all the food and water is tainted! people in California should run out and buy iodide tablets!!”

Lewis Page provides a more measured analysis of the situation as it now stands:
The Fukushima reactors actually came through the quake with flying colours despite the fact that it was five times stronger than they had been built to withstand. Only with the following tsunami – again, bigger than the design allowed for – did problems develop, and these problems seem likely to end in insignificant consequences. The Nos 1, 2 and 3 reactors at Daiichi may never produce power again – though this is not certain – but the likelihood is that Nos 4, 5 and 6 will return to service behind a bigger tsunami barrier.

The lesson to learn here is that if your country is hit by a monster earthquake and tsunami, one of the safest places to be is at the local nuclear powerplant. Other Japanese nuclear powerplants in the quake-stricken area, in fact, are sheltering homeless refugees in their buildings – which are some of the few in the region left standing at all, let alone with heating, water and other amenities.

Nothing else in the quake-stricken area has come through anything like as well as the nuclear power stations, or with so little harm to the population. All other forms of infrastructure – transport, housing, industries – have failed the people in and around them comprehensively, leading to deaths most probably in the tens of thousands. Fires, explosions and tank/pipeline ruptures all across the region will have done incalculably more environmental damage, distributed hugely greater amounts of carcinogens than Fukushima Daiichi – which has so far emitted almost nothing but radioactive steam (which becomes non-radioactive within minutes of being generated).

And yet nobody will say after this: "don't build roads; don't build towns; don't build ships or chemical plants or oil refineries or railways". That would be ridiculous, of course, even though having all those things has actually led to terrible loss of life, destruction and pollution in the quake's wake.

The events at Fukushima will be carefully and thoroughly analyzed, not by sanctimonious politicians or hysterical environmentalists, but by trained nuclear engineers who will learn from these events and work to make reactors even safer than they already are.

Unfortunately, no system is perfect, nor is any system 100 percent safe. It’s a matter of assessing risks and then weighing those risks against the benefits of a carbon-free, almost limitless power source.

The Obama administration, to it credit, has not joined in the hysteria, and so far remains committed to nuclear power as a major form of green energy for the 21st century. But voluminous regulations that drive costs through the roof and lawfare conducted by opponents make it unlikely that any new nuclear plants will come online over the next 20 years. That’s unfortunate, because try as we might, in the short and mid-term it’s unlikely that wind, solar, and other alternative sources of energy will be enough to wean us from oil.