Saturday, March 12, 2011
Explosion at Japanese Nuke Plant: Are We Getting the Straight Story From Japanese Authorities?
This explosion today at a Japanese nuclear plant about 130 miles from Tokyo cannot be good.
Here is report from CNN. Click on the video interview accompanying this report. The CNN reporter, alas, keeps interrupting her subject with stupid questions, obviously annoyed by the expertise she is hearing. "Boooring!" you can see her thinking. "Give us some tips on how to prevent this!" you can see her thinking. "We know what the problem is; we talked about that," she finally says dismissively. Let's lose this guy and cut to the Charlie Sheen update!
Sheesh, it's hopeless.
Anyway, here's something I worry about besides stupidity in the TV media, which is, nevertheless, plenty to worry about:
Japan, as we are constantly being informed today in the media, has excellent earthquake engineering, and has long drilled its populace -- from grade school on to the neighborhood and home and factory and office -- in emergency earthquake response.
But are we getting the straight story on these nuclear plants damaged in the earthquake? Earthquake preparedness is an engineering issue, yes -- but response can also include cultural issues. Like a propensity for face-saving and butt-covering. It's worth evaluating. It sure looks like adequate information is not forthcoming on the damage to this particular nuclear plant.
The authorities in Japan are saying there is no risk of a core meltdown -- but that is patently not true. There already has obviously been a partial core meltdown. Of course there is a risk of a meltdown. Also, authorities have evacuated people from within a 12-mile radius of the damaged plant. That indicated that the problem is very, very serious.
[UPDATE: From the New York Times: "...Government officials and executives of Tokyo Electric Power, which runs the plant, gave confusing accounts of the causes of the explosion and the damage it caused ..."
From the Wall Street Journal: "Some analysts say the government may be downplaying the real risk of a major disaster, and that the latest accident could be comparable to that of Three Mile Island in the U.S. ..."
From the BBC: "A former nuclear power plant designer has said Japan is facing an extremely grave crisis and called on the government to release more information, which he said was being suppressed. Masashi Goto told a news conference in Tokyo that one of the reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant was 'highly unstable,' and that if there was a meltdown the 'consequences would be tremendous.'"]
By the way, I am not one of those anti-nuke alarmists. I covered the Three-Mile Island incident as a young reporter -- and my late father was one of the people who supervised, and trained young engineers for, the nuclear-power program for the old Philadelphia Electric Co.