Friday, April 08, 2011

(Ir)responsible Speculations

onagawa The slow pace of news coming from Japan means that reporters have to write about things in a somewhat more speculative fashion – about things that might happen.

For example, the Japanese government might expand the evacuation zone around Fukushima:

Japan's government said Thursday it is considering extending the evacuation zone around its hobbled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, as the government recalculates the risk of radioactivity that continues to issue from the plant four weeks after Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

But there’s no set timetable for determining this while Tepco and the government take more radiation readings:

Tepco said it has provided radiation figures from several locations near the complex and is awaiting government analysis before making the data public.

The government hasn't said when it would make a decision on expanding the zone, what measures it would use or how it might house those it relocates. It said it hasn't set a timetable.

That’s a lot not known, which at least keeps the story alive until further evacuation does or doesn’t happen.


The U.S. government says it is highly unlikely that there has been a  meltdown in either the reactor vessels or their containment structures at Fukushima:

Although the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has not yet been stabilized, there is no evidence that overheating during the last month has resulted in any melting of the reactor vessels or their containment structures, Obama administration officials said Thursday.

If that assessment is correct, then significant additional releases of radioactivity into the environment will be limited, and emergency crews should have a far better chance of preventing further damage to the plant's reactors.

We greatly hope this is so, but again, there’s a speculative quality to it because none of the sources for this information is named.

“We are a long way from a point where anybody would say this is stable," a senior administration official said. "But it is not a runaway. For a long time, we will be at a declining level of risk."

This often means that the administration wants to get information out without claiming credit for it. Still, fully sourced stories are better just as it’s better to take responsibility for the things you say, however awkward. The rest of the (long) Los Angeles Times story reiterates information from earlier stories.

This is worth keeping an eye on, speculative or no.


But these speculations are responsible in that they are clearly labeled as such and don’t presume to go further than the facts dictate. Now, from the media land of the fantastically irresponsible comes Russia’s English-language service RT.

If you watch this newscast, which features one source – an anti-nuclear energy advocated not identified as such - you might worry that something terrible occurred at the Onagawa plant following yesterday’s earthquake. But here’s what happened:

The 7.1-magnitude quake that hit late Thursday caused liquid to overflow from spent fuel pools in all three reactor buildings at the Onagawa plant, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.

Most seriously affected was reactor number two, where 3.8 liters from the spent fuel pool ended up on the floor of the operation room.

And here is the result:

But operator Tohoku-Electric Power Co. said no radioactive liquid had leaked out of the plant.


“The radiation levels in the wet areas are far below the level that would require us to report to authorities."

Well, okay. Nice that it was reported to the authorities anyway the day it happened, though. (See below post for fuller details on this.)

See if this is the sense you get from the RT report. Granted, it’s Russia, but still, the internet can be a great leveler of the true and the false. It’s also true that if you don’t fully trust a source of information, the internet is loaded with second opinions.


NEI continues to run updates on events in Japan every day and we post them here as well, as see post below. No speculation – just the facts.

The Onagawa plant.

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