Monday, June 20, 2011

A Story Much Worse Than You Think

aljazeera_logo An article at Al-Jazeera is called Fukushima: It’s Much Worse Than You Think. Generally, I find Al-Jazeera worth a look, especially for news from the Arab world, but this story misses the mark by a wide margin.

Al-Jazeera reporter Dahr Jamail interviews a few anti-nuclear energy advocates and tries out a few new wrinkles that show a basic distrust for America.

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For example, conspiracies:

Why have alarms not been sounded about radiation exposure in the US?

Nuclear operator Exelon Corporation has been among Barack Obama's biggest campaign donors, and is one of the largest employers in Illinois where Obama was senator. Exelon has donated more than $269,000 to his political campaigns, thus far. Obama also appointed Exelon CEO John Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.

That’s why rampant radiation in America hasn’t been reported – because John Rowe said no.

Even if there were such a conspiracy, there would have to be a lot of buy-in from radiation monitoring stations not under the harsh thumb of the “plutocrats.” Smell test – not pass.

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Utterly and obviously baseless assertions:

Dr Shoji Sawada is a theoretical particle physicist and Professor Emeritus at Nagoya University in Japan. He is concerned about the types of nuclear plants in his country, and the fact that most of them are of US design.

"Most of the reactors in Japan were designed by US companies who did not care for the effects of earthquakes," Dr Sawada told Al Jazeera. "I think this problem applies to all nuclear power stations across Japan."

Because nothing says future sales like endangering your customers. At best, Sawada is implying that the U.S. does not have earthquakes and Westinghouse just didn’t think about them in designing the plants.

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Same as above, less of a conspiratorial bent:

According to [nuclear consultant Arnie] Gundersen, the exposed reactors and fuel cores are continuing to release microns of caesium, strontium, and plutonium isotopes. These are referred to as "hot particles".

"We are discovering hot particles everywhere in Japan, even in Tokyo," he said. "Scientists are finding these everywhere. Over the last 90 days these hot particles have continued to fall and are being deposited in high concentrations. A lot of people are picking these up in car engine air filters."

Radioactive air filters from cars in Fukushima prefecture and Tokyo are now common, and Gundersen says his sources are finding radioactive air filters in the greater Seattle area of the US as well.

“A lot of people are picking these up in car engine air filters.” If you search on hot particles and Tokyo, you will find exactly one source for this – Arnie Gundersen and his mysterious sources, including his hapless drivers.

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As you can see, there’s a lot of room to spin stories, gin up tidbits of fact into frightening fantasies and, shall we suggest it?, tell lies. Big fail from Al-Jazeera – fantastically irresponsible.

Of course, Al-Jazeera as always been a controversial news source in this country. Limit comments to the subjects addressed by the article and this post, not Al-Jazeera in general. That ways leads to flames.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I realize this didn't come from Al Jazeera, but the Pakistani media is alleging that Russian scientists believe Ft. Calhoun has experienced a meltdown (INES Level 4 event) as a result of the flooding there and that President Obama has ordered a media blackout to keep Americans in the dark about it.

http://nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/International/18-Jun-2011/US-orders-news-blackout-over-crippled-Nebraska-Nuclear-Plant-report

Anonymous said...

The Pakistani story cited in the above comment is one of the craziest I've seen.

About the only part I can figure out is, perhaps someone confused declaration of an "unusual event," which is the fourth and least significant class of emergency declaration under US NRC regulations, with a Level 4 event on the INES scale, which is a significant accident with radiation release. The rest appears to be just plain made up.

NukeStudent. said...

Howdy,

In Dr Shoji Sawada's defense, he is most likely anti-nuclear because he is a survivor of Hiroshima. One quote not mentioned in the article was,

"Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind," Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, told Al Jazeera.

I would counter and say that Union Carbide and the Bhopal disaster was one of the worst, if not the worst that has ever happened based on causalities, and corporate response, which the nuclear industry is still feeling the backlash from with liability of our exports to India. This however is diverting the blame, and without a better understanding of his criteria he used, further analysis would just be a poor use of time.

Bill Rodgers said...

Great job bringing attention to the conspiratorial tone of the Al-Jazeera. I too occasionally look to the Al-Jazeera for information on the Middle East. However, this article takes the conspiracy issues a little too far and with the aid of Mr. Gundersen and his hot particles.