Skip to main content

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.

---

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.

---

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.

---

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.

---

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.

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.

Popular posts from this blog

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…