Watching this terrible disaster in Japan is bad enough without TV talking heads who are either totally ignorant of science or are simply following the Luddite tradition of bashing any technology they don’t understand.
One CNN talking head showed how far over his head he had gotten when he didn’t seem able to grasp the concept that if you can have a landslide on land or a snow avalanche, you could also have a landslide underwater – the cause of one kind of tsunami.
During the day many of the CNN staff worked to make the possibility of a potential problem at a nuclear reactor sound like the end of the world even while interviewing experts who emphasized that the reactor had been quickly shut down and they are only dealing with residual heat and insignificant leaks.
New CNN personality Piers Morgan seemed disappointed in the three well-known scientist guests who quickly dismissed fantasies such as that the moon is causing the earthquakes and explained why disasters seem to be getting worse – the explanation is simple. Natural events are essentially random but, the population is increasing causing more people to live in dangerous areas so when natural events occur there are far more people to get injured or killed which is how we measure disasters.
Live TV coverage also tends to magnify any disaster simply because 50 years ago we didn’t have that intimacy.
Population density is particularly serious in Japan which is a very crowded country. Until fairly recently most of the population lived away from the coast because they were well aware of tsunami threats – which is, after all, a Japanese word.
More recently the need for flat land for factories and for homes for the factory workers, has led to a massive increase of population and facilities near the ocean. A tsunami which 100 years ago would have flooded farm land today wipes out cities. The storm is the same, the population has changed so the disaster is worse.
But nuclear power is under the biggest threat. Virtually every reporter tried to get experts to make the situation seem worse, trying at first to equate these shutdown reactors with Chernobyl and when that didn’t work with experts who had actually been at Chernobyl, settled for saying it could potentially be as big a disaster as Three Mile Island (but failing to remind viewers no one was killed at TMI).
This is very unlikely to even be as bad as TMI because that reactor wasn’t shut down properly while the ones in Japan all closed down.
But perhaps the absolute worst and most obvious anti-nuclear bias showed in the way reporters suggested that if even great Japanese reactors were dangerous, they must be even more dangerous in other countries.
The slimy, misleading, and downright BAD reporting came when they almost always avoided pointing out that the reactor in trouble is 40 years OLD. Or that there have been three new generations of nuclear reactors since that one was built.
It would be like pointing to a 1960 Corvair without seat belts as an example of how dangerous new cars are today.
But even that wasn’t enough; the talking heads kept emphasizing how high the radiation levels were at some detectors IN the reactor – up to 1,000 times background. That is the SCARY way of saying as much radiation as you would get going through airport TSA screening a couple of times. But no one got around to making that comparison.
Since U.S. schools teach virtually nothing about the reality of nuclear power or how to make important decisions and evaluate facts, merely saying the word nuclear now scares enough ignorant voters that the U.S. is 40 years behind other countries such as France – hence we have to fight wars to protect our foreign oil supplies.
Strangely enough, many of those people who fear nuclear power have relatives who have died in coal mines or drive cars (40,000 deaths per year), but they’ve been propagandized to think nuclear power is dangerous but a wasted, distracted car full of teens driving a 3000 lb weapon isn’t dangerous.
After repeatedly using the fright words Three Mile Island, none of the CNN speakers so much as mentioned the fact that no civilian nuclear power worker in the U.S. has ever been killed while coal miners die all the time. The great disaster at TMI was not that anyone was injured, but that media played it up to stop all reactor construction and keep the U.S. dependent on coal and oil.
Another fact they ignore is that coal fired power plants spew radioactive material into the atmosphere all the time – its mixed up in the goal. Even cigarettes produce radioactive smoke in tiny amounts.
I’ve actually been in nuclear power plants AND worked in coal mines so my perspective might mean more than a talking suit – believe me I’d rather work in or live near the nuclear reactor.
Nevertheless, the anti-nuclear steam roller pushes on keeping the United States far behind such “backward” countries such as France, India, or China where they see clean cheap nuclear power as the wave of the future.
What do I know about it?
What right do I have to hold an opinion about comparative safety?
Well, besides having actually worked in a coal mine and spending all those years studying nuclear physics, I have also served as an emergency management coordinator for two municipalities, and am a trained Commonwealth certified radiologic monitor (trained in radiation detection and safety procedures).
Fortunately for the anti-nuclear lobby there is very little concern that the U.S. will actually build a lot of nuclear power plants. There is simply no political will to get off hydrocarbon fuels and, besides, there isn’t enough uranium to fuel them because China and India have bought most of it for the many nuclear plants they are already building.
The same situation holds for all the clueless politicians who keep screaming that it is time for us to build up a strategic stockpile of Rare Earth Element ore for critical technology such as smart bombs computers, wind turbines, and even electric cars.
The stockpile would be a good idea if it weren’t a decade too late. As famed investor James Dines recently asked, since there is already a shortage of RE ores to meet current manufacturing needs, just where do they expect to find extra RE metals to put in a stockpile?
Perhaps I.O.U.s? After all, that is how the government pays its bills.
The demand for rare earth element stockpiles is like being stranded in a desert with a half empty water bucket and deciding to “stockpile” more water. Great! Good Idea, too bad you didn’t think about that back when there was still some water to stockpile.