Tuesday, March 29, 2011

UK Tech Publication Blasts Sensationalist Reporting on Nuclear Reactor

Regular reader Guy Jean sends along some articles written by a guy named Lewis Page who seems to be a man after my own heart. 


O'JAY'S - BACK STABBERS


His most recent article carries on about a theme that I have harped on and that is mass media sensationalist reporting. In my case, I attack the sensationalism as I am a professional with 30-years experience in the mass media - including news reporting. From this experience and judging from his writing, I gather that Mr. Page has experience with mass media BS because he takes it to them with a one-two punch. 


The article appeared in the Register, one of the world's biggest online tech publications. The Register is headquartered in London and San Francisco. It is read by over 1.5 million tech related users per month. So this is written by a person with a technical background.

Fukushima scaremongers becoming increasingly desperate



The situation at the quake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant in Japan was brought under control days ago. It remains the case as this is written that there have been no measurable radiological health consequences among workers at the plant or anybody else, and all indications are that this will remain the case. And yet media outlets around the world continue with desperate, increasingly hysterical and unscrupulous attempts to frame the situation as a crisis.

Here's a roundup of the latest facts, accompanied by highlights of the most egregious misreporting.


First up, three technicians working to restore electrical power in the plant's No 3 reactor building stood in some water while doing so. Their personal dosimetry equipment later showed that they had sustained radiation doses up to 170 millisievert. Under normal rules when dealing with nuclear powerplant incidents, workers at the site are permitted to sustain up to 250 millisievert before being withdrawn. If necessary, this can be extended to 500 millisievert according to World Health Organisation guidance. 


(I have information on comparison's of dosages in millisievert and microsievert here in Current Radiation Levels in Tokyo and Tsukuba (75 km. north of Tokyo) )



None of this involves significant health hazards: actual radiation sickness is not normally seen until a dose of 1,000 millisievert and is not common until 2,000. Additional cancer risk is tiny: huge numbers of people must be subjected to such doses in order to see any measurable health consequences. In decades to come, future investigators will almost certainly be unable to attribute any cases of cancer to service at Fukushima.

Nonetheless, in the hyper-cautious nuclear industry, any dose over 100 millisievert is likely to cause bosses to pull people out at least temporarily. Furthermore, the three workers had sustained slight burns to their legs as a result of standing in the radioactive water - much as one will burn one's skin by exposing it to the rays of the sun (a tremendously powerful nuclear furnace). They didn't even notice these burns until after completing their work. Just to be sure, however, the three were sent for medical checks.

So - basically nothing happened. Three people sustained injuries equivalent to a mild case of sunburn. But this was reported around the globe as front-page news under headlines such as "Japanese Workers Hospitalized for Excessive Radiation Exposure". Just to reiterate: it was not excessive.


In the next article, Mr. Lewis deftly points out the crass sensationalist reporting concerning our drinking water in Tokyo. 

Tokyo tapwater - THE NEW GROUND ZERO!!! Fallout!!! Chernobyl!!!

Then there's the matter of the tapwater in Tokyo. Two days ago, levels of radioactive iodine-131 were found in the city's water which were above the safety limit for baby milk calculated on the basis of a year's consumption: in other words, if babies drank such water for a year constantly they would have a tiny, minuscule extra risk of thyroid cancer. (emphasis mine)
One should note that iodine-131 has a half-life of 8 days: it disappears almost completely within a matter of weeks. The Fukushima reactors have not been generating any more of it since they scrammed nearly a fortnight ago, and the residual core heating which is causing it to be emitted has plunged to tiny proportions of that seen in the days after the quake.

I think this writing falls in line with what I have been saying all along: The experts have been telling us that there is no danger to folks living far away from the nuclear reactors and a 30 kilometer (18 mile) evacuation zone around Fukushima is sufficient. Keep in mind that Three Mile Island only had a 10 mile evacuation zone and Three Mile Island had no deaths attributed to it. I also pointed out in News For Intelligent People Criticize Japan Nuclear Reporting that there were other publications - science and technical ones - who were slamming the poor, sensationalist reporting:

The news from Japan is both awful and appalling. Awful: 23,000 confirmed dead or missing, and counting. Appalling: pretty much anything to do with the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. Nuclear meltdown like Chernobyl! Deadly contaminated milk and radioactive tap water! Tokyo a post apocalyptic ghost town! A plume of radiation that threatens America’s West Coast!

Where do they get these morons? Again, twenty thousand people are dead, and the drooling dimwits of the media can’t stop babbling about Fukushima, where exactly one person died – a crane operator who had the misfortune to be up in the cab of his vehicle when the fifth largest earthquake in recorded history hit – and fewer than 30 were injured, only a handful of whom required treatment for radiation exposure. 

Regardless, the to keep up the panic and anti-nuclear power activists also have theirs. In the case of the latter, one need only think about Man Made Global Warming to realize that these people have an agenda.

Having an agenda does not make for rational reporting.  

Howard Beale said it best in the 1976 movie about TV and the mass media. He implored people to turn off their TVs: "Because less than 3% of you read books. Less than 15% of your read newspapers. Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube!"


video


Howard Beale: Turn off your TVs - Click here to watch it.

Two thumbs up to Guy Jean. Thanks!

2 comments:

Marc Sheffner said...

Speaking of fear-mongering, remember that anti-nuke guy Hirose Takashi and his terrifying gloom-and-doom interview? Well, I just read some comments by Michio Kaku that bear an uncanny resemblance. ‘If I had the ear of the Japanese prime minister I would recommend the Chernobyl option (dumping materials from helicopters).’ Coincidence? (Read more here and here.)
Physicist Sich also has some positive things to say about the Japanese: "[the media permit] a kind of sensationalist criticism of the Japanese, and I’m not sure they deserve it. The Japanese are doing the best they can in a very difficult situation." Hear, hear.

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