Category: Japan

About that California radiation thing

Count on the media to keep stirring the pot. They report on radiation from Japan; people on the West Coast get concerned. They report that people on the West Coast are concerned; everyone gets more concerned. The more the media talk about it and try to explain it, the more people get worked up about it. It must be a big deal because the media keep talking about it, right?

The problem is, no one is listening. The miniscule amount of radiation reaching the U.S. does not and will not pose a health risk to anyone here. Period. End of story.

Put my money where my mouth is, you say? I’ll go you one better. I sent my eight-year-old grandson to San Francisco last weekend for a week-long visit with grandpa.

Lieberman’s moratorium should be on earthquakes, not power plants

Sen. Joe Lieberman

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) wants a moratorium on the construction of nuclear power plants in the U.S. It was only a matter of time until someone in this country freaked out over events in Japan, and the Senator stepped up.

On “Face the Nation” this morning, he opined: “… I don’t want to stop the building of nuclear power plants, but I think we’ve got to kind of quietly, quickly put the brakes on until we can absorb what has happened in Japan …”

Really? “Until we can absorb what has happened in Japan”? They had an earthquake, a magnitude 8.9 earthquake, followed by a 25-foot tsunami. The worst quake in Japanese history. The fifth worst quake in the world since 1900. That’s what happened, Senator. Things over there were hunky dory before the earthquake hit.

And yet, despite the unprecedented devastation in the world’s most quake-prone country, those 40-year-old Japanese power plants are still standing. They did not collapse; they did not rupture. And although they are having some serious problems right now, there has been no massive release of radiation. Remarkable, all things considered.

CBS News noted today:

Nils J. Diaz, a nuclear engineer who led the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2003 to 2006, told the New York Times that safety programs for nuclear power plants developed in the wake of 9/11 would have prevented the serial problems experienced by the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex.

So, Senator, unless you’re ready to share with us your secret technology for preventing earthquakes, it seems your moratorium would be rather pointless — expensive, certainly, but pointless.

Those amazing Japanese ‘nuke factories’

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station before quake

It’s difficult to imagine anyone hasn’t heard about the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Personally I’ve had the television on constantly since Thursday night, when the first live feeds began airing. It was both horrifying and fascinating to witness the real-time unfolding of a monumental natural disaster from half a world away.

I’ve watched with particular interest the coverage of and commentary about the two Fukushima nuclear power plants and their as-yet uncooled reactors. The Japanese get some 30% of their power from nuclear energy, while in the United States there has been a longstanding distrust of such power. In recent years, that fear seemed to have subsided somewhat and discussions of alternative energy sources had begun to mention nuclear power again.

Now, however, the press seems focused once again on the potential for a nuclear nightmare, and while that’s understandable, it’s a disservice to give airtime to people who either don’t know what they are talking about or who clearly have a bias against nuclear power. Of course, having been married to a nuclear engineer, I have my own biases.

No one wants to see a catastrophic event at a “nuke factory,” and I understand the exigencies of reporting this story, but I wish more attention could be given to the fact that these two plants withstood an 8.9 earthquake, reportedly the fifth largest worldwide since 1900 and Japan’s largest ever.

Only time will tell, but regardless of the outcome in Japan, I hope it stands as a testament to how safe these plants can be rather than an indictment of their potential hazard.