Nuclear Fallout

(Updated 7:30am PDT, 16 March, included CBC videos)
(Updated 11:00pm PDT, 15 March, included MIT article)

A great tragedy is unfolding in Japan. However, despite what a lot of the mainstream media would have you think, that tragedy isn’t at the site of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex. The tragedy is the hundreds of thousands of people who are now homeless, hungry, and without clean water.

But we certainly hear about the troubles at Fukushima. In breathless tones, announcers tell us about the CRISIS and DISASTER that’s unfolding in northern Japan. The scary music comes on. Distraught and frightened people are shown, scared by the unknown and the spectre of nuclear fallout.

Lost in the din of all the WOO and emotion, however, are the voices of people that know what they’re talking about. And there are such voices. They don’t all agree on what’s going on, and most of that seems to be based on the paucity of good information coming from the site.

Some of the people tackling the issue head on include:
(Note the situation is fluid. These posts were linked on March 15th. Follow the root sites for up-to-date information and analysis)

An Engineer in DC

His latest post Summary of Fukushima tries to cut through what you’re hearing in the mainstream media and say in plain language what the situation seems to be, and what the consequences (and risks) are. Older blogs posts are incredibly informative on the various events (fires, explosions, etc) as well as the design of the reactors.

Bad Astronomy

Phil Plait is an astronomer, and a science advocate. He’s also a plain-spoken skeptic. The Bad Astronomer rails against WOO and misinformation at every turn (in addition to showing us awesome stuff about space). His take on the overreaction is a good read.


Evelyn Mervine is a geologist, a PhD candidate at MIT, and a skeptic. Her father is a nuclear engineer familiar and experienced with reactors in the US. She has published a series of interviews with Commander Mark L. Mervine, USN, that try to digest what has been reported in the news, and he answers questions from readers too. At the moment, there are four interviews: one, two, three, four.

Brave New Climate

Brave New Climate has its roots in the pro-nuclear energy lobby, but is an excellent source of technical information on the plants in question and interpreting the events associated with them. They have several posts on the technical details of the plants. Their most recent round-up tries to put even today’s “dire” news in context.

All Things Nuclear

All Things Nuclear leans the other way (anti-nuke), and is associated with the Union of Concerned Scientists which is a group that has a history using fear as a tactic. However, they also have some good articles on the subject.

Other sources

There are also some mainstream media elements trying to look through the confusion. Slate has a good article. So does the MSNBC Cosmic Log. NPR has a good article too.

(Added 7:30am PDT, 16 March) Lisa Johnson (@lisasj) pointed me to two very well done CBC Vancouver TV spots that explains the situation and its relevance to those of us here in Vancouver. First, second.

(Added 11:00pm PDT, 15 March) I stumbled on this article from MIT that talks about how the Fukushima incident could be viewed as a success story. Well, other than putting the backup generators in a place where they could be destroyed by a tsunami.

Don’t Panic

The takeaway message here is: Don’t Panic. This is not Chernobyl. This is not WWIII. You will not be affected by nuclear fallout. Unless you live very close to the complex, you are in no danger. Even the degree of danger for people close to the complex is a matter of some debate.

Permanent link to this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge