Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Fukushima Lies

with 18 comments

Well, as was obvious almost immediately, the nuclear power lobby and their supporters went into overdrive to downplay and obfuscate the seriousness of the Fukushima crisis in Japan. No, this isn’t another Chernobyl. And World War Two wasn’t the same as World War One, that doesn’t mean World War Two was no big deal either. I’ve even read commentaries claiming Fukushima “proves” that nuclear power  is safe. My jaw drops on that one, the Fukushima crisis isn’t over yet, so how the hell does this prove nuclear power is safe? Until the plant is safely brought back under control, and that may take up to a year, it’s a little premature to claim that this crisis is even over, let alone claim that Fukushima is no big deal.

The biggest lie I see about nuclear accidents is ones revolving around the death toll. By focusing entirely or almost entirely on how many people died, it’s easy to make nuclear power look safe compared to say coal power. There are two things horribly deceptive about this argument. For one thing it relies on the lowest possible estimates for deaths caused by nuclear accidents, often even limiting it to the people directly killed on site! It’s debatable how many people were killed by Chernobyl, maybe a few thousand, maybe many more, but focusing on this single statistic obscures the bigger picture. What about the people who got cancer but didn’t die? What about the hundred thousand people who were rendered homeless by Chernobyl? What about the area the size of Rhode Island (or Lancashire) that was rendered uninhabitable by Chernobyl? And what about the incredible cost of accidents like Fukushima or Chernobyl? Can a fire at a coal power plant bankrupt a nation?

And speaking of coal power plants, the claim is often made that we have a choice between coal power plants and nuclear power plants. To say this is oversimplification would be unfair, this is simply regurgitated energy industry propaganda. The energy industry has done a fabulous job convincing people that the only way to provide power in the modern world is giant power plants and their attendant giant electrical grids. Conservation, energy efficiency, distributed power generation, etc. are all simply dismissed as hippie nonsense. If this were really the case, the energy industry wouldn’t need tireless propaganda for their cause, and more importantly, it completely obscures the massive public subsidies that the energy industry has enjoyed for decades. From the Rural Electrification Act to the development of nuclear power itself the energy industry has enjoyed generous public subsidies. Not to mention that the health costs of both coal and nuclear power are simply dumped on the public. Anyone who says coal and nuclear plants and centralized power  are the “only option” is missing a big part of the picture.

Then we come to the amazing amount of misinformation spread about radiation itself. Mostly through conflating various types of radiation, and by claiming that “radiation” is normal and that a little bit more won’t hurt. Yes, we live in a world where there is a lot of radiation, it’s unavoidable. What the “it’s all OK” people deliberately ignore or don’t mention is that fallout is not normal. Fallout is radioactive particles that get released into the environment. And yes, the radiation produced by fallout is trivial. What they don’t mention, is that if the fallout gets incorporated into bodily tissue, it is horrifically non-trivial. It’s like if someone was shooting at you with a BB gun, close your eyes and you would be safe. If however they could insert that BB gun inside our body at shoot at point blank range at various organs, the results would not be pretty. This is the difference been the radiation one receives on a  plane flight and the radiation one receives by ingesting fallout, same “radiation,” wildly different consequences.

The other way that nuclear industry apologists deliberately understates the risk from fallout is that they make the claim that it’s so widely distributed in the environment that the dose anyone gets is small. While this is sort of true, it completely ignores the way fallout in the environment get concentrated in the food chain. Sure, there’s very little fallout on that grass. Then however the cows eat that grass, and a small amount of radioactive fallout gets concentrated and becomes dangerously radioactive milk or meat. In fact there are all sorts of ways radioactive fallout can get concentrated in the food chain, many of them no doubt as yet unknown. This especially goes with the release of fallout into the sea, this is simply a complete unknown at this point. Don’t worry though, the risk is so small that our government is going to protect us by not even bothering to test for it. Phew, see, no problem.

Which leads to another point. It’s so easy to hide the damage caused by this sort of event. Let’s think about this. Governments and the nuclear industry have incredible incentive to downplay the consequences of Fukushima. Combine this with the fact that the actual risks of this, increased cancer rates in decades to come, are going to be very easy to conceal and obfuscate and deny. Pretty sure any poli-sci freshman can give many reasons why governments lie through their teeth in situations like this. This is just how human institutions work, especially today when the mainstream media is owned lock, stock, and barrel by these very same interests that have reason to lie. Is this proof that they are lying or that the consequences of Fukushima are extremely serious? Of course not, but it’s definitely proof that people need to take government, industry, and media “expert’s”  pronouncements of safety with an extremely large dose of salt.

Lastly, a related point that Fukushima illustrates. Nuclear waste. There are decades worth of nuclear waste “stored” at Fukushima, under circumstances that are hardly safe. This is the most toxic waste humans have ever produced, and it’s going to remain dangerous for thousands of years. The fact that the fawning corporate media never even mentions this issue anymore is proof that they are simply shills for big energy and big government. I mean, passing their negative costs onto society is standard procedure for big business, but in this case they are passing the costs on to countless future generations. This should be factored into arguments about how “safe” and “practical” nuclear power is, but instead it simply gets ignored. I’m sorry, but ignoring the nuclear waste issue in the discussion of nuclear power makes about as much sense as ignoring a lump in your breast or testicle in a discussion about your health.

In summary, am I saying that Fukushima is a mind numbing disaster that’s going to kill huge numbers of people and proves that nuclear power is insane? Not at all. I’m saying that Fukushima  is a serous disaster of yet untold proportions, and it’s very much proof that the whole issue of nuclear power needs to be publicly debated. And I’m also saying that anyone, government or otherwise, who claims Fukushima is “no big deal” is at best premature  in their pronouncement, and at worst simply lying. No one knows the future scope of the Fukushima disaster, especially since the reactors and nuclear waste storage pools won’t be brought under control for months at best. This could still get a lot worse before it gets better. Sadly, I’m betting on worse.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. And yes, I’m kinda skirting the boundaries of copyright law here, but since I’m plugging their show, I hope that in the extremely unlikely event that a CBS corporate copyright attorney sees this blog, they can overlook this copyright violation. At worst, they can tell me to remove the image. Credit and Copyright: CBS. Anyhow, I digress. I chose this image for several reasons, the main one being that it illustrates that the comfortable post World War Two fantasy that most Americans have been living in is rapidly drawing to a close, and Fukushima and its attendant costs and disruptions to the world economy are one of the factors driving this sea change. Wealth can only be funnelled upwards while costs are passed onto the public for so long  before the whole rotten edifice collapses of its own weight. And also because it as a really good TV series and I highly recommend it to my readers.)

Written by unitedcats

April 18, 2011 at 7:21 am

18 Responses

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  1. Too bad they canceled Jericho, right when it was getting good. Probably a little bit too realistic a plot.



    April 18, 2011 at 8:21 am

  2. The FDA is the Fukushima Denial Agency.
    The EPA is the Environmental Pollyanna Agency.

    Americas finest agencies are here to ‘help’, ‘honest’.

    Buy your own tools to measure food for radiation cause your government does not work for you by refusing to do their job.


    April 18, 2011 at 10:28 am

  3. Just one question… Since all of us here have become slaves to the grid– and we have– what alternative would you suggest? I maintain your arguments are mostly strong, but doing away with nuclear power now would be tantamount to outlawing all airplane technology after the first airplane crash resulted in a fatality (Sellick i believe his name was)…
    When i buy a piece of kit i always try to buy items that are MILSPEC, simply made to the specifications of the US Military. Said items tend to be stronger, last longer, with less maintenance.
    Extrapolate that idea by an order of magnitude and look at the MILSPEC nuclear reactors aboard all sorts of US Navy vessels– even ones that have sunk! NO ACCIDENTS NO INJURIES NO FATALITIES. I maintain the problem isn’t nuclear power– its the unsafe cost cutting and save-a-dollar mentality that creates the problems. BTW do you know how many. People DIE each year from cancers caused by the effluvium of coal fired generators? Look that one up… ET IN ARCADIA EGO


    April 18, 2011 at 10:52 am

    • Easy, make people pay the ACTUAL COSTS of coal and nuclear power UP FRONT. IE tax power to pay for the health costs, the clean up costs, the power grid costs, and the environmental costs. Phase it in over ten years. The free market would do the rest. —Doug


      April 18, 2011 at 11:03 am

    • Oh yeah the military reactors…
      They are save all right. Would be a terrible way of loosing a supercarrier. Can’t let that happen.

      But what happens after the reactors burned through their fuel ? They have to be stored safely for thousands of years. Not to mention the nuclear waste from their production. If you consider these costs they aren’t any iota better than any other type of reactor.
      And if you think the military has any interest at all in the protection from nuclear waste, take a look at the sickening “tests” they did to study radioactivity. The “Green Run” in Hanford should do. Hanford Site is also the place where nuclear reactors from navy ships corrode. Hopefully not till the end of time.


      April 18, 2011 at 12:14 pm

  4. How many people die each year from solar photovoltaics ?


    April 18, 2011 at 11:11 am

  5. WHEN IS EVERYONE GOING TO WAKE UP? There is a reason that governments and companies are not concerned about the truth. The governments make sure that the public only knows so much. Profits, profits, profits, and cover-ups. Anyone have a guess as to why BP had a camera broadcasting 24/7 with the oil spill. Where did all the 4.9 million barrels of oil go? There is not enough washed up or eaten by micro -organisms to account for the remained that is missing. I am sure it is a safe place somewhere under USA government protection. It does not take four months to cap an oil well, but it may take 4 months to build another underwater pipeline that no one but the US government knows about or controls. It was all about slight of hand. Make sure you watch the terrible devestation to the environment, and all along the USA is making sure that their government and “important people” will not suffer when oil goes to $20/gallon. The nuclear disaster in Japan is no different. The biggest cover-up is always in the hands that will benefit most. Lets all think on that one. I’m sure in the next year, many companies just might move back to the USA for manufacturing……that would be a great economic turn around for the powers in command. Funny how things work out…..


    April 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm

  6. In the short term, yes, the only real options are big power plants and grids. Distributed generation, which could conceivably provide for most power needs in the future, is not really mature; we have solar panels on our roof, which can power our house only in the daytime and not even that if the power is out. (Seriously, when grid power is out, even when our solar output is more than enough to cover the house, we don’t have power. It’s kind of pathetic.) To fix this problem requires lots of very expensive and bulky batteries, and the panels themselves are far from cheap. It’s true that we could use less power than we do, but this doesn’t solve the problem of getting whatever power we use in the first place. This is why I say that the alternative to nuclear plants is coal; the major renewable sources other than hydropower are unreliable, hydropower is highly geographically limited, and at this point in time we really do need the big power plants.

    Tom Dickson-Hunt

    April 18, 2011 at 8:40 pm

  7. And then there is longitudinal electricity


    April 18, 2011 at 8:46 pm

  8. mahakal

    April 18, 2011 at 9:00 pm

  9. Irony and silly faces dont translate well over the internet, so i ask– how could you possibly make a statist collective comment making the public pay ‘ up front’ for the assorted costs ( i shiver at the thought of the range of numbers you could come up with– $5.00 per gallon of gas tax? $100.00 surcharge per kilowatt hour for ‘enviornmental costs?) and have the nerve to invoke Adam Smith at the end, saying the ‘free market’ would do the rest… Please… First– dont know if you know this or not but there is no more ‘free market’ in the U.S. anymore, excluding the illegal drug trade. Every corner of every trade,
    mercantile or business has been regulated and re-regulated to Nth degree. Taxes, regulations, laws have turned the U.S. Into a National Socialist State, sad but true.


    April 19, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    • My point is the energy industries enjoy massive public subsidies both directly by government funding of power grids and nuclear R&D, and indirectly by passing their health and environmental costs onto the public. So when someone says the energy industries darlings “are our best options” they are either ignorant of or deliberately ignoring the fact that these are only the “best” options because the energy companies have totally gamed the system to make it appear so. Yes, we don’t have a free market, because if we did … the energy industries would be a shadow of their current selves and people would think of distributed green energy and conservation as normal. —Doug


      April 19, 2011 at 9:46 pm

  10. Hey why dont you do an article on unintended results– like how the CIA unwittingly influenced– and fueled– the hippie movement with its MKULTRA MKNAOMI experiments involving LSD in the 60’s? Or why Obama hasnt done a damn thing to rock the boat since he got elected… Iraq? Afghanistan? Guantanimo Bay? Mmm hmmm… Just a darker G. W. Bush… U know Obama signed a directive that the US govt could kill any US citizen outside the US that was deemed a threat? WTF? Which means they read this, see i live in costa rica… And… Waitaminute theres a helicopter landing in my back yard, brb…


    April 19, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    • Are you being facetious about Obama? A post on unintended consequences is a good idea though, thanks. —Doug


      April 19, 2011 at 9:48 pm

  11. Im really dissapointed about Obama… Thought he’d be more like Lenin than Nixon… Of course my belief is that the U.S. Is in an irreversable downward spiral, and little could change that one way or the other… Requium eternam dona es Domine


    April 20, 2011 at 7:59 am

  12. Breast milk of japanese mothers now contains radio-iodine:

    there is no ‘safe’ level of this for infants. it attacks the thyroid.

    The ‘Fukushima Necklace’ will become commonplace over time.


    April 21, 2011 at 6:44 am

  13. […] harbingers of doom we are facing so to speak. Nine posts because I already covered the first one. Fukushima. Yeah, maybe the reactors won’t be the death of us all. However, even with best case […]

    link to Steve Wozniak re the NEW Japanese Wikileaks FUKULEAKS reveals that all the media and scientists were threatened/and or paid off and has the missing radiation readings and tons of MAJOR DIRT! It names names. See below.

    Stu Bateman

    May 24, 2011 at 9:03 am

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