The nuclear incident at Fukushima is a serious event to put it mildly, the third of the great triad of disasters to strike Japan over the past few days, and one that will have far reaching consequences.
But to listen to the media, especially television, one would think the next Chernobyl is at hand, if not the next Hiroshima. In fact, it is not yet a Chernobyl and in all probability won’t become one. Chernobyl had no containment vessel. Once it went haywire (thanks to very bad design and very incompetent management), there was nothing to prevent a catastrophic release of radiation. And it can’t be a Hiroshima. Nuclear plants cannot turn into nuclear bombs no matter what happens. It is probably a Three Mile Island. No one died as a result of Three Mile Island.
The news media, of course, are in the business of selling news, so the greater the disaster, the better it is for them, as far as business is concerned. This induces a predilection to be Chicken Little. When you have a problem with scary but often not-really-understood words such as radiation, meltdown, and Roentgen, and spectacular footage of explosions, that goes double. Then you add in time constraints and the need to get “experts” on the air quickly. Unfortunately, many of the “nuclear experts” in TV producers’ iPhones are, in fact, anti-nuclear activists, only too happy to exploit the situation to push their agenda.
The best non–Chicken Little explanation of the situation at Fukushima that I’ve read can be found here. It is reassuring and a good antidote to the near hysteria I’ve seen on television the past few days.