Monday, 21 March 2011

The Real Fallout From Fukushima

"Japan dead, missing near 21,000 amid atomic crisis."
Observe how this headline places number of deaths in syntactic association with the nuclear crisis at Fukushima (a crisis which has so far led to, I believe, only one death - and not from radiation exposure). Were I the ME at the Taipei Times the headline to that piece would have read:
"Nuclear plant stablizing, as death toll elsewhere rises"
Same number of words, same two categories of information but without the implicature that the number of deaths has something to do with the situation at the Fukushima plant. That entire AFP report is bad though, for two reasons: first it lumps two seperate stories together: the stabilization of the Fukushima plant with the ongoing assessment of the tsunami and quake impact; and second, with respect to the stablization of the plant, the reporter doesn't seem to fully understand what's happening, for in his very first sentence he writes:
"Workers were close to restoring power to a nuclear plant’s overheating reactors yesterday..."
Which is wrong - they are restoring power, not to the reactors (which would be insane) but to the electrical grid needed to power the cooling systems - principally water pumps - within the reactor buildings. The distinction is not a difficult one to understand.

Elsewhere in this morning's Taipei Times:
"...“The government has always told us that nuclear energy is safe, but what’s happening at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, proves otherwise,” said Shih Shin-min (施信民), a professor of chemical engineering at National Taiwan University and the founding chairman of Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU)."
No it doesn't "prove otherwise" Shih Shin-min. If you would only take the time to pay careful attention and honest thought to what is being done at Fukushima, you'd have to conclude that it proves that the danger is containable by brave people committed to thinking carefully about a limited and well understood problem. Flappers like Shih Shin-min (施信民) are either deliberately ignorant of how well the situation is being contained and how limited the risk is, or they are attempting to capitalize on the unfortunate events at Fukushima for the purpose of abolishing nuclear power in Taiwan. Consider this reported statement from Lee Cho-han (李卓翰) (who is apparently the secretary-general of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union):
"...Taiwan should stick to the goal of building itself a non-nuclear homeland..."
That is what this demonstration is really about - pacè Loa Iok-sin's description of them as:
" voice to a rising number of people who are uncertain about the safety of nuclear energy..."
The salient fact is not their "uncertainty" about the safety of nuclear power, but their outright opposition to it (perhaps fueled by a deliberate ignorance of what the actual consequences of a meltdown would likely be and how well the situation is being handled) and the consequent refusal to rationally consider the risks of nuclear power and how these risks may be further reduced. And of course irresponsible politicians are encouraging the anti-rational shrieking. Look at this nonsense from Frank Hsieh (謝長廷):
"Nuclear disasters have occurred in three of the countries with the most advanced nuclear technology in the world — the US, the former Soviet Union and Japan,” Hsieh said. “I don’t think we’re more advanced than those countries in nuclear technology and therefore what happened to them could happen to us too."
It isn't a question of how "advanced" any given nation may be Mr Hsieh, it is a question of applying careful thought to conceiving solutions to the risks to nuclear power stations in Taiwan, and of carefully applying rational criticism to evaluate and improve these conjectural solutions before attempting to implement them. This cannot be done by flapping, panicking and encouraging anti-think among the environmentalists and the DPP supporters.

It boils my piss to read crap like that.

For shame.

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