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back to article Praying for meltdown: The media and the nukes

Sensationalism has always been part of the popular media - but Fukushima is a telling and troubling sign of how much the media has changed in fifty years: from an era of scientific optimism to one where it inhabits a world of fantasy - creating a real-time Hollywood disaster movie with a moralising, chivvying message. Not so …

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Anonymous Coward

Keep calm and carry on..

Maybe that lasted into the 70's... afterall who remembers/learned the lessions from Banqiao Dam? (lmgtfy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banqiao_Dam)

Hydro power really is dangerous....

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Yes, really, really dangerous

This dam failure caused the deaths of 171,000 people and 11 million people lost their homes. Even with Chenobyl, the figures are massively less and that was a really bad nuclear accident!! Why not lookup how many dams fail per year and you might be surprised. The safety record of the nuclear industry is the best of any electricity generation mechanism. Let's not let facts get in the way of a good story though!!

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Clean danger v dirty danger

I think there is a perception that if you die crushed by a wall of water or drown or suffocate in a coal mine or burn to cinders in an oil fire - this is natural and "clean" and Gaia will look after you, whereas if you die of radiation poisoning, it's dirty, un-natural, man-play-godly, anti-gaian and you will somehow be deader than "normal" dead.

The radiation is a silent killer - it is so treacherous that you can die 50 or 80 years after being exposed and all that time you won't even know that you're DOOMED!

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Pirate

it is so treacherous that you can die 50 or 80 years after being exposed

I'd be quite happy surviving fukushima for another 80 years... Argh I've just been exposed... I see the news is now saying the the radiations is here in the UK as it's been detected in Glasgow...

skulls icon.

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Glasgow

Radiation is, quite frankly, the last health hazard in the world that Weejies need to worry about.

(Yes, I am one)

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Re: Glasgow

You should live in Cornwall then, where high and toxic levels of radiation occur naturally. Frequently written off as 'background radiation' in much the same way that unwanted effects of medication are written off as 'side effects and unwanted deaths in war are called 'collateral damage', it must be healthy! It's Gaia!

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Meltdown

Even those convicted liars who run these plants have had to admit that the core in at least one reactor has melted. The fact that good civil engineering and drastic risk management has prevented hundreds of people being poised so far does not detract from the fact that the whole area around the plant is despoiled for generations.

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'despoiled for generations'

Like the areas around coal-fired power plants you mean? Besides which, does the concept of 'half-life' mean anything to you?

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"Meltdown" in this case...

;;;refers to melting of fuel *within* the core - it's not escaped, just melted into an unusable blob in the base of the reactor vessel. Three Mile Island did something similar (and without any known health consequences).

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WTF?

Point proven perfectly

"Reactor melted"

Yep, but so what, if the whole plant had melted then we would have a problem, but the reactor melting means it's buggered for use again, not that the whole world is going to expire in a burst of gamma rays

...and nothing has been despoiled for generations, just cause they wrap your chips in it doesn't mean it's credible.

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fact ...

"... that the whole area around the plant is despoiled for generations"

fact, really? Who says so?

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@Hermes

"the fact that the whole area around the plant is despoiled for generations"

Do you have a source for this "fact"? The whole area around the plant is a mess, yes - tidal waves will do that. And there have certainly been releases of radioactive materials from the plant. But I'm not aware of any evidence that there has been significant contamination of the area with long-lived radioactive materials.

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@Hermes Conran

Looks like a Redtop reader and he's fallen for it hook line and sinker. Even with the radioactive water and plutonium found to date, the amounts are pretty tiny. The area around the plant will be cleaned up within a few years and everything will return to normal. Radiation escaping into the sea is not too big a deal as the sea is immense and the dilution effect is massive. So, very quickly the radiation is so dispersed it offers no real threat.

People in Edinburgh and other areas such as Dartmoor with large amounts of igneous rock are exposed to higher levels of radiation each and every year!! Ever heard of Radon? Look it up in relation to building in this country.

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People in Edinburgh ........

are in an area which, volcanic plugs excepted, is generally sandstone.

Try Aberdeen which is mainly granite.

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Unhappy

This really is disappointing.

The Register is a technical publication and to continue to give oxygen to the wilder speculations and comments devalues the Science and Engineering professions and professionals who participate in them.

Without doubt there are issues to be addressed and they will be - but perhaps not as all of us would wish.

While 'we' continue to squabble and shout about 'nuclear accidents' then the public will continue to to think science and engineering is populated by arseholes and incompetents - which it most certainly isn't!!

Truth to tell, there isn't much to be seen now as far as the nuclear side goes. There is a lot more interesting stuff to be done with regard to earthquake engineering and alternative energy. Given were Japan sits I suspect there will be a re-vitalised interest in geothermal and other power sources.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: People in Edinburgh ........

Yes, this "people in Edinburgh speak weird because of the radon" meme should be investigated by Page and Orlowski if they're so keen on debunking common myths and tracing their propagation.

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"hundreds of people being poised so far"

What, they're taking a day off from clean-up to do a gigantic dance number?

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Coffee/keyboard

re: Point proven perfectly

"just cause they wrap your chips in it doesn't mean it's credible"

I love you :-)

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@Equitas

"volcanic plugs excepted"

Straying way off the point here, but I think this is what was meant. "Old" Edinburgh is pretty much built entirely on igneous (castle) rock. And there's that looming big thing called Arthur's Seat just off to the side.

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RE: just cause they wrap your chips in it doesn't mean it's credible.

Over this side of the world you haven't been able to wrap chips in newspaper for decades - the ink was causing food-toxicity issues.

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Hmmmmm.... I have an idea.

You comment on the dilution effect got me thinking. Who are the real experts in the dilution effect?

Perhaps we could put homeopaths to good use and get them to clean up the mess? I quite like the mental image of Gillian McKeith being sent into the reactors. Oh noes, theres no shits for me to examine!

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Spot on

Although I'm not so sure I share Orlowski's optimism with regards to the general public and their ability to parse all this stuff properly. Look at Germany, where the electorate has made bold gestures to the effect that what they want is the unachievable conglomeration of super-industry, green energy and no nuclear. Same thing going on in some quarters of Japan, although since they're actually in a seismic danger zone and have recently suffered a terrible cataclysm, that's much more understandable. I just have doubts about whether people will reject the scaremongering when it has such visceral appeal.

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Anonymous Coward

It is obtainable.

"All our* power is made from 100% renewables"

*Where 'our' means the stuff generated here, when there's a shortfall we buy it off the French and don't ask questions.

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Unhappy

Germany

Well, I live in Germany, and the talk over lunch was of the 24000 year contamination, China syndrome and how long to evacuate the whole of Tokyo. It was rather depressing that I couldn't make headway against this.

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In Japan

Do they call a 'China Syndrome' a '200 miles off the coast of Brazil' syndrome?

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Pint

Germany, eh...

Well, the discussion to tear down the 8? reactors that were SCRAMed at the news of the JAPAN INCIDENT a couple of weeks ago is now in full swing. Ancillary to this I heard on the radio that Germany plans to import hydropower from Norway. This will replace about 1 nuke. A laudable idea but guess what's first on the list of talking points: NIMBYness regarding the power converters and public fear of the high-voltage lines. Sigh.

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@ somethingmissing

Your comment about trusting the public to parse all this stuff properly does raise a good question about the democracy we all automatically laud as the be-all and end-all of moral government. What if the public, through ignorance or fear, set themselves on a self-destructive course? Does political morality, and the need to avoid undemocratic rule at all costs, require that the destruction be allowed to run its course?

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I've often thought

I've often thought that Democracy, being (supposedly) governance for the people, by the people, is fundamentally flawed by the fact that it's run "by the people" - have you never seen the Jeremy Kyle show?

(actually I haven't, I have a job, but from what I can gather it's like the Essex chav version of Jerry Springer).

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Anonymous Coward

Plato was right

I'd say enlightened dictatorships/monarchies are probably the best form of government, but the problem with that is that it's much more of a lottery, and there's no way to really guarantee that a good leader won't be replaced by an idiot/tyrant. The problem with democracy, on the other hand, is that it nearly never results in the best possible (or even good) governance, but the upside is that it provides a mechanism through which people are able to signal their consent and approval. So the question is, as you said, whether or not we should go waltzing towards extinction due to our own mass stupidity, as long as our politics retains (broadly speaking, of course) a consensual element. Speaking for myself, I think in general totalitarianism leads more predictably to suffering, and since we're going to go extinct some day any way (and are almost certain, from a Darwinian standpoint, to be 'responsible' for our own demise), at least we can try and reduce suffering on the way there. Not to say I'm a democrat, mind - I find it endlessly infuriating living in a democracy. But it might just be the least worst option.

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Stop

Re: I've often thought

The main problem with rule by the masses is that the masses are not always (read: rarely) right. And the IQ average of 100 means that a large proportion of the population will be on the lower side..

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Dirty

"("like a dirty bomb" we were told)"

Who told us that?

Also a link to an online copy of the Daily Mail's "Nature's Deadly Rage" would be great if you could provide it; Tim Black couldn't either although he did link to other quoted articles in his similarly themed piece on Spiked. http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/10325/

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Anonymous Coward

link

http://www.google.com/search?client=ubuntu&channel=fs&q=daily+mail+%22Nature%27s+Deadly+Rage%22&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

1st result Front page spash 12 Mar 2011

Can't find it in their archive though

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Locating "Nature's Deadly Rage"

There are searchy-looky thingummies that can do it for you, e.g.

http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&as_q=&as_epq=Nature%27s+Deadly+Rage&as_oq=&as_eq=&num=30&lr=&as_filetype=&ft=i&as_sitesearch=&as_qdr=y&as_rights=&as_occt=any&cr=&as_nlo=&as_nhi=&safe=images

Registration is apparently required.

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Welcome

Let-Me-Google-It-For-You(TM)

"Also a link to an online copy of the Daily Mail's "Nature's Deadly Rage" would be great if you could provide it..."

Err... you did try Googling the phrase; Daily Mail's "Nature's Deadly Rage" didn't you....?

Because an online version of that copy seems to be the first result

*shrug*

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Goo goo

Yes, I googled. And yes, an online copy 'seems' to be the first result but as you will no doubt have seen, being the thorough sort of person you so clearly are, that's just the (rather impressive) front page. If the text content is available it would appear to be behind a paywall and I am too much of a freetard to take that route.

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Asking wolf to guard the sheep...

"I am too much of a freetard to take that route"

And you expect Andrew Orlowski, of all people, to help you???? You're not much of a freetard at all, or you would have known better...

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Baa humbug

Good point.

No one even knows if he reads comments anyway.

What was I thinking?

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the Daily Mail???

There's your problem right there.

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Finally...

Good point, well made....

Thanks Andrew.

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What is it with science reporting?

With a few honourable exceptions, news media seem to find it perfectly OK to have science/technology stories covered by reporters who clearly have no knowledge whatever of the subject. This does seem to happen (at least, not very often) in other subjects. Sports reporters are expected to understand the difference between soccer and cricket; music reporters are expected to be able to differentiate between a guitar and a drumkit. No motoring column would ever appear containing a statement such as: "the Whizzo SuperFast has a top speed of 200mph - for comparison, that's twice the distance between London and Birmingham".

Yet the Times recently lifted a story from the Asahi Shimbun that said: "radiation levels of 500mSv/hr, which is twice the permitted dose of 250mSv", without realising what a howler they had perpetrated. Surely there must be at least one subeditor who passed A-level physics?

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News

"Surely there must be at least one subeditor who passed A-level physics?"

Probably not, or he'd be out in the real world doing something useful...

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Unhappy

Ref: What is it with science reporting?

easy cheap answer, most of the people in front of the camera and in the management, have Liberal Arts (Burgher Flipping) "degrees", and you would probably have to teach them how to count above 10.

the harder answers are most news "producers" scrapped anything that looked like a real research team, and concentrated on producing pretty animated graphics to entertain the viewer.

With notable exceptions (for example Lewis in the defence articles here), most reporters have never worked close to an area they are providing information or commentary on, and in the era of rolling news, they can't be bothered to go dig up somebody who has.

Bottom line if you want facts, you will need to go digging for them yourself.

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Might argue about some of the sports reporters

but in general this is spot on - it's acceptable on BBC radio (and as commercial radio is worse in every other respect I doubt it is any better here) for a presenter to laugh about their ignorance of science and their inability to do trivial arithmetic.

Even their professed experts treat the subject as though it is something no one could possibly ever understand which has to be dumbed down to the level of the inattentive halfwit rather than being presented properly and allowing the audience to reach for understanding.

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Paris Hilton

I'm intrigued ......

as to what this "Burgher Flipping" degree referred to by "despairing citizen" may be. Of course, if "despairing citizen" had a degree in English -- or even reasonable primary-school English -- he or she would recognise a burger on sight. As it is, clearly "despairing citizen" is going to be a "fail" even by the standards of McDonalds' Hamburger Academy!

Paris -- because presumably even she can spell "burger."

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Jesus wept, man!

If you're going to criticise someone's education, then you could at least get your spelling correct. What a berk.

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Happy

Ref: I'm intrigued

Dyslexi RULES KO!

Burger Flipping as in the only job you are qualified to do if you have;

Art History

English Literature (other than be pedantic at other people typo's)

etc.

PS

go to germany and burger flipping is probably a Phys.Ed or Politics course (which would actually be useful)

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Ref: I'm intrigued

Er, what's your point, caller?

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Anonymous Coward

"what's your point, caller?"

No one ever asks that of aManfromArse. Why ask it here, now?

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Grenade

Re:What is it with science reporting?

I've not read all the comments, 186 at the time of writing, so someone may already have mentioned this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2010/sep/24/1

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FAIL

"Why ask it here, now?"

Don't anger the Moderatrix!

This is a good occasion to upshift a link from laters:

http://jpquake.wikispaces.com/Journalist+Wall+of+Shame

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