This is Our Generation’s Three Mile Island – Lets Not Screw it Up

March 13th, 2011
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I’ve said before that it was only a matter of time before another Three Mile Island. What I mean by that is that there would eventually be a major nuclear incident which did not kill anyone, did not put any lives in danger and did not actually show the safety systems on nuclear plants to be inadequate, but which did cause significant damage to the internals of the nuclear power plant itself.

The Three Mile Island incident was like this. Nobody died. Nobody was ever in any real danger. The plant experienced significant internal damage, but the systems held.

Despite this, anti-nukes turned this event into one of their single biggest rallying cry. Indeed, it was a turning point in nuclear power policy. To this day, the events are used as an example of why nuclear power is unsafe, despite the fact that nobody was hurt and no property outside the plant contaminated. Claims are made constantly that the events have lead to huge increases in cancer (they haven’t) and dishonest anti-nukes have claimed everything from candy bars to schools were contaminated.

As one might expect, they are having a field day with the events in Japan.

Pro-nukes can’t take this sitting down. There are some things we should have learned by now:

  • Go on the offensive right away. Don’t take this sitting down. Get up in the faces of the anti-nukes and call them on their dishonesty. Shame them for instilling panic on a nation which is already dealing with tragic events. Drive hone the higher ethical authority that honesty brings. Pull no punches in showcasing their disgraceful media-whoring. Be sure not to forget the victims in this are the people of Japan who have endured the earthquake and call the anti-nukes for subjecting them to a campaign of fear.
  • Don’t apologize.
  • Focus on the fact that the damage is confined to the plant. Remember that this was an enormous earthquake that destroyed nearly every industrial structure and facility. The plant will take a long time to repair, but bear in mind that this is the real concern, that it will take time to repair and that in the meantime, there can be power shortages.
  • Don’t forget that there are thousands dead from the quake and tsunami or that there’s an oil refinery burning. This is not a nuclear event. A nuclear plant may have been damaged, but this is not a nuclear disaster, it’s an earthquake.
  • Be careful about saying that newer reactors are “safer” or have better systems. While this may be true, it can also imply that the technology is inherently unsafe.
  • Don’t be afraid to be critical of the government for overreacting by evacuating the area.
  • Avoid talking about a “disaster being averted” as that implies that the situation posed a threat of a disaster. Never acknowledge that any significant risk of a regional event existed, because it didn’t.
  • Take on the most ridiculous claims of a global disaster or the possibility of a meltdown causing deaths as far as the United States. Show these claims to be part of a campaign of fear that reaches the level of absurdity.
  • Don’t be afraid to call names. A liar is one who lies. If you lie, you’re a liar. When you catch someone lying call them a liar. It’s not an ad-hom attack, it’s a fact. They lied.
  • Comment! Comment! Comment! There are a lot of news stories out there (thousands) and most of them online allow readers to comment. It’s critical that the alarmist stories do not go unchallenged and without solid information to back the up. We need as many pro-nukes to make as many comments on as many stories as possible. It’s a lot of work, don’t get me wrong. This is all the more true considering many news organizations require you to register to comment. However, it’s also very important. If you can refute these on a few sites, you’ve done something to really help. If we can get major news stories to contain several pro-nuke comments, we’ve already made a huge impact.

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 13th, 2011 at 11:22 am and is filed under Bad Science. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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72 Responses to “This is Our Generation’s Three Mile Island – Lets Not Screw it Up”

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  1. 51
    staged.com Says:

    You folks don’t know how much relief you have brought me – I am in Japan as I mentioned above and we are being kept in the dark here and hearing all sorts of horror stories from the outside media.


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  2. 52
    Alff Says:

            BMS said:

    And how much will the rest of the cleanup of the damage done by the earthquake and tsunami cost?

    I suspect that the cost of cleaning up the reactors will be peanuts compared to the total cost of this natural disaster. Entire towns are now gone.

    Agree, but we are talking about the safety (and economic viability) of nuclear power stations. Not the cleanup costs of the quake and tsunami itself. And decomissioning of three total loss reactors will have a huge bill. Those other two units are not 40 years old and are not written off.

    I suspect that even less funding will be available for building new nuclear power plants as a result of this.


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  3. 53
    Brian Garrett Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    Well, I see no need to not use the facts, but I’m not going to hold back in the name of civility when I see a media whore whoring themselves out. (actually, I’m not sure I even like the term media whore. it’s insulting to prostitutes)

    When in doubt, go for the jugular.

    If you have nothing else to go for it with, use your teeth. Don’t let go till you feel them go limp.

    And be prepared for an uphill battle. Rember, thisthis is a country where state governments would rather force schools to teach fairy tales about apples and snakes than piss parents off with the facts of biology.

    Hey Steve, you got any online sources for factual information (preferably without the words “nuclear” or “atomic” in their name so people don’t assume bias)? So far I’ve seen more realistic discussion on your site than in the news media. Then, “everything’s fine” isn’t newsworthy, whereas “OMFG we’re all gonna die!!!!11one” is.


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  4. 54
    brian Says:

    ‘Emerging Economies Move Ahead With Nuclear Plans’
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/business/energy-environment/15power.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

    This may be different from TMI if only because we need the power now. I seem to recall that we didn’t even find out that TMI was a meltdown until a few years after, but my memory is sketchy. This will all resolve itself in the next few days, hopefully benignly, and people around the world will know instantly. They may not know all the details, but enough to know that everything worked out ok. A few weeks later it will be all forgotten about (except in Japan of course). In the meantime, emerging markets without secure energy supplies will continue to build NPP’s.


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  5. 55
    Zeph Says:

    I came here looking for more balanced factual information to combat hype and platitudes (which can come from both sides, believe it or not). The talking points above are an immediate turn-off. The aggressive approach may appeal to the choir, but it sounds to me like the same attitude as the anti-nuke folks. Nowhere did it emphasize building credibility, confiding oneself to measured assessments when dealing with many unknowns, or even being factual. It’s just about shouting louder and controlling spin – no different than the fringe of the environmental movement (which is not all fringe) or the creationists, or the global warming debate. Not helpful!

    One of the big problems is that many people have become skeptical of official stories from governments and industry. By taking the offensive – and being offensive – readers are likely to come across as just another apologist for the powers that be, rather than a fair analyst. That’s not effective – if that would have convinced people, TEPCO’s announcements would have already done the trick.

    To affect people’s viewpoints rather than just stirring them up and solidifying their options, it’s important to LISTEN and hear what really concerns people, and address those concerns in a way they can hear – not squash them like foolish bugs (in at least our own minds). The point isn’t to beat up the opponent, but to persuade the relatively rational subset – and especially the silent audience! The “swing voters” in that audience are not cheering in the same places as the choir does (eg: many folks here).

    People need confidence that the folks who understand and control nuclear power are intelligent and unbiased, able to analyze and take neccessary actions, willing to admit rather than cover up mistakes, and NOT SHRILL polemicists. The key folks in that position are busy dealing with the crisis, so you are a stand-in within the public forums. Be a patient technocrat who earns trust, not sounding like a radical politico (nor being one).

    Or you can turn nuclear power into another Climate Change controversy, where the science gets lost in the politics and persistent stalemate obtains, and most people’s opionions are drive by their politics and after a few years almost immune to facts or logic. In the public mind, nuclear power is coming from behind already.

    Beware of summarily dismissing all criticism and defending the “it’s all under control and only idiots and fear mongers who want to manipulate you could fail to notice that” approach – only to be overtaken by the next stage of an unfolding crisis. To be honest – if the next step of this crisis (eg: #2′s latest explosion as I write) was outside of the feasible outcomes you have been telling everybody, you WERE wrong. Not because your overall thesis is wrong, but just because you may have made too many assumptions in supporting what you wish was true, a human trait. You are not omniscient (even if you are relatively closer to the truth than some of your rhetorical opponents), so don’t take too much of the moral high ground. Earn respect, don’t think that rancor or smugness will be a shortcut.

    Let the fringe of the environment movement discredit themselves; don’t join them. (And don’t dismiss the whole environmental movement – some of them are going to be allies in the end, if you truly believe what you say about nuclear).

    To make this a bit more concrete – I would not agree with avoiding comparison of newer reactors and older; yes, it might sound like that admits that maybe not every reactor ever built was perfectly safe and you may fear that “validating” criticisms. Hey, maybe some criticisms are justified – the point here is not to prove that our side is always perfect. It’s mora about demonstrating that we are objective and that we learn from mistakes rather than substituting dogma for engineering and science. If you assure people that a meltdown, or exposure of spent fuel in cooling tanks is impossible and then it happens… they will disbelieve everything else you (and others) say as well. And – for good reason!

    I know my disagreement sounds chastising, but the end goal is to be more honest and more effective, rather than just feeling superior on the blog fights. Either one believes that nuclear really is worthwhile when honestly presenting all tradeoffs, or one thinks we have to spin it and hide the downsides (from them first, then ourselves; or maybe vice versa).

    I personally believe our civilization is facing some major crises and is showing some dysfunctings in grappling with them. In particular, rational decision making is taking a second seat to “winning” ideologiical purity debates. I don’t think joining in that movement away from reason is going to ultimately help, even if it’s supposedly for “the right side”. Eagerly calling others “liers” may be emotionally satisfying but for the onlookers it just reframes this as a playground fight which is about “winning” rather than undertanding which is truth. If people have actually consciously lied (usually not the case, they fool themselves first), let the reader infer that for themselves.

    ’nuff said. (Gotta run right now, sorry if I left some typos above!)


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  6. 56
    DV82XL Says:

            Zeph said:

    I came here looking for more balanced factual information to combat hype and platitudes (which can come from both sides, believe it or not). The talking points above are an immediate turn-off. The aggressive approach may appeal to the choir, but it sounds to me like the same attitude as the anti-nuke folks. Nowhere did it emphasize building credibility, confiding oneself to measured assessments when dealing with many unknowns, or even being factual. It’s just about shouting louder and controlling spin – no different than the fringe of the environmental movement (which is not all fringe) or the creationists, or the global warming debate. Not helpful!

    What you, and everyone else involved with this fight must understand, is that the population at large is not one of the players – they are the audience. The fight is between supporters of nuclear energy, and those that oppose it, and the advice offered here is in reference to that conflict. The pronuclear side has tried taking the high road in the past, and it has gotten us next to nowhere in the face of the lies and hysterics that have come from the other side. In fact in the past, many of us were so repelled by the tenor of the debate, that we did not engage, thus leaving the field to antinuclear demagoguery.

    This must change.

    This event is the ideal opportunity to expose the antinuclear militants for the frauds that they are, and this time we are going to take the battle to them, and we are not going to let them get away with their usual FUD unchallenged. We will make them prove every statement, we will not let anything pass without question. They are going to know that they have been in a debate, and that they had better have their facts straight. They will not be permitted to frame the discussion.

    This is what this is about, not how we are going to present our position to the general public.


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  7. 57
    ParetoJ Says:

    Three Mile Island was a travesty. Not the event itself, but the misinformation hysteria surrounding what was in actual terms a non-event with little to no danger. With climate change being a present danger to civilization I think it is critical to do as the author suggests and counter the present hysteria.

    Thus I’d like to share with you some ways I choose to better frame the nuclear conversation in several respects. One way to address radioactive materials is this this point I make often:

    >>If there’s a toxic chemical spill, how long will the toxins last? Forever. Not so with radioactive materials, >>they eventually decay into products no more radioative than background radition. Thus radioactive
    >>waste can be thought of as ‘self-cleaning’.

    Second, another way is to compare the nuclear industry to air travel, in that nuclear air travel are much more safter than their counterparts but people freak out over events in these industries.

    Finally, I’d like to share with you an interesting article that explains the events occuring. It’s one source but as far I saw it explained things much better than the regular press articles I’ve read: “Modified version of original post written by Josef Oehmen”, http://mitnse.com/ , about 1/2 down the link, an excerpt:

    >>One of the fundamental tenets of nuclear power plant design is “Defense in Depth.” This approach leads >>engineers to design a plant that can withstand severe catastrophes, even when several systems fail. A >>large tsunami that disables all the diesel generators at once is such a scenario, but the tsunami of March >>11th was beyond all expectations. To mitigate such an event, engineers designed an extra line of >>defense by putting everything into the containment structure (see above), that is designed to contain >>everything inside the structure.

    >>The earthquake that hit Japan was 5 times more powerful than the worst earthquake the nuclear power >>plant was built for (the Richter scale works logarithmically; the difference between the 8.2 that the >>plants were built for and the 8.9 that happened is 5 times, not 0.7). So the first hooray for Japanese >>engineering, everything held up.

    ParetoJ


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  8. 58
    Arcanyn Says:

    With all this nuclear hysteria going on, is there any information coming out about chemical spills in Japan? There must be thousands of factories and chemical plants which have been smashed up and released all sorts of toxic chemicals into the environment (and there are far less stringent safeguards at chemical plants than nuclear plants).

    So while the media continues to talk about Chernobyl, should we be worried about the possibility of a repeat of Bhopal? After all, Bhopal was somewhere between 5-20 times as bad as Chernobyl.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster

    If we can get data about the various chemical spills occuring in Japan at the moment, then we can have ready responses for those who point to the negative consequences of the nuclear plants as proof that nuclear power is unsafe – namely, we can point to an instance of greater destruction caused by a spill at a plant belonging to a non-nuclear industry, point out that by their own reasoning that this proves that that particulary industry is unsafe, and challenge them to oppose that industry with even more fervour than they do nuclear power. Then, when they fail to condemn half of the world’s major industries, they will demonstrate that the ‘safety’ issue is not the real reason why they condemn nuclear power.


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  9. 59
    BMS Says:

            Arcanyn said:

    With all this nuclear hysteria going on, is there any information coming out about chemical spills in Japan?

    If you want to talk about chemical spills, think about this. Each one of those cars you see in the news clips floating along in the wake of the tsunami has a tank with petro fuel in it and a lead-acid battery. How much of that material has now spilled across the countryside?


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  10. 60
    ddp Says:

            BMS said:

    If you want to talk about chemical spills, think about this. Each one of those cars you see in the news clips floating along in the wake of the tsunami has a tank with petro fuel in it and a lead-acid battery. How much of that material has now spilled across the countryside?

    And you can bet that 3-9 months from now when people start showing up with non-specific and hard to define illnesses and when there are any children born with premature and/or with medical issues; it will all be blamed on the “radiation leaks”, no one will talk about the affects of stress, poor diet, or all the various chemicals spilled during the earthquake and tsunami.


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  11. 61
    DV82XL Says:

    I’m wondering what the Japanese population is going to make of this international obsession with the reactors in their hour of greatest need. Globally, the fifth estate has much to answer for in this regard.


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  12. 62
    Krzysztof Kosiński Says:

            KingBob said:

    We had a 40 year old reactor facility that withstood an earthquake measuring 9 on the ricter scale.
    It moved japan by 2.4m, altered the earths rotation period by 1.6ms, and shifted the earths axis by 10cm.
    The plant took a hit from up to a 10m tsunami, had primary, secondary, and by some accounts tertiary power failures.

    But it was not attacked by Godzilla, so that doesn’t prove anything!


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  13. 63
    EM Says:

    Perhaps a wait-and=see attitude might be most sensible, since the drama is by no means over.

    http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20110315-red-alert-radiation-rising-and-heading-south-japan?utm_source=redalert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=110315&utm_content=readmore&elq=1ca9f32adbc3468ca832b42b9772cb2f


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  14. 64
    Zeph Says:

            DV82XL said:

    I’m wondering what the Japanese population is going to make of this international obsession with the reactors in their hour of greatest need. Globally, the fifth estate has much to answer for in this regard.

    Um, go check out the Japanese media (english versions). The nuclear concern is at least as strong there as internationally. And the seemingly false reassurances from TEPCO and the government are causing major distruct. So I don’t think the Japanese peope are much upset that the international media shares their media and popular concern over the as-yet-unfinished nuclear chapter.

    So… why are you discussing the earthquake here, rather than spending your own time on humanitarian relief websites which focus more on providing food, water and shelter? If nuclear issues are so much less important than everything else, why is anybody here so obsessed with them? Let’s not be casting stones from the glass house here…

    Let’s be honest that the world’s attention includes many things, and all major aspects of the Japanese disaster are getting a lot of attention. The nuclear issues, being unresolved, ongoing and of unknown (to the public) ultimate magnitude, have a substantial chunk of that attention. So be it.

    Remember, this is just a matter of what the spectators are paying attention to. Folks who are involved in airlifting medical teams or restoring infrastructure or getting fuel for generators are not being remissioned because of this, any more than the technicians trying to control events at the reactors are taking shifts looking for survivors in the rubble. If you personally are in a search and rescue team and are slacking off to read the blogs about the reactors, then there’s a problem. But if you are too remote to do anything concrete, then there’s no moral superiority to participating here, or on a infectious disease blog, or still focusing more on Libya.

    Let’s focus on things like dispelling factual mistakes (well meaning or not), rather than going out on a very thin limb to find a way to put down people whom we disagree with on flimsy grounds like that. Especially when we’re obsessing on it too!


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  15. 65
    Anton Ferré Says:

    Considering that the huge earthquake combined with the tsunami flattened every industrial plant in the region, including a refinery, the fact that the nuclear plants were 50 years old and still only suffered minor damage due to the tsunami shows that the plants are safe.

    The main problem is the power shortage that is going to hinder the recovery of Japan but considering the magnitude of the catastrophe we can say it didn’t went so bad.


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  16. 66
    ParetoJ Says:

    I’d like to share an excellent article that summarizes the chain of events which occured and in reading the article, it exactly jives with what I’ve read in other articles:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/14/fukushiima_analysis/

    ParetoJ


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  17. 67
    Anon Says:

    And now http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/15/fallout_sms_hoax/

    How many more of these damn hoaxes are going to appear?

    It might be a good idea to be ready to expose some of the fakes we’ll see in the aftermath, because we’ll have anti-nuclear liars and the odd prankster who thinks its funny when people are scared spreading them around like crazy (along with all the people with compulsive forwarding disorder who inhabit the internet).


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  18. 68
    gurka Says:

    There are difference at sewere power plant disasters
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkBVrXDrDN0


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  19. 69
    George Carty Says:

    I’ve replied to this joker’s video on his YouTube link…


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  20. 70
    George Carty Says:

    I see my comment was deleted. Didn’t know YouTube comments could be censored like that…

    Anyway, it was pretty much “nuclear is a real energy source, wind turbines are a smokescreen erected by people who like selling gas”.


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  21. 71
    Michael Karnerfors Says:

            George Carty said:

    I see my comment was deleted. Didn’t know YouTube comments could be censored like that

    The video owner can delete comments on his/her videos.

    /M


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  22. 72
    schnelllangsam Says:

    A monument to ignorance and hubris.


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