Reports of those who died in the Japanese earthquake and tsunami continue to rise. As blogger John Cook says, it’s only natural to only see the people who died and not the people who did not. [Hat tip Gus Van Horn.] But let’s look at the other side of that coin and consider a headline we won’t be seeing but should:
Sure, we’ve seen headlines around the traps that Building Codes Saved Lives. But the techniques embodied in those building codes don’t just spring out of the ground fully grown, to be plucked when desired by well-meaning bureaucrats. They’re ingenious techniques invented by heroic men and women who saved millions of lives in Japan, and thousands of lives in Christchurch. (Techniques which in a more rational society would, and should have been progressively required by insurance companies keen to minimise the risk for what they insure.)
So let’s pause for a moment to thank those heroic but unsung men and women: the seismic engineers whose ingenuity saves lives.
Here’s another headline we won’t be seeing:
Thousands of people did not die mining coal to generate electricity that powers Japan. [Hat tip John Cook]
And another we fortunately won’t see:
Earthquake destroys hydro dam killing thousands downstream.
Tsunami hits solar farm sweeping tonnes of lead and cadmium telluride across cities and into the sea. [Hat tip Berend]
And another, which few newscasters would ever run:
Irrational scaremongering about nuclear fallout scaring already tragically hard-hit people.
As Josef Oehmen comments, “Nuclear safety and journalistic meltdown - I wish we could build containments for both.”
Fortunately, we at least have nuclear containment vessels, something of which few journalists seem aware. Containment vessels which Chernobyl did NOT have (where up to 50 died), but which Three Mile Island DID have (where nobody died).
So while Japan has been hit with the deadliest natural event to ever hit a modern industrialised country, the modern media is instead obsessed with a fantasy.
For more sense on the problems facing the damaged nuclear reactors, for which you will need only some very basic physics, try these:
- “If a meltdown does occur in Japan, it will be a disaster for the Tokyo Electric Power Company but not for the general public. Whatever steam releases occur will have a negligible impact. Researchers have spent 30 years trying to find health effects from the steam releases at Three Mile Island and have come up with nothing. With all the death, devastation and disease now threatening tens of thousands in Japan, it is trivializing and almost obscene to spend so much time worrying about damage to a nuclear reactor.
”What the Japanese earthquake has proved is that even the oldest containment structures can withstand the impact of one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history.”
Japan Does Not Face Another Chernobyl – W A L L S T R E E T J O U R N A L
- “There was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity.
”By ‘significant’ I mean a level of radiation of more than what you would receive on – say – a long distance flight, or drinking a glass of beer that comes from certain areas with high levels of natural background radiation.”
Fukushima Nuclear Accident – a simple and accurate explanation
– Dr Josef Oehmen, T H E E N E R G Y C O L L E C T I V E
Send a copy to every journalist you know.
UPDATE: In response to Dr Josef Oehmen’s original post, his employers at the Mass. Institute of Technology have begun setting up an information hub on the nuclear situation in Japan.This you really must send to your journalist friends: http://mitnse.com/
UPDATE 2: Another very good piece at Bad Astronomy [thanks to a reader for the link]:
Japan’s nuclear reactor overreaction – B A D A S T R O N O M Y
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant … is facing a crisis with its reactors. While this situation is serious, let me be very clear: we are notfacing a nuclear explosion, nor are we facing the release of a huge, deadly radioactive cloud (more on both of these below). The fear-mongering and misinformation on the web and in the news is rampant, and the last thing we need is people panicking because of it! The news is bad enough without exaggeration of it…
Here’s what happened…