When the Tohoku earthquake struck Japan on March 11 it was covered here because the first indication of the massive consequences of the following tsunami was the inundation of Sendai Airport.
That coverage continued over the weekend and migrated into Crikey, where it belonged, as the airline aspects of the disaster faded into insignificance compared to the destruction and loss of life across NE Honshu, and it became apparent there was a crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant line of six reactors, three of which had been operating at the time.
That coverage here and in Crikey came under severe criticism from nuclear power proponents, despite the fact the writer has long editorialised about the prospects for better nuclear energy technology and covered the beginnings of the SYNROC story in the late 1970s, a saga that is far from over and may become a crucial part of future nuclear processes in terms of geological time scale high level waste storage.
Today in news reports we have another carefully metered dose of the truth seeping out from the corrupt, incompetent and totally dishonest Tokyo Electric Power Company, that apart from conceding that a meltdown occurred in the Number 1 reactor there ‘appeared to have been partial meltdowns in reactors Number 2 and Number 3′, and that the pressure vessels in one or more of the reactors ‘appear’ to have been damaged . (Evaporation related radioactive waste releases from spent fuel ponds cleverly built above the core of the reactors was also conceded to have occurred in the Number 4 reactor.)
At the time Plane Talking was accused of making it up and getting it wrong when we reported that melt down had to have occurred to explain the early detection of radioactive caesium particles at the site, because the only source of the contaminants was from the outer sheath of the fuel rods rupturing in contact with air rather than coolant fuel, and that the consequences of naked ‘hot’ rods was a meltdown.
This was at the time carefully checked. But supposedly learned nuclear power apologists contorted the fundamental mechanics of controlled nuclear fission in power stations to deny that meltdown could have occurred.
This was as unscientific as the rabid denialism of climate change opponents, yet it was coming from persons with multiple degrees in engineering and nuclear physics.
My own experience of the early years of SYNROC, when the science establishment in Australia shunned the inventor Ted Ringwood, because his invention threatened the investment sunk in the vitrification of nuclear wastes, was a lesson in how vicious science can be, and to the detriment of advancement in non-fossil carbon releasing energy technology.
Fukushima Daiichi was early SYNROC revisited. The issue with the Japan crisis was failed risk management, and a corrupt nuclear power establishment, and, unfortunately, a supposedly fool proof and sound design that has been found wanting under real stress. Yet the religious zeal with which the nuclear establishment lied and misrepresented the truth during the Japan crisis was grossly unscientific.
The Japan crisis was never going to exceed level 4 in severity, nor level 5, and never be of the severity of Chernobyl, a level 7 event. But it became all of those things. And we still don’t have the full truth.
The conduct of the government of Japan has also been disgraceful and disingenuous. It cannot possibly have been unaware that the Tokyo Power Company deliberately quoted the readings it had from instruments we now know weren’t even working using units that understated the fictitious level of contamination by three orders of magnitude, that is, one thousandth of the real level during the early days of a crisis that will most likely need managing for millennia.
Within three days of the disaster the nuclear regulatory authorities of France, Germany and the United States were breaking nuclear club protocols by going public with real assessments of the dangers at Fukushima Daiichi because the government of Japan wasn’t telling the full story.
Plane Talking gets a bit of flack for being blunt about things. But I’ve been a reporter for more than 50 years, and maintaining this blog is as much a protest at the descent of the general media from direct reporting into offering communications solutions to business and government through message management as it is about airlines and related matters.
The lessons from Fukushima Daiichi should be obvious. We need better nuclear technology, and we cannot afford to let it pass into the hands of criminally incompetent or dishonest enterprises or governments.