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March 2011, Week 3

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Mon, 21 Mar 2011 20:49:46 -0400
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Beyond Fukishima: A World in Denial About Nuclear
Risks 

by Danny Schechter

Published on Monday, March 21, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/03/21-0

What will it take for our world to recognize the
dangers that nuclear scientists and even Albert
Einstein were warning about at the "dawn" of the
nuclear age? [Nuclear power and nuclear weapons have
been sold to the public relentlessly, in the first
instance as necessary, and the second, as safe. Rory O'
Connor and Richard Bell coined the term "Nuke Speak" to
describe the Orwellian methods deployed by the nuclear
industry's PR offensive in a book length analysis of a
well funded campaign that continues to this day using
euphemistic language to mask its real agenda.] Nuclear
power and nuclear weapons have been sold to the public
relentlessly, in the first instance as necessary, and
the second, as safe. Rory O' Connor and Richard Bell
coined the term "Nuke Speak" to describe the Orwellian
methods deployed by the nuclear industry's PR offensive
in a book length analysis of a well funded campaign
that continues to this day using euphemistic language
to mask its real agenda.

Amy Goodman reminds us of the prophetic statement by
Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett who tried to
find words to describe the horror he was seeing in
Hiroshima in 1945 after the bomb fell.

"It looks as if a monster steamroller had passed over
it and squashed it out of existence. I write these
facts ... as a warning to the world."

The world heard his warning, but seems to have ignored
it. In fact, what followed has been decades of nuclear
proliferation, the spread of nuclear power plants and
the escalation of the arms race with new higher tech
weaponry.

As Hiroshima becomes yesterday's distant memory and
Fukishima the current threat, the full extent of the
casualties and body count are not yet in, partly
because the Japanese government and the power companies
don't want to alarm the public.

Years earlier, a similar cover-up was in effect at Thee
Mile Island complex in Pennsylvania where reports of
the damage people suffered from a serious accident was
minimized, never examined in depth by some of the very
same media outlets who are today criticizing Japan for
a lack of transparency.

On August, 6, 2008, the anniversary of the dropping of
the first nuclear bomb, Alternet.org reported that the
government and media were complicit in minimizing
public awareness of the extensive suffering that did
take place:

"But the word never crossed the conceptual chasm
between the "mainstream" media and the "alternative."
Despite a federal class action lawsuit filed by 2400
Pennsylvania families claiming damages from the
accident, despite at least $15 million quietly paid to
parents children with birth defects, despite three
decades of official admissions that nobody knows how
much radiation escaped from TMI, where it went or who
it affected, not a mention of the fact that people
might have been killed there made its way into a
corporate report"

Was this just accidental or is there a deeper pattern
of denial? The great expert on psycho history, Robert
J. Lifton, wrote a book, Hiroshima In America, with
journalist Greg Mitchell about the aftermath of
Hiroshima in America exploring what they call "50 years
of denial."

One reviewer explained, "The authors examine what they
perceive to be a conspiracy by the government to
mislead and suppress information about the actual
bombing, Truman's decision to drop the bomb, and the
birth and mismanagement of the beginning of the nuclear
age. The authors claim that Americans then, and now,
are haunted by the devastating psychological effects of
the bomb."

Lifton and Mitchell are evidence-based writers, not
conspiratologists, but they could find no other
explanation for how such a seminal event could have
been distorted and misrepresented for a half century.

Nuclear power and nuclear weapons have been sold to the
public relentlessly, in the first instance as
necessary, and the second, as safe. Rory O' Connor and
Richard Bell coined the term "Nuke Speak" to describe
the Orwellian methods deployed by the nuclear
industry's PR offensive in a book length analysis of a
well funded campaign that continues to this day using
euphemistic language to mask its real agenda.

And today, as the world watches the dreadful and even
Darwinian struggle for survival by the earthquake and
tsunami victims in Japan, as information about the
extent of the nuclear danger trickles out, President
Obama has reaffirmed his commitment to build new
nuclear plants.

Others stress more parochial concerns. The TV
Production community fears a shortage in Japanese made
magnetic and recording tape. Consumers are being told
that they may face a delay in ordering new iPads so get
your orders in now. And, the Israeli new service YNET
says people there worry about a sushi shortage.

Meanwhile, in Germany, more than 50,000 activists took
to the streets in protest, but, so far, there has been
no organized outcry here in the U.S. At the Left Forum
in New York, the issue was barely addressed in the
opening plenary.

On the right, flamboyant talking head/provocateur Ann
Coulter defended the imagined health benefits of a
release of radiation to counter what she calls the
alarmism of the environmentalists. She calls it a
"cancer vaccine."

In a talk during a recent visit to Iran, which insists
it is not making nuclear weapons, I raised questions
about what their government said they want to do:
expand their nuclear power plants. When I questioned
the wisdom of that approach, I was jeered because they
felt I was challenging their "right" to have what other
countries have, their right to "progress." The thought
that the plants could be dangerous was dismissed.

What they don't seem to know and what millions in Japan
are finding out is this technology--with spent rods that
are never "spent" and the nuclear waste that will
outlive us all-- is inherently unsafe. Jonathan Schell
makes this point well in a recent essay in The Nation:

"The chain of events at the reactors now running out of
control provides a case history of the underlying
mismatch between human nature and the force we imagine
we can control. Nuclear power is a complex, high
technology. But the things that endemically malfunction
are of a humble kind.

The art of nuclear power is to boil water with the
incredible heat generated by a nuclear chain reaction.
But such temperatures necessitate continuous cooling.
Cooling requires pumps. Pumps require conventional
power. These are the things that habitually go
wrong--and have gone wrong in Japan. A backup generator
shuts down. A battery runs out. The pump grinds to a
halt. You might suppose that it is easy to pump water
into a big container, and that is usually true, but the
best-laid plans go awry from time to time. Sometimes
the problem is a tsunami, and sometimes it is an
operator asleep at the switch."

As the "incident" records of our own Nuclear Regulatory
Agency make clear, these are not just Japanese
problems. The Christian Science Monitor reports, "The
Nuclear Regulatory Commission failed to resolve known
safety problems, leading to 14 'near-misses' in US
nuclear power plants in 2009 and 2010, according to a
new report from a nuclear watchdog group."

We don't even know the full of the extent of the
accidents, unintentional releases of radiation and
other problems in this country much less in others with
fewer rules and less oversight. No one expected
Chenobyl to explode, claiming so many lives; no one
knows where the next disaster will occur.

Bernie Sanders is calling for a full investigation of
nuclear safety here. Ralph Nader writes, ""The
unfolding multiple nuclear reactor catastrophe in Japan
is prompting overdue attention to the 104 nuclear
plants in the United States - many of them aging, many
of them near earthquake faults, some on the west coast
exposed to potential tsunamis."

The global nuclear roulette game goes on. Even moderate
and restrained criticisms are dismissed until there is
an "event" that cannot be denied. Nuclear energy
supporters promise that "Gen 4," the next generation of
reactors, will be much safer.

Problem solved? Not everyone thinks so. The Bulletin of
Atomic Scientists carries an assessment by Hugh
Gusterson on "The Lessons of Fukishima."

"To this anthropologist, then, the lesson of Fukushima
is not that we now know what we need to know to design
the perfectly safe reactor, but that the perfectly safe
reactor is always just around the corner. It is
technoscientific hubris to think otherwise.

This leaves us with a choice between walking back from
a technology that we decide is too dangerous or
normalizing the risks of nuclear energy and accepting
that an occasional Fukushima is the price we have to
pay for a world with less carbon dioxide. It is wishful
thinking to believe there is a third choice of nuclear
energy without nuclear accidents."

We are still debating if nuclear power is worth the
risk as irradiated clouds float over Los Angeles and
there is a panicked run in the public to buy iodine
pills. The industry's marketing machine is in crisis
response mode and hasn't missed a beat, while many of
us look on with a sense of impotence as we are told,
once again, what's in our best interest. Danny
Schechter

Mediachannel's News Dissector Danny Schechter
investigates the origins of the economic crisis in his
book Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and
the Subprime Scandal (Cosimo Books via Amazon).
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