We’ve all read the headlines:

Nuclear Crisis Looms in Japan after Hydrogen Explosion

Japan Nuclear Crisis Widens as Radiation Leaks Into Atmosphere

Japan Nuclear Meltdown Underway

Radiation Leaks from Stricken Nuclear Plant: Panic Grips Tokyo as Levels Rise

The enormity of Japan’s nuclear crisis and its yet to be seen consequences are of untold magnitude, but are the unfolding events as catastrophic and ominous as we are being led to believe?

While nuclear meltdown may be occurring in Japan, I’m reminded of Rahm Emanuel’s “Never let a good crisis go to waste” admonition; journalistic and political meltdown are occurring as well.

News coverage grows more dire and sensational with each passing hour. Cable news stations are locked in an endless cycle of hyperbole and one-upmanship. Each new headline must be more dire than the previous; each “news alert” must be more urgent and alarming than the last.

From Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman to Germany’s anti-energy Green Party, disparate voices around the world are using the crisis as a cause celébrè to block the development of additional nuclear energy facilities.

The following folks offer a different perspective:

David Ropeik, guest-blogging for Scientific American

Robert Marquand of The Christian Science Monitor

Jonah Goldberg, at National Review Online

This article from the Discover website

The intent of this post is neither to minimize the unimaginable sequence of events occurring in Japan nor to suggest that I am qualified to assess the severity of the tragedy befalling its people.

It is to suggest that we take a deep (non-radioactive) breath, ease up on the hyperbolic sensationalism, and avoid perhaps the worst of fears: FEAR OF FEAR, to paraphrase FDR.

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Categories: International Crisis, Journalism, Politics

6 replies

  1. As always, the best, most practical advice comes from the bright minds at Free Republic.

    “Nuc the whole crippled powerplant with a 15 M-Ton warhead. Problem vaporized.”


    Finally some common sense solution to the whole thing, fight fire with fire as they say, when life gives you fallout make nuclear winter, somebody give this man our nuclear codes.

  2. Even if tomorrow the entire problem turned out to be a hoax, like there was never a nuclear reactor there, the damage is done. The Nikkei dropped 11% on top of what it already suffered from the quake. If Japans battered economy was on life support before the quake, and flat lining after it, this is a stake through its heart. The 20 kilometer evacuation zone is a logistical and infrastructural nightmare coming on top of the tsunami, valuable resources needed for tsunami relief are being used for this emergency instead.

    I hope this does not cause a complete end to the civilian use of nuclear power, but I also hope we learn some lessons from this. If it can happened in Japan it can happened, and the people who say nuclear power is the solution to all our energy problems should think long and hard before going down that road.

    • Make no mistake; there is potentially far more damage to be done; particularly by our friends on the left, as they have a “vested interest” in the outcome.

      Your last paragraph seems to contradict itself; here’s an investment analogy since you mentioned the Nikkei: I remember a fellow who had never invested in the stock market. He eventually acted on a “hot tip” from a friend and made a small investment in a stock that went south immediately and he lost his money. As a result, he never invested in the market again, choosing instead to leave his money in a low interest bank account. When he retired, his friends who had invested in the markets had far more money than he did and were able to lead far more enjoyable retirement lifestyles. The question: Which decision cost our friend more in the long run? The same may be said of the fear of nuclear energy.

      Certainly, “we” should always look to improve the safety of these plants; I doubt that anyone questions that. But — anti-nuclear forces around the world will do their damnedest to use this crisis as an excuse to stand in the way of further development of nuclear energy as a safe, cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels.

  3. Nuclear Power is not the problem. Nuclear fallout is a consequence for an accident, or war, etc. A power source is not in and of itself wrong, it is something to be used, in the parameters that we understand it.

    Energy gained from a Nuclear Reactor is the most profitable source of energy we can conceive of at this time, at least until someone discovers something better, or more efficient.

    In the case of the earthquake in Japan, it seems confusing that the government of Japan is continually making statements that there has been no leak, and that the “seal” around the facility has not been breached. The media says otherwise. So who do we believe? And frankly, if there was a radiation release, what better time for it to happen? We, (The United States, and the majority of the world), have the facilities and the understanding to help the people of Japan recover from a “possible catastrophe” such as this. Many people’s comments about Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, and how “frightening” it was, do not stand in correct comparison to the situation we face today in Japan. Both of those incidents involved human errors, and human error can not be reason to reject something good.

    For example, smoking has been proven to cause lung cancer and death, should we get rid of all smoking in any form? (I would say yes, but that is a personal opinion.) Automobile related deaths are the most numerous in the United States, does that mean we should eliminate all automobiles, or civilian use of automobiles? Reason of course says no, instead, restrict the drunk drivers, the uneducated, etc. Human error can be influenced and changed.

    Human error is what is to fear, not the possibilities we have in the future.

  4. Ok, Chicken Little was a journalist trying to increase circulation. We sort of know that but we don’t always seem to remember that we do. And then there’s not wasting a good crisis, even if it’s manufactured. So two industries, the news and the politicians, run on crises and if too few or the wrong ones are abailable, they’ll make their own.

    Maybe, now that we’ve demonized oil and nuclear recently, we’ll see some progress in the most realistic fuel–coal, which is the cheapest bulk power source, and available. And the black smoke is mostly history, though more work is needed and is being done at too low a pace under the present political disincentives.

    Or maybe we’re not smart enough for that and we’ll just listen to the environmental Luddites and keep reducing the availability of energy. Hand sewing warm coats creates jobs, right?

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