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Mar 16, 2011

Japan, nuclear power, fear and misinformation

Crikey readers have their say.

Nuclear power:

Andrew Lewis writes: Gawd help me, but I’m going where no-one should venture, and I have to upbraid Niall Clugston (yesterday, comments) for what seems an unusual departure from common sense. He writes that

“When tens of thousands of people have died, it is appalling the media is spending so much time on the nuclear power plants, which in this horrific context is a relatively minor problem,” while thanking Crikey for its coverage.

I agree with him that Crikey’s coverage has been helpful, but after seeing blanket coverage of the earthquake and tsunami for 72 hours, which was fast turning into disaster p-rn after about 24, the nuclear power stations story was obviously of significant interest, and potentially could affect vastly more human beings than even the natural disasters. How much more coverage of the earthquake and tsunami was required before moving on to the imminent danger of a nuclear power station meltdown? Respectfully Niall, the coverage was wall to wall and hard to avoid.

Combined with the fact that the authorities have been less than forthcoming about the state of the power stations, that the proponents of the industry changed their story of what would constitute a nuclear disaster repeatedly depending on what just happened, that your leader mentioned it in the first sentence and the fact that Ben Sandilands gave a pretty fair coverage in the third story, all lead me to wondering what Niall is going on about.

Goddammit, now I’ve picked a fight with NC.  He’ll out-pedant even me.  Or is that I?

I await with trepidation his trashing of my riposte.

Kate Smith writes: Whilst our hearts go out to all people of Japan, I truly hope that MP Martin Ferguson and all nuclear energy proponents will take a serious look at the enormous risks in nuclear power and its toxic waste issues.

Ferguson’s proposed nuclear waste dump at Muckaty in the NT is near a seismic hotspot that may result in a potentially horrific disaster for all Australians. The devastating catastrophe in Japan should be a reminder and warning to us all of serious threats that the nuclear industry presents.

Shirley Colless writes: It doesn’t matter if energy minister Martin Ferguson is from the left or the right or just off the planet, the first thing the Prime Minister should do in reviewing her cabinet is to KRudd him to the far outer reaches of No Man’s Land and whack the accolade on the shoulders of someone who takes seriously the development of renewable energy technology and is prepared to put a considerable amount of public funding into such development, given that we the Australian people are the shareholders who will benefit from this.

Ashley Craig writes: The nuclear debate is missing a critical point, both in Crikey and elsewhere: There is 100% failsafe nuclear technology available and there always has been.

It has even been demonstrated in practice in China, where they are so confident of the technology that they switched off all cooling systems to prove the point.  See this Wired article as a starting point.

Peter Kemp writes: John Talent (yesterday, comments) wrote that the Hindenburg burned with a distinctive yellow flame and implies from this that the explosions at the Japanese nuclear plants was something else — presumably worse.

I know from experience that a straight hydrogen fire is invisible and is thus very hazardous but here we are talking about an explosion of a hydrogen air mix and anyone who has seen this demonstrated on a small scale must know how violent this can be.

The situation is quite bad enough without misinformed conspiracy theories being used to support a particular point of view.

Crikey should know better.

Expedia:

Nicolas Chu, General Manager, Expedia Australia and New Zealand, writes: Re. “Online travel site declares war on booking fees” (yesterday, item 21). Your article misrepresents that Australians who book with Expedia have “virtually no legal recourse”.

Expedia, Inc., which operates Expedia.com.au, was granted a Travel Agent’s Licence in NSW in December 2010 and is a participant in the Travel Compensation Fund.

Expedia takes these matters seriously, particularly where the rights of consumers, their legal recourse and the customer service offered by Expedia are misrepresented.

Rundle:

Andrew Elder writes: Re. “Rundle: Libya and how support has gone from Lenin to Godot” (yesterday, item 10).S ocialist organisations don’t recognise uprisings in North Africa/Middle East because they aren’t socialist. Mohammed Bouazizi was not leaking government secrets or organising a union, he was trying to operate a small business.

Socialists tried and failed to rile up the crowds in Tahrir Square and elsewhere: nobody wants to overthrow these dictators and replace them with a dictatorship of the proletariat or some all-encompassing anti-capitalist state.

As with Europe in 1989 these revolutionaries are breaking from the socialist rulebook: a genuinely popular uprising need not be socialist at all. Western socialists can’t handle this and demand that the uprisings tick all the ideological boxes before they can support them.

Western socialists are not the avant-garde of history, they are so far behind it’s a wonder why Guy Rundle, Crikey or anyone else cares what they think.

7.30:

Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Re. “Like cooking pancakes, don’t judge 7.30 on the first one” (Monday, item 15). Margaret Simons’ analysis of the first week of 7.30 claimed that all the stories broken “deserved their place in the program”.

But surely the highly inaccurate and sensationalist first-night story about the poor state of the Navy’s amphibious fleet was a particularly disappointing launch for a revamped approach to serious current affairs television by the national broadcaster?

While wrongly castigating the Navy for the disastrous state of its amphibious ships, the program did not once point out that responsibility for their maintenance was largely removed from the Navy in 2003 by the Department of Defence, supposedly to save money and with little care for the strategic consequences and operational considerations.

Nor that the root cause of the problem was the particularly short-sighted decision by the Keating Government in 1993-94 to over-rule professional advice from the defence force and buy second-hand American, rather than new, ships in the first place. Again to supposedly save money without due care for the strategic and operational problems caused.

A disastrous decision that has instead cost the taxpayer more over the long run and saddled the Navy with 40-year old adapted ships, rather than purpose-designed ones that would now be under half-way through their operating lives.

Given the several decades-long life-cycle of many defence weapons platforms (ships, vehicles, aircraft, etc), short-sighted and incorrect decisions in defence procurement have a very long life. They can reach out to touch politicians and governments well into the future. The current Minister for Defence and Treasurer, for example, were advisers to PM Keating when the wrong decision was taken and must now cope with the consequences nearly 20 years later. This irony is not lost on anyone in our defence force or indeed anyone with a long memory of defence issues.

The 7:30 program was aware of all this background (because the ADA had advised them) but oddly chose not to tackle the situation from a long-term perspective. It seems the quest for a first-night splash, and perhaps the scalp of the Chief of Navy, won out over the facts and balanced analysis of the causes?

Again ironically, the current Chief of Navy has done more to fix such problems than anyone else in the Department of Defence.

Indeed a good question for 7.30 to have asked instead for their splash is why Stephen Smith has not been defending Vice-Admiral Crane from all the incorrect media and political scape-goating?

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3 comments

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3 thoughts on “Japan, nuclear power, fear and misinformation

  1. Stevo the Working Twistie

    @Ahley Craig – that’s a lovely story, and very interesting reading, but it was published over six years ago, and as of today the Chinese plant is STILL the only one operating in the whole wide world. Not very impressive, but I guess one working prototype puts it a step ahead of “clean coal” and sequestration.

  2. Niall Clugston

    I laughed to learn I was a super-pedant but usually had common sense.

    I probably should have made clear my comment was in fact about Ben Sandilands’ piece, particularly his point that “the calamities unfolding at the nuclear plants will not kill anything like the 10,000 or perhaps far more people now officially believed to have died in the massive tsunami”.

    I wasn’t calling for more coverage of the disaster, but for the nuclear risk to be kept in proportion.

  3. Guy Rundle

    You’ve missed the basic point Andrew – the argument isnt about whether such groups supported the revolution or not. They did. The argument is as to what form the support took. None of your analogies work, even slightly