For days now, scientists and science blogs tell us not to worry about Japan’s nuclear reactors. Nothing can happen; no radiation will be released, all is fine. We are treated to false experts even, to one-sided rants of somebody who studied risk management in corporations, published originally on a business friendly website.
That piece of fluff was reposted all over the net, but the crucial claim -- that there was no chance radiation would be released -- has been conveniently cut. The forgetful masses with their short attention spans are given ever new versions, from “all under control” over “no radiation will be released” and “no significant levels will be released” to “what was released poses no danger at all” and “the danger it poses can be averted by breathing through wet towels”.
Only one aspect is for sure: Whatever level of mess will be reached, there will be scientists afterward explaining to us that that level was actually totally expected and by the way the maximum level possible and moreover no more dangerous than flying long distance a certain number of times. Finally: If you want to avoid cancer then just stop smoking. You do not smoke? Well you cannot blame the nuclear industry for that!
Right here on Science2.0, we had a contributor basically arguing that the Chernobyl incident 1986 is due to the Russians being stupid. Nuclear power is safe and reactors do only blow up every five million years, and whenever one blows up every so often, it does not count, because it was just the stupid people from [enter wherever it blew up here].
Few science blogs had the guts to an independent opinion, e.g. Greg Laden, and Catdynamics. I for one actually am an expert (certainly much more so than mister MIT business guy!) and I have my potassium iodide pills ready since day one (!) – so should you by the way!
A boiling water reactor the type of which there are now several disintegrating in the Fukushima reactor complex in Japan. This type needs active cooling even when “switched off” – that means, you cannot really switch it off! It keeps going at a steady rate of at least 3% normal (in case all is well, otherwise more) for over 30 years. Any disaster that stops the active cooling leads to scientists assuring you that cancer rates are naturally high anyway due to your [enter whatever you do here].
What really ticks me off is the pretend science we are fed by wannabe science literate. For example, they tell you in great detail about the logarithmic scale and how the magnitude 8.9 quake actually shows how safe the nuclear plant turned out after all. In fact however, magnitude relates to an estimated total energy release and does not reveal local intensities around the nuclear plant.
Intensity depends on where the earthquake happens and how the shaking is relayed and often focused or dispersed via the medium in between the epicenter and the location in question. You can have the same type of building falling to the ground in a weak quake while it keeps proudly erect in a much worse one.
Being asked in what distance from an epicenter of a quake there is still danger, the geologist professor Gerhard Jentzsch from the University of Jena in Germany answers:
“When 1992 at Roermond the earth shook with a magnitude of 5.9, there where chimneys falling over in a distance clearly above 100 kilometers. A quake of the strength 5.9 is a rather moderate quake.”
Guys, once and for all: It does not freaking matter what the magnitude was or how high the tsunami wave! The disaster went from bad to worse when the cooling could not be restored because backup generators could not be connected to discharged batteries (because of not fitting plugs or, according to other reports, because they had been positioned below the to be expected waterline in case of flooding), and guess what: Being an expert about technology stuff, this is exactly the kind of unexpected stupidity that I expected!
This is what separates the stupid pseudo-science hacks writing “science blogs” from the actually experienced! This is what makes me an expert; this is how people like me predicted 9/11 and further, yet worse nuclear catastrophes. Not by pretend science, but by experience with science and technology and all that in a real world inhabited by humans doing it.
The public trust in science and scientists is low. Now we are told again that the reason for such is the public’s stupidity and the panicky media. No, this is not the full story. The public has a very good reason to panic! It has been told that all is good and perfect so often that at some point even the stupidest goes “wait a minute, how the hell am I supposed to yet again trust you guys after you have sold me out so many times?”
“Frankly spoken, I am very frustrated when I see how our insights are treated. I belonged to the work group ‘Selection Method Final Storage Location’ (original: Auswahlverfahren Endlagerstandort) for four years. When we presented our results, there was a wine reception and little later new elections, after which our paper vanished in a drawer.”
I am sad to witness that science blogs are offering themselves as an instrument helping to fool the public. Science blogs should instead be the trusted source far elevated above political lines; a force that watches out for science not being misappropriated for political means.
Scientists repeatedly underestimate risks (callously disregarding a history of strong earthquakes for example), cover up radiation leaks, even forge documents, as has been proven just recently again in the case of Gorleben, a proposed German site to store "spent" nuclear fuel rods. Scientists are not the better people you can trust, and those you can trust, are weeded out!
And so there can only be one conclusion to the question of whether nuclear power is safe. It certainly could be, but since humans are involved, and since even the scientists involved have been cheating you so many times, you cannot trust them with nuclear power. Nuclear power could be safe, I know enough about physics to know that it indeed could. BUT IT IS NOT SAFE! I know enough about humans and science and technology to know that it is nowhere close to being as safe as they are trying to make you believe!
The largest costs to nuclear energy are the future costs related to managing the nuclear waste and the increasing number of no-go zones in the world. The Ukraine spends 5% of its GDP for the aftermath of Chernobyl and it may well keep doing so for another 100 years. Let me give you another one of my sadly too often accurate forecasts for you to disregard: We have not even started to pay the real costs of nuclear power yet. The bill is still to come.