Common-Sense Meltdown

Daniel J. Flynn is the author of numerous books, including "Blue Collar Intellectuals: When the Enlightened and the Everyman Elevated America," now available from ISI Books. Read Daniel's blog at www.flynnfiles.com.


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An old joke in conservative circles takes the gloomy occasion of the world’s end to make an amusing point about media coverage. On the eve of Armageddon, the Wall Street Journal’s headline announces: “Planet’s Demise Imminent; Dow Plummets.” Us Weekly’s cover reads: “Earth Extinction: Who Will Lady Gaga Be Wearing?” The headline in the New York Times? “World to End; Women and Minorities Suffer Most.”

The Gray Lady’s coverage of the apocalyptic scenes in Japan illustrates why the joke worked. Leave it to the Times to insert its unrelated political tics into its chronicling of a major event. Instead of focusing on the actual tragedy of lives lost and homes gone, the Times fixates upon an imaginary one: the terror unleashed at damaged nuclear reactors. But the nuclear power plant in question has thus far witnessed the death of a single human being who died in a crane accident. Times reporters forever lose the story in front of their noses for politicized abstractions that massage their worldview.

Such headlines as “Risk of Meltdown Spreads at Japanese Plant,” “Partial Meltdowns Presumed at Crippled Reactors,” and “U.S. Nuclear Industry Faces New Uncertainty” suggest to Times readers that a politically-charged manmade catastrophe is what ails Japan. In reality, Japan has endured a one-in-a-lifetime natural disaster.

John M. Broder reported Sunday in the Times that “the world watches the unfolding crisis in Japan’s nuclear reactors and the widespread terror it has spawned.” But the crisis the world watches involves an earthquake and a tsunami. That real crisis has killed upwards of 10,000 people, left hundreds of thousands homeless, and caused billions in property damage. The crisis of the Times’ narrative? It doesn’t warrant constant, above-the-fold attention, particularly when competing with the worst disaster in an industrialized nation in recent memory.

“Operators fear that if they cannot establish control, despite increasingly desperate measures to do so, the reactors could experience full meltdowns, which could release catastrophic amounts of radiation,” Hiroko Tabuchi and Matthew Wald wrote in the Times Monday (emphasis added). “The two reactors where the explosions occurred are both presumed to have already suffered partial meltdowns—a dangerous situation that, if unchecked, could lead to full meltdown.” Who has time for facts when there is conjecture to be made?

The opening line of a Times editorial Tuesday might be read as a tacit indictment of its news coverage: “Any comment on the disaster in Japan must begin with the stunning scale of human loss.” This is precisely what the Times has not done. Sensationalistic accounts of the problems at Fukushima Daiichi have been allowed to dwarf the catastrophe that dwarfs it. The editorial, after noting the human tragedy, obsesses over potential calamities involving nuclear power: “this four-day crisis in Japan already amounts to the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.” Unmentioned is the inconvenient fact that nobody has been killed in a nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

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  • joel

    This godless/intellectual/liberal/scientific/postmodern mob has abandoned the Judeo/Christian ethic which teaches that people are more important than things. Naturalism says that people in the end are only things. Supernaturalism says that God separates things from people,the latter created in His image.

    • Jim_C

      I'll say this slowly, because someone as dumb as you will no doubt require baby steps:

      Being concerned over radiation and nuclear accidents means concern for HUMAN LIFE, YOU UNBELIVEABLY SELFISH DOLT.

  • Cynic

    Also unmentioned is the fact that the Chernobyl reactor did not have the same degree of safety built in that the Japanese employed in their 40 year old design.

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  • Chezwick_Mac

    As catastrophic as the hurricane/tsunami was, the potential nuclear meltdown has implications for people thousands of miles away…and for years to come. Attacks on nuclear energy at this time should be seen as agenda-driven and opportunistic, but coverage emphasis of the on-going nuclear accident is not only appropriate, but responsible.

    • StephenD

      Chez my friend I must point out that it is not denied that this is a concern but as you yourself say it is "potential" not a done deal. Yes, we should consider appropriate preventative measures but reporting all that may yet be instead of the real tragic situation of lives lost is not appropriate to my mind. I agree with the author.

      • Jim_C

        So DON'T report on it until it reaches meltdown levels? Until, then, it's not "appropriate?"

      • Chezwick_Mac

        Drudge can hardly be called a MSM or liberal news site…and just look at the extent to which he's covering the nuclear issue. Today, reactor three appears to be burning again. It is a VERY fluid situation. I think any media sites giving short-shrift to the nuclear angle would be abandoned by an American public desperate for information on it.

        Furthermore, I hate to sound parochial, but while the earthquake/tsunami is a terrible human tragedy, it is confined to Japan; the potential nuclear meltdown has ramifications for Americans here at home. Is it a crime for me to admit that while I feel terrible for the calamity that hit the family down the street, I would feel much worse if it had been members of my own family? I think this is the sentiment of most Americans. We empathize with and pray for the Japanese, but we are very concerned about the well-being of our own homeland and the long-term effects of any radioactive contamination.

        • Don Kosloff

          What ramifications would the potential nuclear meltdown have for Americans here at home? The earth and skies are naturally radioactive and there is no way to change that.

    • William_Z

      Concern is reasonable, but the MSM is frantic, which is agitating people in California—over 5000 miles away from the problem. Presently, right now, there are only 50 people, those working in the reactor installation who are in danger and at present, no one has die, but there are hundreds of thousands who are in danger in the cold northern part of the main island, without power, food, water and I’m sure the reactor isn’t even on their minds.

      • Chezwick_Mac

        Like I wrote, there is a difference between intense coverage of the nuclear catastrophe in Japan – responsible and timely journalism IMHO, and using the occasion for agenda-driven journalism against nuclear power in general….which is bullcrap.

  • http://www.hotexchangerates.com/ exchangerates

    The entier situation is in flus ,Meltdown possible at Japan nuclear plant,official says.Not ture this is new or more than common sense…. anything is possible as the ramifications of an 8.9 Earthquake and Tsunami ensue.

  • cedarhill

    A few facts are really hard to come by. For one, all the old GE reactors were upgraded years ago to fix widely circulated reports of how nuclear engineers condembed the design 40 years ago as potentially unsafe.

    Second, a "meltdown" will simply trash the nuke plant meaning the power company will have to dismantle and remove it. A huge disaster for the power company but the nuclear "core" will just puddle and stay inside the containment vessel. Go see world nuclear news, for example. Even forty years ago, engineers could add and subtract and figure out how much heat a containment needed to withstand. Most forget, it seems, that the group somehow put a guy on the Moon.

    The danger is twofold. First is fire. What fire there will be won't be like Chernobyl since the coolant (water) won't burn. There has and will be some atmospheric release but it will be short lived and localized. It's not as if Mt. St. Helens is set to erupt there. Check out the isotopes and their half lives.

    Then, there's fear. The Obama adminstration is clearly stoking it up. While you're out buying your KI pills, pick up my Y10K insurance policy. Hysteria, used for crisis creation, is a staple of the Greenies and the Left. It's their DNA.

    • Jim_C

      What about stoking hysteria and fear over Muslims or higher taxes? Is that in your DNA?

    • Amused

      Yea , and that Hysteria has been stoked by none other than one of your own GURUS Mike Savage, hardly a "greenie " , hardly a Leftist . It was his invited guest , a "nuclear expert " who stated that people on the West Coast , should have iodine pills in their hands . And who comprise most of Savage's radio audience ?

  • intrcptr2

    The paragraph you've quoted from the Times' story reminds me of the opening chapter of Richard Dawkins', The Selfish Gene; all guessing, few facts.

    Let us also remember though, the accident at Chernobyl wasn't really; there was a drunk at the wheel. And the Soviets had a solid track record of poor quality architecture.

    I can agree with the others here that a nuclear incident at this plant would be news, if there were one. So far, there hasn't been; the Japanese engineers, technicians, and plant workers have all made a heroic and successful effort to prevent a disaster adding to the unavoidable tragedy. Notice how unsurprised ANYONE seems that the 4 reactors survived the earthquake so easily, it is the supporting infrastructure that failed and that because of the tsunami.
    I also agree with the OP that now is not really the time to be discussing the end of nuclear power based on the current problems in Japan.

  • Amused

    Boy talk about a Strawman Argument ….nobody tops the two authors on this site , putting up their Op-eds ! Nobody's hawking the end of nuclear power , but raising concerns about their safety and the SCIENTIFIC REALITY of the gravity of this situation . But Flynn and Trzupek are not ones to miss an opportunity to play politics and bash who they BRAND as the left . The reality and suffgering of the Japanese notwithstanding .

    • Jim_C

      The ONLY thing I've heard from so-called "Leftist" outlets like NPR is that nuclear power is a NECESSITY, especially for people in an island nation like Japan.

      A completely uncalled-for article to rattle the bars of the monkey cage.

      • William_Z

        I suspect that the Wall Street Journal, Us Weekly, and New York Times combined have a great audience than NPR; so it’s reasonable to assume that frantic headlines from Wall Street Journal, Us Weekly, and New York Times will affect more people, and generally, the Wall Street Journal isn’t considered liberal.

        • Jim_C

          Huh, that's interesting, because Flynn doesn't seem concerned over the Wall Street Journal. So…"frantic" headlines, such as…"Heroic Japanese Workers Resume Battle to Stop Nuke Fuel Meltdown" (http://www.foxnews.com/)

          Something like that?

          Flynn is an IMBECILE–any conservative want to refute that?

        • Jim_C

          Huh, that's interesting, because Flynn doesn't seem concerned over the Wall Street Journal. So…"frantic" headlines, such as…"Heroic Japanese Workers Resume Battle to Stop Nuke Fuel Meltdown" (http://www.foxnews.com/)

          Something like that?

          Flynn is an IMBECILE–any conservative want to refute that?

        • Jim_C

          Huh, that's interesting, because Flynn doesn't seem concerned over the Wall Street Journal. So…"frantic" headlines, such as…"Heroic Japanese Workers Resume Battle to Stop Nuke Fuel Meltdown" (http://www.foxnews.com/)

          Something like that?

          Flynn is an IMBECILE–any conservative want to refute that?

        • Jim_C

          Huh, that's interesting, because Flynn doesn't seem concerned over the Wall Street Journal. So…"frantic" headlines, such as…"Heroic Japanese Workers Resume Battle to Stop Nuke Fuel Meltdown" (http://www.foxnews.com/)

          Something like that?

          Flynn is an IMBECILE–any conservative want to refute that?

  • Amused

    How juvenile ! ……how pathetic!

  • waterwillows

    As far as the callous left is concerned, the capitalists were never alive in the first place.
    So how could 10,000 be dead?

    • Amused

      Some Scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.- Frank Zappa

      Yup …he's talking about you waterwillows.
      .

  • playacocles

    When you count the people dying from pollution caused by burning fosil fuels to supply our transportation, electricity and heating there is no argument. Thousands of people are dying from lung cancer, in mining and drilling accidents etc… annually and there is no outcry. Millions of people have died worldwide from burning fosil fuels in the past 40 years and how many have died from nuclear plant radiation and accidents? By comparison well less than 1% and nearly all of those from Chernobyl. Nuclear fear mongering is a joke. (Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste
    By burning away all the pesky carbon and other impurities, coal power plants produce heaps of radiation. By Mara Hvistendahl | December 13, 2007 )

    .

    • Rifleman

      I understand your point wasn’t to condemn fossil fuels, but I must add a word about them.

      Though I’d prefer most of our electricity came from nuclear power, fossil fuels have saved far more than they’ve killed. The average lifespan has gone up from the beginning and throughout our use of fossil fuels. Life before them was hardly idyllic, and it’s mostly because of them that we live long enough to die from the things that kill most of us (clogged arteries) today.

      Before we started burning fossil fuels, millions more died from pollution caused by burning wood. Then there are the millions who died for lack of medical care because the nearest doctor was hours or days away, by horse or wagon. There’s also the millions who died because enough food couldn’t be grown, harvested, or transported using draft animals and wind, before it went bad. Speaking of animals, the bacteria from all that animal urine and dung killed killed millions as well, along with the disease spreading parasites that infested them.

    • rib/eve

      And what planet do you live on? Who has died of fossil fuels?

      • Don Kosloff

        How could you be so ignorant? In 1972, 125 people killed by coal mining waste in the town of Buffalo Creek Hollow, WV. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in coal mining accidents. Thousands more have been killed in natural gas and gasoline fires.

  • Jim_C

    Hey, we could be like Rush and make jokes about Priuses and recycling not saving Japan from a tsunami! I mean, we need to build cars bigger so they don't float away like the Japanese ones. Ha ha! (Yes, people, he said all those things–there's the leader of the conservative movement for you).

    I don't see Flynn, maybe FPM's least intelligent writer, writing any articles about the 10,000 dead, except to somehow tar "the Left" with them. Grow up Flynn, you twit.

    • William_Z

      You can’t save anyone from a tsunami; generally, because it’s an event which occurred in the past. Since Toyota has decided to stop car production, for the time being the Prius is part of the past as well. Nissan which produces the all-electric Leaf is shutting down, too. In a car crash I’ll put a midsize Ford against Prius any day.

      When it comes to the 150,000 without power food and water in the north of Tokyo, my guess is the reactor isn’t even on their minds.

      • Jim_C

        A. What does having a fuel-efficient car have to do with preventing a natural disaster, (and what could a Ford do against a tsunami)?

        B. Why should there be a false choice between reporting the number of deaths and injuries (which are being reported, of course) and concerns over scenarios at Japanese nuclear facilities?

  • BS77

    Nuclear power is at the end….no one wants it. It's too dangerous, too expensive, too difficult to maintain and repair….and the spent fuel requires unbelievable safeguarding for hundreds of thousands of years……..not worth it.

    • JoJoJams

      Tell that to the French, who get over 70% of their energy needs through Nuclear power plants…..

    • http://drugwars.110mb.com publius

      Actually you can get rid of the spent fuel. Thats what France does, it reprocesses it, which means that you get more energy out of it, and you have a tiny amount of waste left. Interestingly, there are absolutely huge demonstrations in Germany right now against nuclear power, but not in France or Italy.
      My feeling is that if we cannot make nuclear plants safe even when everything else, including the electrical system, is destroyed around it, then we should not have nuclear power.
      One day the Iranians may blow up an EMP device in the atmosphere. That would fry absolutely every electrical device in the country. We would have bigger problems then, but our nuclear reactors would face meltdown.
      There may be other disasters – there is a volcano in the Atlantic that might send a whole cliffside into the sea, and that would cause a large wave to sweep right into the Atlantic seaboard. Again, we'd have other problems at that point, but it would be nice to know the nukes wouldn't melt down.

  • waterwillows

    BS77,

    I think you have a valid point. But what can we use that is better than fossil? Are there no grants or stimulas provided to research for a solution?

  • William_Z

    Something like this.
    New reactor fire as Japan works to contain threat http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110315/ap_on_bi_ge/a

    We can have a dual in headlines.

    Now, yours "Heroic Japanese Workers Resume Battle to Stop Nuke Fuel ..” can be read with a last stand quality. The words ‘nuclear crisis’ were used on Fox News the day of the tsunami. You see, I have no favorites.

  • William_Z

    Also, not being a big cable news watcher. For a while there I learned more from the Weather Channel.

    • Jim_C

      Brother, I assiduously avoid televised news, as well. Nor am I denying a certain level of hysteria. What I am refuting is that this hysteria is somehow a leftist invention, when clearly, it is a bipartisan tizzy. This article not only does not inform, it actually tries to make the issue divisive, which it isn't (at least politically).

      • William_Z

        I don’t like yelling at the TV and I doubt if in the history of news reportage/making cold hard facts have been have survived the assault of opinion or editorializing. Now, I didn’t get the impression that Flynn was stating the hysteria in the media was a leftist invention, but it can be said that right didn’t invent it either. But in general, hysteria is easily generated especially when the readers, viewers or listeners are at a distance. My best example is Orson Welles’s “War of the Worlds” broadcast. Again, it’s historical.

  • tedfranks
  • William_Z

    Well, we have 24/7 news cycle. Television still dominates it. Yes, seeing people stumble through rumble and standing in line for necessities is stressing, and should be, but have some hydrogen blowup and show a picture, which one wins? If the Media can, somehow, convince people in Californians to run to the story for iodine pills, we know which one will get the attention. I don’t know if there is an answer to that, unless you and I can somehow get to be the presidents of more than one media corporation. But I’d expect we get fired…, don’t you?

    • Jim_C

      Without a doubt. As I said in another thread, I think if you are earnest about trying to stay informed (esp. through a variety of sources), you're already in a minority–not a big market for that!

  • redac_ted

    The fact that the main stream media is linking the disaster with politics does not mean that we should not objectively analyze the disasters. Why were the reactors close enough that if one exploded it would affect the one next to it that had already shut down? Why were the containment buildings designed to not handle this kind of explosion? Why would they be designed to need electricity to pump cooling water? Why were the spent fuel rods stored on top of the containment buildings (where an explosion would cause more radiation to escape)? Why were the nuclear plants built in a tsunami zone? Why were they built in an earth quake zone? Why did the Japanese government give out bogus information for the first few days? Why don't they move the people around the reactors down to the south away from the danger? I believe that America needs more nuclear power reactors but these questions must be answered so that the people living near American nuclear reactors have confidence that they are safe. Otherwise the power elite (those who think that you do not need power) will win the argument and life in America will become more difficult.

  • Amused

    Gee…some redac ! "redac_ted " ? How did you manage to get the whole situatiuon …. TOTALLY BACKWARDS ???
    Are you for real man ? LOL…..hopefully , this is a clever sarcasm , or you are quite a confused individual .

    • trickyblain

      This was my favorite:
      "Why were they built in an earth quake zone?"

      • redac_ted

        Governments have two conflicting goals when it comes to emergencies. 1) reduce the impact of the emergency. 2) ensure that the public remains calm. This always results in governments lying to the public. Every government lies. When no one believes them any more then they will ask for understanding. Given that the information that you have received so far in most likely propaganda it is reasonable to not trust it. The questions I posed 2 days ago will need to be answered eventually. Laughing at them is not an answer. The earth quake zone question is the easiest to answer: They need the power and that is the best way of getting it. They will accurately claim that the reactors shut down automatically when the earth quake was detected. The remaining questions will haunt them in the years to come. This will have political ramifications here. If Americans want cheap power in the years ahead, somebody will need to address these issues before those who have an interest in Americans paying more for power frame the questions.

  • Amused

    ………………maybe you and Flynn should write a book , eh redac_ted ?

  • Amused

    And waterwillows will edit it for you both / ROLFMAO

  • AzDebi

    I have worked at the Palo Verde Plant here in Arizona…NEVER felt safer in my life…most of the operators within the units are ex-navy, trained on nuclear subs…AND…I used to complain about the long drive…it's out in the middle of NO WHERE…NOW….I understand why!!!!!!!!!!!!