Unfortunately, when it comes to environmental issues or any other technical topics, most of the mainstream media takes their cues from “experts” whose most important qualifications involve ideology, not science. And so the situation at Fukushima generated the kind of hysteria in the media that we’ve come to expect. For example, Utah ABC 4 reporter Emily Clark wondered: ”If the reactors melt down, could the reactive material make it to Utah?” The answers are: 1) the reactors aren’t going to “melt down,” 2) “reactive material” isn’t a term that makes any sense in the context of this story, and 3) not only is nobody in Utah going to be in danger from the Fukushima reactors, but the most recent evidence suggests that nobody in Japan is in danger.
A headline in the Vancouver Sun screamed: “Quake ravaged Japan battles against nuclear meltdown.” While he said that he has been a big supporter of nuclear energy in the past, Senator Joe Liebermann said that we should hit the brakes. “I think we’ve got to kind of quietly, quickly put the brakes on until we can absorb what has happened in Japan as a result of the earthquake and the tsunami and then see what more, if anything, we can demand of the new power plants that are coming online,” Liebermann said. The lead of an AFP story on Sunday declared: “Explosion and meltdown fears at Japan’s quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant renewed debate today about the safety of atomic energy and cast doubt over its future as a clean energy source.”
Hyperbole seems to rule the day when it comes to nuclear energy, at least in the way that the media and politicians react. It’s ironic, because few industries can boast the kind of safety record that the nuclear power industry can offer. There has been exactly one real disaster involving nuclear power plants and that only happened because operators took foolish action at a poorly designed plant. In contrast, and like Three Mile Island before it, Fukushima is proof that engineers know how to design nuclear plants to withstand virtually any problem. Far from putting the brakes on renewed development of nuclear power in America as Liebermann suggests, Fukushima should serve as the ultimate reassurance that this technology is mature and as safe as any energy source we have.