Grim Assessment of Japan Nuclear Plant Crisis by Top U.S. Nuclear Official

Mar 17, 2011  •  Post A Comment

A top U.S. expert in nuclear matters has offered a grim assessment of the Japan nuclear plant crisis, reports The New York Times.

The official in question is Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He testified before Congress on Wednesday, March 16, 2011, about the crisis.

According to the article, "Mr. Jaczko (pronounced YAZZ-koe) said radiation levels might make it impossible to continue what he called the “backup backup” cooling functions that have so far helped check the fuel melting inside the reactors. Those efforts consist of using fire hoses to dump water on overheated fuel and then letting the radioactive steam vent into the atmosphere.

"Those emergency measures, carried out by a small squad of workers and firefighters, represent Japan’s central effort to forestall a full-blown fuel meltdown that would lead to much higher releases of radioactive material into the air.

"Mr. Jaczko’s testimony, the most extended comments by a senior American official on Japan’s nuclear disaster, described what amounts to an agonizing choice for Japanese authorities: keep sending workers into an increasingly contaminated area in a last-ditch effort to cover nuclear fuel with water, or do more to protect the workers but risk letting the pools boil away — and thus risk a broader meltdown."

The article adds, "On Wednesday, the American Embassy in Tokyo, on advice from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told Americans to evacuate a radius of “approximately 50 miles” from the Fukushima plant. The advice to Americans in Japan represents a graver assessment of the risk in the immediate vicinity of Daiichi than the warnings made by the Japanese themselves, who have told everyone within 20 kilometers, about 12 miles, to evacuate, and those within about 20 miles to take shelter."

The story also notes, "While maps of the plume of radiation being given off by the plant show that an elongated cloud will stretch across the Pacific, American officials said it would be so dissipated by the time it reached the West Coast of the United States that it would not pose a health threat.

"According to a Swedish government researcher, Lars-Erik De Geer, , low concentrations of radioactive particles are heading eastward from the power plant toward North America, but not at levels dangerous for humans, Reuters reported. He was citing data from a network of international monitoring stations."

One Comment

  1. Beware believing something because of appeals to authority. Being an expert does not make something correct, but having the correct information does. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. Journalists seem to think that finding an expert is all you need to do and then whatever they say is a fact, merely because they are a leading expert. What’s the alternative? That would be asking for facts, and then corroborating those facts with other experts, not just one. “Too much work,” cry the journalists who are otherwise trained not to run a story that has a single source.
    I think the journalists WANT us to fear nuclear energy, for political (or audience-building) reasons, so they find the most convenient expert, one whose “fears” help sell the story, carefully label him as a leading expert, and then let the fear-mongering stories scare the daylights out of citizens who were counting on the professionalism of the reporters. Instead they should look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Jaczko to see that this “expert” is a Democrat appointee with a mission and an agenda. Science is not neutral, so where is the journalism seeking a consensus of scientists instead of a sound bite?

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