One thousand four hundred and sixty-one days ago, a nine magnitude earthquake, one of the most powerful in recorded history—so violent that it knocked the planet into a new rotational axis—struck Japan’s northeast coast. The quake triggered a 14-meter tsunami that smashed through the country’s coastal seawalls and overwhelmed cities, towns, and villages, killing upwards of twenty thousand people and making nearly half a million homeless. It was the worst natural calamity ever to befall an advanced industrialized country.
The tsunami also destroyed the backup power for a nuclear plant, Fukushima Daiichi. As a result, three of the plant’s reactors melted down and were destroyed. The phrase “nuclear meltdown” is a shiny object for the world media, infinitely shinier than twenty-thousand dead and half a million homeless in northeastern Japan. This is why Fukushima is a household word; Tohoku (the name of the earthquake that triggered the tsunami that ruined those hundreds of thousands of lives) is not. The first and in most cases only thing the world media glommed onto following this unprecedented natural disaster was Fukushima. That was, as I mentioned at the top, 4,400 days ago. There have been zero casualties from the nuclear meltdown over those 4,400 days.
Most of the world’s reporters got their knowledge about nuclear meltdowns from movies like The China Syndrome. This silly science fiction B-movie is the reason Three Mile Island is also a household word—American reporters in 1979, yearning for another Watergate-level paroxysm of journalistic self-glorification, had only recently watched The China Syndrome in movie theatres when the nuclear plant at Harrisburg Pennsylvania suffered a consequence-free mishap. They have been crowing about it ever since.
Well, for the record, Three Mile Island and Fukushima have, between them, zero casualties. What I mean by that is, nobody died or even went to the hospital because of radiological releases from either plant.
Why then are they household words? Because organizations like Greenpeace need money. Greenpeace lives on donations from corporations and individuals. Greenpeace knows that nobody has the slightest clue what a meltdown even is. But it does know that if you inveigh against some vague threat with enough passion and conviction, people will come to believe what you are saying. So it is with Greenpeace’s anti-nuclear rhetoric, which the organization has been spouting ever since it realized it could separate people from their money by conflating nuclear energy with nuclear weapons. Greenpeace after all got its start with its activism against weapons tests in the Pacific. Addicted to the donations from that, it simply morphed its salesmanship to hypermoralistic invective against plants that make electricity. It worked. Greenpeace is today a successful multinational money machine.
Fukushima was a godsend to Greenpeace, which lost no time in prophesying to any media outlet that would listen (and all of them did) innumerable deformed babies and similarly grotesque outcomes from the meltdowns. The fact that absolutely zero of these prophesies has come true after 4,400 days appears to be a non issue.
Meanwhile, Japan, encouraged by Greenpeace and other similarly irresponsible fearmongers, has shut down its entire nuclear generation fleet, and replaced nuclear output with fossil fuel output. That has resulted in skyrocketing greenhouse gases in the very country that hosted the famous Kyoto Protocol. Greenpeace, flush with donations from the Fukushima cash cow, could not care less.
Steve, your article — which ought be required reading in U.S. public schools — is totally on target. My only regret is that, ironically, I just can’t dump on Greenpeace and its ilk. If you have a neighbor who’s dumping garbage on your lawn or tweeting terrible lies about your daughter and you just take it on the chin and cheek, whose fault is it that you get injured? Greenpeace is just doing what Greenpeace does, like birds fly. The onus is on the slandered attacked party to dump the Chamberlain act and GO AFTER THE ATTACKER BIG TIME. Not rational Tweets but rational Big Educational Ads! This is right up the alley of nuclear professional organizations! but we barely hear a PR peep from them out the real world. Closet shoestring outfits like Puppy Rescue here in NYC are infinitely more familiar New Yorkers than any good word/Ad about Indian Point or nukes in general. Fukushima was the best silver lining ever thrown the pro-nuke movement — THREE meltdowns in a row and zero casualties while movies and Greens long squawked that just ONE can end the world. Why isn’t the nuclear community here and over there shouting this FUD nightmare mythbuster from the rooftops?? How does that old Russian proverb go? Hit me once, shame on you. Hit me twice, shame on me(?)….