Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Nuclear FUD

Panic by Vin Zzep
I drop off the grid for a few days for some quality time and come back to find the crazy piling high and fast in the areas we here at FutureJacked like to comment upon.

Ukraine

I am cooking up a larger post regarding Ukraine, but for now I'll just provide you with the link to the U.S. House Resolution on arming Ukraine against Russian-backed militias and let you ponder for yourself the assumptions buried in each of those "Whereas" clauses - especially that first one.  I just can't get past my mental block on this one - imagine if the Chinese helped orchestrate the overthrow of what they regarded as a corrupt regime in Ottawa and replaced it with a fervently anti-U.S. governing junta. Then follow that with the Chinese Politburo publicly debating supplying advanced arms to that government after some Canadians out in the Western Provinces rebelled against what they saw as an unlawful government. It really just seems like a tremendous amount of downside for the West for very little gain. But then again, I am not exactly a member of the Deep State nor one of their political minions and those types have motivating factors far different from us little people out in Flyover Country.

Miscellaneous

There is plenty else out there, from the Shi'a vs. Sunni tussling in Yemen, to the ongoing Zimbabwe-ization of Japan, to the still-there-and-still fighting Islamic State (wasn't Tikrit supposed to have fallen to the Iranians Iraqis by now?). But don't worry - stock prices are still high!

Political theater and the continuing unraveling of the Middle East aside, I want to take a page from Nuclear Emergencies and analyze a couple of stories which came my way via Zero Hedge, using the tools described in the chapters on how to evaluate media stories on nuclear events.

Zero Hedge Does Nuke, Consume Carefully

The first step is to know your source. I like Zero Hedge as a platform for stories that won't make the cut in more mainstream media outlets, but I also never forget they have their own set of blinders and biases. They loves playing the fear merchant. This is especially true in terms of nuclear power, nuclear accidents, and radiation effects. They know nuclear stories draw eyeballs and that when the facts are used selectively and without context, you can scare the living daylights out of readers and keep them hooked on coming back.

Normally I wouldn't pay them much mind - if you take stories found on ZH as the final word on nuclear topics, you deserve what you get (primarily FUD - fear, uncertainty, and doubt) - but they reach a wide audience and have a sizable influence on opinions, so let's take two recent nuke stories found there and step through them, using some of the principles found in Nuclear Emergencies.

Why take the time? I want FutureJacked readers to be able to better evaluate threats. Nuclear meltdowns and weapons have many deep and negative emotions tied to them. But just because something sounds scary, doesn't mean it necessarily is scary. Walking through a couple of write-ups will hopefully help you navigate future stories with more confidence.

Fukushima's Nuclear Reactor Fuel is "Missing"

This is a typical "Tyler Durden" post on nuclear topics. First the headline is excellent. Even for those weary of reading about Fukushima, missing fuel could mean various things. Was it stolen? Disappeared totally? Not where it is supposed to be? Other?

Then we get into the story itself:
In the same week as Japan unveils its Pacific-Rim-esque anti-tsunami wall public works project, and Japanese government auditors say the operator of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has wasted more than a third of the 190 billion yen ($1.6 billion) in taxpayer money allocated for cleaning up the plant after it was destroyed by a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami; Science Journal reports, Fukushima won't be truly safe until engineers can remove the reactors' nuclear fuel. But first, they have to find it... And so, in February of this year two muon detectors were installed outside the Fukushima Daiichi unit-1 ruins at reactor vessel height for the purpose of finding that ‘missing’ reactor fuel.
Okay, so what about this missing fuel? Oh, wait, first let's talk about a Japanese infrastructure boon-doggle, then let's talk about "wasting" 190 billion yen, then bounce over to how things won't be "truly safe" until the reactor fuel can be moved, but "...first they have to find it..." But it is in the "ruins" of Unit-1. Whew.

In NLP they might just call this a "confusion pattern," which is used to set you up to "reframe" how you see things (hypnotize you in the sense that advertisements use changes in consciousness to sell you something, that is) but we aren't supposed to talk about such things out loud, so moving, on:
First, as AP reports, Japanese government auditors say the operator of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has wasted more than a third of the 190 billion yen ($1.6 billion) in taxpayer money allocated for cleaning up the plant after it was destroyed by a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

A Board of Audit report describes various expensive machines and untested measures that ended in failure. It also says the cleanup work has been dominated by one group of Japanese utility, construction and electronics giants despite repeated calls for more transparency and greater access for international bidders.


Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Teruaki Kobayashi said all of the equipment contributed to stabilizing the plant, even though some operated only briefly.
A reasonably straight-forward reporting of a recent audit, and it is followed by a list of items . The engineer in me cringes at the term "wasted" when I recall the chaos surrounding the situation in the days after the meltdown. They had a bad situation, they tried multiple techniques to address it. Many of those techniques failed. The engineers did their jobs. The auditors did their jobs.

And, as can often be the case in Japan, you'll notice no mention was made of the massive influence of the Yakuza (the 4th branch of the Japanese government) involvement in controlling jobs at Fukushima and siphoning off lot's of money and providing shoddy equipment in return.

No issues with the data, but what does it have to do with "missing" fuel? Oh wait, creating a negative setting, implying TEPCO is unreliable, tying negative traits to the story as a whole. Got it.

Then finally we get to the meat of the story:
So it is even more distressing that, as Science Journal reports, Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, destroyed 4 years ago in explosions and meltdowns triggered by an earthquake and tsunami, won't be truly safe until engineers can remove the reactors' nuclear fuel. But first, they have to find it...
 Okay. Cool. I love Science Journal. At least it is a credible source. Word choice is again loaded, but hey, it's Zero Hedge. This is followed by a quote describing how TEPCO is using a special detector to determine the location of the melted fuel (called "corium" in the trade). Is it all at the bottom of the pressure vessel? TEPCO and other analysts have been saying for some time that the fuel ate through the pressure vessel to some degree. How much melted through? If so, where is it?

These questions do begin to be answered. You can read it yourself, but the text isn't really inflammatory. Props to ZH for once.

Then of course, we get the patented ZH Zinger at the end:
But apart from that, it's totally safe for the looming Olympics... which will include the individual three-and-a-half-legged sprint...
 Sigh. Good old fashioned radiation humor. Never gets old.

Overall grade in terms of fear, uncertainty, and doubt - probably a B-. If "Tyler" hadn't tried the cute NLP trick at the beginning, I would have been impressed by the article as a whole (considering the source).

Then we have a guest post to look over:

The Best Place to Live in the United States? Here are Nine Maps to Consider.

This is a post from the End of the American Dream blog and leads off with:
If you could live anywhere in America during the tumultuous years ahead, where would it be?  This is a topic that is hotly debated, and the truth is that there is not a single right answer.  If you have a very strong family support system where you are, it might not be right to try to move 2000 miles away and start a new life from scratch.  And for many Americans, moving is out of the question in the short-term because they are completely and totally dependent on employment in their local areas.  But in recent years we have seen an increasing number of Americans strategically relocate to another region of the country.  They can see our society breaking down and they can see the storm clouds on the horizon and they want to do what they can to prepare themselves and their families for what is ahead.  So is there a “best place to live” in the United States?  Are there some areas that are preferable to others?  The following are 9 maps to consider…
 Hey. Cool. I like this kind of article as it can often contain useful nuggets of actionable information. I like maps. It even has a refreshing honesty about it with the "...there is not a single right answer..." Fast forward down to #7 on the list:
We have all seen what a single nuclear power plant disaster can do in Japan.  Well, in a future disaster scenario, we could potentially be facing multiple “Fukushimas” all at once here in the United States.  The map below shows where nuclear reactors are located throughout America.  You might want to think twice before moving in right next door to one.
It is short, sweet, and indicative of so much of the urban legends which pass for knowledge in the vast majority of the citizenry.

In what "future disaster scenario" would we be facing multiple Fukushimas?  Let's see, at Fukushima, all off-site power was lost due to the earthquake and the entire diesel generator back up system was wiped out by the tsunami due to a really, really bad decision to put the generators in the basement of a plant that sits next to the ocean.

That said, let's pretend we do have multiple Fukushimas. What has actually happened in terms of the release of radioactivity? How many people are projected to die from the radiation vs. the number dead from the earthquake?  I know we talked about it in the book but remember this - radiation isn't a magical killing spell from Voldemort or Sauron. Radiation is everywhere. Hell, if Grand Central Station at New York was a nuclear power plant, it would have to shut down due to the natural radiation release from the stones which were used to build it.

There is nothing specific here to criticize and that is the point. It is all vague and predicated on deep assumptions that radiation is always dangerous and that we should fear multiple Fukushima style accidents. This is where knowing the causes of the Fukushima meltdowns (along with the various other major nuclear accident's we've seen over the years) and understanding what gets released and what is dangerous threshold is so important.

If you do nothing else, in the future when you read articles on nuclear topics and radiation effects, always be asking questions. Think about the assumptions implicit in how the questions are written. Wonder about the sources used.

Don't let them blind you with FUD. You need to be one of the few with a clear head should the shit hit the fan in a nuclear way.

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