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Monday 9 May 2011

Meltdown Shock Horror No Longer

The earthquake off Japan’s north east coast, and subsequent tsunami, happened only three months ago, but the event and its after effects have vanished from the media radar. So what of the shock horror stories surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex? Ah well.

At the time, those saying “don’t panic”, a small minority of which I was one, were crowded out by those peddling various doomsday scenarios. The workers at the plant were on a “suicide mission, but when two bodies were found, it was established that they had been killed when the tsunami hit, not by radiation.

But the plant would still, we were told, take months to bring under control, and for the brave “Fukushima Fifty”, well, their deaths were said to beimminent” on April 1. So there must have been some further deaths by now, with the plant yet to be brought under control, right?

Er, wrong: there are no further reports of deaths among the workforce, and the latest information from the area tells of gradual improvement in the situation. Yesterday, workers entered the Number 1 reactor building to assess the damage, the first such visit since the earthquake.

And the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), in its briefing last Thursday, confirmed the amounts of core damage to the three reactors that had been undergoing shutdown at the time the tsunami hit, emphasising that the containment of reactor 1 was not suffering any serious leakage. Also, reactors 2 and 3 are stable.

Moreover, caesium and iodine levels are “significantly lower than ... in the first weeks of the emergency”, gamma dose rates have “a general decreasing trend”, and caesium and iodine in drinking water is at a level “below the limits set by the Japanese authorities for the restriction of water consumption”.

Restrictions on the distribution and consumption of milk (and some kinds of vegetables) are being progressively lifted. Monitoring of seawater is continuing. But there are no deaths to report.

All of which means that there is no shock horror for the hacks to latch on to, and without the shock horror, the story is unlikely to sell more copies. So it’s back to slebs, sport and other shock horrors instead.

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