Beyond Fukishima – a world in denial about nuclear risks

Linked on our blogs with Danny Schechter – USA. – Published on ZSpace, by Danny Schechter, March 21, 2011.

… On August, 6, 2008, the anniversary of the dropping of the first nuclear bomb, Alternet.org reported that the government and media were complicit in minimizing public awareness of the extensive suffering that did take place:

“But the word never crossed the conceptual chasm between the “mainstream” media and the “alternative.” Despite a federal class action lawsuit filed by 2400 Pennsylvania families claiming damages from the accident, despite at least $15 million quietly paid to parents children with birth defects, despite three decades of official admissions that nobody knows how much radiation escaped from TMI, where it went or who it affected, not a mention of the fact that people might have been killed there made its way into a corporate report” 

Was this just accidental or is there a deeper pattern of denial? The great expert on psycho history, Robert J. Lifton, wrote a book, Hiroshima In America, with journalist Greg Mitchell about the aftermath of Hiroshima in America exploring what they call  “50 years of denial.”

One reviewer explained, “The authors examine what they perceive to be a conspiracy by the government to mislead and suppress information about the actual bombing, Truman’s decision to drop the bomb, and the birth and mismanagement of the beginning of the nuclear age. The authors claim that Americans then, and now, are haunted by the devastating psychological effects of the bomb.”

Lifton and Mitchell are evidence-based writers, not conspiratologists, but they could find no other explanation for how such a seminal event could have been distorted and misrepresented for a half century.

Nuclear power and nuclear weapons have been sold to the public relentlessly, in the first instance as necessary, and the second, as safe. Rory O’ Connor and Richard Bell coined the term “Nuke Speak” to describe the Orwellian methods deployed by the nuclear industry’s PR offensive in a book length analysis of a well funded campaign that continues to this day using euphemistic language to mask its real agenda.

And today, as the world watches the dreadful and even Darwinian struggle for survival by the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan, as information about the extent of the nuclear danger trickles out, President Obama has reaffirmed his commitment to build new nuclear plants.

Others stress more parochial concerns.  The TV Production community fears a shortage in Japanese made magnetic and recording tape. Consumers are being told that they may face a delay in ordering new iPads so get your orders in now. And, the Israeli new service YNET says people there worry about a sushi shortage.

Meanwhile, in Germany, more than 50,000 activists took to the streets in protest, but, so far, there has been no organized outcry here in the U.S. At the Left Forum in New York, the issue was barely addressed in the opening plenary.

On the right, flamboyant talking head/provocateur Ann Coulter defended the imagined health benefits of a release of radiation to counter what she calls the alarmism of the environmentalists. She calls it a “cancer vaccine” … //

… The global nuclear roulette game goes on. Even moderate and restrained criticisms are dismissed until there is an “event” that cannot be denied. Nuclear energy supporters promise that  “Gen 4,” the next generation of reactors, will be much safer.

Problem solved?  Not everyone thinks so. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists carries an assessment by Hugh Gusterson on “The Lessons of Fukishima.”

“To this anthropologist, then, the lesson of Fukushima is not that we now know what we need to know to design the perfectly safe reactor, but that the perfectly safe reactor is always just around the corner. It is technoscientific hubris to think otherwise.

This leaves us with a choice between walking back from a technology that we decide is too dangerous or normalizing the risks of nuclear energy and accepting that an occasional Fukushima is the price we have to pay for a world with less carbon dioxide. It is wishful thinking to believe there is a third choice of nuclear energy without nuclear accidents.”

We are still debating if nuclear power is worth the risk as irradiated clouds float over Los Angeles and there is a panicked run in the public to buy iodine pills.  The industry’s marketing machine is in crisis response mode and hasn’t missed a beat, while many of us look on with a sense of impotence as we are told, once again, what’s in our best interest. (full long text).

(News Dissector Danny Schechter began covering nuclear power plant controversies in the early 1970’s. He blogs for Mediachannel.org. Write him for comments).

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