Over the weekend, as Japan’s nuclear crisis rapidly unfolded in the wake of the Tsunami that damaged critical cooling systems at the Fukushima Daini and Daiichi reactor plants, detailed and accurate reporting of the breaking news was severely lacking online from major news sources in the US. Even though an earthquake is a localized problem, we know that a resulting Tsunami can cause problems across the ocean and any growing nuclear crisis could possibly have health and environmental impact outside the reactor zone.
After watching the news of the progress of the Tsunami and it’s impact on the Oregon coastline, my attention was quickly drawn to early reports from Fukushima Prefecture. Failure of the power systems used for critical cooling of the reactor cores was cause for grave concern. In simple terms, a typical result of overheating and overpressure in a plant failure would be to release steam into the atmosphere. Depending on the working status of the systems within the reactor at the moment, such a release could contain byproduct radioactive gasses that travel through the atmosphere causing serious health concerns, which is something that has happened in past accidents. It raises a lot of maybe’s and what-if’s during this type of serious failure and even though failsafes were in place, it’s clear this wasn’t a typical operating scenario at Fukushima. So I combed the net for accurate and up to date reports on the problem. Unfortunately, early press conferences from the Japanese government and TEPCO the company that operates the plants, sent a clear message: we have the situation under control. What followed through the weekend were efforts to use seawater to cool the reactors and then explosions and destruction of some the outer buildings that house the nuclear reactors. Clearly the situation wasn’t exactly under control as we had been initially told.
Now this is a complex crisis with many variables requiring a need for timely and accurate information. If in the worst case situation radioactive gasses would be released into the atmosphere, we need to be fully informed to protect ourselves and loved ones. That’s not an overreaction, that’s just common sense. Just as a Tsunami evacuation warning makes sense. But we can only rationally act on good and timely information.
So what did I see in the US news media this weekend? Simple. A lack of English translations of live Japanese press conferences. A lack of investigative reporting questioning what we were being told about the incident. What did I see instead? A debate about nuclear power (pro and con) and whether or not this crisis merits comparison to the Russian Chernobyl crisis in 1986. Who cares about those issues right now? This week we have a growing problem that might impact the US and certainly is impacting people living in Japan and all we need is good journalism and facts.
Although it appears the world media finally woke up and is doing some decent reporting now, here are the resources I’ve been following since the weekend to try to piece together just exactly what the heck is going on at Fukushima.
My go-to twitter news feeds. These guys get it first:
A simple Google News search feed:
This guy is the “citizen journalist” hero of this crisis, providing Japanese press coverage summaries and translation when no one else was covering the press conferences and news reports. He is very balanced and hasn’t questioned or editorialized the information. KABC radio in Los Angeles has been going to him for reports. His site description says that “Yokoso News is the online website to introduce Japan in English” and “…is an online social media about travel, lifestyle, study and entertainment in Japan” but of course, events have turned Yokoso News into a breaking news source:
Katz has also provided (or linked) to his live news dashboard. If you speak Japanese, you too can get updates as quickly as he does:
I do wish the best to Japan and the Japanese people throughout the world. My heart is with you. Don’t forget, you can provide assistance by donating here: