- While grieving for the dead from the Tohoku quake-tsunami
disaster, we should also praise our colleagues in the Japanese print and
television news media who have hammered at and punctured the steel curtain
of official secrecy.
- Thanks to the unflinching reportage and persistence of
Japanese reporters, editors and news producers, Prime Minister Naoto Kan
has started to realize that panic is not caused by disclosing the hard
facts, but arises from public distrust of half-truths and attempts at cover-up.
- Following the decision on the second day of the crisis
to vet regulatory agency reports to the media, the government yesterday
has shifted to quickly conveying the facts to the world.
- As it turns out, nuclear-power company TEPCO was holding
back information from regulatory officials, as disclosed in this morning's
edition of Yomiuri Shimbun.
- "Although the explosion was being covered on TV
networks, it wasn't reported to the Prime Minister's Office for about an
hour. What's going on here?" Kan reportedly rebuked TEPCO senior officials
and employees after he hastily visited TEPCO's headquarters in Tokyo, early
Tuesday. Kan reportedly told them: "You're the only ones (to deal
with this problem). Retreating (from the power plant's problems) is simply
not an option. Be ready for anything. If you pull out now, that'll be the
end of TEPCO, period."
- Now this sounds more like the proper application of Article
15 of the Constitution, which demands accountability from public servants.
- The government has forced TEPCO to join a new Nuclear
Headquarters, or N-HQ, that will run a nonstop planning, monitoring and
response operation for damaged nuclear facilities and provide timely information
to the press.
- With the veil of censorship being lifted, this Monitor
can become more occasional. News coverage is to be found at the English-language
websites of these Japanese newspapers: The Japan Times, Yomiuri Daily and
- An Ostrich POV
- The other steel curtain - the protective shields of partially
melted core reactors -- is thankfully still holding back the scenario
of total meltdown despite external explosions, fires, venting of radiation
and limited leaks.
- The present situation is not cause for either exaggerated
pessimism or false optimism. We should hope for the best and prepare for
the worst. "Stay cool" applies to both reactors and level
- As the nuclear workers fight on as heroes, the government
shows proper sobriety, and the Japanese media demonstrate their commitment
to the public interest, we are beginning to wonder why the Western media
are rolling out apologists for the global nuclear industry. Al Jazeera
interviewed an academic "expert" from London's Imperial College
who categorically stated that the reactors are safe from meltdown. The
Wall Street Journal trotted out an opinion piece from "green energy"
nuclear proponent William Tucker titled "Japan Does Not Face Another
Chernobyl." This atrocity of a headline is right in an unintended
way: Fukushima could turn out to be worse than the nightmare in Kiev.
- The Japanese government now openly accepts the possibility
of a core meltdown of Unit 2, which completely lost all its water content
for a short time yesterday when a portable generator ran out of diesel
fuel. Human error is becoming an understandable problem with the high casualty
toll among plant workers, exhaustion and lack of equipment on the tsunami-swept
- The meltdown of a single core reactor would make any
human presence impossible on site. Without the maintenance work of
water injection, the other reactors would sooner than later also undergo
meltdown. When one goes, the others will soon follow.
- Entombment of the reactors cannot proceed quickly
due to tsunami damage to local docks and to Sendai Airport, where concrete
mixers and cargos of cement will have to be unloaded and helicopters landed.
Therefore, besides the rescue and relocation effort, a massive logistical
operation must be organized for eventual containment of radiation.
- USA stands for United Steel (Workers) of America
- In contrast to the egghead experts featured by the mainstream
Western media, this journalist has some hands-on experience with steel
from my younger days. During his presidential election campaign, Barack
Obama repeatedly mentioned the "closed-down steel mill" in South
Chicago. Before its shutdown, I worked there as a millwright, fixing bearings
that weigh more than a car and otherwise repairing the failing machinery
and furnaces inside the 90-year-old the US Steel plate mill, known to union
members as "ambulance city". I had earlier worked (to pay off
my college loans) at Republic Steel's seamless tube (pipe) mill in Gary,
Indiana. Before that I was a licensed welder, and during my off-duty hours,
my hobby was blacksmithing. For a few very macho years, I was really into
- From what I learned then, tempered steel degrades in
two ways under the stresses of extreme temperature and hard impacts:
- first, its crystal structure fractures in weaker areas,
and cracks gradually spread; and second, the surface blisters
and becomes pitted at points of "burning" or oxydation.
- As every blacksmith knows from incorrect tempering of
overheated steel in cold water, the metal can crack or even shatter in
a sudden shift from expansion to contraction.
- These types of shocks are what's battering the
core reactor shields at Fukushima 1.
- Therefore, to minimize or forestall a fatal rupture,
it becomes necessary to quicken the pace of venting of explosive gases
(hydrogen and oxygen). Whatever the dangers of external blasts and radiation
releases into the atmosphere, these are less risky than permitting internal
combustion inside containment chambers to damage the core reactor shells.
We're going to have to get used to repeated blasts outside the reactors
and not become overly alarmed by loud bangs and smoke. These steps are
necessary until an effective water-cooling mechanism can be installed
or the reactors entombed under a permanent barrier of concrete and neutron-absorbing
- Under all circumstances, stay cool.