Commentary Forum: 3/22/11

Environmentalists Melt Down; Nuclear Reactors Don’t

By Mark Luedtke

Mark Luedtke

On Friday, March 11, a magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan. The quake was the strongest ever recorded in Japan and the fifth strongest recorded in modern history. It’s estimated the subsequent tsunami triggered by the quake killed over 25,000 people in Japan. The quake was so powerful it shifted the earth’s axis and changed the length of a day. This quake was literally an Earth-shattering event, and the Japanese people desperately need our support and honest reporting of their plight.
But the same environmentalist ghouls who always root for disasters to kill more people and their mainstream media allies who grossly exaggerated the Gulf oil spill damage spent more time after the tsunami grossly exaggerating the threat from the Fukushima nuclear plant than reporting on the tsunami. This is another unscientific witch-hunt by radicals who despise human advancement.
The story from the Fukushima plant is one of the transcendence of man: the men who designed these reactors, the men who built them and the heroes who manned them during the crisis. When the tsunami crashed into the Japanese coast flooding up to six miles inland, it turned cars, boats, houses and more into wrecking balls which wiped out entire villages.
The Fukushima plant was built 40 years ago in 1971. It was designed to withstand a magnitude 8.2 earthquake and a tsunami of 30 feet, but when rocked by an earthquake eight times more powerful (the Richter scale is a logarithmic scale, not linear) and tsunami three feet higher than it was designed for, the plant survived.
Those nuclear reactors were designed in the 1960s, which might as well have been the dark ages of design. The designers had no computers to aid them. They designed with slide-rules. They had no modern materials to use in their construction. The science of earthquakes was in its infancy. Americans used the term tidal wave instead of tsunami, which illustrated our ignorance of the phenomenon at the time.
But nothing created by man is perfect. The tsunami knocked out the main power and the backup generators. A team of engineers and technicians worked night and day for over a week to minimize any radiation leaks into the environment. Five workers at the plant were killed and two are missing. The heroic efforts of the Fukushima staff, sometimes working in dangerous levels of radiation, averted a worst-case scenario.
But even a worst-case scenario couldn’t warrant the fear mongering the mainstream media fed us 24 hours a day all week. Because of the design of the Fukushima plant, an accident on the scale of Chernobyl was never possible. That went unreported. And as bad as Chernobyl was, context is crucial. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA):
“The initial explosion resulted in the death of two workers. Twenty-eight of the firemen and emergency clean-up workers died in the first three months after the explosion from Acute Radiation Sickness and one of cardiac arrest. “There have been at least 1,800 documented cases of thyroid cancer in children who were between 0 and 14 years of age when the accident occurred, which is far higher than normal.”
That’s 29 deaths from nuclear power in 25 years. The never-ending construction on I-75 kills more people than that every couple of months. Many more die in plane crashes every year. A 2000 study found that 225,000 Americans died from medical mistakes the previous year. Even if a worst-case scenario had occurred at Fukushima, the consequences would have been minuscule by comparison.
Yet the witch hunters scared people so badly, they fled Japan in droves. In the alarmist frenzy several foreign governments called for all their citizens to leave Japan. Panicked Americans made a run on iodine. The fear mongering did far more damage to Japan than leaked radiation. While the Japanese people were reeling from the tsunami, the environmentalists and their media allies were stabbing them in the back.
Now that more people realize that people all over Japan will not be glowing as environmentalists hoped, a BBC expert reports, “As for people outside the plant – I can’t see any chance of picking out the effect of the Fukushima releases against the general background of cancers.” In other words, its effect on the environment will be immeasurably small. That should have been the central theme of coverage all along. Dealing with the local radiation damage will be nothing compared to dealing with the tsunami damage.
The Fukushima crisis will go down in history as a triumph of heroes and human ingenuity over Earth-shattering elements. Those reactors are a credit to their designers, builders and the power plant staff. In a sane world, the witch hunters pushing their political agenda at the expense of the Japanese people would be hounded into the wilderness as the enemies of humanity they are, never to be heard from again. But I’m not holding my breath. They’ll go back to killing Africans by blocking electric power and DDT use there. Regardless, engineers and plant managers will study Fukushima to make nuclear plants even safer than they already are.

Mark Luedtke is an electrical engineer with a degree from the University of Cincinnati and currently works for a Dayton attorney. He can be reached at MarkLuedtke@daytoncitypaper.com

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