Tuesday, March 15, 2011

UPDATED- “The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.” - Trust the experts!

UPDATE- Apparently Dr. Josef Oehmen, an MIT specialist in risk management, is the author of the essay “Why I’m not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors”. It was an email that he sent to his family in Japan and that went viral.

That changes a lot of things. A private message to try to reassure one's family is very different from a report posted for the general public. Even though the writer is being reassuring, he could be having reservations that he preferred not to voice: "The large amount of cooling water that has been used is sufficient to take up that heat [in petto: at least, I hope so]. ... Boric acid is "liquid control rod". Whatever decay is still going on, the Boron will capture the neutrons [in petto: I hope so!] "...

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/japan-reactors-pose-no-risk-2011-3#ixzz1GiJ7unMl

Isn't it ironical that I have to correct a post in which I complained about other people's updates to their own posts!

-------------------------- Original post ----------------------------

On the day before yesterday, in a comment, Neal linked to a detailed guest post there
from a nuclear expert presenting the technology behind the design of the Fukushima muclear power plant and explaining that there is no reason to worry.

Today the post has been moved to an MIT nuclear physics website (were the original contributors from there? I did not pay attention), but it's been vastly edited. Now it is purely factual, the claim that the containment vessels are impossible to damage has disappeared, and the confident assessment of an evolution where everything is under control has totally disappeared. The rewriting of history has started!

Suddenly I am sorely missing our old-fashioned paper media. The shameless removal of erroneous expert predictions that I am witnessing here is reminiscent of 1984. The proper thing to do would have been to leave in place the piece that was already there, while adding an update. Perhaps, cross out some sentences so that the reader can see what statements made on day x are rescinded in day x+2. How else can we make accountable the scientists who inform public opinion and who serve as advisors for political decisions? How else can we restore the credibility of scientists among the general public?


Meanwhile the journalists reports of radioactive measurements are showing some confusion between microsieverts and millisierverts. Not in any intentional way, I think. I do not see a pattern of deception but genuine mistakes.


  1. A couple of days ago, the French High Commissioner on Atomic Energy (an old acquaintance of Claire, if I remember correctly) gave an astonishing interview to a public radio station. He explained that there was no reason to worry about the nuclear situation in Japan, and that the whole thing was "une polémique franco-française".
    No comment.

  2. You're right! His interview sounds like it's in line with the culture of cover-ups plaguing the French nuclear industry.

  3. Oops... now I have to uptade my comment on an updated blog post about an updated post.
    Our man is in fact the former High Commissioner (Haut Commissaire); now he is General Administrator.
    Somehow I like better the title of High Commissioner. It sounds much grander.

  4. Deaths per TWh by energy sources (This is truly not intended to minimize the horrific nature of current events. To me the linked information seems relevant to the discussion of risk.)

  5. the nextbigfuture blog claims to calculate deaths per TWh by energy sources. (Hopefully relevant to discussion of risks; truly not intended to minimize current events in Japan.)

  6. Neal, I just found your comments in the spam filter. I didn't even remember I had one. Sorry about that!