Monthly Archives: March 2012

Environmentalism in the mud: responding to Jim Green’s attack on Barry Brook

“This has got to stop, and it stops when people start taking a stand… The schism in environmentalism over nuclear power is now well underway. It is sad that the other side seem to have decided in their righteousness that they are allowed to play dirty and go after individuals, using the same cherry-picking abuse of science that is all to familiar in climate change denial.”

I was saddened this week to be forwarded a hatchet job on my friend and collaborator, Professor Barry Brook, authored by Jim Green of Friends of the Earth (FoE). Saddened, but not surprised. FoE has form in this department, having deployed these guerrilla tactics before against James Lovelock when he became inconveniently persuasive on the subject of nuclear power. It would seem that it is now Barry’s turn.

Jim Green, Australia's anti-nuclear campaigner for Friends of the Earth

I have come to know Barry very well over the last 12 months. I know him well enough to know that he is both the last person who would ask for defending, and the most deserving of defence. So I offer this response to Green’s work. I really, dearly hope it will be read outside my circle of existing readers and supporters. I have some important things to say. Continue reading

Fukushima’s long-lived outrage is no nuclear accident

What is the risk from a nuclear power plant melt-down?

If you reach for the well known formula of Risk being the product of Likelihood and Consequence…then you are missing something big. That formula is going to give you some idea of hazard, as in the  potential harm that can be estimated by science.  Risk needs to capture so much more. You need to work out the hazard, then add the outrage.


Outrage is the overall negative human response to an event.  How angry are people? How afraid? How upset? How emotionally charged? How suddenly and unusually ready to blockade, write letters, make signs etc? How prepared to change behaviour, take precautions (make no mistake, outrage has its place)?

The major outcomes of Fukushima have little to do with hazard and everything to do with outrage. Consider: Continue reading

How close did Japan really get to a widespread #nuclear disaster? Cross post from Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger

As we approach the first anniversary of the Sendai quake and tsunami, I am steeling myself for the inevitable blanket commentary of a nuclear disaster that never was, while we roundly forget about the genuinely horrific human tragedy of that event with some 20,000 lives lost in 7 minutes of terrifying natural calamity.

It has already begun, with a the release of a report that focusses on the very worst case scenario possible that never actually happened. In a low blow, this report went to media first before experts, leading to unmitigated headlines lifted straight from the report with little critical examination.

So I’m very grateful to my friends Ted and Michael for being early in the response, asking us to think very hard about the stories we choose to tell ourselves. The original article is published here, which is also the best place to leave a comment. Please read on.

Posted Thursday, March 1, 2012, at 4:55 PM ET

With an eye to the first anniversary of the tsunami that killed 20,000 people and caused a partial meltdown at the Fukushima power plant in Japan, a recently formed nongovernmental organization called Rebuild Japan released a report earlier this week on the nuclear incident to alarming media coverage.

Japan Weighed Evacuating Tokyo in Nuclear Crisis,” screamed the New York Times headline, above an article by Martin Fackler that claimed, “Japan teetered on the edge of an even larger nuclear crisis than the one that engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.”

The larger crisis was a worst-case scenario imagined by Japanese government officials dealing with the situation. If workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant were evacuated, Fackler writes, some worried “[t]his would have allowed the plant to spiral out of control, releasing even larger amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere that would in turn force the evacuation of other nearby nuclear plants, causing further meltdowns.”

Fackler quotes former newspaper editor and founder of Rebuild Japan Yoichi Funabashi as saying, “We barely avoided the worst-case scenario, though the public didn’t know it at the time.”

To say that Japan “barely avoided” what another top official called a “demonic chain reaction” of plant meltdowns and the evacuation of Tokyo is to make an extraordinary claim. Continue reading