No thanks for this March 13, 2011 7:44 AM   Subscribe

As the aftermath of a tsunami leaves Japan shell-shocked, MetaFilter has opened a new thread for those who wish to exploit the tsunami to talk about the dangers of nuclear power.

There has been no new thread regarding any of the subjects such as the towns destroyed, injuries, casualties, displaced people, and countrywide rolling blackouts, all of which have occupied the news today. The Japanese media continues to be working around the clock to inform people about these life-and-death situations. It's been very difficult for me to watch the news, but seeing the turn discussion has taken here is uniquely repulsing. A disaster of unimaginable, devastating proportions has already happened. If another disaster happens we will deal with it as well, but it hasn't yet. This new thread is giving a stronger voice to uninvolved and uninformed speculation than it is to the reality on the ground.
Don't Panic.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:10 AM on March 13 [+] [!]

Don't tell me what not to do.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:11 AM on March 13 [36 favorites +] [!]

... is the Japanese news media going to provide the best source for what's going on

Probably not.

if governmental officials begin to downplay certain realities or possibilities (for fear, understandably perhaps, of spreading panic) might we expect the Japanese news media to help keep the news relatively spin-free?

Probably not.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:27 AM on March 13 [2 favorites +] [!]

I don't think you understand how huge the Chernobyl exclusion zone is. A nuke going off isn't the problem, and almost everyone knows it. The problem is the irridation of people, homes, and communities... some of them a way far away from the plant itself.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:06 AM on March 13 [+] [!]

Why I am not worried about Japan's Nuclear Reactors.

Oehmen is, indeed, worried, because he is a proponent of nuclear power, and an obvious catastrophe like this is problematic for nuclear engineers who claim, despite all evidence to the contrary, that nuclear power generation is impervious to natural disasters.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:03 AM on March 13 [+] [!]
The most polite word I can give to these comments is speculation. But, with offense fully intended, my honest opinion is that this is despicable. You are fearmongerers. An unaccredited individual who has posted 11,894 comments to MetaFilter is accusing a respected nuclear physicist of being a shill for the industry, in the midst of a disaster where there is already a lot of false information going around and people are in fear for their lives. Another private individual is telling the public that their news media and government cannot be trusted regarding the nuclear meltdown. I want to say so much more about these comments, but I will refrain.

I realize that this is a scarcely avoidable phenomenon considering that most MetaFilter users have no dog in the earthquake except for their own opinions about political issues surrounding it and possible danger to themselves. I'm not calling for the thread to be deleted. I will not be posting in the nuclear thread nor directing people to defend themselves here. But as someone living in Japan right now I don't think this is MetaFilter's brightest hour. I am much preferring the helpful messages being posted on Reddit and Twitter, where both Japanese and foreigners have been reporting important information, lifting spirits, and extending beautiful, heartwarming support to each other. I'm hoping people will take a step back and think about what they are focusing on.
posted by shii to Etiquette/Policy at 7:44 AM (182 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

It's a pretty silly thread, but it was gonna happen in the main thread instead which would have been worse. There is no new thread for the other stuff because it is more on topic in the existing one.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:49 AM on March 13, 2011


Thanks for linking to the thread you are calling out in MeTa. It's really helpful because I don't have to scan down the MeFi front page looking for the one you're referring to.

oh wait
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:53 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you have a good point, shii (although, flapjax is in Japan, so I don't discount his ideas automatically). It seems that this happens a lot in our threads, though. This one is not unique.
posted by Houstonian at 7:56 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here it is.
posted by josher71 at 7:56 AM on March 13, 2011


Here Ends, let me take care of that for you.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:57 AM on March 13, 2011


*fist shaking*
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:57 AM on March 13, 2011


I don't get why discussions about natural disasters always--always--turn political. It's not like mother nature picks sides. The response should be "what can we do to help, what can we do better next time," not, "ok, who fucked up this time."
posted by phunniemee at 7:57 AM on March 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


*shakes head*

furious, take it down a notch. You jumped in at the bottom of the original thread last night with guns blazing, at a time when the conversation had been remarkably informative and respectful for hours. Your continued rapid fire has already turned lots of folks off the new thread, and now here you come, rushing to be first in this one. Whatever is bugging you, it's hurting the community. Go away for a while, please, and let the rest of us continue our generally respectful sharing of information.
posted by mediareport at 7:58 AM on March 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


Mediareport, who was it that corrected you when you falsely backed up the statement that someone had died of radiation poisoning at the plant?

Yeah, sorry, but with this level of false fear mongering information being posted someone has to point out where it is wrong. You seemed to consider that a "political fight". It's not dude, I don't care about the politics of nuclear energy, just the facts.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:06 AM on March 13, 2011


There has been no new thread regarding any of the subjects such as the towns destroyed, injuries, casualties, displaced people, and countrywide rolling blackouts, all of which have occupied the news today.

No one is stopping you from posting any of these threads. Calling people "despicable" for wanting to talk about a different facet of the disaster than you is pointlessly nasty and completely indefensible and you owe them an apology.
posted by enn at 8:06 AM on March 13, 2011 [27 favorites]


I glad some people, including Mefites, have survived.

I'm sad about the deaths and destruction.

I am in awe of nature's power

I hope the general situation doesn't get worse.

That is all.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:12 AM on March 13, 2011 [15 favorites]


who was it that corrected you when you falsely backed up the statement that someone had died of radiation poisoning at the plant?

And I apologized for my error, furious, which is how adults talk to one another. Look, you're really hurting the site right now, mainly through your tone and weird need to comment constantly. I encourage other folks, including shii, to take a look at the original earthquake thread during the 5 or 6 hours *before* you showed up again last night. There was disagreement and debate, but much less of the extra crap you've saddled us with since.

The difference is striking. I'm not the only one who's noticed and tried to ask you to dial it down.
posted by mediareport at 8:13 AM on March 13, 2011 [5 favorites]



And I apologized for my error, furious, which is how adults talk to one another.


I'm sorry my childlike posts are not polite enough, could you point out which ones you feel contain false information? I recall being confused about to what magnitude quake the plant was tested to, and correcting that information along with other posters, for example.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:17 AM on March 13, 2011


An unaccredited individual who has posted 11,894 comments to MetaFilter is accusing a respected nuclear physicist of being a shill for the industry

I don't have much of an opinion on this callout, but using BP's number of comments as an attack strikes me as a dick move.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:18 AM on March 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


Man the original thread was going so well. The new one is just a clusterfuck. I appreciate furiousxgeorge's attempts to keep the discussion from turning into "rar nukes suck" and I can empathize with his frustration.
posted by Skorgu at 8:19 AM on March 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm not surprised that there's been so much discussion about the nuclear power plant situation; there are many mefites who do technical things in the rest of their lives, and find it natural to talk about how something is built, its technical specifications, etc. There are lots of mefites who are in the sciences. I think it also gives people a sense of control - here is knowledge I have, maybe we can fix this! - in a way that talking about villages wiped off the map by the tsunami doesn't.

I wish that people could tone down the "You're wrong, and you're an asshole" tone, though. In a discussion about a situation as desperate as the one in Japan, sarcasm, snark, and insults are unhelpful, to say the least.
posted by rtha at 8:19 AM on March 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


Yeah, sorry, but with this level of false fear mongering information being posted someone has to point out where it is wrong.

You need to work a little on your tone in these situations. You're one of the reasons the nuclear thread is problematic and I had to remove many of your comments. Please don't comment if you can't be civil, here and elsewhere.

And honestly people are going to talk about what they are going to talk about. The nuclear thread is better off in its own location and not as a huge derail to the disaster thread. I see it as a lot more like nerds being nerds and picking apart every science scenario than people just out to be assholish to each other. And yes BPs # of comments really has nothing to do with whether what he's saying now is or isn't credible.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:21 AM on March 13, 2011 [19 favorites]


Many? Seems like one or two that definitely deserved it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:25 AM on March 13, 2011


I think it was three, with 2-3 more we would have removed if other people hadn't already responded. And the goal should be zero. Being deliberately provocative in a thread about a natural disaster because that's just the way you roll is something you should try to work on a little. You're a great contributor here but you have this "hot under the collar" thing that doesn't work to your advantage and makes a lot of work for us.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:31 AM on March 13, 2011


Could you memail me which ones you are talking about? I'm just not seeing what was provocative about, "No, it's not blowing up." which was my general point.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:36 AM on March 13, 2011


Take the hint & give it a rest, FXG.
posted by Aquaman at 8:43 AM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


^ Thus, memail.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:55 AM on March 13, 2011


You don't think it's enough that you've already caused the mods a fuckton of work on this fine Sunday, now you want them to spend the rest of the afternoon identifying and debating your assholery in memail?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:57 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously, furiousxgeorge you're being really annoying, and many people are registering their distaste. Please listen and take some time to be quiet. I closed that nuclear thread specifically because of you.
posted by nevercalm at 9:01 AM on March 13, 2011


If a moderator has a moment--when you delete comments, does it "break" the auto updating in-thread (the "x new comments, show") thing until thread reload?

No problem if it does; just curious.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:04 AM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have no idea and it probably depends how we delete them [i.e. if we click the delete link and set it to open in a new tab, maybe not].
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:06 AM on March 13, 2011


That would be a little surprising, young rope-rider. The update is driven by the client (your browser). It's possible-but-unlikely that there might be something that affects the web service that provides the update data -- ex. not reporting back to the client that there are new updates after a deletion -- but it doesn't seem likely (pb is a good programmer).
posted by boo_radley at 10:11 AM on March 13, 2011


There is an intense sensation of powerlessness that wells up in the face of crises situations like this for a lot of people, including myself. Some people's responses turn into things like that derail and thread. I'm just glad the thread was made so the original Japan post could stop being filled with so much noise.

I've just kept myself from yelling at and writing a ten page argumentative essay to my brother, who also happens to employ me, and needs to me to take care of some email-related things for him when the blackouts start for him soon. He's understandably stressed, but he was just really aggravatingly condescending towards me. My response is to wholesale ignore my anger (something to which I am not naturally inclined at all) and wait until there's a semblance of normalcy in his life to resolve this newest problem between us.

Other people would probably have responded differently in all sorts of good and bad ways. That a contingent of MeFi needs to worry away at this rough spot in a public forum aggravates me, but I understand why it's happened at the moment.
posted by Mizu at 10:14 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks.

The reason I ask is because in the thread with the deleted comments I didn't get updates until I reloaded, which has only happened that one time and is, to my knowledge, the only time that I've had a thread open while comments were being deleted. Then again, I have no way of reliably knowing that--I'm sure an askme or two has had something deleted while I had it open.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:16 AM on March 13, 2011


>>But, with offense fully intended, my honest opinion is that this is despicable.

Whoa, slow down, calm down, and chill the fuck out, keyboard jockey. Posting an opinion on a conversation-based website about the risks and political motivations and whatever else surrounding an issue (nuclear power) that's clearly relevant in light of the earthquake and tsunami hardly qualifies as "despicable."

We're not exactly talking about a double murder here, or even ripping off a little old lady and taking her social security money. For someone who's asking people to "take a step back," you might consider doing that yourself.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:32 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


J. Wilson: "Whoa, slow down, calm down, and chill the fuck out, keyboard jockey. "

This was probably not necessary.
posted by boo_radley at 10:40 AM on March 13, 2011


This whole MeTa post just reeks of trying to insult without engaging. Oh hey, I have all these things I could respond to, but I won't because some members of this site are practically Hitler. Let me see if I can paint myself as high-minded, and the people I disagree with as the opposite of that, so I can avoid engaging on the substance while still making it abundantly clear that I'm right and they're wrong.

I mean, seriously, dude?
posted by J. Wilson at 10:40 AM on March 13, 2011


boo_radley, fair enough. Sorry. I got annoyed by users being called "despicable" and "repulsive" based on the fact that they're sharing their opinions and engaging in speculation.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:44 AM on March 13, 2011


I'll quote koeselitz from Friday's thread: "We're all worried about people. That can make us anxious or snippy. I generally don't hold anybody accountable for stuff they say because they're worried."

I guess it's easy for me to see how shii could get vexed (rightly or wrongly) about people treating the crises that he's currently a part of as an abstract political battle.
posted by boo_radley at 10:52 AM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's plausible that comment deletions would disrupt new comment notifications on the short term if e.g. the current count of undeleted old + new comments is less than the older count of old pre-deletion comments. If the thread is still fairly active that's likely to not be a case that lasts too long in any case, but I have no idea if it would confuse the javascript beyond just delaying updates until the new count passes the old one again.

I think pb is the only one of us who knows the innards well enough to actually answer definitively, and if he has any sense he's probably left the state at this point.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:59 AM on March 13, 2011


It doesn't help, boo radley, that one of the people shii attacked "with offense fully intended" is also in Japan and directly affected by the crisis.
posted by mediareport at 11:04 AM on March 13, 2011


does it "break" the auto updating in-thread (the "x new comments, show") thing until thread reload?

No, it shouldn't break anything. Here's the worst case scenario: 1.) you have a message that there's 1 new comment. 2.) An admin deletes that comment and no new comments are added. 3.) You click 'show' and that comment doesn't appear. 4.) What?! No new comment?

At this point you could just wait and if new comments are added you'll get "x new comments" message, but there won't be a stop everything sort of error.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:15 AM on March 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


one of the people shii attacked "with offense fully intended"

I think we should strongly consider that shii's attacks (and this thread) may well have been posted simply to stir up a little shit. When we see a ontentious threada posted by a user whose profiles consist almost entirely of a lengthy piece of classic copypasta, we should probably take it with a grain of salt before rising to the bait.*





*Yeah, yeah, block that metaphor, I know.
posted by dersins at 11:15 AM on March 13, 2011


ontentious threada

er, "contentious thread." Way to type, me.
posted by dersins at 11:18 AM on March 13, 2011


dersins: "I think we should strongly consider that shii's attacks (and this thread) may well have been posted simply to stir up a little shit."

You know, I disagree with shii about the [potential, partially-realized] value of a separate thread on the nuclear plants issue, and I don't see the point of assessing people's motivations and value by post count, but I think someone who is actually in Japan right now might be more stressed and worried than someone sitting half a world away. No, I don't think this question was posted to "simply stir up a little shit".

There's is some good discussion going on in that thread. I appreciate anyone who can join in with comprehensive arguments and supporting information. I hope we see more of that and less back and forth bickering.
posted by maudlin at 11:22 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"exploit the tsunami" . Really? That's your take on having a discussion about what might be a potential seriees of nuclear meltdowns? Discussing that potential threat is despicable? As tragic and horrific as this disaster is, that doesn't mean that the only appropriate discussion must exclusively focus on specific topics as approved by the wonderful and far more caring you.

Your metric for discussion is Redditt? Please. I've waded in that ignorant cess-pool of puerile idiocy, and if that dump is your ideal of a thoughtful forum, then I'm glad to say this community failing to measure up to your ideals is a feature, not a bug.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:23 AM on March 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Which person is the nuclear physicist?
posted by anniecat at 11:47 AM on March 13, 2011


"This new thread is giving a stronger voice to uninvolved and uninformed speculation than it is to the reality on the ground. "

I'm not sure why this is such a problem; we aren't publishing a newspaper or even in the quasi-news room of Fox.

phunniemee writes "The response should be 'what can we do to help, what can we do better next time,' not, 'ok, who fucked up this time.'"

There isn't anything the vast majority of users can do to help short of tossing some money to aid organizations and some of us probably can't afford even that. That leaves us with analyzing.
posted by Mitheral at 12:00 PM on March 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


It doesn't necessarily leave us with massive derails about electric cars and nuke plant safety, sheer buffonery and ax-grinding.
posted by ambient2 at 12:23 PM on March 13, 2011


Now I am hungry for some copypasta! Yum!
posted by onlyconnect at 12:42 PM on March 13, 2011


I... I... uh, so commenting about nuclear stuff in a completely different thread than the one specifically about the earthquake is now "despicable" because we should be focusing all our attention on the earthquake? What? Come on.
posted by Justinian at 12:49 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is a dick callout. Shii if you don't like the thread do as Jessamyn suggested: -
[this thread is fine. If you. flag, please also move on. Thank you. ]
posted by adamvasco at 12:54 PM on March 13, 2011


That sentence. Weird, punctuation.
posted by Justinian at 1:04 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay then, I'll post this here then:

Obviously nuclear plants are and should be held to a higher standard but this is an event that erased entire towns, it's not something that was foreseen by anyone, even the otherwise extremely well prepared Japanese.

Fine Arts nuclear expert weighing in.

Sorry, but this does feel apologist. I have no conception of what a 9.0 earthquake is like. But history does. Japan, specifically, knows that it's sitting in possibly the single most volatile seismic zone on the planet, so if you were betting man, betting on a 9.0 earthquake happening anywhere, you'd have to consider Japan. So, no, I don't buy the argument that this situation is inconceivable.

As for the tsunami threat, well, as has been much discussed, they tend to come with big deal earthquakes. Which gets us to how to ensure that our potentially apocalyptic "projects" survive them. One thought that comes instantly to mind is don't build them very close to the ocean. But what if that's the only way to do it? How about ensuring that the "project" is not just secure from collapse during (yes) a 9.0 earthquake, but also that it has on site all the resources it requires to continue to function (at least in a "harm reduction" mode) in a completely self-contained way for say, a period of weeks.

Because bad as the tsunami is (and looks), it's not unprecedented. I suspect there's a study on a table somewhere that depicts a scenario exactly like what we've seen. Major earthquake! Tsunami wave rises and wipes clean all "low lying" land along a more or less predictable flood plain.

If the response to this line of reasoning is that such precautions are not economically feasible, then my response is that nuclear power plants in known severe earthquake/tsunami zones are not feasible.

Hind sight's always 20-20, I agree, but I'm calling bullshit that no one saw something like this coming. I've been seeing it my nightmares since I was a kid.
posted by philip-random 9 minutes ago [+]
posted by philip-random at 1:06 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


All I know is that I am a bit disappointed that it took until this afternoon EDT for someone to bring some basic nuclear science I was taught in high school into the discussion well after the fear mongering started which could have killed it midflight. Didn't have to be Miko, and seeing some citations of Wikipedia seemed to be, in this frenzied situation, a little inadequate.

Of course, I am being optimistic about anything ending any form of fear play.

MeFi has been pretty good with coverage otherwise. Carry on.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 1:08 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just curious: is there anyone that, after these quite epic discussions/arguments, has changed their opinion on nuclear power from what it was before they started reading?
posted by floam at 1:11 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


floam, Yes.
posted by zarq at 1:13 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not seeing any fear mongering in that thread, just a lot of accusations of fearmongering.
posted by empath at 1:18 PM on March 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


If y'all haven't seen stringbean's comment in the original Earthquake thread, it's worth a look.
posted by zarq at 1:21 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's lots of things in that that are pretty irrelevant to what's happening going on right now. Anti-nuclear posturing is one of them, though not a major part of the thread. The stuff about electric cars? WTF.
posted by polyhedron at 1:24 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok, I shouldn't click post anywhere today. Where's my english?
posted by polyhedron at 1:25 PM on March 13, 2011


has jimmy carter been consulted?
posted by clavdivs at 1:31 PM on March 13, 2011


So I am genuinely curious-- I am noticing a really intense "Nuclear power is extremely safe and people who question that are fear-mongerers/anti-scientific/bad people" strain going on here from a number of people. It seems way stronger than I would expect (and feels really off-putting to me because it feels so out-of-proportion and harsh, compared to a compassionate, respectful "I know you're scared, but let me explain why I'm so confident about X and Y")-- is there some sort of background here that puts this sentiment in a broader context so it makes more sense?

(I mean, I get the argument in this particular case, "there is a huge definite disaster that people are being distracted from, and people are worried about this way out of proportion and that's inappropriate"-- but I get a strong sense that it's more than that, that there are deeper historical currents going on here.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 1:33 PM on March 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


floam, no.
posted by birdherder at 1:40 PM on March 13, 2011


I am noticing a really intense "Nuclear power is extremely safe and people who question that are fear-mongerers/anti-scientific/bad people" strain going on here from a number of people.

I'm definitely getting that too. The thread is next to useless to anyone who wants some honest, intelligent information about what is actually happening, and what could potentially happen. Which is unusual for Metafilter. My "Nuclear" position is that I'm an Environmental Scientist, who is deeply concerned about climate change, and who has come around to the position in the last few years (thanks to the work and advocacy of one of my colleagues) that nuclear power might be our last, best option for combating it. The events in Japan have definitely put a dent in my confidence on that issue. I'm really sitting on the fence on this issue, but I don't buy the opinion that tragedies are no time to discuss these things - if not now, then when else? In any case, as I said, despite the fact that I was excited by the conversation I hoped to encounter when I saw that thread posted, I found it next to useless.

Between the "Fuck off, nuclear is safe as houses!" brigade while people were being handed out iodine pills, and the extensive period where there was general confusion about the difference between an explosion, a nuclear explosion, and a supercritical nuclear weapon explosion, that resulted in people saying that an explosion will never happen about 12 hours after I watched the roof being blown off on TV... sorry, bad day for Metafilter. I'm going to go back to the post and see if the later half improved at all. Definitely a situation where advocates and enthusiasts should have shut up and waited for the experts.
posted by Jimbob at 1:53 PM on March 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


I hope I'm not part of the "nuclear is safe as houses!" brigade. My position has always been simply that people are very bad about risk assessment when it comes to nuclear -vs- coal.
posted by Justinian at 1:58 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not anti nuclear power at all. However, like most if not all people I understand that there are risks with it, and I don't see the problem with discussing what is going on with the reactors affected by the earthquake/tsunami.

I mean, some of us nonscientists just want to know what is going on. And I still don't feel like I know what is going on.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:03 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am noticing a really intense "Nuclear power is extremely safe and people who question that are fear-mongerers/anti-scientific/bad people" strain going on here from a number of people.

What's interesting is that the derail, to the extent discussing it was a derail, started with MeFi's expert about everything, Malor, making a bunch of strong, rah-rah nukes statements in the original thread. Funny how shii isn't equally offended by Malor trying to exploit the tsunami as a pro-nuke piece, eh?
posted by rodgerd at 2:04 PM on March 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


EmilyClimbs, in my case -- I've been trying to keep a firm lid on it and have been mostly but not entirely succeeding -- it comes from that place where you see people freaking out based on misinformation, poor understanding, and (in some cases) flat out lies. (Not lies from MeFites. Lies from elsewhere.) It touches the same emotional reaction in me as the "vaccines cause autism" arguments do.

Nuclear power IS extraordinarily safe, compared to other methods of generating power. ALL power generation is dangerous, because by necessity you're dealing with high-energy situations that can become harmful and uncontrolled if mismanaged. Some are more dangerous than others; I don't know of any large-scale solar or wind disasters. But the total number of cancer deaths from Chernobyl, a disaster that was borne out of idiocy, mismanagement, and human fuckup on a truly grand scale -- all those deaths, together, total about 4,000 people. That's a lot of people. But according to the Clean Air Task Force, the annual number of US deaths from coal pollution is about 13,000.

The set-jaw defensiveness comes from a place where we've seen the likelihood of nuclear power already tremendously damaged in the US from public-relations campaigns that in my understanding are ill-informed. I'm frightened that if this puts the final nail in the coffin for widescale nuclear power in the US, it will result in hundreds of thousands of needless deaths.

IANANE. My father is a nuclear radiopharmacologist who works with many of the same elements and processes as take place in a nuclear reactor, albeit at an infinitely smaller scale. I am a somewhat-well-informed layman, and my statements and opinions shouldn't be taken as anything else. And I know that shrillness and insults are actively unhelpful, and that's why I've tried really, really hard not to contribute to them, with. . . well, with some success. But that's my understanding of where the anger and strong feelings come from, from someone who has that anger and those strong feelings to a pretty big degree.
posted by KathrynT at 2:10 PM on March 13, 2011 [29 favorites]


I am noticing a really intense "Nuclear power is extremely safe and people who question that are fear-mongerers/anti-scientific/bad people" strain going on here from a number of people. It seems way stronger than I would expect...

I stepped out of the two threads a while ago because I saw that happening. Several people were putting forth simple questions wondering about possible consequences, and they were being shouted down by being labeled as paranoid or fear-mongering.

... is there some sort of background here that puts this sentiment in a broader context so it makes more sense?

I noticed several of the the nuclear is safe people were engineers in a separate field (usually software engineering). I think it's probably related to this. There's a strong techno-utopian aspect in engineering that sees technology as a viable solution to all of societies problems. This actually isn't just limited to engineering, but US culture in general. In addition, questioning the safety of nuclear is probably interpreted as an attack on engineering in general. There's a strong anti-science movement growing in the US, and those involved with science are probably fairly sensitive to this.

That's the cultural aspect.

One of the other criticisms is that people suspicious of nuclear power are bad at risk-assessment. I'd just like to point out that Malor's initial comment that there was no possible risk of danger to the public has > 100 favorites. If anything, the errors in risk calculation are being made by the pro-nuclear side more than the cautious side.

Another example of wrong risk assessment: fshgirl claimed that There is a lot of panic in this thread about a very remote, very distant threat., then later claims You all have a 50% chance of being right, OK? Can we keep the hyperbole down?. If I understand correctly, she's assuming that a statistical event with binary outcomes has equal chance of either event occurring. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding.

I don't mean to attack the people above, just to show that risk assessment errors are made by both sides. I consider Malor one of the most knowledgeable experts on this site on economic matters, and I always look forward to his comments in economic threads. That hasn't changed, any future comments by him in the realm of economics will be greatly appreciated for their informative and useful contribution.
posted by formless at 2:21 PM on March 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


I am noticing a really intense "Nuclear power is extremely safe and people who question that are fear-mongerers/anti-scientific/bad people" strain going on here from a number of people.

One person's opinion: That wasn't my peception. I noticed people addressing specific points and mistaken perceptions.

I did see a comment saying safety is off the table; Mr. Bio Diesel relating that a Nissan Leaf is on the way; someone calling for civility after asking someone else if they were high and if so, could they have some of the shit they were smoking; etc.
posted by ambient2 at 2:23 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


> has jimmy carter been consulted?

Was just thinking about jimmy re. credentials and credentialism, and recalling that even truthful ole jimmy (and beyond-ridiculously-truthful-for-a-politician jimmy) started out his presidential campaign saying he was a nuclear physicist (instead of a navy-trained nuclear engineer for submarines, which is what he is) and got called on it and had to backpeddle. Probably all of us are tempted to say (not to mention believe) that we're more competent in more areas than we really are. Otherwise where would all that 12-gauge-tommy-gun opinionation be coming from?
posted by jfuller at 2:32 PM on March 13, 2011


Pretty much what Jimbob said. My field is natural resource management though.

I have been learning a lot from both threads; the obnoxiousness of some responses to questions was out of proportion (most really seemed requests for information, not OMGfearmongering! or OMGanti-nuclearposturing!), and as a result I didn't bother to post; guessing I'm not the only one.

I appreciated the responses that took the time to teach and offer thanks for those.
posted by faineant at 2:43 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been a nuclear power advocate for years, but this episode has made me question my faith. I guess what's bothered me the most is how helpless everybody in this sounds. It totally reminds me of the oil spill last summer : lots of Knowledgeable Experts talking about all the things they're going to try that should work, and yet you can hear the cold, clammy uncertainty in their voices. The whole "big awful world-destroying thing going on that nobody knows how to fix" thing really upsets me.

I mean, all last summer with the oil spill, I was all like, "Yeah, this is what happens, fuck the greedy oil companies. We should totally be going with nuclear : no CO2, plentiful fuel, and new new reactors are really safe!" Now, I'm all like, "Yeah, this is what happens ... ???"
posted by Afroblanco at 2:44 PM on March 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've been watching the nuclear power discussion in the two MeFi threads, and now this thread, with some interest. I'm a little surprised that people are picking up on a hostile pro-nuclear vibe from some folks, but not commenting on the similarly hostile vibe coming from at least a couple of the opponents. To my eye, there was plenty of grar coming from both sides, and there are five or six people that could stand to take it down a notch. On the other hand, there are a few stellar participants who have kept the discussion on the rails notwithstanding the mud being slung around them. In particular, thanks go to eriko for a bunch of really interesting, informative comments.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:51 PM on March 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Probably all of us are tempted to say (not to mention believe) that we're more competent in more areas than we really are

Humans are experts in trying to predict the future; emphasis on "trying". So what some here and on that other thread really are bickering about is the question of what predictions are the better ones.
In the face of an in many ways unprecedented disaster with (at this point) an insecure outcome, it seems that "facts" in many ways don't really do the trick of solving that question. Neither do accusations of "fear mongering" and whatnot. The only thing we really should do as a community is trying to identify clear cases of misinformation.

I'm sure that whatever outcome this crisis has, it will change the way humans view safety issues of nuclear power. This will naturally include the professionals and experts. But its too early to get all activist and political about it. (And in the face of the tragedy of this event it is tasteless to gamble oneself into a "better prediction" position on an online forum just for the kicks).
posted by Namlit at 2:52 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm with you, Afroblanco. I think nuclear energy is probably our best hope against global warming, and yet. I trust Japan's safety regulation and crisis management further than I'd trust the US's, and though I tend to think that there won't be much health or environmental effect from the Fukushima incident, when I think of the response to the oil spill or Katrina -- I do not want that kind of response applied to anything involving radioactive anything.
posted by Jeanne at 2:53 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the problem is that the new reactors really ARE safe, and that we really DO understand nuclear engineering better now -- it's just that so many of the extant nuclear plants were built a long time ago, when we didn't know these things. Like the Fukushima reactor -- it was built in the early 70s, right? You see, that's scary to me. I've heard that there are still a bunch of Chernobyl-style reactors just cranking away in crumbling former-Soviet republics. How long until one of them goes kablooey?
posted by Afroblanco at 3:07 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've tried to avoid any sort of pro or anti nuclear stance, instead opting to believe the situation is unpredictable and that we should focus on factual accounts and not potentialities (or worse, non-potentialities).

I am totally with KathrynT, however, in that there is way more fear mongering against nuclear than there are people lying and cheating to put nuclear power in my backyard. Which wouldn't really upset me all that much.
posted by polyhedron at 3:07 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean, all last summer with the oil spill, I was all like, "Yeah, this is what happens, fuck the greedy oil companies. We should totally be going with nuclear : no CO2, plentiful fuel, and new new reactors are really safe!" Now, I'm all like, "Yeah, this is what happens ... ???"

I think the problem is that the new reactors really ARE safe, and that we really DO understand nuclear engineering better now -- it's just that so many of the extant nuclear plants were built a long time ago, when we didn't know these things.

My layman's impression is that nuclear reactors are safer than they used to be. Perhaps in the future they'll be safer still. That doesn't mean we have to treat them as something to be avoided entirely. But obviously we need to pay attention to older technologies that we've improved upon over time, and phase them out where necessary.

It's reasonable to keep in mind that 'safety' shouldn't be treated as an absolute when we're talking about energy generation. They all have tradeoffs, and the ones that are most commonly used by us can impact the environment negatively to varying degrees, especially if an accident happens. Plus, our awareness of this and our efforts to keep it to a minimum are relatively new developments which haven't been embraced by everyone yet.
posted by zarq at 3:12 PM on March 13, 2011


I am a particle physicist, and I have worked on nuclear physics projects. I am by no means an expert on nuclear reactors, but I probably know more about the issues involved than most.

Reading that thread just disgusted me. I didn't join in, because anything I said would have just been speculation and wouldn't have helped anything. But the amount of people making authoritative-sounding statements about an issue they know nothing about really worried me. There is so much misinformation about nuclear power among otherwise smart people that it's always a dangerous topic, but that thread is the worst I've ever seen.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but please, if you're not a nuclear engineer, don't tell us exactly what is and isn't a possible outcome of this situation.
posted by auto-correct at 3:17 PM on March 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


But the amount of people making authoritative-sounding statements about an issue they know nothing about really worried me.

I'm afraid this is the Metafilter condition, if not the human condition. It's also why I stay right out of threads involving topics related to my work or other interests, beyond silly cultural stuff.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:29 PM on March 13, 2011


Floam: definitely not

I think it would be useful (~off-topic but likely playing into the anti-nuke-front) to post the following iff (my two fs there are not an accident) you assume that using nuclear material is relatively safe and are only concerned with what to do with 'waste'/spent nuclear feul (including some of this stuff in Japan).

From nearly a year ago: "Planned Nuclear Reactors Will Destroy Atomic Waste" (Slashdot)
"A group of French scientists are developing a nuclear reactor that burns up actinides — highly radioactive uranium isotopes. They estimate that 'the volume of high-level nuclear waste produced by all of France’s 58 reactors over the past 40 years could fit in one Olympic-size swimming pool.' And they're not the only ones trying to eliminate atomic waste: Researchers at the University of Texas in Austin are working on a fusion-fission reactor. The reactor destroys waste by firing streams of neutrons at it, reducing atomic waste by up to 99 percent!"
Does nuclear power or any engineering innovation solve some of our prevelant social problems: no, and in fact over the past year I have developed an immense appreciation for those studying and practicing in the social sciences because they have a lot of work on their hands as we attempt to get off of limited nonrenewable resources as a way of living.

Formless brings up some good points. I think we have a few camps: those who have nothing but the imagery of atom bombs and stories from Chernobyl and Three Mile Island to keep them firmly in the anti-nuke position, those who wonder what the heck to do with the waste other than lock it all up in a certain Yucca mountain, and those, like me, who had a real nice engineer (or some connection to the nuclear industry) walk into their chemistry class one day and lay out the awesome science of it all in as clear as possible terms, from how those massive cooling towers just have water, to what sort of reactions go on to make the steam to turn the turbine.

Carry on, but remember what makes human nature the awesome thing that it is: if there's a problem, you will have a bunch of people available to attempt to solve it and everyone will adapt as best as possible to what cannot be dealt with directly.

Good luck!
posted by JoeXIII007 at 3:30 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but please, if you're not a nuclear engineer, don't tell us exactly what is and isn't a possible outcome of this situation.

Nicely put, auto-correct. Count me among those who would've been virulently anti-nuclear anything twenty-five years ago but who has now come to question that extreme position. The problem I continue to have with nuclear power generation is not that it is or isn't comparatively safe, it's that the consequences of a major failure (human error, act of God, hostile attack) are just so huge.

"oops," just can't be in an option in this scenario. We need to get it right and predictably so. And as soon as I hear someone telling me not to worry, I'm reminded of how I felt after 911 when George W Bush told us all to go shopping. ie: more worried.
posted by philip-random at 3:31 PM on March 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I noticed several of the the nuclear is safe people were engineers in a separate field (usually software engineering). I think it's probably related to this.

I am a nuclear engineer. (offsite safety testing) BWRs are not my area of expertise, and I don't know any more about the state of the reactor than what the tepco press releases say, but I know enough to interpret the jargon.

I have been trying not to speculate during this thread, but it's hard not to call out people who do, especially when they are accusing your industry of blatant negligence.
posted by Popular Ethics at 3:33 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


it comes from that place where you see people freaking out based on misinformation, poor understanding, and (in some cases) flat out lies

Some of us aren't freaking out, but are suggesting the risks may not be worth the benefits, and we'd like to see even a *fraction* of the money the US government has poured into nuclear power over the last 50 years be similarly spent on developing solar and wind technologies. The knee-jerkiness on both sides is unfortunate, but luckily we're seeing enough thoughtful commentary from some folks on the pro-nuke side to balance out the sneering condescension we're seeing from others.

There's also the waste issue, by the way, which should probably be saved for another day but is a primary objection many folks have to increasing humanity's reliance on nuclear power generation over other alternatives. Me, I'm a conservation acolyte myself; I'm convinced the amount of energy we could save if we got serious about conservation is much larger than most folks think. Not enough in itself, of course, but a major piece of the puzzle that lots of pro-nuke folks, in my experience, tend to completely ignore.
posted by mediareport at 3:36 PM on March 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


The reason money was thrown at nuclear and not solar and wind technologies is that nuclear actually worked 60 years ago.
posted by polyhedron at 3:44 PM on March 13, 2011


Clearly mankind needs to abandon electricity
posted by tehloki at 3:45 PM on March 13, 2011


Mediareport, I totally agree that many (most) (the vast majority of) people aren't freaking out. I'm not leveling accusations, I'm trying to explain why it's easy, though inappropriate and unhelpful, to become defensive.

I'm unabashedly pro-nuke, I'll state it right up front and center. I believe my position to be well-informed and evidence-based. But nuclear power is never going to be the panacea to the US's energy problems, or the Earth's, by itself; it's no more sustainable than fossil fuels are, if you look over a big enough time frame. Nuclear power should be considered an alternative to coal and oil IMHO, not an alternative to solar, wind, and conservation.

But those attitudes haven't come up so much in the Fukushima reactor thread, because there's a very specific crisis being discussed. And that crisis has a lot of information being perpetuated about it in the general information sphere; some of it is good, some of it is obviously bad, and a lot of it is just straight up unverifiable. I don't think someone has to be a nuclear engineer in order to be able to point out when information is just simply incorrect, like if someone's confusing milliSieverts with microSieverts or ambiguating between a hydrogen explosion and a nuclear explosion. I don't think a lot of that kind of thing went on within the thread, but it has definitely happened the web over.
posted by KathrynT at 3:47 PM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mediareport and tehloki on energy conservation: yep. We can live consuming a lot less energy and remain just as free in the land of freedom, if not more free than ever before.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 3:48 PM on March 13, 2011


Some of us aren't freaking out, but are suggesting the risks may not be worth the benefits, and we'd like to see even a *fraction* of the money the US government has poured into nuclear power over the last 50 years be similarly spent on developing solar and wind technologies

Oh man, metatalk is not the place to fight this, but i really wish people would not make unsupported assertions when arguing their case. You might be right (though the current feed-in-tariff fad is pumping billions into solar and wind companies), but I won't take your word for it.
posted by Popular Ethics at 3:50 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am totally with KathrynT, however, in that there is way more fear mongering against nuclear than there are people lying and cheating to put nuclear power in my backyard.

Karen Silkwood's family might disagree with you.
posted by rodgerd at 3:59 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I would like to give a shout out to furiousxgeorge. That thread at one point became him against the world, which is never a good situation. But a lot of people gave him a lot of shit for doing nothing more than asking people to back up their assertions re:nuclear power. That thread would have gone a lot smoother without him there, but there would certainly have been a lot more misinformation being passed around too. So for that I give him much props.
posted by auto-correct at 4:01 PM on March 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Thanks, I really appreciate folks sharing their perspectives and where they're coming from.

I'm a little surprised that people are picking up on a hostile pro-nuclear vibe from some folks, but not commenting on the similarly hostile vibe coming from at least a couple of the opponents.

Yeah, I noticed some of that too, but didn't ask about it because it made more sense to me-- some mix of "Oh my goodness I am really worried about a major disaster that might happen any minute now" plus "I tend to distrust corporate interests when it comes to safety issues and I don't necessarily trust scientists if they're too closely linked to such interests." Whereas the intensity of the pro-nuclear crowd was harder for me to understand, since there's no "crap, bad things SOON, I am scared" fear/emotion to drive it.

The set-jaw defensiveness comes from a place where we've seen the likelihood of nuclear power already tremendously damaged in the US from public-relations campaigns that in my understanding are ill-informed.

Maybe this is just due to my age (late 20s) but are we talking about PR campaigns recently or years ago? Are there any neutral sources or information about the history of debates and decisions about nuclear power in the US, and how people got to be so polarized about this, and the role of the fossil fuel interests, and the role of nuclear power interests? (Or combinations of sources from multiple perspectives that combined offer a balanced view?)

As for me, I guess I'm mostly uninformed and undecided about nuclear power in general. I totally get the arguments about how fossil fuels cause lots of problems on a regular basis, and that when you balance it out, the risk of occasional nuclear incidents might be worth taking. (And while my gut is "But let's just have all solar and wind power then!" I know that's probably naive.) I am open to understanding why this situation is nothing worth freaking out about. I want to understand what's really going on here. And all things being equal I am inclined to trust the "we've got science on our side" folks. But the defensiveness and the polarization undermines the credibility of people I'd otherwise be strongly inclined to trust, and definitive statements like "there's essentially zero danger to the public here; unless a reactor is just about on top of the epicenter of a truly massive earthquake, there's no possible way it could take enough damage to leak anything... there will be no civilian injuries or deaths" read to me like over-confidence that is the opposite of comforting and informative. (I'm a grown-up; I can deal with "There is a tiny chance of X worst-case scenario, which could cause these bad consequences. But it probably won't happen, and even if it does, think about it in the context of the day-to-day injuries/deaths from all of these other sources" without that making me anti-nuclear power. But it feels to me like some folks are acting like if they admit there are any risks at all to nuclear power, it will turn everyone off forever, and then they lose their long-term battle to have more nuclear power plants, and that's more important than helping some uninformed people who are scared right now to understand realistically what could happen here.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 4:05 PM on March 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Also, I would like to give a shout out to furiousxgeorge. That thread at one point became him against the world, which is never a good situation. But a lot of people gave him a lot of shit for doing nothing more than asking people to back up their assertions re:nuclear power.

Quite frankly, this is bullshit. He made a bunch of unsupported assertions himself, based on 0 information or expertise. He's an obnoxious blowhard.
posted by empath at 4:07 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


We can live consuming a lot less energy and remain just as free in the land of freedom, if not more free than ever before.

Yeah, and the huge centralized power suppliers would make a lot less money. Funny, that.
posted by mediareport at 4:14 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]




Oh noes, someone on Metafilter is not paying attention to the right things! Now we'll never save those thousands of people we could have saved if only we hadn't gotten derailed by nuclear power and funny kitten videos and whatever the fuck else has come since the earthquake over this dark blue transom. How dare we change the subject! People are dying! And not to mention you sissy non-engineers don't know shit about nuclear power so just stop talking about it because here on Metafilter you have to have an advanced degree in a subject (or be able to quote wikipedia to fake having an advanced degree in a subject) in order to have the right to discuss it.

Morality police callin' down the whaaaaambulance. He who dies with the most righteous outrage wins! Shii is in the lead. Followed by a bunch of people whose urgent need to set us right on our mistaken views of the dangers of nuclear power has crossed the line into dismissiveness, lecturing, and telling all the ladies to shush up and listen to the experts.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:15 PM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe this is just due to my age (late 20s) but are we talking about PR campaigns recently or years ago? Are there any neutral sources or information about the history of debates and decisions about nuclear power in the US, and how people got to be so polarized about this, and the role of the fossil fuel interests, and the role of nuclear power interests? (Or combinations of sources from multiple perspectives that combined offer a balanced view?)

I'm nursing a baby while typing so sourcing specific articles will have to wait. (yay growth spurts, he eats every 90 minutes round the clock!)

back in the 60s there was a lot of anxiety about nuclear power, partly due to identification of nuclear power with nuclear weapons, partly due to a reprehensible lack of transparency from corporate interests promoting nuclear power. anti-nuke sentiment got folded into generalized environmental stuff, to the point where it was all kind of a package deal. in addition there were a lot of genuine problems, like a train that was carrying nuclear waste bound for containment that happened to go through populated areas, and what if there was an accident on that train? etc.

it is good that these concerns were raised. it is ALWAYS good when concerns are raised. Strong citizen advocacy demonstrably leads to increased safety. but the line taken has been "no nuke power" not "safe nuke power." (check greenpeace.org's statements for more of what i mean.)
posted by KathrynT at 4:22 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


god that was incoherent. more coherency later. apologies.
posted by KathrynT at 4:24 PM on March 13, 2011


You might be right (though the current feed-in-tariff fad is pumping billions into solar and wind companies), but I won't take your word for it.

You don't have to. Of course, the folks who bother to attempt to quantify all the taxpayer money that has gone into the nuclear power industry over the years tend to be the folks most skeptical of nuclear power, so I'm not sure I can avoid "that's a biased source!" accusations, ever, on this question. But here goes. And I assume, since it's been hashed out in the original earthquake thread, that you're aware that the US government protects the industry from claims over $12.6 billion in the event of a catastrophic accident, since no private insurance company will touch a policy like that with a 10-foot pole.

I'm curious what you think of the first link.
posted by mediareport at 4:26 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I for one am all for uninformed nuclear fearmongering - it makes my job sound much more exciting than it actually is.

Also this thread needs some moderator jokes.
posted by Dr Dracator at 4:27 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


But, with offense fully intended, my honest opinion is that this is despicable. You are fearmongerers.

None of the comments you've copied and pasted strike me as fear-mongering at all.

Let's review, shall we:

#1 Don't Panic.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:10 AM on March 13 [+] [!]

#1 is neither speculative nor fear-mongering; it's just three probably well-meaning syllables.

#2 Don't tell me what not to do.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:11 AM on March 13 [36 favorites +] [!]

#2 is neither speculative nor fear-mongering; it's just an honest attempt to tell someone (the poster of #1) that he cannot dictate how people are supposed to feel in a crisis.

#3 ... is the Japanese news media going to provide the best source for what's going on

Probably not.

if governmental officials begin to downplay certain realities or possibilities (for fear, understandably perhaps, of spreading panic) might we expect the Japanese news media to help keep the news relatively spin-free?

Probably not.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:27 AM on March 13 [2 favorites +] [!]

#3 were short answers to some general questions I had about the Japanese news media, and while they both may be speculative they don't seem especially fear-mongering at all.

#4 I don't think you understand how huge the Chernobyl exclusion zone is. A nuke going off isn't the problem, and almost everyone knows it. The problem is the irridation of people, homes, and communities... some of them a way far away from the plant itself.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:06 AM on March 13 [+] [!]

#4 is partially speculative but also based in reality, especially if you take away the Chernobyl reference; what are people supposed to say about the prospect of nuclear meltdown? Again I do NOT see this comment as fear-mongering but I agree it's debatable in this case.

#5 Why I am not worried about Japan's Nuclear Reactors.

Oehmen is, indeed, worried, because he is a proponent of nuclear power, and an obvious catastrophe like this is problematic for nuclear engineers who claim, despite all evidence to the contrary, that nuclear power generation is impervious to natural disasters.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:03 AM on March 13 [+] [!]

#5 is speculative, but it's not fear-mongering.

The most polite word I can give to these comments is speculation.

Well I'm not sure why you have your panties up in a bunch about this; what exactly are people supposed to say about the by now widely reported meltdowns of nuclear plants?

Keep in mind that some of what were dismissed last night (mefi time) as the "worst-case" scenarios appear actually now to be occurring.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 4:33 PM on March 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


There seem to be two extremes in this debate with "OMG meltdown! Nukes are bad!" on one hand, and "Nothing to see here, move along" on the other, with the actual truth obviously somewhere in between. The posturing behooves no one one either side.

That said, one thing I absolutely am not buying into is the "no one could have foreseen" trope.

Bullshit.

We had this with Katrina -- politicians appearing on TV to say that no one could have forseen a storm of that magnitude, when in fact people had been foreseeing exactly such a thing for many, many years, and getting ignored.

The earthquake in Japan was not the strongest earthquake ever felt in modern, recorded history -- we know from observation how bad earthquakes can plausibly get. Civil engineers have this data. Japan is an area prone to strong earthquakes. Tsunamis are known to accompany earthquakes in coastal areas, and a lot of faults lie along coastal areas because subduction zones tend to determine coastal areas. We have institutional knowledge of these phenomena. This is not some kind of unknowable hand of god that smote from out of the blue. Foreseeing the possible magnitude of earthquake disasters, and engineering beyond that magnitude by a comfortable margin should have been naturally incumbent upon the designers of those power plants. Someone somewhere most certainly foresaw this, and they missed.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:34 PM on March 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Foreseeing the possible magnitude of earthquake disasters, and engineering beyond that magnitude by a comfortable margin should have been naturally incumbent upon the designers of those power plants.

I hear you. But what if that's impossible, as it may have been 40 years ago? Do you tell the people in the cities "sorry about the rolling blackouts, but we can't figure out how to build a power plant that will withstand a 1,000 year earthquake, just a 100 year one, so. . . wear a sweater!"

Sometimes the options aren't "do it this way, or do it better." Sometimes the options are "do it this way, or don't do it at all." And not doing it at all has real costs as well.
posted by KathrynT at 4:41 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not really objecting to that point, KathrynT -- I'm disappointed in people trotting out the idea that nobody knew that this sort of disaster was possible.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:44 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's worth reminding again that the containment structure survived the earthquake. The tsunami exceeded their design specifications and it's safe to assume that every reactor that has similar vulnerabilities is going to be retrofitted.
posted by polyhedron at 4:44 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I also believe that elements of Japanese society have expressed concern about a seismic-related nuclear catastrophe for a while before this event; the Katrina parallel is valid. I haven't been able to locate the comment where I read about that, however. A specific Japanese word was used.
posted by polyhedron at 4:48 PM on March 13, 2011


Can I just say that eriko is frickin' awesome?
posted by werkzeuger at 4:53 PM on March 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


polyhedron--see this comment; the word is genpatsu shinsai
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 4:53 PM on March 13, 2011


"I hear you. But what if that's impossible, as it may have been 40 years ago? "

The issue is that it's not 40 years ago anymore. The technology, knowledge, capacity, and--as far as I know--money is there to decommission unsafe power plants and replace them with new sources of power, nuclear or otherwise. Likewise, maintaining power plants is completely doable.

That's what didn't get done, and the disregard for safety demonstrated by that negligence is genuinely frightening to many people because it's happening now--not 40 years ago.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:04 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Foreseeing the possible magnitude of earthquake disasters, and engineering beyond that magnitude by a comfortable margin should have been naturally incumbent upon the designers of those power plants. Someone somewhere most certainly foresaw this, and they missed.

We'll know for sure where the deficiencies were after this has all settled down and someone writes a thorough review. But I would argue that the reactor has (so far) performed exactly as designed, given the circumstances. The reactor operator has three jobs:

1) Control:
Despite the earthquake, the reactors were shut down successfully, and have been kept sub-critical, thus they have succeeded in maintaining control of the reaction. Good design.

2) Cool:
Some of their options to cool the reactor were compromised by the disaster. As a result, they will likely have to write off two of the reactors. But they still have options (such as seawater injection), and are working through them. It's too early to say whether they will be successful, but the fact that they have options means that the designers prepared for this.

3) Contain:
As far as I've heard, the reactor and containment vessels are completely intact, despite a massive earthquake, flood, and hydrogen explosion. I'd say that was a successful design too. The fact that they've had to vent steam to the atmosphere to maintain integrity is a drawback of this particular type of reactor. Even so, lets wait to hear how severe the radiation exposures will be before we condemn their performance.

Typically designers are asked by their regulator to keep the risk of significant public exposure to radiation (LERF) at a low "probable frequency", say, 1 probable incident in 10,000 years (if the utility runs dozens of reactors, the probable event frequency will be higher. In order to calculate that, engineers make some informed assumptions, like say, the risk of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake (very rare, but not unforeseeable, as you say), the probable effect that might have on safety systems, and what the consequences of each effect would be. If the reactors avoid a significant release of radioactivity, despite this rare circumstance, they'll have met their regulatory duty.

Note that this is a higher standard than the government asks of any other industry (including the aerospace, petrochemical, mining, all of them). How many people died in that refinery explosion after the earthquake? Equivalencies aside, the industry appears to be meeting your demands, so why the outrage? (I'm prepared to take it all back if the situation turns upside down in the coming days.)

On preview, what polyhedron said.
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:12 PM on March 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Are there any neutral sources or information about the history of debates and decisions about nuclear power in the US, and how people got to be so polarized about this, and the role of the fossil fuel interests, and the role of nuclear power interests?

I really don't think you'll find neutral sources on this topic. I mean, I hate to pour gasoline on the fire, but there is an elephant in this room.. There wouldn't be any nuclear power industry at all if it wasn't for nuclear weapons development. The economics of nuclear based electricity generation has always been dubious at best. Regardless of the political debates you hear about today, the real reason why there haven't been new nuclear developments in North America in the last 20 years is that there hasn't been any subsidy from weapons development. Similarly, that's why there has been nuclear energy development in Pakistan, India, Iran, and etc.

Of course the economic case may be a lot better with current technology. In terms of the green energy debate, I'm undecided about the issue of nuclear power.
posted by Chuckles at 5:14 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Popular Ethics, where I used the word "disaster," I specifically meant the earthquake and tsunami. I'm exceedingly grateful that the containment vessels do appear to have been well-engineered, and that we're not discussing a full-on nuclear disaster, here.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:22 PM on March 13, 2011


If the true costs of coal were calculated, the environmental cost, then nuclear might be more competitive in a higher priced energy market where subsidies - insurance, environment, defense, whatever- were transparent.

I mean, if we are going to unpack energy generation subsidies let's do it across the board.
posted by Rumple at 5:24 PM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


mediareport: I'm curious what you think of the first link.

I skimmed it, and will look through it more closely soon. The part that caught my eye was the crediting of "loan guarantees" and "limitations on liabilities" as federal subsidies. In all likelihood, not a single federal dollar will have to be spent to fund these policies. That seems like a fantastic deal to me.

On the other hand, my government has comitted to subsidizing anywhere from 2x to 8x the market value of any electricity generated by solar and wind and biogass. The subsidies are so intense that I could conceivably install an array of solar cells in my basement, flood them with electric lighting, and sell the resulting power for more than the cost to power the bulbs, even with all the inefficiencies. I'm not saying I completely disagree with the policy, but it certainly represents a sizeable dollar-value investment into renewable power.
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:27 PM on March 13, 2011


bah, forgot to close the /b tag, sorry. Also sorry for continuing the nuclear debate on the grey. I'm very easily baited.
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:28 PM on March 13, 2011


install an array of solar cells in my basement, flood them with electric lighting, and sell the resulting power for more than the cost to power the bulbs

*rubs hands together*
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:29 PM on March 13, 2011


mediareport, I'm not buying the 575 M$/year/reactor construction loan subsidies mentioned in your globalsubsidies link. Such a reactor (EPR type) costs about 6 billion dollars, and 575M$ seems the right order of magnitude to secure the entire loan, not something a cost paid every year of the reactor's 40 year lifetime.
posted by Tobu at 5:49 PM on March 13, 2011


*not a cost paid every year*, gah
posted by Tobu at 5:51 PM on March 13, 2011


Chuckles writes "The economics of nuclear based electricity generation has always been dubious at best. Regardless of the political debates you hear about today, the real reason why there haven't been new nuclear developments in North America in the last 20 years is that there hasn't been any subsidy from weapons development. Similarly, that's why there has been nuclear energy development in Pakistan, India, Iran, and etc."

The last Darlington reactors came on line in 1993. Canadian reactors were developed and installed with little thought to or subsidy from weaponization. The CANDU isn't a weaponized design, one of the original design constraints being able to run on unenriched uranium.
posted by Mitheral at 6:16 PM on March 13, 2011


I wish I'd seen a "I am not a nuclear engineer/physicist" from loquacious and furiousxgeorge, because from the way they were talking, I assumed they had credentials and were in the industry. And then I looked at their profiles and it was clear they weren't likely to have had any training or study in the field.
posted by anniecat at 6:23 PM on March 13, 2011


I also wish I hadn't studied econ in college and grad school, and had studied science instead. I'm ashamed at being so terribly ignorant. I took maybe two semesters of basic science. I'm so tired of being ignorant.
posted by anniecat at 6:26 PM on March 13, 2011


I kind of wish I'd studied science too, but -- I did study Japanese, so I guess that part worked out.
posted by Jeanne at 6:39 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


You don't think it's enough that you've already caused the mods a fuckton of work on this fine Sunday, now you want them to spend the rest of the afternoon identifying and debating your assholery in memail?

Do you think this helps anybody?
posted by hal_c_on at 7:32 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I also wish I hadn't studied econ in college and grad school, and had studied science instead. I'm ashamed at being so terribly ignorant. I took maybe two semesters of basic science. I'm so tired of being ignorant.

Use iTunes U. I'm not joking or being flip. There are an unbelievable amount of science courses available there. I've been slooowly working my way through a massive Standford Course on physics taught by Leonard Susskind -- it's literally hundreds of hours of him explaining all of modern physics, starting from basic pendulums and gravity and going up to the standard model and string theory and black holes. And I never took a college science course and never got further than pre-calc in college.

Name the subject you're interested in, there is a free course explaining it somewhere.

For example, if you search for nuclear engineering in itunes, you'll find this Berkeley course -- Nuclear Engineering 101.

The entire semester, free. You could probably watch the whole thing in a couple of months.
posted by empath at 7:39 PM on March 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


install an array of solar cells in my basement, flood them with electric lighting, and sell the resulting power for more than the cost to power the bulbs

Until you get raided because the DEA thinks you're running a grow op
posted by nomisxid at 8:22 PM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Which person is the nuclear physicist?

Today, we are all nuclear physicists.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:40 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think what bothered me was not the misinformation, but the constant stream of suspicion towards anyone actually giving out scientific facts. Hell, at one point I seem to recall someone questioning eriko's credentials.

You want to rub me the wrong way? Sound in any way anti-science, that scientists are shills, that their research is suspect because of the fields they are in. Because that's the sort of bullshit I've heard the Tea Party folks say about global warming researchers, or anti-vax people say about medical researchers, or the freakin' Republican Party about anyone taking NIH or NSF party.

I'm not saying anyone here is an anti-vax Tea Partier with a hard-on for Michelle Bachmann. But man, it sounds so similar.

There is every reason to be skeptical about authority, but good, strong, unbiased science states again and again the worries are disproportionate to what's happening at Fukushima.

It also hits my issues with how we as humans handle risk. We freak over a 9.0 earthquake that occurs maybe once every 500 years in that area, then get in our cars, which killed 33,000 people in the US in 2009 -- at this point, more than the number of people unaccounted for in the Sendai quake. We freak over a radiation leak half a world away, but we breathe in air filled with the byproducts of burning coal, which shortens the lives of tens of thousands of people.

We fear risks we cannot control, and take risks we think we can control. We fear the unknown, but we tolerate the known but ignored.

But the emotional aspect of risk, the fear, occludes the ability to see risks as they are. And we all do it. I do it all the time -- I fret over the possibility of another Cascadia quake while driving my car across the 520 bridge every weekday morning, forgetting I'm far more likely to die in an accident on the bridge than in the breakup of the bridge during said earthquake.

And this makes the conversation almost impossible. One side says the risks aren't high. The other side says they're only saying that because they're being paid to. The first side gets all defensive, the other side starts calling people names... and here we are.

Maybe we should all ask why we treat other MeFites with such suspicion. Maybe we should all ask why we would rather have our biases confirmed rather than questioned. Maybe we should, you know, try to get along. Meanwhile, there are a lot of people missing from a cataclysmic tsunami, and a lot of nuclear engineers doing their damnest to keep a bad situation from getting any worse.
posted by dw at 8:53 PM on March 13, 2011 [16 favorites]


The most polite word I can give to these comments is speculation. But, with offense fully intended, my honest opinion is that this is despicable. You are fearmongerers.

WHAT?

What.
The.
Fuck.
Are you talking about? You included 2 of my comments in this ridiculous callout that were IN NO WAY "fearmongering". What is your fucking problem? I demand an apology for this bullshit. I expect to see the apology in this thread, shii.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:56 PM on March 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


Maybe we should, you know, try to get along.

After you just compared anybody with any doubts about the situation to anti-vaxxers and tea partiers? Seriously?
posted by dialetheia at 9:00 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look I'm a scientist, okay? I work by the scientific method. Anti-vax people and global warming deniers all shit me to tears as well. But you can hardly say the nuclear power industry, much of which has been attached to the military and nuclear weapons for over 60 years, has been the paragon of transparency, openness and honesty.

I know a whole pile of geologists who deny the reality of global warming, who have also made nice careers for themselves working for fossil fuel and other mining companies. To claim all scientists are 100% squeaky-clean and only working for the greater benefit of mankind is patently unrealistic - we have evidence of corruption in other fields, so why should nuclear power magically be immune to criticism?

As I said above - I'm not anti-nuke. I want desperately to be pro-nuke, because I see few options left for allowing our climate and ecosystems survive another 100 years. But it should be as reasonable to question and re-question the science of nuclear power as any other field.
posted by Jimbob at 9:39 PM on March 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


I know a whole pile of geologists who deny the reality of global warming

Yeah, but where's the consensus on global warming? The denying geologists are in the tiny minority in their field. The consensus among nuclear engineers is that as compared to other methods of generating power, particularly coal, nuclear power is pretty safe. That's the difference, to me.
posted by KathrynT at 9:59 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


But you can hardly say the nuclear power industry, much of which has been attached to the military and nuclear weapons for over 60 years, has been the paragon of transparency, openness and honesty.

Sure I can. Google "BWR Core Damage Probability" and you will get a list of free, publicly accessible papers published by the US department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Now do the same for "Offshore Oil Platform Damage Probability" and you get zero expert reports.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:10 PM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


jimbob But it should be as reasonable to question and re-question the science of nuclear power as any other field.

Absolutely! Questioning is not the same as slandering though.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:11 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The last Darlington reactors came on line in 1993. Canadian reactors were developed and installed with little thought to or subsidy from weaponization. The CANDU isn't a weaponized design, one of the original design constraints being able to run on unenriched uranium.

Until at least 1963 Canada was selling plutonium to American bomb makers.

There is some question about the extent of the subsidy involved:
To a limited degree, revenues from plutonium sales helped to finance Canada's enormously expensive nuclear research program, including the construction of a second research reactor (called NRU) at Chalk River. Plutonium revenues also helped pay for repairs to the NRX reactor, which suffered a devastating accident in 1952, as well as a massive cleanup operation following severe contamination of the NRU reactor during another nuclear accident in 1958. However, it is fair to say that the government's motivation in selling plutonium was not primarily economic. A sense of loyalty, coupled with a desire to maintain close ties with the nuclear establishments in America and Britain, was the dominant consideration.
However the fact that there wasn't much profit in the sale suggests that Canada's subsidizing of nuclear research was to participate vicariously in allied nuclear weapons programs.

I don't doubt that by the Trudeau years AECL was only interested in peaceful endeavours. At the same time, our involvement in weapons programs before that time is underreported.
posted by Chuckles at 10:33 PM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anyone who endorses an attitude of panic in this situation has no respect from me, and I refuse to apologize. I explained my stance clearly at the head of this thread: the attitude behind the fearmongering is repugnant to me, and I believe people promoting it have not examined themselves or the possible impact of their actions.
posted by shii at 10:39 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shii, you're gonna tell a guy who's currently in Japan that it's repugnant if he reserves the right to panic?
posted by KathrynT at 10:40 PM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


And anyway, the point of my response to furiousxwhoever was not to "endorse panic" (how absurd) but to express my distinct displeasure with his condescending instructions for us. His comment, the first in that thread, was but a continuation of his consistent "don't worry children, everything will be alright, you don't know what you're talking about" messages that had been going on ad nauseum in the other thread. I'd gotten well sick of it, as had many others.

Actually characterizing it as an "endorsement of panic" is patently absurd.

I still demand that apology, shii. And I've blocked your Memails after the insulting and condescending ones you've sent me.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:49 PM on March 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Just pass me your Panic Ticket, flapjax my friend, I'll be more than happy to endorse it for you! I also validate parking.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:52 PM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


People can do whatever they want in the privacy of their own homes. If they need to vent, they can vent. But MetaFilter is a public space. In my opinion this is not far from the famous example of "shouting fire in a crowded auditorium"; I'm not saying it's illegal, but it's socially unacceptable. To me.

Again, I am seeing a huge gap between the tone of the conversation here and on the other Internet media that I use.

flapjax at midnite, as long as you're making accusations about private messaging, I sent you one email telling you to stop panicking, and another one pointing you to http://www.foxnews.com/ which currently has on its front page exactly the thing I am trying to prevent. You responded by calling me a "pathetic clown" and "fucking sick". I don't know your situation; perhaps it is a frightening one. But your tone did not make me feel like my opinion was wrong, nor did it include any rational reason to apologize.
posted by shii at 10:55 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's socially unacceptable to you to say, essentially, "I'm scared"?

Jeez.
posted by KathrynT at 10:57 PM on March 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


We should maybe make clear at this point: harassing people via MeMail is a bannable offense if someone decides to make a thing about it. We've been fairly busy today and I'm sorry if we haven't given the two monster threads the attention they deserve, but people need to find a way to work out their differences without behaving like jerks on the site. This is directed to no one in particular, just a general "If you can't keep it together, it may be a good time to step away from the keyboard for a little bit" reminder.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:59 PM on March 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yep, that's flapjax at midnite: his entire posting history here has been repugnant and despicable fearmongering; he mongers fear wherever he goes, and puts the pug in repugnant. Even his names scares me. :(
posted by taz at 11:03 PM on March 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


If shii flames out, can we please refer to it as a meltdown?
posted by Rumple at 11:03 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


What the fuck, rumple?
posted by boo_radley at 11:07 PM on March 13, 2011


If shii flames out, can we please refer to it as a meltdown?

That is not a funny joke.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:10 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I changed my mind: I do have an apology to make. My aim was to make people rethink their statements, but clearly my approach was wrong from the very start. I shouldn't have singled anyone out, and I should not have claimed that there was any blame to be directed over the simple process of having a discussion. And I think that bad choice, by me, blew the top off of an overheated discussion which now very much needs to cool down.
posted by shii at 11:11 PM on March 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also, I'm sorry for making a bitchy argument out of who sent the nastier memail a few comments up. That is unforgivably rude behavior. Flapjax was right to memail me in order to drag me back to this thread so I could see the consequences of my actions.
posted by shii at 11:15 PM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thanks, shii.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:15 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


hugs all around.
posted by empath at 11:23 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the apology, shii.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:26 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


What the fuck, rumple?
That is not a funny joke.


Absolutely right, my apologies.
posted by Rumple at 11:26 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


puts the pug in repugnant

totally stealing that.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:42 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was hoping to take a break from the Internet for the day, but I really want to share this one last thing before I sign off.

In 2008 an acquaintance made a joke about me on a study abroad program (I can't remember what it was). Hours later, the student leader said he wanted to bring up the subject of rude jokes and civility in a group meeting, and I agreed, thinking he would cover it with the civility and inclusiveness one expects in a leader. I was utterly horrified when he singled out me as a victim and the girl as the one at fault. She broke into tears and ran out of the room, and the leader continued his "group discussion" as if nothing had happened. I ran after her, apologized, insisted that I absolutely did not think she had done anything wrong and she was not to blame, and told her that we would go to demand an apology from the student leader together. When we confronted him, he not only refused to apologize but acted like our concerns were irrelevant to his point.

At that time I considered that one of the most awful things I had ever seen a human being do; not only to make crushing accusations in front of a large group of people, but to adopt a callous and self-superior attitude about it, not realizing that there was no way in hell he could prove his point if he was driving the people he was trying to address into a state of emotional breakdown. I could not have possibly believed until now that I have the same capacity for coldness. I really am surprised by my ability to wound other people with self-righteous, incisive words that tower over and blot out any point I was trying to make.

That's all.
posted by shii at 12:05 AM on March 14, 2011 [15 favorites]


Chuckles writes "However the fact that there wasn't much profit in the sale suggests that Canada's subsidizing of nuclear research was to participate vicariously in allied nuclear weapons programs.

"I don't doubt that by the Trudeau years AECL was only interested in peaceful endeavours. At the same time, our involvement in weapons programs before that time is underreported."


Go back far enough and most tech has military providing some funding. This here internet we're talking on has had significant DARPA funding. The claim was that nuclear reactors don't make economic sense without a military subsidy and the CANDU reactors, in Canada anyways, provide a counter example in that they don't contribute to weapons. Technically they do produce a very small amount of tritium during operation, a few kgs annually. But Canada is stock piling most of it and the little that is sold is not sold for weapons. We don't even sell to the US at all regardless of where the gas is going.

shii writes "People can do whatever they want in the privacy of their own homes. If they need to vent, they can vent. But MetaFilter is a public space. In my opinion this is not far from the famous example of 'shouting fire in a crowded auditorium'; I'm not saying it's illegal, but it's socially unacceptable. To me."

Shouting Fire! in a crowded theatre is restricted because it can lead to people dying in a panic not because it is socially unacceptable. Socially unacceptable seems like a pretty low bar to restricting speech.
posted by Mitheral at 12:37 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


And I think that bad choice, by me, blew the top off of an overheated discussion which now very much needs to cool down.

I've seen a tad too many overheated things blow their tops off, that now very much need to cool down, these last few days. But thanks for the human perspective.
posted by Namlit at 1:58 AM on March 14, 2011


I agree with you, Shii... but I told people that their sensationalistic, panicky behavior was cowardly and would quite possibly be offensive to many in Japan, even as whole cities vanished off the map... only to get flamed for it.

Haters gonna hate. Fearmongers gonna fear. Scaremongers gonna scare. And, unfortunately, the US is a nation where hate and fear is institutionalized. At least the people in MeFi aren't the lowest-common denominator.
posted by markkraft at 6:20 AM on March 14, 2011


That's right, Metafilter! Markkraft TOLD YOU! But did you listen? NOOO! And now he's clearly justified in suggestively comparing you to the most vile, contemptible, racist assholes he could find on the internet!

You made your bed, Metafilter, now LIE IN IT!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:34 AM on March 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


At least the people in MeFi aren't the lowest-common denominator.

Well that...that's incredibly generous of you markkraft.
posted by lucien at 6:36 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Haters gonna hate. Fearmongers gonna fear. Scaremongers gonna scare.

And sadly, just when we thought we'd had a peaceable resolution to the thread, triters gonna trite.

Or, alternately: Aces, everybody's gone! It's turd-dropping time!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:37 AM on March 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


only to get flamed for it.

Near as I can tell, there was one response to your comment, which was in substance and tone about as far from my understanding of "flamed" as one can get. Maybe your hyperbole meter needs recalibrating.
posted by rtha at 6:38 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


*imagines John Cleese telling people not to panic*
posted by warbaby at 7:10 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


*imagines Groucho Marx asserting his right panic (while being archly calm in the midst of a disaster)*

That's how I thought the thread started out.

Silly me.
posted by warbaby at 7:12 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


...right to panic.... sheesh blew my own punchline

I'm going now.
posted by warbaby at 7:14 AM on March 14, 2011


Hello I must be going
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:24 AM on March 14, 2011


glad your ok flapjax
posted by clavdivs at 8:37 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The situation in Japan is deeply tragic. The unfolding news about the power plants is interesting, and a valid topic of discussion. It does not indicate a lack of respect or compassion.
posted by theora55 at 8:40 AM on March 14, 2011


The New York Times is "speculating and fear-mongering" again:

The more time that passes with fuel rods uncovered by water and the pressure inside the containment vessel unvented, the greater the risk that the containment vessel will crack or explode, creating a potentially catastrophic release of radioactive material into the atmosphere — an accident that would be by far the worst to confront the nuclear power industry since the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant 25 years ago.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 12:39 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am a particle physicist, and I have worked on nuclear physics projects. I am by no means an expert on nuclear reactors, but I probably know more about the issues involved than most.


Coincidentally, I was helping my cousin record some verbal flashcards for her MCAT practice online (so we could stick it on her iPhone flashcard app instead of having her carry around Ziploc bags of paper flashcards) this weekend, and the word-as-used-in-a-sentence for "esoteric" from the paper flashcards is :"Only a handful of experts are knowledgeable about the esoteric world of particle physics."
posted by anniecat at 4:09 PM on March 14, 2011


An unaccredited individual who has posted 11,894 comments to MetaFilter is accusing a respected nuclear physicist of being a shill for the industry

I did not call him a shill, those are your words.

I should note that I read Oehmen's essay that was linked to in-thread, and he references and links to several unabashedly pro-nuclear and pro-nuclear-industry postings as unquestionable fact in defense of his own position.

On the basis of his writings, he seems to be a proponent of nuclear power, and that is exactly what I called him.

Since you called me out here on Metatalk, I will call you out, shii, for being a liar about what I actually wrote.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:14 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Google "BWR Core Damage Probability" and you will get a list of free, publicly accessible papers published by the US department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
- Popular Ethics
It's impossible to get any radiation readings. The actions of the Japanese government are completely contrary to their words. They have evacuated 180,000 people but say there is no radiation. They are certain to have readings but we are being told nothing. [...] It was the same at Chernobyl, where they said there was a bit of a problem and only later did the full extent emerge.
- John Large, a former nuclear engineer for the UK.
posted by Jimbob at 5:14 PM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


The actions of the Japanese government are completely contrary to their words.

This has been my impression all along, frankly.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 5:19 PM on March 14, 2011


Blazecock Pileon: "being a liar about what I actually wrote."

It is not that you did not call him a shill, but rather that you took so many words to do so: ""Oehmen is, indeed, worried, because he is a proponent of nuclear power, and an obvious catastrophe like this is problematic for nuclear engineers who claim, despite all evidence to the contrary, that nuclear power generation is impervious to natural disasters."
posted by boo_radley at 6:56 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is a wise policy to never trust without verification what any government tells you, ever, but it is also the case here, I would think, that an excess of caution on the part of officials explains much.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:03 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


rather that you took so many words to do so

Basing a disagreement on what wasn't expressed is a bad-faith thing to do, and not something I'm going to participate in further.

After the last Metatalk thread, I am through taking blame for other people's crappy behavior. If you want to discuss what I wrote in good faith, I'm here. Otherwise, I'm done riding that merry-go-round.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:38 PM on March 14, 2011


I'm just saying that you described what a shill is -- someone acting implicitly as an apologist for an industry because he works in it or a related one. The fact that you did not, at any point in time, use the word shill is irrelevant.

Blazecock Pileon: "After the last Metatalk thread, I am through taking blame for other people's crappy behavior."

What? What does this even mean?
posted by boo_radley at 9:21 PM on March 14, 2011



So few natural disasters are natural. We have choices about how we prepare. We create conditions that create or worsen these disasters. But so far the unfathomable devastation in Japan is indeed as close to an act of God as one could imagine. Despite being an exceptionally well prepared nation with sane building codes and so forth, there is devastation beyond anything any human being could prevent.

With some exceptions.

We chose nuclear power. We being humans. So this is something worth talking about because this is something we do have a say in. And please god let us take this moment to say as a human community - This is Not Worth It.
posted by serazin at 9:38 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The fact that you did not, at any point in time, use the word shill is irrelevant.

This callout is a joke, and the attempts to turn what I wrote into something else to further a long-standing grudge that a few people seem incapable of leaving behind are cheap shots. Good luck with it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:18 PM on March 14, 2011


"And please god let us take this moment to say as a human community - This is Not Worth It."

But coal -- the leading cause of global warming and air pollution -- is?

Or even "clean, green" natural gas, which releases about 45% of the CO2 of dirty coal, and, if leaked to the air, is a greenhouse gas that is 25 times worse than CO2? What that means, basically, is that natural gas leaks could potentially make it about as bad as coal.

It was only a few months ago when eight people died and over thirty homes were destroyed, just south of San Francisco, with thousands of people forced to evacuate to shelters for several days... and frankly, disasters caused by natural gas have been far greater and more lethal than those caused by nuclear energy.

The simple fact is that that we, as a people, view the benefits of electricity -- and what it takes to get it -- as essential to modern society. But there are real costs and risks involved... even for wind and solar.

Right now, the world is in a race to lower CO2 emissions, before global warming causes irreparable damage to the environment, or triggers a positive feedback "tipping point", making the worst of global warming unavoidable. In such a race, there is a real danger that trying to address the problem entirely through less concentrated, inconstant sources of energy like solar or wind will greatly slow the process of lowering CO2 emission levels. The solar and wind industry in the US is simply incapable of rapidly replacing coal... if we want to address the problem as quickly as possible, it helps to have multiple solutions availalbe to help solve the problem. There are a lot of good scientists and environmentalists, such as James Lovelock, James Hansen of NASA, and Stewart Brand that support nuclear energy as being an essential part of the solution to the problem of global warming.

No, nuclear isn't perfectly safe. But historically, it is the cleanest -- and one of the safest -- sources of energy we have.
posted by markkraft at 5:43 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


But coal -- the leading cause of global warming and air pollution -- is?

Nope.

I think everyone is pretty clear at this point that we have to lessen our actual use of energy. Changing our light bulbs is not going to be adequate.
posted by serazin at 7:35 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think everyone should be pretty clear at this point that engaging in the old trench battles about nuclear versus fossil isn't high on the priority list. We need some re-calibration, before that we need to know how the situation in Japan is (ugh) "resolved", and we need to have access to some kind of analysis that makes that scenario comparable to other nuclear plants in the world.

(also let me just say that at this point I don't care the f* whether "historically" nuclear is safest or not. I may be a bloody old rationalist normally, but there's an end to even that, in the face of crisis evolving and people actually suffering etc.)
posted by Namlit at 7:43 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I may be a bloody old rationalist normally, but there's an end to even that, in the face of crisis evolving and people actually suffering etc.

Which is a very human way to be, and which is historically exploited to achieve various dubious policy goals. See also: Iraq, the massive expansion of the TSA, or Rahm Emanuel's "never let a crisis go to waste."
posted by Justinian at 3:21 PM on March 15, 2011


Have been keeping up with both of the Japan threads, the original and the one on the nuclear reactor situation. While the nuclear one was fighty in the beginning, it's actually gone really well. Tons of useful, relevant info and great gathering of info from other sources and from several experts here on MeFi.

At first, I was against opening the second thread, but I was just flat out wrong. It has actually been a real positive thing. The original thread has gone on with a more personal kind of sharing, and the nuclear one has been able to focus on the technical aspects of the situation. Win-win for both.
posted by marsha56 at 10:26 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Markkraft: No, nuclear isn't perfectly safe. But historically, it is the cleanest -- and one of the safest -- sources of energy we have.
Right. So of the 442 functioning reactors in the world right now, 2 are on fire, another 2 are undergoing core meltdown, and a further 2 have uncontrolled heating events in their spent fuel pools. Yes, that does sound safe! Brilliant!

And as for nuclear being the cleanest source of energy in history, sorry, are you high? So, by your reasoning, solar, wind, and tidal energy power produce more toxic waste products, with longer half lives, than plutonium and other trans-uranic substances, right? A tsunami event in a solar power station would produce a worse catastrophe than the one unfolding right now?
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:38 AM on March 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Right. So of the 442 functioning reactors in the world right now, 2 are on fire, another 2 are undergoing core meltdown, and a further 2 have uncontrolled heating events in their spent fuel pools. Yes, that does sound safe! Brilliant!

Well they all are in the same location and were hit by the same catastrophic event. Even if all 6 of them melted down, it would still wouldn't be as bad as what coal power does every single day.
posted by empath at 5:40 AM on March 16, 2011


I've mentioned this in the other MeTa thread spawned by what's happening in Japan, but MeTa threads ideally shouldn't turn into default threads about Japan. If there's stuff that needs discussing that isn't really a meta-topic, I'd strongly suggest starting a new thread on the blue. Our moderation on MeTa is different from on other parts of the site and this part of the site just isn't set up to have the heavy-load current events threads that we're used to and ready for elsewhere. Please don't turn this into a default MeFi thread. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:22 AM on March 16, 2011


« Older How to open youtube in MeFi posts?   |   Disappeared into the Blue Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments