New nuke thread March 14, 2011 11:53 PM   Subscribe

Japan nuclear disaster thread too long of tooth? Things rapidly deteriorating. Latest news.

Mention it because the thread is so long it's causing my browser to hiccup trying to digest on preview and post functions. Probably a drag on MeFi servers, too. Needs a new FPP, at some point. Core(s) meltdown appears to be most likely happening.
posted by stbalbach to Etiquette/Policy at 11:53 PM (141 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Please open a new thread if you think MeFi needs one. Or someone else can. Please do not start a new thread here in MeTa.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:55 PM on March 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


There've been much longer threads than that one, y'know.
posted by item at 11:57 PM on March 14, 2011


If there's one thing I've learned watching this whole thing unfold over the past several days, it's that as soon as you think you have a pretty good understanding of what's actually going on, you find out that you don't really know shit, and neither does anyone else. It's interesting to try to piece it all together, but it's foolish to try to scoop everyone.
posted by Balonious Assault at 12:16 AM on March 15, 2011


The new-comments pop-in is absolutely brilliant, by the way. I'd guess that because of it the server load stemming from the Japan disaster threads is orders of magnitude smaller than past similar giant ongoing threads.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:25 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


the increased server load, I mean, not total
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:26 AM on March 15, 2011


Yeah, I was at a friend's earlier and got them interested in tracking all of this via MetaFilter ... but first we had to actually dig up the thread (posted Thursday night). It seems to me that something of this magnitude should easily warrant a sidebar link. I notice even 4chan had their main Japan thread on /b/ locked in as the lead thread up until earlier today.
posted by philip-random at 12:41 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think that's necessarily what the sidebar is for.
posted by Justinian at 1:18 AM on March 15, 2011


Yeah, I was at a friend's earlier and got them interested in tracking all of this via MetaFilter ... but first we had to actually dig up the thread (posted Thursday night).

O NOES
posted by Sys Rq at 1:31 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think that's necessarily what the sidebar is for.

I believe in the past the sidebar has been used to link to such things as "Hurricane Katrina here" or something else I can't think of. I know the mods did it for Hurricane Katrina.

And I think when James Brown died too.
posted by marxchivist at 3:37 AM on March 15, 2011


Needs a new FPP

Go for it. You clearly know how to post an FPP.
posted by John Cohen at 4:09 AM on March 15, 2011


The Queensland floods were side-barred.
posted by GeckoDundee at 5:59 AM on March 15, 2011


One thread for amateur nuclear engineer hour is enough.
posted by smackfu at 6:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I demand that my nuclear meltdown nightmares be featured on the front page.
posted by crunchland at 6:54 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does anyone have a US-reachable (readable) link to a non-sensationalist news bureau with the most up-to-the-minute news? I always stop following the super-long MeFi threads, my weak brain can't follow the chains of non-threaded responses and infighting and digressions.

Currently using Al-Jazeera English, unless someone has a better idea.
posted by TomMelee at 6:58 AM on March 15, 2011


I believe in the past the sidebar has been used to link to such things as "Hurricane Katrina here" or something else I can't think of. I know the mods did it for Hurricane Katrina.

It's been more of a FOR FUCK'S SAKE, STOP POSTING ABOUT IT, WE ARE AWARE, PLEASE FOR GOD'S SAKE thing than anything as I recall, though my memory may be colored somewhat by actually shouting that phrase at the monitor a few times a day during such events.

Mostly, if it's a "where is the thread on X when there is absolutely obviously a thread on X" situation, typing X into the search box is a pretty reasonable first step to take. If it's a weird enough situation where that basic approach isn't going to work, then maybe it's something to talk about, but that's not the case here.

The Japan situation is crazy and complicated and unfolding rapidly, so if someone wants to put together a good new post that actually consolidates new info in a useful way beyond just being a placeholder "bumping Japan topic" thing, making a new post is okay. As always we prefer people don't just do "oh hey here's another Japan thing" little running updates as posts, and we've had to delete a few things over the last few days that were more like that. If someone wants to make a real effort and do a good job with it, that's more okay.

We've historically had long threads now and then; this is not a new thing, and with the load new comments functionality it's actually a whole lot less painful than it used to be. I know that chug-chug-chug feeling when you actually post a comment or first load a thread may feel more conspicuous now compared to getting the updated comments, but recall that it used to be that sort of chuggery every time you wanted to reload, and that we got along pretty well for all that. Moving to a more, shorter threads model to resolve that isn't something that we want to do; if the problem comes largely down to "it sucks particularly bad on my mobile device" the answer is probably mostly to wait until you can use something other than your mobile device.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:00 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


if someone wants to put together a good new post that actually consolidates new info in a useful way beyond just being a placeholder "bumping Japan topic" thing, making a new post is okay

This.

But not me. I can barely parse what's going on and this stuff is an interest of mine.
posted by IvoShandor at 7:01 AM on March 15, 2011


One thread for amateur nuclear engineer hour is enough.

Damn straight. I feel like there is a full court PR press on that stems from fairly high up the engineering and nuclear power food chains, and it's reached Metafilter. Go out on the internet and calm the public boys!

We're being spun by some of our own.

Funny thing is, every time some dick-waving nuclear engineer wannabe tell us not to worry and the science boys have this under control and anyway the worst case scenario isn't that bad, nothing to see here, move along, the disaster worsens the next hour. Every assurance that's been touted in one of the two big threads by one of our resident "experts" has been superseded by worsening events.

No wonder no one trusts the nuclear power industry or its apologists. They are masters at putting lipstick on the irradiated carcass of a pig.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:19 AM on March 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


fourcheesemac: “Damn straight. I feel like there is a full court PR press on that stems from fairly high up the engineering and nuclear power food chains, and it's reached Metafilter. Go out on the internet and calm the public boys! We're being spun by some of our own.”

It's quite natural for people who align themselves with science and with general skepticism to jump to the conclusion that the public's fear of nuclear power is wholly irrational, and that "science" has control of the situation, and that the general worry is composed solely of superstition. Superstition has been an enemy of science for so long that it's hard not to see it lurking everywhere on this occasion, too. And I'll go further: it's hard to deny that there has been superstition in this case. So it doesn't surprise me that many people on Metafilter, where a skeptical bent and an alignment with science are common, would like to believe that nuclear power has done nothing wrong in this case, and that everyone is perfectly safe and faces no danger from the Japanese reactors.

Furthermore, it's natural, when confronted by a group of people who seem to have a similar stubborn bent like this, to feel as though there must be some sort of sinister organizing principle that leads them all to cling desperately to a line that apparently seems intended to benefit a particular industry. It's natural to leap to conclusions about why they would be so stubborn, and to ascribe to them motivations that likely aren't really theirs. So it also doesn't surprise me that you've jumped to the conclusion that all the pro-nuke boosters (who are really pro-science or anti-superstition, in their own minds) must be on a payroll somewhere, even though it seems clear to me that this isn't the case.
posted by koeselitz at 7:41 AM on March 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


I don't know, I see it as a natural push back against what is clearly panic from people who don't know anything about nuclear power other than "radiation is bad" and "Chernobyl was a disaster".
posted by smackfu at 7:46 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


I feel like there is a full court PR press on that stems from fairly high up the engineering and nuclear power food chains, and it's reached Metafilter. Go out on the internet and calm the public boys!

It's funny because I saw the same sentiment expressed on the other side. That the anti-nuclear folks were clearly taking advantage of this to rile people up about the nuclear power system.

It's kind of a slippery slope once you assume people aren't arguing in good faith and are shills.
posted by smackfu at 7:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


every time some dick-waving nuclear engineer wannabe tell us not to worry and the science boys have this under control and anyway the worst case scenario isn't that bad, nothing to see here, move along, the disaster worsens the next hour.

I thought we were meant to lie down, or put a paper bag over our heads, or something?

I haven't followed any of the discussions of these events here. There's nothing I can do, anyway, so news from the Guardian, the IAEA, and New Scientist are enough to keep me in a sufficiently paralyzed state of shock and anxiety.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:49 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


every time some dick-waving nuclear engineer wannabe tell us not to worry and the science boys have this under control and anyway the worst case scenario isn't that bad, nothing to see here, move along, the disaster worsens the next hour.


I don't know that this is a super helpful tone to take here.
posted by josher71 at 8:16 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


It's quite natural for people who align themselves with science and with general skepticism

I identify with science and skepticism fully and passionately. I am scientifically skeptical of the claims that nuclear power is as safe as some would have it.

I don't know that this is a super helpful tone to take here.

Well, then, I am duly chastised, gov'nor. Wouldn't want to be less than super duper helpful now, would I? That's a 3d grade teacher voice you're using. I'll thank you not to patronize.

Perhaps you haven't been reading the comments I have where our resident pro-nukers dismiss the legitimate concerns of others as unscientific paranoia.

The slight satisfaction, entirely phyrric, alas, is watching the pro-nuke boys wipe egg off their face with all the outraged spittle they're collecting.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:32 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It almost seems like you are happy things are getting worse.
posted by smackfu at 8:36 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


(I'm sure you aren't, but spittle goes both ways.)
posted by smackfu at 8:41 AM on March 15, 2011


If you aren't interested in being helpful, then what is your interest?
posted by josher71 at 8:46 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The slight satisfaction, entirely phyrric, alas, is watching the pro-nuke boys wipe egg off their face with all the outraged spittle they're collecting.

Maybe you could tell us more about outraged spittle?
posted by auto-correct at 8:53 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It almost seems like you are happy things are getting worse.

Welcome to life during wartime. I've heard it argued that Franklin Roosevelt was relieved when Pearl Harbor happened, because he was already convinced that America would have to engage Germany and Japan in open war, and now he finally had the smoking gun he needed to convince the American people.

With regard to the nuclear situation in Japan, I heard it argued almost immediately after the tsunami hit that this was perhaps the best thing that could happen long term in terms of the planet soberly taking on a resurgence of demand for nuclear power. That is, a relatively minor "catastrophe" in Japan is exactly what we need toward understanding just how potentially apocalyptic this technology is. Which is not to say that we should forever ban the nuclear option, but that we must take its pursuit out of profit-driven corporate hands, who will lie to us, mislead us, DISINFORM US with regard to the danger posed, ultimately in order to save a few bucks.
posted by philip-random at 8:59 AM on March 15, 2011


I'll thank you not to patronize.

Honestly, I'd really appreciate if you would acknowledge that stuff being bad and people behaving in ways that bother you is not an excuse to act like a jerk here yourself. This stuff is dicey enough even when everybody is making an effort, it doesn't help a thing when people start getting aggro on purpose.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:04 AM on March 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


Well, then, I am duly chastised, gov'nor. Wouldn't want to be less than super duper helpful now, would I? That's a 3d grade teacher voice you're using. I'll thank you not to patronize.

Perhaps you haven't been reading the comments I have where our resident pro-nukers dismiss the legitimate concerns of others as unscientific paranoia.

The slight satisfaction, entirely phyrric, alas, is watching the pro-nuke boys wipe egg off their face with all the outraged spittle they're collecting.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:32 AM on March 15 [+] [!]


Sure is "nice" to see that the old fourcheesemac is back.
posted by proj at 9:35 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


> I feel like there is a full court PR press on that stems from fairly high up the engineering and nuclear power food chains, and it's reached Metafilter. Go out on the internet and calm the public boys!

... every time some dick-waving nuclear engineer wannabe tell us not to worry and the science boys have this under control and anyway the worst case scenario isn't that bad, nothing to see here, move along, the disaster worsens the next hour.

Perhaps you haven't been reading the comments I have where our resident pro-nukers dismiss the legitimate concerns of others as unscientific paranoia.


fourcheese, have you been reading the thread at all? Engineers that have been following this on MetaFilter have actually seemed pretty worried. Yes, there was initial optimism that engineers at the plant could keep the situation under control. But this changed once it was clear that back-up systems had failed and cesium was detected at the plant.

It's worth pointing out that the people you're calling "dick-waving nuclear engineer wannabes" pointed out the possibility of hydrogen explosions and possible problems with the spent fuel rods before they happened, and what it could mean if it happened. (They were hoping they wouldn't happen of course.)

There's a big difference between claiming that people on the west coast of North America don't need to be worried and explaining what mili and microSieverts mean, and claiming that the situation couldn't have pretty bad consequences locally in Japan. I haven't seen anybody making the latter claim.
posted by nangar at 9:39 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


>> Needs a new FPP
>
> Go for it. You clearly know how to post an FPP.
> posted by John Cohen at 7:09 AM on March 15 [+] [!]

Is it really that obvious? It seems just as likely that someone who did start a new thread without letting folks kick the idea around first in meta (as stbalback did) would have had that post summarily deleted and have been told "please post this in the thread that's already open." That's what usually happens, after all.
posted by jfuller at 9:42 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


This argument is ridiculous. I have been plenty pessimistic from the get-go here and certainly continue to be (while hoping for the best of course!), and I'm certainly highly skeptical of the nuclear industry's PR efforts during this crisis. At the same time, I try to apply to apply a rational scientific mindset to things, and this situation certainly calls for it. There will be plenty of time to debate the future of nuclear power once the radiation stops spewing out of Fukushima-1.

But right now people are downright scared, and a lot of that fear is because they don't know the facts and think they might, on the East Coast of the United States, be getting irradiated at this very moment. The fact that some of us want to calm these people who are irrationally scared and attempt to accurately understand the science here doesn't mean we're spinning you. I certainly resent any accusation I'm a shill for the nuclear industry! It is unscientific paranoia when someone is considering fleeing from NYC to Florida to escape a nuclear jetstream, and explaining radiation levels, dispersion effects over distance, and the amount of time any radiation would take to cross the Pacific is not dismissing that concern, it's giving scared people the best knowledge we have available to help them understand what's going on so they can make their own decisions based on the facts.

There are plenty of legitimate concerns here and I'm certainly concerned for everyone too, but a lot of those concerns can be put into context—not minimized or ignored, but contextualized—by our best explanations of what's going on. What is paranoia is insisting that we are being lied to at every turn without reasonable evidence and that US government officials would be lying if they said that the West Coast was currently not in danger. There is more than enough to freak out about here that is backed by at least a shred of evidence, but please quit the paranoia and accusations that we're shilling. Thanks.

PS: I don't think we need a new FPP right now. If someone wants to do a recap summary in the open thread now while its night in Japan and things are quieter there, that would be wonderful, but there's no need to split the discussion.
posted by zachlipton at 9:51 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


Or, better yet, maybe that summary can go on the Wiki along with links to pertinent information sources, such as:

* The Guardian liveblog, which I think has been doing an excellent job and has been a lot quicker than American media at picking up on new developments, though slower than NHK World. A lot of roundup from different Japanese news sources.
* NHK World Live Feed English-language news from Japan's public broadcaster. Carries press conferences from the government and TEPCO (power company). Often repeats later in the hour ("recorded" badge on screen).
* Twitter-TimeOutTokyo Doing yeoman's work livetweeting NHK announcements and disseminating information.
* Washington Post infographic with diagrams of the reactors and explanations.
* Geiger Counter in Tokyo Updated every 10 minutes from a guy in the Tokyo area with a geiger counter hooked up to his PC.
* Google Spreadsheet of radiation readings from monitoring stations around Japan.
* Wikipedia on the incident - good summary to get up to speed, though not always up to date and/or consistent.
posted by zachlipton at 10:28 AM on March 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'd like to quote something ardgedee said over in the nuclear wessels thread:

There are horrible things going on, and there are real-world metrics regarding the reactions to them - evacuations in ten or 20 kilometer radii around the plants, web-accessible near-real-time data, official statements and a phalanx of experts and educated amateurs parsing and charting them to construct a timeline of what's really going on and what may ensue.

Many of these are things that were unavailable to us during the last disasters. We are a hell of a lot more knowledgeable about what's happening now, within an hour of its happening, than we ever were regarding previous disasters. And that's despite evasion, obfuscation, and lying on the part of corporate and government officials.

posted by nangar at 11:29 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


OTOH, isn't it a bit strange how much more attention is being paid to the nuclear situation than to the thousands of missing people and the bodies washing up on shore? People do focus on the numbers and what is easily reportable, but that doesn't mean it is the most important story.
posted by smackfu at 12:09 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I went in for my radio show last saturday, the host before me had just received a phone call from someone going "AM I EVEN TALKING TO A LIVE PERSON? I HAVE TO TALK TO THE STATION MANAGER RIGHT NOW ITS AN EMERGENCY!". Turns out they thought we should be doing PSAs nonstop about the Japanese nuke plants, I shit you not. FWIW, I'm on the east coast.

I've decided that the majority of our listeners are hysterical nincompoops.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:11 PM on March 15, 2011


dunkadunc, I know the Internet's not there in terms of punching-people-over-TCP/IP, but has wired telephony solved how to slap someone in the face if they're in the same area code? Because jeez.
posted by jtron at 12:31 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jeffrey Lewis of the Monterey Institute of International Studies points to an alarming new statement by the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, which confirms that the fire in the No 4 reactor today lasted for around three hours:

Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 reactor
• At 9:38am on March 15, a fire was discovered on the third floor of the secondary containment building.
• At 12:29pm on March 15, Tepco confirmed extinguishing of the fire.

Dr Lewis is concerned by this revelation, and writes on his blog Arms Control Wonk:

This is very bad news – yesterday, I noted this was the wildcard scenario. The radiation release was very large – detectors recorded a measurement of 400 millisieverts per hour. Milli, not micro. People can stop with the comparisons to airline flights or X-rays, unless you get your X-rays performed at DARHT.

If you are scoring at home, most folks I know seem to think we are at INES 6 now, heading for 7 (and the C-word) unless Tepco catches a break.


cite
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 12:38 PM on March 15, 2011


But right now people are downright scared, and a lot of that fear is because they don't know the facts

Actually a lot of people are also scared b/c they do know the facts, and the facts as they stand right now are actually unnervingly close to the very worst-case scenarios that all the amateur scientists over on the main MF thread were dismissing as fear-mongering a mere 24 to 48 hours ago.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 12:49 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Which is not to say that we should forever ban the nuclear option, but that we must take its pursuit out of profit-driven corporate hands, who will lie to us, mislead us, DISINFORM US with regard to the danger posed, ultimately in order to save a few bucks.

Not meaning to troll here, but you need to remember that the worst accident in the history of nuclear power was not caused by profit-driven corporate hands. Eliminating the profit motive is not necessarily an answer to your worries.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:52 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually a lot of people are also scared b/c they do know the facts, and the facts as they stand right now are actually unnervingly close to the very worst-case scenarios that all the amateur scientists over on the main MF thread were dismissing as fear-mongering a mere 24 to 48 hours ago.

What is, exactly, worst case?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:26 PM on March 15, 2011


What is, exactly, worst case?

No one seems to know exactly, but it would be meltdown of all six Fukishima reactors, continued fires in the spent fuel pools, and forced evacuation of the remaining workers currently there. From the guardian blog:

Some analysts were last night starting to imagine what might happen in the event Tokyo, with 13 million people in its metropolitan district, had to be evacuated because of a radiation cloud heading its way. The economic costs of such an event would be astronomic.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 1:54 PM on March 15, 2011


If you are scoring at home, most folks I know seem to think we are at INES 6 now, heading for 7 (and the C-word) unless Tepco catches a break.

cite


From the same page:
So now we have the reactor shutdown generating heat from the hot fuel but no cooling systems. So that is the same basic scenario that we had in Three Mile Island.

That is not the same, by any means, as the accident at Chernobyl in 1986, where because the reactor had a completely different design, the physics of the reactor produced a power excursion and that led to an explosion of the reactor under conditions in which the reactor had no containment to withstand the pressure from the blast.

And we know what happened: a hole was blown out from the side of the reactor, and a large amount of the radioactive inventory from the fuel was propelled outside of the reactor building. That cannot happen here. These reactors are water-moderated. They're not graphite-moderated. There won't be any power excursion of this kind. That's just physically not possible.
Problem number one I encounter reading that thread is trying to separate the people with an axe to grind about nuclear energy from the people who are genuinely trying to figure out/explain the situation.

Problem number two is that no one has any kind of first hand information about what's going on, which, just like everything I've seen and read in the last few days, makes for very contradictory conclusions and opinions, the kind that MeFites love to stand their ground and fight to the death over.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:00 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eliminating the profit motive is not necessarily an answer to your worries.

The people in charge being truthful would be a good start, whatever motivates them. Ukranians happened to live in a society ruled by autocrats with their own non-monetary set of motivations. The Japanese — and for the most part the entire world — now lives in a society ruled by capitalists who include cost analyses into engineering decisions about risk. Thus, it seems profit motive is much a valid part of this specific discussion on Metafilter, as other factors.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:57 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is, exactly, worst case?

No one seems to know exactly, but it would be meltdown of all six Fukishima reactors, continued fires in the spent fuel pools, and forced evacuation of the remaining workers currently there. From the guardian blog:


Is that actually worse than a tsunami that wipes out entire towns and areas, killing thousands?
posted by smackfu at 3:18 PM on March 15, 2011


I thought we were meant to lie down, or put a paper bag over our heads, or something?

If you'd like, yes.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:58 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm actually kind of surprised that people are seeing the effects of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami on ANYTHING as proof that it's safe or unsafe. I am not ruling out that there may have been deficiencies or maintenance lapses with these reactors, and there aren't lessons to be learned from this disaster, but a magnitude 9 earthquake is probably at (or beyond) the limit of what can truly be adequately prepared for. Under those conditions, even ceilings look like unsafe technology.
posted by Hoopo at 4:06 PM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


Is that actually worse than a tsunami that wipes out entire towns and areas, killing thousands?

My question was specific to what was actually going on in these reactors. The tragedy of the tsunami is totally separate in my mind, and I am not comparing the two.

I am not antinuclear power particularly, either. Just interested in the facts. Nothing in life is foolproof or one hundred percent safe. Do we really have to have this as a referendum on nuclear power right now? Because I don't particularly see that it needs to be at this point. Later on is plenty of time to have that discussion and I am sure that this situation with these nuclear reactors will give us not only food for thought but ideas for making nuclear power a safer option as we search for alternative energy sources.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:52 PM on March 15, 2011


What is, exactly, worst case?

A meteor hits the Earth and kills us all?

Let me tell you one of the dozens of reasons I'm incredibly frustrated with those threads, with the news, and hell, with almost all of humanity. (Aside -- another is the three EMC FEs who didn't find the problem I found today. Grrrrrrrrrrr)

The worst case of these reactors melting down -- all six of them -- will not kill *a fraction* of the people that the Earthquake and Tsunami have.

But people can grasp the horror of a meltdown -- or, at least, they think they can. The tsunami? The earthquake? So far beyond what they can imagine.

There are large parts of Japan that are out of petrol, food and water. They simply do not know what to do with bodies that are quite literally piling up. The Japanese funeral rite demands individual cremation, and they're coming to grips with the idea of bulldozer burials, because they simply cannot individually cremate all the bodies that are lying around.

Do you want to know what worst case is? Here it is.

Fucking Chernobyl didn't, and won't, kill a hundredth of the people that this tsunami did.

That's the worst case. The 15,000+ who are dead, and the 100,000+ who are at risk of dying because they can't get food, or water, or medical help, because the land has been ripped up so badly that anything we consider transport simply does not work.

That's why these reactors are failing. Nobody in their lives designed a reactor that you couldn't get heavy gear and power to in 96 hours. Nobody. Because nobody imaged that an island as small and as developed as Japan could ever be that far out of contact. Dude, you could just drive there, Right? I'd link pictures, but the two sites that I'm finding with the ones I want to show you are The Torygraph and The Daily Fail, and fuck if I'm sending them any traffic.

And yet, everyone's afraid of the radiation. That's what pisses me off. All of this horror, and the news is freaking out about that.

GOD, I HATE 24 HOUR NEWS.

Is radioactive material dangerous? You bet. Anything containing that much energy is. Ever seen fluorine at work? Ever seen a gallon of gasoline in a BLEVE? I can show you danger in places you'd never imagine -- do you have any idea how flammable coffee creamer is? You think Chernobyl killed people? Check out Halifax and Texas City.

This is a dangerous world. It's also a powerful world. That ammonium nitrate at Texas City? Grows crops. That fluorine that will flay your skin in a second? Keeps your teeth healthy, makes your non-stick pans non-stick -- is one of the most useful chemicals around. That tank of gas? Drives you across the state -- or drives food across the state to you. That coffee creamer?

Okay, you got me on that one.

Nuclear plants are dangerous. So are coal plants. So is *anything* in the mega-to-gigawatt range. You can yell how coal doesn't make cities uninhabitable, but I can point you at a bunch of places you can't live anymore that didn't have a curie of radioactive in them. Some of them are on fire -- underground. From coal, of course. I can point you at the legions of coal miners who've died. My grandfather was one of them, choking to death on withered black lungs.

Energy is dangerous. Energy is also useful. And, really, right now, energy that doesn't exhaust carbon is critical, and because of Fukushima, the world is going to swap nuclear for coal. Don't even pretend they'll just shut the reactors down and walk away from that power. They'll replace it, and they'll laugh at submegawatt nonsense like wind and solar, when they see the plan for that multi-gigawatt hydroelectric dam (and the hell with the people upstream) or that gigawatt coal plant.

And when you see what happens in the next half century from that decision?

That, folks, will be the worst case scenario.

Do we really have to have this as a referendum on nuclear power right now?

Unfortunately, it's clear we already have.
posted by eriko at 7:47 PM on March 15, 2011 [56 favorites]


The worst case of these reactors melting down -- all six of them -- will not kill *a fraction* of the people that the Earthquake and Tsunami have.

Cite?
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 8:38 PM on March 15, 2011


What is, exactly, worst case?

One or more of the cores would melt down, hitting water and exploding, spewing large amounts of radiation into the atmosphere.

The effects would be short, medium and long term:

1. Short (days to months) - immediate radiation poisoning, if the winds blow "right" (worse case scenario), Tokyo has 7 million people, and the cloud could reach Korea and China, the most densly populated areas of the planet, possibly impacting 100s of millions or more. Land etc.. becomes uninhabitable impacting the (ongoing) global food crisis.

2. Medium (months to decades) - Increased cancer rates over the lifetimes of exposed people leading to early deaths.

3. Long (decades to centuries) - genetic mutations lead to increased birth defects for multiple generations carried forward, impacting people well into the 21st century. Land uninhabitable.

There are a lot more impacts, but for those doing body-count score-checking against the Tsunami (why, I don't know), this might help.
posted by stbalbach at 8:42 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do we really have to have this as a referendum on nuclear power right now?

Unfortunately, it's clear we already have.


Clear to who exactly? You seem determined to frame it that way, but that's your choice. The overwhelming people on the threads steering the conversation in that direction have done so from a pro-nuke perspective. In fact, I don't really remember reading many or any vocal anti-nuke comments at all, but I do remember reading lots of defensiveness as if this were the case.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 8:48 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


WHATEVER YOU DO YOU, YOU MUST NEVER QUESTION NUCLEAR ENERGY!! BE CALM CITIZENS! GO BACK TO YOUR HOMES! NOTHING TO SEE HERE! WITCH! LUDDITE! THIS IS NOTHING! etc.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:06 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


GOD, I HATE 24 HOUR NEWS.

Yes b/c it's clearly the hysteria of the 24 hour news cycle that has inflamed the ignorant fears of the citizenry; how much better things would be if there were no news at all, and all our information came from our overlords.

Energy is dangerous. Energy is also useful.

Patronize much?
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 9:14 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


and because of Fukushima, the world is going to swap nuclear for coal

You know, some of us would probably settle for regulatory agencies that actually do more than rubber stamp cost-cutting decisions made by profit-driven executives at nuclear power companies.
posted by mediareport at 9:17 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, they've now thrown in the towel on fighting this thing. Wiped their hands and said, now what?

I don't know much about this stuff, but I will gauranfrikkentee you that the nuclear nitwits will be along momentarily vociferously chastising anyone observing the meltdown of their legacy non-objectively.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:18 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


They haven't given up on the plant, they are strategically withdrawing workers during spikes in radiation to make sure that exposure levels are kept to a minimum. Part of this is because once you hit your max dosage for the year you gotta go and there is only so many trained operators that they can draw on for support.

The situation is definitely not good and is in fact quite concerning. I don't think they are completely into the hail mary phase just yet although it definitely seems like they are getting close.
posted by vuron at 9:23 PM on March 15, 2011


stbalbach, thank you. That is the breakdown I was looking for.

Eriko, please understand that no one, NO ONE (with the exception of Gilbert Gottfried, who I am very glad got his butt kicked to the curb) is downplaying the totallity of this disaster or of the horror of what the tsunami and the earthquake did.

But perhaps if I frame it this way: The earthquake and the tsunami are not manmade. The nuclear reactors are something that people built. We can understand what an earthquake can do, what a tsunami can do-we just got our PhD. in that, sadly. But most of us out here who aren't scientists do not know what a nuclear reactor can possibly do, or what we can do, in the event of this type of climactic event. It is not wrong to discuss or ask questions, and by doing so we are not in any way minimizing the huge human tragedy that has already taken place. In my mind at least I am simply thinking, how much more can these poor people take?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:27 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


strategically withdrawing workers

The situation is definitely not good and is in fact quite concerning. I don't think they are completely into the hail mary phase just yet although it definitely seems like they are getting close.

This is a fucking joke, right?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:30 PM on March 15, 2011


because of Fukushima, the world is going to swap nuclear for coal

Much of the world doesn't have coal deposits. In the USA which has some of the biggest, back in 2005, there were over 200 proposals for new coal-fired power plants. Today, every single one is withdrawn, no new coal plants are in the works (only old ones shutting down). Coal is dead. Also, nuclear power is dead in the US. The reason is simple: they are too expensive compared to the alternatives. This isn't theoretical, this is banks and investors and business plans doing what makes the most sense financially.
posted by stbalbach at 9:33 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


If they're strategically withdrawing workers so they can get as much work as possible out of them during periods when the radioactivity spikes are lower, then that is the very opposite of throwing in the towel, isn't it?

The situation is really bad. The storage pools seem to be much more of a problem than the reactors themselves. They may yet have to pull out permanently. It hasn't happened yet. Verb tenses are real.
posted by maudlin at 9:39 PM on March 15, 2011


If you only have x number of workers and each of them is limited to x number of millisieverts of exposure and you still have an active accident site then yes you conserve those workers as much as possible. That means using what sensors that they have and getting the hell out of dodge when the numbers go up too much.

This is not Soviet era Ukraine, Japan just can't throw thousands of conscripts in makeshift lead armor at the problem. These are reasonably smart guys and they don't want things to get worse than they already are. That means doing stuff in as safe of a manner as can be managed given that the entire site is becoming more and more dangerous all the time.
posted by vuron at 9:41 PM on March 15, 2011


"nuclear nitwits"? Christ.

Regarding the 24-hour news cycle, I can't see how you can argue that they don't feed hysteria. 2 days ago I saw Wolf Blitzer interviewing the Japanese ambassador to the US.

Wolf: ambassador, what can you tell us about the situation? Is it a meltdown?

Ambassador: our information is that it is not a meltdown

Wolf: is it kinda like a meltdown though?

Ambassador: no, not really at this time

Wolf: how about...now? Is it a meltdown now?

Ambassador: no

Wolf: Say "meltdown"


But you're right, CNN and MSNBC and Fox are great at speaking truth to power and shining a light on the actions of our "overlords".
posted by Hoopo at 9:41 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


But you're right, CNN and MSNBC and Fox are great at speaking truth to power and shining a light on the actions of our "overlords".

I think you may be twisting what I said out of context; in general as shitty as the news is, it's better than no news. Suggesting the problem is the 24 hour news cycle rather than the actual event that is currently unfolding in real time is misleading and trivializes the situation.

If they're strategically withdrawing workers so they can get as much work as possible out of them during periods when the radioactivity spikes are lower, then that is the very opposite of throwing in the towel, isn't it?

Some people here should consider careers in PR, b/c you are really good at spinning; fwiw it's not even clear to me from the current news feeds whether or not the workers have been pulled for good or just temporarily and let back: there appear to be different accounts on that particular detail.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 9:50 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Emperor of Ice Cream: "Some people here should consider careers in PR, b/c you are really good at spinning"

Thanks for the show of good faith. I'm not spinning; I'm assessing the information I've seen direct from Japanese sources like NHK World. A bunch of random news feeds -- often late or incomplete -- from all over the world are going to have a hell of a lot of noise in them.
posted by maudlin at 9:53 PM on March 15, 2011


Hey folks I don't want to put a total damper on this, but if this is going to turn into another Japan-discussion thread, it probably needs to go in MeFi proper. We moderate MeTa differently generally speaking (thought I suppose we could change that) and it's really mostly for meta-discussion, not a stand-in for a thread you think is too long.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:55 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was terribly disappointed in the nuclear wessels thread: I come to Metafilter to get information because I don't trust talking heads on tv to understand science well enough to report it properly. But when people asked questions about the basics of the situation, they got answers peppered with sneers about fear-mongering or corporate shills or whatever.

I was lucky in that my question was answered sensibly and calmly (by someone who hadn't been actively participating/shouting previously). But I saw plenty of reasonable questions that were met with an uncalled-for level of rudeness.

If you're passionate about a subject that gets treated badly in mainstream news, please remember that other MeFites are aware of journalistic stupidity too. They were hoping you'd give them info they can't find elsewhere. Including a dig at them in your answer just makes you look like an arsehole, not someone trustworthy.
posted by harriet vane at 10:07 PM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


The 'new comments' thing makes making new threads less important, IMO.
posted by delmoi at 10:07 PM on March 15, 2011


The 'new comments' thing makes making new threads less important, IMO.
posted by delmoi


How so?
posted by futz at 10:11 PM on March 15, 2011


Depends on the vagaries of your browser and o/s, delmoi: my Firefox and IE browsers absolutely choke on these long threads, and I know someone else who has had multiple crashes with Firefox. But my Chrome install on XP SP3 works as speedily on the huge threads as the long threads. YBMV.

But yeah, no need to start a new thread just yet, I think.
posted by maudlin at 10:11 PM on March 15, 2011


Ok, so there's a new post on disaster relief charities, etc. for Japan brand new on the front page. And if it wouldn't be such an epic derail of that thread with an important message that's where I'd totally post the following:

The Givewell Blog Update on how to help Japan: no room for more funding.
posted by carsonb at 10:13 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I specifically requested that thread be posted on the sidebar for easy access but also to keep awareness high that the people of Japan are going to need help for quite a while.
posted by bwg at 10:15 PM on March 15, 2011

How so?
Well, what do we need a new thread for? I guess it might be helpful to put all those summary links on the front page that zachlipton posted.
The Givewell Blog Update on how to help Japan: no room for more funding.
Lol.
It's quite natural for people who align themselves with science and with general skepticism to jump to the conclusion that the public's fear of nuclear power is wholly irrational, and that "science" has control of the situation, and that the general worry is composed solely of superstition. Superstition has been an enemy of science for so long that it's hard not to see it lurking everywhere on this occasion, too. And I'll go further: it's hard to deny that there has been superstition in this case. So it doesn't surprise me that many people on Metafilter, where a skeptical bent and an alignment with science are common, would like to believe that nuclear power has done nothing wrong in this case, and that everyone is perfectly safe and faces no danger from the Japanese reactors.
Seems reasonable for people to think that fear of nukes is similar to fear of "chemicals" or paranoia about MSG and vaccines.

I mean we have people panic buying iodine on the west coast, 9,000 miles away. those people don't seem like the reasonable, scientific ones.

Obviously on the other hand there are people who have totally drunk the coolaide. My view is that nuclear energy is a good alternative to fossil fuels and ultimately less damaging to the environment. Chernobyl was nothing compared to global warming. And I think newer reactor designs can be a lot safer.

One of the biggest problems with this reactor is that it required active cooling. Newer designs don't. You know those big cooling towers that look like parabolic cones? Supposedly (as in, from what I've read over the past few days) they allow nuclear reactors to be cooled without needing active cooling systems. So if there is a station blackout like at this plant had, it wouldn't result in destruction.

---

Also, with regards to the worst case, remember the fuel rods that were taken out and put into a cooling pool. They are putting out a lot of heat and they aren't spent. If the cooling pool boils off that would be really bad, you could potentially have a steam or steam/hydrogen explosion or a meltdown outside the reactor, which is a lot sturdier and designed with a thick containment shield.

So that would be the worst case, loss of the cooling pools and a meltdown outside of the reactor.
posted by delmoi at 10:39 PM on March 15, 2011


What the shit is an "alignment with science?" Is that like "chaotic good" or something?
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:46 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Carsonb, wanna post that in the charity thread?

I usually rely on metafilter to either debunk or support stuff like that.
posted by NoraReed at 10:56 PM on March 15, 2011


Nuclear power is inherently not safe. If something bad happens, it is localized, and extremely bad. The materials used to power nuclear plants are inherently not safe. The cost of a nuclear plant can tend to make those responsible for running them [strong]not[/strong] take certain measures because if those measures turn out to be unnecessary, those actions will cost the owners of the plant billions of dollars.

And due to these factors, nuclear power will always require "big government" or "big corporate power" to be massively involved. See the posts on the other threads that point out that we the taxpayers are the one's that will incur any costs for a nuclear accident.

Huge governement/corporate control over something like this is a bad thing to base a "forward-looking" energy policy on, when compared with small scale, individual, responsibility for energy creation.
posted by Windopaene at 10:59 PM on March 15, 2011


delmoi, your comment/answer makes no sense.

The 'new comments' thing makes making new threads less important, IMO.
posted by delmoi


Your answer was strange to say the least. All I asked about was your questioning of the "new comments" feature.
posted by futz at 11:01 PM on March 15, 2011


futz, I'm talking about the thing that pops up when new comments are posted, so you don't need to reload the entire thread to see the new posts, or just to see if there are any. What did you think I was talking about?

The question is, now that we have the new comments feature, why would we need a whole new thread?
Nuclear power is inherently not safe. If something bad happens, it is localized, and extremely bad. The materials used to power nuclear plants are inherently not safe.
Well, I'm not sure about that. The worst that can happen is a meltdown, and if the reactor is buried underground then even in the case of a melt down, you wouldn't have a radiation leak, as far as I know. What I wonder if whether or not adding all the safety features makes nuclear energy too expensive to be useful compared to wind and solar.

The other thing is things like pebble bed reactors that can't melt down no mater what happens.
posted by delmoi at 11:10 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


not a stand-in for a thread you think is too long.

Shut it down and redirect readers to the old thread. I can't come up with a decent new FPP idea without it immediately turning into a pro/anti-nuclear fest, probably best to let it cool until/unless a major break in the story.
posted by stbalbach at 11:16 PM on March 15, 2011


I would really appreciate a new thread as long as it is focused on news updates and links to reputable sources, without arguing over nuclear energy as a whole. If this could even be accomplished on the blue, awesome. Make it clear in the tone of the post that the subject is strictly actual updates and ongoing media coverage. There's a change it could work- the previous thread started when the situation seemed like it wouldn't be ongoing for very long, and at the time the entire nuclear issue also seemed secondary to the earthquake. By now its clear that news about the event will be forthcoming for a very long time and people seem less fighty.
posted by Nixy at 1:17 AM on March 16, 2011


Coal is dead.
It is far from dead in Europe. I live in the Netherlands, which is a very small country. 5 coal plants are planned here, one is already being built right now near Rotterdam.
posted by davar at 1:30 AM on March 16, 2011


When this is over I hope we (mefi) can find a better way to handle this kind of crisis that is so complex, emotional, dynamic - and frustrating. Do we need a meta-meta-talk?

I have been quietly lurking in the blue (and here) because I am desperately seeking to read only the clear, informed voices - even the debate/disagreement of these people is valuable. I have nothing to contribute. I just wish the snarky, whiney, fighty, truthy attention seekers would go play somewhere else.

Sometimes Mefi should just live up to its potential. The work/writing here is pretty unique and important this week.
posted by Surfurrus at 2:45 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem is that the Nuclear Fanboys came out of the woodwork, early and loud, to blow sunshine up everyone's ass with shop-grade pneumatics. Instead of presenting likely scenarios offset by both best-case and worst-case, they would only acknowledge best-case, and get themselves into a panic about alarmism, which is irony in a bucket, right there.

Well, guess what? There are meltdowns, secondary containment has been breached in four of the reactors, primary containment may be breached in one of them, and fresh fuel rods stored for maintenance, without any containment, may go supercritical. Not only have all of the worst-case scenarios come true, beyond-worst-case in terms of the fuel storage pools have come to pass.

If your goal is to fight alarmism instead of explain and predict, you're pretty much a waste of electrons. Only level, evenhanded truth can fight panic. At least the no-nukes guys are pretty open about their position, and tend to keep it relevant to what's happening, not what they imagine or wish would happen.

I'm pretty disappointed with the thread overall.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:05 AM on March 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


Hm, I just came here to see what's being discussed regarding blue thread length. I seem to be more of a bumpkin than I already thought. Good day to you.
posted by nj_subgenius at 5:20 AM on March 16, 2011


How about a new start to the Japan thing every day, bring along the last ten or so posts, call it daily Japan update or something and include links to old posts.
posted by mareli at 5:57 AM on March 16, 2011


If your goal is to fight alarmism instead of explain and predict, you're pretty much a waste of electrons.

At the end of this day, all these threads are just a waste. People sitting at their desks are informed or not informed and whatever was going to happen in Japan still happened.
posted by smackfu at 6:29 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I noticed that people seem to have a lot of very strong opinions on the subject of nuclear power. Lets face it, Nukes are safe, that plant got hit with an eathquake, a gigantic wave and a loss of power. I know that people are saying that they should of thought of all that when they built it, but really? That is a perfect storm of conditions, its bound to cause complications. People should be worried more about the death and destruction that the quake and wave caused elsewhere and stop shouting at the top of thier lungs about the radiation and dooom that is coming. This is equivilant to being on a nuke submarine and getting torpedoed, then everyone standing around worried about the power plant instead of what the should be doing, controlling the flooding and stopping the ship from sinking.
posted by ionized at 8:03 AM on March 16, 2011


The problem is that the Nuclear Fanboys came out of the woodwork, early and loud, to blow sunshine up everyone's ass with shop-grade pneumatics. Instead of presenting likely scenarios offset by both best-case and worst-case, they would only acknowledge best-case, and get themselves into a panic about alarmism, which is irony in a bucket, right there.

The pro-nuclear cheerleading that's going on at Metafilter is pretty despicable, especially given the campaign of bullying behind it. The whole thing is disgusting enough to make me spit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:15 AM on March 16, 2011

Well, guess what? There are meltdowns, secondary containment has been breached in four of the reactors, primary containment may be breached in one of them, and fresh fuel rods stored for maintenance, without any containment, may go supercritical. Not only have all of the worst-case scenarios come true, beyond-worst-case in terms of the fuel storage pools have come to pass.
Yeah. What's interesting is that one of the biggest problems isn't the reactors at all, but rather the cooling tanks. All this talk about making reactors perfectly safe is kind of beside the point if the cooling pools can *also* melt down if they lose power and water.
posted by delmoi at 8:30 AM on March 16, 2011


The cooling pond danger was well known, it had been highlighted many times before, but they didn't change because of costs and/or incompetence. It underscores the point that technology is only half the story, the other half is human error. No matter what the technology, there will always be human error. Operators, designers, terrorists, business owners, etc.. all along the chain is the potential for someone to accidentally or intentionally cause a disaster through incompetence, greed or crime. Nuclear power is not 100% safe and never can be, even with pebble bed.
posted by stbalbach at 8:50 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


When this is over I hope we (mefi) can find a better way to handle this kind of crisis that is so complex, emotional, dynamic - and frustrating.

It's a crisis situation. Apparently, in moments of extreme crisis, unless we are eminently prepared for precisely the situation in question (ie: a fireman in a fire), our bowels do one of two things. They either tighten up big time (we constipate) or they loosen up (we shit ourselves). So yeah, unfortunately yet inevitably, some in these threads are verbally shitting themselves, while others (the ones we're not hearing from, I guess) are just clamming up, disappearing into black holes of angst.

Who's to say which is best?
posted by philip-random at 8:59 AM on March 16, 2011


Who's to say which is best?

And further to that. At least, those who do speak up, however confusedly, get heard and can be engaged. As is often the case, it's the quite ones I really worry about.
posted by philip-random at 9:11 AM on March 16, 2011


There's also an ancillary factor here: the mod team was about as AWOL as it ever will be during pretty much the precise interval where this stuff was blowing up. Everybody but pb was at SXSW with lots of distractions, nominally on vacation, and trying to work much of the time from mobile devices on overloaded network connections.

Which is not to say that it comes down to mods—I think a fundamental question of how we as a community deal with contentious crises is primarily about how people choose to deal with each other and to what extent individual and collective wisdom and grace can be summoned up to balance out individual and collective anxiousness and anger. But usually big crazy stuff like this is something we try to manage very attentively—they're the long, long, glued-to-our-screens days that pay off the quieter painting-my-house ones—and not being able to do that as normal meant some more of the bad dynamic stuff got a foothold than might normally have.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:29 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not exactly like pro-nuke cheerleading is against the guidelines either, anymore than pro-Apple cheerleading.
posted by smackfu at 9:53 AM on March 16, 2011


I think you may be twisting what I said out of context; in general as shitty as the news is, it's better than no news.

Which context--this one?

Yes b/c it's clearly the hysteria of the 24 hour news cycle that has inflamed the ignorant fears of the citizenry; how much better things would be if there were no news at all, and all our information came from our overlords.

I disagree that the implication of the comment you're responding to is that the whole problem is 24-hour news. Why is "no news" the alternative? The downside of 24-hour news is obvious. The need to fill space and still get ratings leads to rampant speculation and sensationalism loosely rooted in whatever small amount of information may be available. How many times do you need to see an anchorperson crawl through a makeshift "spider hole" before it's obvious 24-hour news is 99% filler? They didn't have enough information to draw any reliable conclusions, like pretty much everyone else outside of TEPCO. Even the Japanese Prime Minister is furious with them for not being forthright about the situation. What kind of insight are they getting at CNN from Bill Nye the Science Guy, Wolf Blitzer, and that pudgy weatherman? It's pretty much the definition of exploiting ignorance and fear.
posted by Hoopo at 9:53 AM on March 16, 2011


Not to be all Susie Creamcheese, but both of the Japan threads have gone remarkably well overall, considering the circumstances and subject matter. I've learned a lot about nuclear reactor design and related issues, the history of the industry, etc. It's MeFi; of course there will be some untoward contention, but there are some great people in the nuke thread. The minute the spent fuel pools is mentioned, zippy or mwhybark or someone runs out and finds an analysis report or position paper or diagram or something to offer context. Various people explain the mechanics in an appropriate Smart Layperson manner.

My only real gripe about the nuke thread (aside from the easily tuned out spates of bickering) is that some self-styled moderators appear now and then to stifle discussion. I think 99% of us laypeople are quietly reading the thread 99% of the time, and when they do speak up with a question or comment, they generally get helpful responses/answers. But there have been periods when any participation by perceived "non-experts" gets labeled noise and the commenters essentially told, "Shut the fuck up; the grownup engineers and hobbyists are talking now." Which, in a situation where nearly nobody has verified credentials and the credentialed people know as little as anyone else (aside from their technical expertise), isn't the most helpful stance.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:27 AM on March 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


Lets face it, Nukes are safe, that plant got hit with an eathquake, a gigantic wave and a loss of power.

Wow, that's the most tremendous load of cognitive dissonance I've seen in a long while - nukes are safe, unless they're hit by unforeseen circumstances!


Here's the deal: if the engineering cannot anticipate the corner cases that unleash ecological and humanitarian disasters of biblical proportions - it's not safe.


Stop pretending otherwise. It's poisoning the discussion.

Now, there is the question of whether the rewards outweigh the risks, and that's a reasonable discussion I currently don't have an absolute answer for. (Especially with new small-scale, passive-safety reactors like the s4).
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:49 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Again, to be clear: there is a thread on the blue ostensibly about the nuke situation itself, and if you want a place to argue about nuke policy and engineering and politics that is probably the place to do it. We do not need a metatalk argument about nukes as well.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:14 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


The pro-nuclear cheerleading that's going on at Metafilter is pretty despicable, especially given the campaign of bullying behind it. The whole thing is disgusting enough to make me spit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon


That comment from as strident and argumentative a MeFite as there is? Is there that much of a lack of self-awareness?
posted by ambient2 at 1:02 PM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are people who care about the facts and there are people who care about making a point. There's not too much overlap between the two.
posted by warbaby at 1:47 PM on March 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


I haven't delved into the FPP thread, but am slowly realizing that there are at least a few MeFites in Japan. Have they been heard from? Do they need help?
posted by Miko at 1:51 PM on March 16, 2011


Hi Miko, there's a Meta thread where some people were checking in early on. I'm not sure how active it remains, especially since I'm sure people's circumstances are changing with every new development. It's also side-barred on the front page.
posted by juliplease at 2:02 PM on March 16, 2011


Miko: yes, they've been heard from. No, they don't immediately need any help that we can provide. I believe all the active Japanese mefites are basically safe and sound.
posted by KathrynT at 2:03 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the USA which has some of the biggest, back in 2005, there were over 200 proposals for new coal-fired power plants. Today, every single one is withdrawn, no new coal plants are in the works (only old ones shutting down). Coal is dead.

What? Just going from local knowledge:

The Sunflower Electric Power Corp. is planning on building a brand-new coal energy plant in Holcolmb, Kan., to provide electricity for Colorado unless a couple of environmental groups get the EPA to step in. Then-Gov. Parkinson approved the plan in 2009 shortly after Sebelius left for HHS.

I figure the appeals will fail and we are going to be stuck with the coal plant.

It's going to be clean, they say. Nothing to worry about.
posted by rewil at 3:00 PM on March 16, 2011


All these wannabe engineers talking up with super weapons to "win" the trillion dollar war for oil, safely drill oil 2 miles down in the bottom of the ocean, clean up coal emissions, and make ultra complex nuclear reactors totally fail safe in any imaginable catastrophe. Yet tell them we want solar/wind and they are like, can't do, you'd need some kind of amazing battery thing for the base load, that's unrealistic.

I can't believe I fell for this bullshit.
posted by humanfont at 8:01 PM on March 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


Seriously folks, this is not the blue, please take non-meta comments there. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:33 PM on March 16, 2011


FWIW, people in the active thread are telling people to take any comments about nuclear energy in general (rather than specific updates to the unfolding situation) to this thread..
posted by cj_ at 10:48 PM on March 16, 2011


Yeah, I got confused a few hours back upon reading cortex's most recent comment. I thought this was the thread where we were supposed to pursue our various pro and anti nuclear agendas, ruminate about steampunk etc, whilst leaving the active blue-thread for the serious minute-by-minute developments.

I do think we require such a thread to ummm ... blow off steam.
posted by philip-random at 11:22 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Breaking out the policy stuff by posting a group of thoughtful links in a new thread doesn't seem like a terrible idea, but I think there's a middle ground, where links related to nuclear policy and breaking news are both relevant, but sarcastic political sniping and breathless speculation over rumor less so. It's balance and preference and all that, I know, but there seems to be room for both policy and news discussion in the existing thread.
posted by mediareport at 6:17 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd be very happy if we could take a stronger line on keeping non-specific-to-Fukushima discussions of energy politics and conservation, and indeed also the generally chatty back-and-forth stuff, out of that thread from now on. It's hard enough for the thread to stay usefully informative as the news comes in with just the recurrent problem of people posting their personal opinions as fact, even without the additional derails on energy policy and the need for nuclear power in general that seem to keep cropping up. It seems pretty reasonable to me just to say this thread is about the disaster itself, not about every broader discussion that the disaster will eventually prompt. Even if the political argument that's happening here needs to go somewhere else, I don't think it's a great idea to move it into the existing Fukushima thread.
posted by RogerB at 6:45 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


IMHO, a policy thread is pretty sure not going to be the best of the web. But anything to move the poo-flinging would be fine with me. Actually, I'm going to stop saying policy and start saying poo-flinging power struggles, since policy discussions are usually about who has the power and that determines the policy.
posted by warbaby at 6:52 AM on March 17, 2011


indeed also the generally chatty back-and-forth stuff, out of that thread from now on

MetaFilter just isn't a news source though. The constant breathless updates are the stuff that doesn't really belong, not the chattiness.
posted by smackfu at 6:55 AM on March 17, 2011


What I meant by "chattiness" was the micro-commenting and individual personal back-and-forth responses. I'm not trying to say the thread should be 100% news aggregation — lots of the analysis and discussion there has been fantastically useful and informative. But there have also been some people posting flurries of literally dozens of single-sentence comments, without any real new facts or analysis, often replying to some single other commenter by name. It feels like a chat-room style of commenting, and in my view it's not good for the thread as an ongoing discussion, which of course it should be as much as it's a news aggregator.
posted by RogerB at 7:01 AM on March 17, 2011


On the subject of Japan, is this the place where I can vent about WTF is up with all these people who have to keep referencing God & Dios & Jesus & repent! & prayers & end times & shit like that? towards a people who AREN'T EVEN CHRISTIAN (for the most part) when a simple "Our thoughts are with you" would suffice, and especially considering that if there really is a flying spaghetti monster, HE WAS THE ONE WHO DID THIS SHIT TO JAPAN IN THE FIRST PLACE so there's nothing to be gained by praying to him anyway.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:18 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd be in favor of an energy policy thread. It would be better to wait till we know what the outcome of the Fukushima Daiichi situation is, since that will have a major impact on the policy discussion, people will be less distracted by the on-going situation, and maybe by that point people who seem to currently be in let's-lynch-some-engineers mode will have calmed down a bit and be able discuss the issues more rationally. However if it has to happen now to let the Fukushima thread concentrate on on-going developments and give people who want to discuss and/or argue about policy somewhere to do that, so be it.

Right now, the Fukushima thread is focusing on on-going developments, and some people who want to talk about policy have seen people who want to keep the discussion in that thread (or the original one) focused on news and analysis as opposed to the policy positions they're trying to advance or dismissing their policy concerns as illegitimate. This has set up a pretty bad dynamic and, I think, accounts for some of the belligerence we've seen above. Starting a new thread to talk about policy would probably help.
posted by nangar at 7:34 AM on March 17, 2011


On the subject of Japan, is this the place where I can vent about WTF is up with all these people who have to keep referencing God & Dios & Jesus & repent! & prayers & end times & shit like that? towards a people who AREN'T EVEN CHRISTIAN (for the most part) when a simple "Our thoughts are with you" would suffice, and especially considering that if there really is a flying spaghetti monster, HE WAS THE ONE WHO DID THIS SHIT TO JAPAN IN THE FIRST PLACE so there's nothing to be gained by praying to him anyway.

The SO and I woke up the morning this all hit the US morning news, and we couldn't even get out of bed - we just sat there and watched. She posted an "Our thoughts are with Japan this morning" to facebook via her droid and I kid you not the VERY FIRST POST was someone basically saying "let's hope god is on the lookout for these people and they will see the light and come around to christianity." Within minutes there where quite a few WTF posts below it, and I was sworn not to respond to the initial one, becuase it was one her family members. She had to delete the post within an hour. Unreal.

On another note the "load new comments" thingy doesn't seem to be working for me in either of the big threads in IE. It just reloads the whole thing.
posted by Big_B at 7:44 AM on March 17, 2011


Haven't seen this in here yet:

irc://irc.slashnet.org:6667/fukushima-ot

http://www.slashnet.org/webclient/fukushima-ot

I believe polyhedron must be credited with the idea. It is useful.
posted by mwhybark at 10:18 AM on March 17, 2011


Union of Concerned Scientists issue a new report: The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010. The report examines 14 “near-misses” at U.S. nuclear plants during 2010.
posted by stbalbach at 11:48 AM on March 17, 2011


We're going to keep saying this: this is not the thread for discussing the current events in Japan. Start a new thread or go to one of the open threads.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:55 AM on March 17, 2011


I stopped reading the 'Wessels' thread when it got to 8400 lines and over 600K.

No criticism of moderation intended, but IMHO at that point (or before) a fork (Part 2) of the thread should be created. Noone's interests are served by a thread getting that big.
posted by Twang at 2:47 PM on March 17, 2011


Not a problem - someone needs to put together another thread and people will move to it. That person is not going to be me. Giant threads are rare and, at some level, not what the site is designed for [i.e. we have no forking mechanism and don't think we'll make one]. Any member can make another thread and someone probably should.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:18 PM on March 17, 2011


Done.
posted by mediareport at 4:12 PM on March 17, 2011


Awesome. Thanks mediareport. I don't know if threads can be closed on the blue, but is there something we can do to reliably point people with new comments over to the new thread so the discussion isn't forked more?
posted by zachlipton at 4:28 PM on March 17, 2011


We can't close the thread without disappearing the thread. Looks like people are moving over to the new thread just fine, thanks folks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:42 PM on March 17, 2011


I'm feeling a a bit angry about the thread bossing going on the blue. If you don't like the politics, policy, Econ or larger issues flag and move on, email the mods or just go fuck yourself. This is a big story, there are lots of perspectives, victims, etc. People should be free to share and discuss within the site guidelines. I don't see any reason people other than moderators should be telling folks otherwise.
posted by humanfont at 5:46 PM on March 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yeah, it was irritating in the old thread too. Especially irritating to see someone chiding people for contributing "noise" (on-topic questions, mostly) who then later in thread was posting totally off-topic stuff.

Really annoying to see people take it upon themselves to push other people out of threads when they're contributing "noise" themselves.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:17 PM on March 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


I agree completely. If there's going to be some "anti-chatter" rule in that thread, then I'd like to see "chatter" clearly defined at least. Asking relevant questions or raising on-topic angles isn't what I'd consider chatter, but I still sat on my question about the issue of damaged pumps for, like, hours until someone else brought them up because of the "only expert opinions and news links, please" contingent.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:56 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also I think we've had enough IRC client and channel mentions. Now it is just an excuse for passive agressive chiding.
posted by humanfont at 7:34 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Glad I didn't mention the sadly unaccepted non-endorsed mefi-only XMPP chat server.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:38 PM on March 17, 2011


I know ya'll are at sxsw right now, but both this new thread and the previous one have had some very vocal volunteer moderators shouting down anyone that tries to talk about the things you are telling us not to discuss here. Anything in either of these thread that aren't news updates are very unwelcome.

And I'll just say that this shit offends me: "I am not immune to admiration for the plant workers onsite facing tremendous obstacles, but I think that they all knew exactly what cashing their generous paychecks for all those years might entail."

What the hell? Really?
posted by cj_ at 5:18 AM on March 18, 2011


How easily people go from "it is great that MeFi provides up-to-date news updates" to "MeFi is my only source of news" to "please keep non-news comments out of the thread."
posted by smackfu at 6:11 AM on March 18, 2011


Mods - could you please close the Wessels thread?
posted by b1tr0t at 7:52 AM on March 18, 2011


Volunteer mods are not mods. If they say something shitty and out of line that would get deleted, that'll get deleted; if this comes down to "person on mefi is being loudly opinionated", I share your frustration at that behavior but you are free as always to ignore it and go about your business basically. I'll poke an eye in and see if there's anything super weird looking going on, but I'm not sure what else to say; there's a reason we don't particularly love big fast-moving threads on contentious subjects generally speaking.

Mods - could you please close the Wessels thread?

Is this the previous huge thread on the blue? Because, no, we will not ever, ever close a metafilter thread. It's delete or don't, there's not even any such functionality, and people need to be okay with threads having whatever lifetime they have.

If I am missing something here, please let me know, but I feel like there's been some expectations here that actual like zoning and traffic-direction will happen with the threads here out of proportion with what normally happens on the site. The system for the last 11 years has been: post gets made, people comment in post, if another post on the topic ends up getting made some people will comment in the new post, some will keep commenting in the old post, some people will comment in both, end of story.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:06 AM on March 18, 2011


I know ya'll are at sxsw right now, but both this new thread and the previous one have had some very vocal volunteer moderators shouting down anyone that tries to talk about the things you are telling us not to discuss here.

We're all back as of today. I'll take a look at the new thread, when I checked it last night there was one comment about which topics were and were not okay and a lot of people telling that commenters they were full of shit. I'll go back and check this morning but generally speaking the best thing to do is ignore those folks or send them to MeTa where we can start a new thread about how it's not okay to tell people what you can and can't talk about. This is a tricky issue since tempers are high, the situation is seeming desperate at times and there are a few direcitons people want to take conversation in. That said, telling other people "piss off this is a thread about nuclear power" isn't okay. That said, this is a pretty unusual situation so let's try to [all] find a way to make it work. Maybe there needs to be two new Japan threads.

b1tr0t: closing that thread is no different from deleting it. There is no other site mechanism to simply close a thread. Is there some reason you think that needs to happen.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:06 AM on March 18, 2011


mediareport put together a good collection of links to articles discussing the implications of the Fukushima crisis for energy policy here in the old Fukushima thread. The Oil Drum (one of mediareport's links) has a bunch more. This could provide the basis of an FPP focusing on energy policy if somebody wants to make one.

I'd thought about doing this myself, but I think somebody who knows and cares more about energy policy could do a better job of it.
posted by nangar at 9:27 AM on March 18, 2011


cortex: we will not ever, ever close a metafilter thread. It's delete or don't, there's not even any such functionality, and people need to be okay with threads having whatever lifetime they have.

jessamyn: closing that thread is no different from deleting it. There is no other site mechanism to simply close a thread.

Out of curiosity, isn't "closing a thread" what happens at the end of its 30-day lifespan? Those threads obviously aren't deleted; they're just closed to new comments. Or am I missing something about how else they're treated on the site?

I don't think it's necessary in this case, and I think generally it's a bad idea, but if it ever did come up, would it be possible to just artificially move up the date at which point the thread would otherwise have become closed?
posted by albrecht at 11:22 AM on March 18, 2011


Yeah, an old thread closes itself automatically. There's nothing particularly special about that, it's just old. Key thing is that as a point of policy we don't and don't intend to start artificially closing them early. If we absolutely had to had to had to close a thread for some reason instead of deleting it, we could contrive to do so, but I can't imagine what that circumstance would be.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:24 AM on March 18, 2011


MetaFilter is primarily about MetaFilter.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 5:54 PM on March 18, 2011


About thread closing: it's just confusing because it IS possible (and reasonably common) to close a thread on MetaTalk while leaving it showing on the main MetaTalk page (ie not deleting it) -- but it's not possible to do that on Ask or on the blue. I was confused about this myself a long time ago, I think the confusion is understandable. Unless you're a web person, it seems like the three sites would automatically have all the same features/etc, but in fact there are all these subtle differences between them since they're handmade separately behind the scenes.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:26 PM on March 20, 2011


Yeah, and the metatalk thread closure thing specifically is more of an evolution-of-the-site thing than an up-front design decision. The confusion thing I totally get, and don't mind explaining the why and the why not of it or anything when it comes up. But, yeah, the short version of that is that we don't have any plans to add metatalk-style thread closure mechanics to any other part of the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:05 AM on March 21, 2011


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